Author's Note: This one is NC-17 and slashy, so please tread carefully! :)
"The newt's eyes -- a spoonful?" Remus Lupin asked tentatively, with a nervous glance at the green glass bottle filled with dark black orbs. He held his hands against his chest, not wanting to touch them. This was why he hated Potions so much: all the bewildering, creepy, frightening ingredients he was supposed to handle with such ease. He flinched back from the flaming fire beneath his bulky cauldron, which always threatened -- often successfully -- to catch fire to his oversized, second-hand robes; and when it did, he remembered morosely, he invariably forgot the charm for water, and had to rely on Professor Slughorn or one of his mates coming to his aid with an exasperated "Aguamenti!"
"You're sure that's enough? Only, the text calls for two ladles full."
Wrinkling his nose in distaste, Severus leaned forward and slapped the battered, worn copy of "Advanced Potion's Making" closed before pushing it aside. "Worthless!" he exclaimed with a derisive glance. "One spoonful will suffice." He frowned, sensing Lupin was not yet convinced. "You saw what happened to Mimosa Edgar last Friday week, did you not?" His voice was crisp and commanding, with subtle undertones of shadowy amusement. "Her cauldron cracked down the centre, and not from over-use. No, the newt's eyes are too acidic, particularly when blended with the monk wart, is that not obvious to you?"
Glaring, he unscrewed the bottle of newt's eyes himself, displeased with Lupin's reluctance to take the initiative. Plunking in four, he slammed the bottle back down roughly, jostling the blank, sightless orbs within. "No, of course not," he taunted mildly. "Nor were you able to recognise the necessity of adding a pinch of dried heliotrope stems before the amethyst powder, were you?"
Remus shifted uncomfortably, unable to find a position to stand where he felt balanced, controlled. "No," he admitted under his breath, his cheeks flaming with humiliation at his lack of skill, particularly when he thought of how easily James and Sirius -- even Sirius, who had never cracked a book in his life if he could help it, and certainly not to study for Slughorn's pop Potions exams -- had brewed the mixture the previous week.
Sirius' specialty was, surprisingly, Draught of Peace, and the strong sleeping potion they were supposed to have learned by now had come as second nature to him, as the two brews were so closely related. Remus, however, had managed to shatter the calm of the classroom with his cries of pain: physical, thanks to the burns smarting along his wrist where he had been splattered with smouldering potion, and financial, at the sight of his ruined cauldron, his second that year. He'd had to write home with a request for new, and in the meantime was making do with a borrowed one. Slughorn, perhaps sensing it would be unlikely to last the term, had given him the worst of the lot: a blackened, stained old pot almost too heavy to lift, with a melted spot on the lip where someone careless had left a fire burning.
"No," Severus repeated with relish, absorbing Remus' embarrassment like necessary sustenance. The corners of his lips spread into a mean sort of grin. "No, you couldn't brew yourself a decent root beer, let alone make a satisfactory sleeping potion without my assistance. And that book," he added, more forcefully, and Remus turned longingly toward the comfort of its dog-eared pages, "will not help you!"
Attempting bravery, Remus lifted his chin. "You think you're more clever than Libatius Borage, then?"
Severus' eyes glittered darkly. "Yes."
At a loss, Remus drew a deep breath, wishing to rein in his temper and impatience. "All right then, what's next."
"You're the one who is suppose to be learning, you tell me," Severus said coolly, his eyes narrowed. He watched Remus' hand twitch, and pushed the book even farther away. "No, not with that. Memory, Lupin. Even a feeble Gryffindor mind ought to have enough intelligence to recall a simple list of sixteen ingredients." He smirked, enjoying his peer's discomfort. "There is certainly enough empty space in that head of yours in which to store the information."
Remus reddened, stung by Severus' insult. He was a gentle person at heart, though he could prank and tease with the best of them, and had, for a little over five years. However, he was not used to the Slytherin's cutting remarks, nor the taunts when they turned cruel and sought him out, sharp-tipped like arrows. "That's not fair," he said, softly.
Severus shrugged coldly. "Nothing's fair." You want fair, he thought to himself, tell me why I don't have Lily anymore! Explain how she could have left me, chosen that Potter instead of me, in a fair world. Provide some insight regarding a fair world that allows me to end up having my first year at Hogwarts with Lucius Malfoy as my prefect! Instead, he shrugged his shoulders dramatically, as if to underline his lack of interest in fairness.
"Your Gryffindor mentality is tiresome, Lupin. We live in reality, which is cold and harsh and will destroy you if you let your guard down, or sit about uselessly, forever whining about the bitterness of existence and how terribly unfair it all is. Now, you wished to learn how to brew this potion, a very simple concoction any first year with a bit of concentration could manage independently, and I accepted Professor Slughorn's opportunity for this tutoring job, so let us waste no more time on pointless banter about fairness, and get on with the work."
"It was kind of you, Severus, to offer to teach me."
Momentarily flabbergasted, Severus frowned. Deep creases formed across his forehead as he considered the slight young man before him. "Kindness is irrelevant. I accepted this job because I'm paid a Sickle for each evening I waste here, endlessly explaining the basics of potions-making to you. No doubt Slughorn offered this position in order to spare himself the drab, dull hours of tedious lecturing; you're a poor learner, Lupin, a quite hopeless student. Now, please, may we return to the subject at hand? The next ingredient, tell me what it is."
With a sigh, Remus closed his eyes, trying to recount what they had already mixed into the bubbling brew. "Er - unicorn hair tail?"
