The first Kay- Eye- Double- Ess.
"Oh for goodness sake Lupin, do you really think I care about that at all? A stupid juvenile prank not thought through?" Snape continued to stir the gently bubbling cauldron, his eyes never leaving the slowly changing contents as they went from yellow to purple, occasionally spitting a drop onto the work table which gently smoked where it landed. The Werewolf threw his hands out from where they had been resting on his hips in a gesture of confoundedness;
"What! You whine about it every opportunity you get!" he lent forward sharply, a hand either side of the brew, causing Snape to look up sharply and scowl as he glared at the other man, never once breaking his methodical stir. Lupin checked a little at the glare and stood up straight, just as, with a 'plip!' a spot of smouldering potion landed where his hand had been. Snape barely suppressed a smirk though his raised eyebrow clearly stated; 'I told you so'. Dropping his eyes again he stated calmly;
"It is a suitable ruse. An excuse. It is what makes him bite. It will make you argue. Make us argue perhaps."
Lupin frowned at that.
"An excuse? For what?" Lupins voice, angry at the start, changed, becoming full of doubt. "To get rid of me?"
Snape gently shook his head. The pause grew longer and when he spoke, it was quietly and directed at his work.
"Not you, him."
"Why do you think. He annoys me. Because you love him. Because every time I see him it makes me think that," he looked up, briefly, eyes momentarily studying Lupins, "that maybe you are only here because you can't be there."
"That's ridiculous! I'm here because I want to be. I don't have to be any where!"
"So you say." Snape's tone