"No, no of course not! This is a sleeping potion, Lupin, not a healing draught or an immorality elixir! Have you been paying no attention at all in class? Slughorn has explained repeatedly the categorization of ingredients: the acids and bases, the various compounds found in each type of potion." Severus narrowed his eyes. "Naturally, you find Black's inane chatter and Potter's endless hair-mussing far more valuable subjects of study." He grimaced, looking as though he wanted to spit. "You and that Pettigrew, my! It's patently obvious that the two of you have decided Hogwarts has nothing more important on offer than the Sirius Black fan club. Don't think I don't see you, day after day, perched there on the edge of your chair watching as Black charms his hair shiny or makes googly eyes at that Fawcett girl from Hufflepuff. Honestly!"
Knowing full well he was on edge, but pleased to have the subject turned from Potions, Remus shrugged. "He's my friend," he said simply. "Anyway, Snape, I didn't know you cared."
Blushing, Severus made a face. "I don't!" he said, sternly.
"But you noticed."
Severus grabbed the bottle of dragon scales with unnecessary fury, snatching off the top and sticking his fingers in, sorting vigorously through the collection. There were the bright, shimmering red scales of the Chinese Fireball, edged in gold, but Severus knew from years of experience they would render the potion inefficient, causing the drinker to wake up in a panic at random times while the dose was in effect. The shiny, beetle-wing green of the Welsh Green was acceptable in a pinch, but what he preferred was the scales of the Scandinavian Short-Snout. Closing his fingers over one, he plucked it out and held it up to the light thrown off by the fire, examining it for imperfections. Strength and healing, quick recuperation when added to a sleeping potion, comforting dreams, he recounted to himself, remembering the words Slughorn had told him during a lesson his first year. Of course, the portly professor had not expected his students to memorise everything he said, but Severus had anyway.
Holding the scale out to Lupin, Severus glared. "Take this."
Remus held out his hand reluctantly, allowing Severus to drop the scale into it. It rested against his palm, surprisingly weighty for its small size: a gentle, calming blue half-circle with a silvered border. "And?"
"Mortar!" Severus snapped. "Pestle! You can't just toss it in to the potion like that. It's too strong by itself, you've got to dilute it!"
Frowning, Remus dropped the scale into a small wooden bowl. He fingered the blunt, thick pestle for a moment, then glanced up at Severus for confirmation.
"What do I dilute it with? Does it just absorb liquid from the potion?"
Severus' eyes, reduced to slits, radiated disapproval and disgust. "Of course not, are you mad? Grind it thoroughly, until it is nothing but a fine powder. Make absolutely certain that there are no large pieces remaining, it must all be ground up. Then we add a drop of milk." He shook his head, amazed that his companion had managed to pass his Potions O.W.L. at all. "The milk acts as a neutralizer, removing the harmful parts of the scale -- the poison!" Severus added. "Daft," he muttered under his breath, though not so quiet that Remus could not hear. "Dragon's blood can be poisonous of not properly measured and controlled. In a sleeping draught, you want just enough to cause the effect of unconsciousness, but anything more, and it becomes fatal. There is a tiny bit of blood in the scales, for which reason we add the milk, to ensure a safe concoction. You don't want to kill anyone, do you, Lupin?"
"Of course I don't!"
"Then listen, and look sharp! Pay attention in class. If anyone had drank a drop of the muck I've seen you ruin in class, you'd be in Azkaban as a murderer by now."
Remus sighed, pounding his dragon scale forcefully. "I do try," he said, resentfully. "And I've done well in all of my other subjects. Four 'exceeds expectations' in my O.W.L. results, and I didn't exactly have the best day of my life on examination day either."
"Nor did I."
Blanching, Remus remembered the traumatic incident that had occurred directly after the fifth year's O.W.L. examination in Defence Against the Dark Arts, when James had attacked Severus, tormenting him for the amusement of his friends, most particularly Sirius. Remus remembered the fire in Lily Evans' eyes as she had come to Snape's aid, and the way she had looked, as though she'd been slapped, when he had insulted her instead of thanking her for her help. Lily had spent much of the last few days at Hogwarts crying, or else hiding away in her bedroom in the girls' dormitory, where Remus did not venture. He supposed, now that he thought about it, Severus had done the same. He hadn't seen the other boy until they had all boarded the train home, and Severus had shut himself up in a compartment alone.
"I --" he began haltingly, feeling he ought to make amends. "I'm sorry about, well --"
"Drop it," Severus advised, his tone icy.
Earnestly, Remus tried again. "But it was wrong, and well, I didn't mean -- I wish I'd --"
"I said, don't," came Severus' reply, a hiss through his teeth. He took hold of Remus' abandoned mortar and pestle, grinding the scale furiously until it resembled nothing so much as a faintly sky-coloured bit of confectioner's sugar. The milk sloshed over the table as he poured it, watching the blue powder dissolve.
Made a right mess of that, Remus thought, watching his tutor hastily dump the powdered dragon scale and milk into the bubbling cauldron, releasing a puff of lavender smoke. He had never seen Severus so graceless with the handling of Potions before. Normally, the young man touched his bottles and phials with the delicate hands of a lover, and leered hopefully at his cooking concoctions.
"I'm -- I'm ready for the next ingredient," he said, sighing and giving in as Severus glared at him. There was fire in Severus' eyes and Remus wondered why the other young man seemed to hate him so passionately. "You'll have to give me a clue, I'm sorry to say. I don't remember a thing, and before you snap at me, I read the entire chapter this afternoon during one of my free periods. It just spills out of my memory before I can put it to any use." He waited a minute, watching Severus stare into the red contents of a nearby phial. "I'm ready," he prompted, again.
Sinking down onto one of the scarred, abandoned desktops, Severus rested his chin in his palm. "I'm not."
"Are we -- I mean, is that it?" Remus asked tentatively. He bit his lip, pinning it between his teeth.
"For a sleeping draught? No, there are several more ingredients, but as the preparation for them is each more complicated and time-consuming than the next, I see no point in struggling to educate you on their usage. Why waste my time teaching you how to blend a delicate mixture of seeds and acids, when we both know you'll be just as inane and useless come tomorrow's class?"
"Snape," Remus said warningly, but he settled himself into a nearby chair nonetheless. "It doesn't help, you know, you barking at me like that. I am trying."
"Without success," Severus pointed out. He closed his eyes and bowed his head, letting his dark hair fall over his face to hide him. He did not want to have to think about the memory of being mocked by Potter and what seemed at least half the population of Hogwarts. He was sure Lupin was also considering it, but from an entirely different perspective. Lupin's vantage point had been safe. He'd been a short distance away, shaded by a leafy tree, staring grimly at the pages of his book without reading them, not teased and taunted and struck down with spells by a rowdy gang of two, with Pettigrew cheering them on. It was not Lupin who had been mercilessly disarmed, then hung upside down for the entire student body to laugh at. Lupin had not suffered the embarrassment of having his trousers torn away, exposing pale legs and faded underpants, in front of the girl he loved and a number of crushes. Lupin hadn't lost that girl either, had the friendship spoiled by a careless phrase.
"Never mind, it doesn't matter. I'm sure Black will be more than happy to continue filling your vials with samples from his own cauldron. Slughorn doesn't seem to mind, I suppose he contents himself knowing you've read up on the theory and have a source outside the Apocathary to turn to if you ever need something brewed."
"He told me to keep trying," Remus recounted, remembering the jovial professor's reaction to Remus' confession of misery and inability. "Said I ought to keep my chin up."
"Useless condolences," retorted Severus viciously. "He knows you're not up to the task, and hasn't the heart to send you away. Weak pity. I don't know why he doesn't give you up as a bad job; he should have done in third year, when you melted your first cauldron."
Remus looked at him, surprised. "You remember."
Severus shrugged, his arms protectively close to his sides. "Of course. You were sitting rather near my section. I was afraid I'd be splattered with the brew for removing boils."
"Lots of people have melted their cauldrons," Remus pointed out defensively, but he did not feel any need to protect himself. Severus' taunts had grown almost comfortable, a method of exchange, like a form of communication only Snape seemed to specialise in. Come to think of it, Remus couldn't imagine the other young man doing anything else. Severus could not even be envisioned carrying on excitedly about Quidditch, a fact for which Remus was thankful; the mere thought of James' obsession with Quaffles and Bludgers and sexy female Beaters was enough to make his head spin. Severus had none of Lily's finesse in the conversation department either; kind, sweet, endearing sort of words, designed to offer comfort, would sound foreign on his tongue. He was incapable of the panting, eager inclusion Peter radiated, and of course, Remus would never imagine Severus behaving like Sirius, having a conversation filled mostly with appraisals of his virtues and the pretty legs of the Hufflepuff sixth years and endless assessments of the state of a new motorcycle. Severus would be able to be speak deeply, but never kindly. It made Remus somewhat squeamish even to imagine an alternative.
"Still, no doubt you hold the record," came Severus' reply, though it carried no real menace. He sighed. "Why do you continue on with Potions, if I may pry? Is it pure masochism, or is it because Potter and Black will not allow your schedule to deviate from their own? I notice they expect you to trail at their footsteps eternally, a constant shadow." He smirked, grimly. "Surely you don't expect to improve in this course, so why not give it up? A nice round of Muggle Studies might have proved more to your liking."
Remus shifted uncomfortably. "There is a -- a particular potion, which I require every so often for medicinal purposes. It is available at the Potions shop in Diagon Alley, and probably at the Apocathary in Hogsmeade as well, but it is rather expensive, and as you know, my family does not have a great deal of money. I've often sacrificed my pocket money in order to be able to afford it, but if I could learn to brew it myself, well, it would be a tremendous savings. Most of the ingredients are simple and inexpensive, but I dare not settle for a mediocre concoction. It's rather important."
Curious, Severus glanced over at Remus. "And what is this potion?"
Blushing, Remus sighed. "I'd rather not say. Suffice to say, it's of a personal nature."
"Oh please, Lupin," Severus spat. "Let's not pretend it's anything dramatic. You sit there in your faded old cardigan, surrounded by the perpetual pung of library dust, and dare to imply you've got some fascinating personal secret hidden up your sleeve? Well, I don't believe it."
"You don't have to," Remus answered, bristling. "I doesn't concern you."
"You want my help though, don't you?" Severus asked, his dark eyes brimming with possibilities as he applied the blackmail. "You expect me to continue to dedicate my time to this hopeless lost cause. Are you of the opinion that I enjoy devoting my evenings to being trapped in this cluttered old stockroom? Because if you are operating from that assumption, allow me to make it most perfectly clear to you: I don't enjoy the reek of out-of-date potion fumes any more than you do." He sniffed. "The least you could do is tell me what magical elixir you're attempting to create. Then, perhaps, we could focus on that recipe instead." He reached for the ladle of the sleeping potion and sighed. "Obviously, we are never going to make a competent brewer out of you, so let us cut to the chase: what are you attempting to learn?"
Blushing, Remus looked away. "I -- I'd better be on my way. It's getting late. Peter and James and -- and Sirius --" he noted the sudden purpling of Severus's skin " -- well, they'll be wondering what's happened to me."
Severus narrowed his eyes. "They can wait."
"You don't understand," Remus muttered under his breath. "It's personal, embarrassing."
"Yet you expect me to waste my time here with you, my personal time. If you are labouring under the delusion that I do this for entertainment value, Lupin, you'd be wholly wrong. Therefore, I think you owe me the truth, at the very least, as payment for my generosity."
Remus cocked an eyebrow. "You're getting a Sickle a lesson, as you so thoughtfully threw in my face earlier. All I'm asking you to do is improve my brewing technique. I don't ever expect to be gifted in the subject, just sufficient, and you do not need to know the details in order to help me reach that point." He frowned. "If you won't, I suppose I can ask Lily to --"
"Do not!" Severus interrupted hastily, his voice raised. Sinking low, his spine bending like a branch in high wind, Severus deflated. "Don't mention her."
Perturbed, Remus made a face. "Look, I know the two of you had a falling out because of you calling her 'Mudblood', but it's not my --"
"I said don't say her name!" Severus practically shouted. He leapt up, cheeks flaming. "I never should have accepted this position. There are plenty of others with nothing more important to do with their time than offer tutelage to a useless, half-breed Gryffindor." He glared. "I have no idea what made me accept in the first place," he added, though he fully well did.
His mother had come from a decently well-to-do family of pureblood heritage, but she had been cut off from the financial benefits of her relatives when she had made the hasty and altogether foolish -- in Severus's opinion -- decision to shack up with Tobias Snape. By the time she had come to regret her move, and given Tobias time to display his true colours, she had been pregnant, and there had been no going back. Her relatives had shown no interest in welcoming her back to the fold with a half-blood infant in her arms, and so she had remained with Severus's father, managing a hand-to-fist existence that left little gold, or even a few bronze Knuts, to buy clothes and school supplies for Severus. He had rarely gone hungry, but once he had been sorted into the power house that was Slytherin, home of wealthy, haughty purebloods with immaculately shined shoes, crisp new robes for every season and money to squander on Honeydukes candies and broomstick polish, Severus had learned he needed a bit more in the way of pocket money in order to have any chance of fitting in. He worked odd jobs some summers, mostly for Muggle neighbours who were too afraid of his father to deny him the chance to mow their grass or rake their leaves, but it had never earned him enough. Slughorn's recruitment of Potions tutors during fifth year had been a god-send. But it's not just the money, is it? he asked himself, before rudely shoving the idea away.
Remus gaped at Severus, his eyes widening in shock. "Wh -- what did you call me?" he stammered breathlessly after a moment.
"What?" Severus asked in confusion, too lost in his own morose musings to pay attention to Remus' bewildered, horrified expression or his shaky tone. "What did you say, Lupin?"
Hands twitching, Remus shook his head, flummoxed. "You -- you called me 'half-breed'," he explained softly, the colour draining from his face. He could feel his stomach twisting, as though he was on a broomstick that was falling in a steep arc towards the ground, and preparing for the inevitable crash. Snape knows, he thought desperately, nausea and terror flooding him. James knows, Peter knows, and Sirius of course -- but Severus Snape?
Padfoot had been the first person to whom Remus had confessed his lycanthropy, back in those days before the emergence of Padfoot and Moony. It had been during that wretched weekend in the hospital wing, when not even Pomfrey had been able to restore his face to normal, so deep and thorough were the scars stretching across it. Remus had cried, disgusted with himself, hating the pain that went through his body and utterly despising the werewolf who had savaged him, for not killing him that night he'd been bitten -- and then Sirius had come.
His concern had been evident, such a change from his usual arrogant smirk or the dismissive smile normally seen across his dashing face. Sirius had pestered, asking the same question a thousand different ways, and Remus had surrendered at long last, no long able to put up with the sad look in Sirius' eyes. Quietly, he had reached over to the night table onto which Pomfrey had placed his schoolbooks, and had opened his Defence Against the Dark Arts manual to the unit on dark creatures. Then he had waited, silently, his breathing fast and shallow, for Sirius to read, expecting his friend to leap up in fright, maybe tossing him a look of contempt before vanishing forever from his life. However, to his deep and resounding shock, Sirius had leaned forward, traced the trail of the new red scar across Remus' lips and chin, and pronounced it magnificent before assuring Remus he really did not care, took no offence to Remus' situation, and "no, Remus, I'm not afraid to stay in the same dorm as you even if you do turn into a murderous beast by the light of the moon; I wish I could do that".
Cautiously, Remus bowed his head, watching through his fringe as Severus considered the situation for a moment. He did not want to speak, but rather concentrated on stabbing his palms with his own fingernails for distraction, feeling anxious and depressed as he dwelled upon the rumours that must currently be circulating through Hogwarts. Sirius, he knew, would stick by him even if no one else did, and James and Peter too, but what if he was asked to leave school? Surely, once his peers spread the news home, he would be forced to go.
Severus himself blanched, frowning deeply. He had not meant for those words to escape his lips, and it was not only Headmaster Dumbledore's threat which kept him in line. Whenever he had considered confronting Lupin with the knowledge he had gained, that terrible night when that bastard Black had lured him out into the grounds, Severus felt a bewildering desperate, flailing sensation at the notion of putting Lupin in pain. Idle taunts, yes, insults even, but he knew, deep down, not even he was low enough to spill Remus' most embarrassing, life-altering secret. "I -- that night on the grounds," he said softly, examining his hands as though he had never seen anything so fascinating in all his life. "Perhaps you don't remember."
"Remember?" Remus frowned, trying to recall any memory of having spilled the truth of his affliction to Severus. "What do you mean?"
"Last year, the morning after the full moon, do you remember when you woke up in hospital and I was there too?"
Shrugging, Remus thought. "I suppose I do. Yes, I do," he corrected himself, remembering how Sirius and James had not been themselves that particular Sunday, even though he had not been badly injured by his transformation and subsequent loss of control, the way he sometimes was. Sirius had been downright morose, in fact, sullen and moping and constantly sighing melodramatically. James had been snappish, on edge, his temper brittle and prone to explosions throughout that entire week; he had treated Remus extremely gently, as though he were made of glass, but had shouted at Sirius for such minor, Sirius-like transgressions as wearing his mud-speckled boots in bed and walking around the hospital room in his underwear. Remus had scarcely noticed Severus in all the fuss. For once, neither James nor Sirius seemed to have any interest in taking the Mickey, and Severus had slumbered peacefully under the influence of restoration draughts and boiled cures for shock, recuperating from an illness Remus had not bothered to ask about.
"Well, then," Severus said, shrugging. He waited for some acknowledgement, for the light of understanding to shine in Remus' eyes, but the other young man seemed simply perplexed. "Oh, Merlin, they never told you?"
"Told me what, exactly?"
"You attacked me that night. You came close," he modified as Remus gasped, the colour draining from his face. Noting Remus' ashen complexion, Severus sighed. "Nothing dramatic, Lupin; please don't tell me you consider yourself a serious threat to any properly trained wizard. I was not bitten, scarcely scratched. Potter found out what Black had done and he -- er -" Severus bit his tongue hard, not wanting to make the confession. "Well, provided me a tiny bit of assistance in putting my situation to rights."
Lupin still looked at a loss and Severus sighed, deciding Lupin was even more dense than he had originally thought. "He escorted me to the castle, and Pomfrey bludgeoned me with threats until I accepted her offer of a lie-down and a calming draught." He sniffed, disdainful. "Luckily, she ordered it from Slughorn directly; had you been asked to create it, heaven knows where I'd be now."
Tossing this information around in his mind, like trying to sort through a jumble of laundry, Remus clenched his teeth. None of it made sense, but one point in particular stuck out, stabbing him with confusion, fear and the barest hint of anger. "What did Sirius do?"
"He never told you?" Severus was shocked; he had expected Black to brag about the near miss, how he had almost ended the life of Severus Snape. In a reversed situation, with Black the victim, he himself certainly would have done. Tearing himself away from fantasies of getting Sirius Black cursed with a fatal transformative illness, Severus sneered. "Figures, though I would have expected Potter to own up, at least. He's even more the coward than I thought."
Impatient, Remus stared at Severus. "Tell me!"
"He, Black -- he lured me out of the castle on the night of your, er, transformation." Having said it, Severus risked a glance at Remus, but his peer seemed too stunned to reply. "He knew I'd had questions about your whereabouts during your conspicuous absences," he added, though he did not mention how unfair he had found the situation. Remus was often given an extra window of time during which to finish his assignments and make up for what he had missed, a situation that Severus had always assumed had contributed to the bookish Gryffindor's excellent marks. "He told me, if I went out that night, all would be revealed."
Recounting it felt like a time-turner; Severus was still in the murky Potions lab, safely ensconced among the dried herbs and flickering fires, but he felt as though he were outdoors again, walking the grounds as the clocks approached midnight. "He said, all I needed to do was go up to that tree, the Whomping Willow, and press a knot on the trunk to stop the branches striking me." Gazing into Remus' stricken face, Severus continued. "And so I did. I assumed it was another prank, some sort of joke at my expense. I thought he and Potter might leap out at me in frightening masks, or try to hex me away from the safety of the staff and my friends, but I was extremely curious, and decided to take that chance." A hint of pride showed on his face. "I am very well adept at some of the more interesting curses, as you well know, and there have been plenty of times when four -- or in any case, three -- against one has not been a winning combination for Potter. I was reasonably confident when I left the castle that I could handle whatever Black decided to throw at me. Of course, I didn't expect --"
"A werewolf." Remus bit down on the word, hating it. His blood seemed hot with fury, his body temperature spiking with unreal anger. Sirius! How could he! And if I'd -- oh, if I'd bitten Snape…. "Sirius told you to come out there? On the night of the full moon? To the tunnel beneath the tree?"
Severus nodded. "Yes. I speculated there was some sort of passage beneath that tree, though I thought it would lead to a type of clubhouse for your lot. Alas, I never got to see what was at the very end." He shivered a little, remembering the sight of cold, red eyes. "Instead of stumbling onto a happy secret, I found myself blundering into Black's trap. Oh, he intended you to frighten me, no doubt," he confirmed as Remus shook his head frantically, "perhaps more. I'll never venture to guess what lurks in the mind of Black, not after that. He would have rejoiced to see me dead."
There was no contest, as Remus supposed this was probably true. "But I --"
"You would have been exterminated, no doubt, unless you were dead lucky and ended up with a life sentence in Azkaban instead. The Ministry sentiment is against dark creatures, so my galleons would be on the Ministry putting you out of your misery. Oh, Black would have regretted that, I have absolutely no doubts whatsoever. What a tragic stumble off his pedestal," he snapped, lip curling. "Exposed as treacherous, murderous, no more fame and adoration, and not all the respect garnered by that surname of his would have been enough to buy his way out of prison. I am inclined to believe he would regret the trouble he put you through as well, selfish though he is. You do such an excellent job as the sidekick of Potter and Black, even if they do endanger your life from time to time."
"You don't -- I don't -- fuck!" Remus decided in exasperation, actually throwing up his hands. He rounded on Severus as he headed for the door. "You're lying!"
Snape's cruel smile was irrefutable proof that this was not so. He ran a hand through his lank hair. "Oh?"
"Yes," Remus retorted, considerably less certain. "Black would -- I mean Sirius would never do anything of the sort. He's my best friend!"
"With friends like that, I don't suppose you'd survive enemies," Severus spoke softly, one eyebrow raised in mocking scepticism. "Or perhaps that is the Gryffindor equivalent of friends, hmm? Maybe displaying complete contempt for another's person is the valiant, courageous way of arriving at an amicable state of being, is that so? In that case, perhaps Potter's tiresome attempts to hex my clothes inside out and transfigure my nose into a bouquet of posies are merely overtures of everlasting friendship."
His voice turned cold. "Please, Lupin, do not insult my intelligence, even if you are resigned to offending your own. Black tolerates you. You're…likeable." He breathed in deeply, frowning as if it were an Olympic sport. "Perhaps he finds your shabby attire endearing, though more likely he considers you a useful source for cheating on Transfiguration exams. Defending him is a grave misuse of your energies."
Furious, Remus slapped Slughorn's massive professor's desk with his open hand, almost enjoying the smarting sensation that spread across his palm. "You don't know the first thing about Sirius Black."
Severus was angry too, but forced his mouth into a curve that suggested he was going to burst into insulting laughter at any moment. "And you do? Why then, do you suppose, I was the one who told you the truth about that night and what he did? How come your friend didn't find the news worthy of your attention?"
"What does it matter to you?" Remus asked, eyes narrowed.
"I simply hate to see the show of weakness you've put on display. Defending an arrogant berk who couldn't care less about you or anyone else -- it's pathetic!"
"He does care," Remus responded, solemnly.
Severus' lip curled. "Oh, please. Just because you're desperate to give him a good snogging --"
"I am not!" Remus answered, hotly. He glared mightily at Severus, then stooped and snatched up his bag, shouldering it as he spun away. All he wanted, he decided, was a swift retreat to bed. For once, he was not going to leave curtains open either; he had no desire to study Sirius' gorgeous face, smooth and peaceful in sleep, illuminated by star light. No, he was going to bury his head in his comforter and spend the rest of the night hiding from the world, dreading when bright morning came to drag him kicking and screaming back to reality. Mortified, he wondered how he would face Snape in Potions the following Monday. How am I going to face Sirius? he wondered; a more pressing concern. Of course he'd never do those things -- but if he did? And James, why wouldn't James have said?
Severus' voice echoed out the door, reverberating in the stone hallway. "Haven't you got enough on your plate already, Lupin?" He waited a moment, until the ashen brunette poked his head back through the doorway, perplexed and agitated. "Covering up this werewolf thing isn't enough work?" he clarified, quieter. "I'd stick to obscuring the truth on only one subject, were I you, otherwise you'll forget and spoil the whole charade. Why don't you keep concentrating on pretending to develop allergies in Herbology that conveniently coincide with the rise of the moon, and I'll be the one to worry about claiming there is nothing that strikes my fancy less than another man in my bed."
He waited, listening to the silence that seemed to roar between him, deafening after his revelation. It grew louder and louder, as Remus opened and closed his mouth, unable to reply. Severus shifted on his feet, clenching his jaw so tightly it hurt. He did not know what had dragged the truth from him -- certainly, he had managed to keep it quiet for the two years since his first encounter with another bloke, the notorious Lucius Malfoy; no one else knew, of course -- except that he had felt slightly ill-at-ease, knowing an intimate, horrific secret about Lupin without offering anything up about himself.
"Well?" he said, after a moment, prepared for the taunts he expected.
Remus simply raised his eyebrows further, allowing them to shoot up into his fringe. He gaped, flabbergasted. "But you -- Lily --"
"I often feel it is imprudent to take sides until one has had sufficient time to observe and come to a decision," Severus answered, a touch of superiority in his voice. "While you, plainly, have thrown yourself into the world of bloke-on-bloke, I've come to the conclusion that both sexes have something to offer." He waited, daring Lupin to contradict him. "Tell me, has Black ever given you any indication of interest?"
Turning bright red, Remus shrugged. "I don't see how that is any of your business," he asked, his voice high and thin.
Severus sighed, faintly smiling. "He doesn't strike me as the type, though I'll admit, I would not be completely at a loss to find out otherwise. He has never shown exceptional interest in the majority of his little female fan club, has he? Just the dim-witted Hufflepuff girls." He licked his lips, studying Remus' posture. "But you wouldn't refuse him, if he offered, would you?"
"I -- no," Remus answered, his cheeks flaming. He glanced down at his shoes, humiliated and wanting.
"Would you refuse me?"
Remus scarcely had time to look up before he saw Severus, moving so fast he was simply a blur, walking towards him. The other young man wrapped his fingers around Remus' jaw, hard, holding him in place, and administered the kiss. It was more take than give, as could only be expected of Severus; unyielding himself, he licked Remus' lips, convincing them to part, and thrust his tongue inside, tasting him.
The wand he had been holding fell from Remus' startled grasp. It shot a stream of silvered sparks as it hit the floor, which instantaneously set in motion chaos like a line of dominos tumbling down. Severus' lengthy essay, due next class, unfurled like a parchment flag, shooting around the room trailing a torn edge. A few books, bearing his cramped handwriting in their margins, flew open, tossing their pages merrily in the air. Remus' own painstaking work -- Ancient Runes, and it took hours -- shredded itself slowly before fluttering down to the ground lifelessly. Neither boy paid any heed to the destruction, and if they heard the rattles and jangles of the potions vials in their glass holders when Severus shoved Remus forward so that he banged his hip against the desk, neither of them cared to do anything about it.
"I don't know if we ought --"
"What, Lupin, what?" Severus panted impatiently, his lips at Remus' throat.
Eyes half-closed, Remus tried to recall a valid point to his objection. "Well this is Slughorn's spare lab, isn't it? What if he comes in here, to brew something, and we're -- like this?"
"Doubtful," Severus answered, reaching for Remus' hands and settling them firmly on his hips. Smiling just a shade as Remus' fingertips slid into his trousers, he nodded, confirming the truth to himself. "He seldom does his own brewing, you know, only when it's requested of him by the Headmaster, and despite his many virtues -- possibly in addition to said virtues -- he has an extreme tendency towards procrastination. Come on, Lupin, be sensible. He received that owl delivery of mead and pineapple during class; do you really think he'll trouble himself to leave his recliner and his snack and come here, to do work?" Severus sneered. "Now, unless you're having second thoughts…."
"I'm not," Remus said.
He could feel the heat rising to his face, so that his skin most closely resembled a lobster, but he closed his eyes and allowed his hand to slide down Severus' hipbone, towards the young man's thigh, which earned him a gruff sigh of pleasure and a rough kiss on the lips.
Shoving aside the collection of phials, Severus leaned Remus back against the desk, smirking slightly at the apprehension plain in Remus' amber eyes. He took hold of Remus' trousers, hastily unbuttoning them and sliding them down, exposing Remus' body. Severus raised a teasing eyebrow, savouring Remus' embarrassment, watching as Remus' erection stiffened despite the coolness of the classroom and the blood that had risen to Remus' cheeks. Experimentally, he reached out, taking hold of Lupin's cock, and watched as Lupin thrust forward unconsciously, his eyes heavy-lidded and his lips wet and parted.
Severus bent down to his knees, looking up at Remus with dark eyes that glittered with mischief, rather like Sirius -- and of course, absolutely nothing like Sirius at all. He enjoyed the sight of the flame that lit Lupin's skin, but there were more important things to do than gawk. Slowly, deliberately, he drew Remus' erection to him, running his tongue over his lips in anticipation as he steadied Remus' hips with one hand. Then, he tilted his head forward, taking Remus into his mouth, his fingers coiled around the base of Lupin's erection. Above him, Remus moaned deeply, bracing himself against the edge of the desk with one hand, the other hand going at once to Severus' hair, which felt surprisingly soft beneath his fingers.
Severus smirked to himself as Remus thrust tentatively into his mouth, increasing the suction as his lips moved up and down Remus' member, from base to head.
Standing over him, Remus trembled, already on edge. He had wanted to…forever, though with Sirius of course, a defiantly loyal part of his mind spoke up. There had never been time, nor opportunity: Sirius was never alone, for one thing, as James and Peter were usually around. Anyway, Remus had not known how to phrase the desire. He was sure it was a dead giveaway, the obvious way he leaned in towards Sirius during conversation, casually bumping his arm against Sirius's arm. The press of their thighs as they sat side-by-side in the Great Hall, the way their four-way wrestling matches and semi-drunken pillow fights always seemed to end with Peter snoring on the floor, James wandering off pissed enough to embarrass himself in front of Lily, and Sirius falling asleep with his head pillowed in the crook of Remus' arm -- if there was a way to make it any more plain, Remus did not know about it. But he hadn't been able to say, and Sirius, who accepted the offer of back-rubs after Saturday detentions and frustrating Quidditch losses, who was more than happy to split a bottle of butter-beer lying together in bed over the holidays, had never asked, or offered. But Severus…Severus….
Severus sucked, his mouth warm, wet heat against Lupin, whose eyes had rolled back in his head and whose hands shook with pleasure. The thrusts were deeper now, rougher, more careless, and Severus backed off. He could sense Lupin's shock and disappointment as the cool air met his exposed skin.
"What are we --"
"Hush." With a wave of his wand, Severus slid the scattered desks over to the side of the room against one wall, leaving an empty expanse of floor. With another silent spell, he created a down comforter from nothing, and raised his eyebrow at Remus, amused and wanting. He had grown hard during the blowjob, and his breathing had become slightly erratic. Meeting Lupin's glassy, curious eyes, Severus had gestured towards the improvised bed. "Sit down."
Gingerly, Remus lowered himself down, not protesting as Severus pushed him down onto his back and proceeded to slide down over his thighs. Hot breath teased him, and Remus felt himself gasp and buck, wanting the slippery warmth of Severus' mouth over him. Almost instantly, he was rewarded with the sensation, but Severus drew back after a moment, reaching out and stroking him instead. Snape's hand was hot, and wet, and it took Lupin a minute to realise Severus was slicking him with oil, summoned from nothingness.
Bending forward, Severus billowed warm breath over Remus, then flicked his tongue over the head of Remus' cock, teasing him gently. He wanted it to be right, this first time with Lupin, which he had guessed rightly was Remus' first time with a man. Remus was incredibly responsive, arching his back slightly to press himself into Severus' hands, his breathing arrhythmic and shallow. With his own fingers, Remus clawed the makeshift bed beneath him, opening welts in the fabric from which goose down flowed, though neither of them cared. His mouth moved, panting Severus' name -- it sent a shiver down Severus' spine, to the Lupin supine and utterly aroused, whispering his name like a benediction. Satisfied, he smiled, and it was devoid of malice.
Just as Remus was on the verge, Severus stopped. He watched Remus gasp, his body trembling, his golden eyes flying open, and then, with a subtle gesture that might have been a wink, Severus turned over onto his stomach. His trousers, unbuttoned, hung loosely from his hips; he had removed his shirt and robes and cast them aside. With a snap of the wand, he locked the door to the Potions laboratory as well, ensuring their privacy. Then, he looked over his shoulder to see Lupin sitting up, slightly dazed but smiling at his good fortune, the small bottle of oil in his hands.
Nodding gravely, as if faced with a particularly challenging potion to brew, Remus dipped his fingers cautiously into the bottle. He slicked himself a bit more, experimentally, then reached for the waist-band of Severus' trousers, tugging them down and off. His tutor wore no y-fronts, Remus realised, and when he made a small sound of confusion, Severus calmly glanced over at him, shrugging.
"Nor would you, if Potter had made such a sport of flashing your underpants to a crowd of feeble-minded nitwits," he said by way of explanation. "Next time he wants to see, I'll give him the show he's so desperate for."
Amazed, Remus gazed down at the nude body before him. Delicately, he touched Severus' hip, surprised with the other young man complied with his wishes and shifted slightly, giving Remus' hand leeway to slide between Severus' body and the blanket, his fingers gently stroking Severus with his hand, the remnants of the oil making his palm and fingers silky. Testing, Remus wrapped his fingers around Severus' growing erection, gripping him firmly but carefully, and watched as Severus shivered, a low moan escaping his parted lips.
I want him, Remus realised, marvelling, I really do. He moved forward slightly, perched dominantly over Severus, one hand lifting Severus' hips up and positioning them, the other continuing to stroke him. He braced Severus' hips, then dipped the fingers of his right hand into the oil again, trailing the rather viscous, slippery substance over the backs of Severus' legs and his arse. Nervous, but determined, Remus cautiously slid one finger into Severus' arse, provoking Snape to suck in his breath with desire. He moved slowly, stroking in and out, teasing Severus' cock with the other hand, until he could not wait. Impatiently, he nudged Severus' legs apart, pressing his erection against Severus' inner thigh, then sliding forward, forcing his way in. He heard Severus cry out breathlessly beneath him, but amid the pain in Severus' voice, Remus could hear overwhelming pleasure. Drawing back slightly, Remus bent forward, his tongue licking a trail up Severus' spine as he re-entered, this time slowly, gentler, one hand pressed over Severus' hand, the other stroking Severus' cock; unhurried at first, then briskly, appreciating the way it turned Severus' breathing rapid and wrenched a deep, desperate moan out of him.
The moan stoked Remus' own arousal, and he thrust in again, developing an awkward rhythm, trying to balance the speed of the hand job he was giving Severus with his own movements. He could feel Severus tight around him, slick and hot, and the pleasure was nearly unbearable.
"Faster," Severus whispered, his voice muffled as he laid face down across his arm, his hips tilted and arched up to meet Remus' thrusts. The other young man, so useless at Potions, was definitely a quick learner in other departments. Severus bit down on his hand to avoid crying out in frantic pleasure as Remus increased his speed, pressing in further. "Harder!" He felt Remus take hold of his hips, repositioning him before slamming back inside. Remus' thrusts settled into a more suitable timing, and Severus tilted his hips, allowing Remus more access. He was still biting down on his hand, but the moans and cries were escaping him anyway, echoing around the small room. Reaching around behind him, Severus grabbed Remus' hand, pressing it to his erection, and sighed hugely as Remus stroked him with a firm, oil-drenched grip. The friction was delicious, and Severus felt himself quaking as he neared his climax. Remus was on top of him, and Severus could feel the other man's heartbeat pulsing through his own body, impossibly forceful as Remus slammed into him, claiming him utterly.
On the verge of orgasm, Remus trembled, sliding into Severus, concentrating all the feeble control he had left on his thrusts. Both of their bodies were slick with sweat. Adjusting his mounted position, Remus tipped forward slightly, his sharp teeth seeking out the sensitive flesh of Severus' shoulder. He bit down, hard, and felt Severus buck up against him, allowing him to plunge in even deeper into Severus' body. Then, lights seemed to explode, blinding Remus with brilliance even while everything went shadowy, and his last thrust was erratic and deep as he came, pouring himself into Severus. He could feel Severus' orgasm as well, and could hear Severus moaning and shouting and feel him shuddering, and as he drained the last bit of pleasure from Severus' cock, Remus felt himself rolling over, to the place where Severus had given him room to collapse beside him.
Later, much later -- hours later, at the very least -- Remus rose from the sweat-dampened mattress, rubbing his eyes gingerly. He was exhausted, but happy about it. His body felt used and abused -- Severus had pointed out that it was only fair, and they had tried one another in different positions -- each muscle aching independently, and he was unsteady on his feet as he clutched his forgotten robes to his chest, but it felt good, even the ache and the stiffness and the soreness sure to follow. He had been bled dry and transfused, a new man.
"Severus? I've -- it's so late. Nearly morning."
Beside him, Severus stirred, opening his eyes blearily, a ghost of a smile on his lips as he looked over at Remus, noting with some satisfaction the purple-blue bruises that ringed the werewolf's neck. Teach him to bite me, he thought with some superiority, although he had enjoyed Lupin's nips and bites, those sharp pointed teeth and the hot licks of his tongue to follow. Marked, he considered with satisfaction, and Remus seemed able to read his thoughts, for he gingerly touched a bruise by his throat, his smile sheepish.
"Back to Gryffindor then, on the double," Severus instructed, stretching languidly. "Whatever will Potter do without you there among his minions, intent on cheering him on to victory at today's Quidditch match?" Severus asked, but there was no bite in his voice. He raised an eyebrow. "How do you suppose you'll explain those, and your absence from your tower last night?"
"Potions accident," Remus said deceptively, wondering whether some of Severus' Slytherin traits had rubbed off on him in the night. "I'll tell them my cauldron exploded."
"Ah, the believable angle," smirked Severus. "Well then, I suppose I too should go and make myself presentable. Though, perhaps it is early enough for me to steal one more hour of sleep in my own bed. Well then," he said, sitting up and summoning his trousers from across the room. "I will see you at the match -- from the Slytherin supporter's section of the pitch, of course."
Remus nodded, smiling. "Naturally." He moved to the door, magically unlocking it, listening for a moment for any motion in the hallway before opening it a crack. "Well, I suppose --"
Severus' eyes glowed hot. "You have proven yourself a very quick study, Lupin, and quite a determined student. If you put that energy into your brewing, perhaps you could manage to attain competency."
Remus smiled just a bit. "I thought you said I was hopeless," he pointed out.
"Well, let us not be too hasty. You are showing promise."
"So, you'll continue tutoring me? We'll have more Potions lessons?" Remus' smile widened, and he managed to affect a seductive look.
"How does tonight suit you?"
"By tonight, they should all be far too drunk on victory punch to notice my absence. I'll see you at seven then, Severus."
"At seven," Severus echoed, eyes shining, as he watched Remus slip out of the door.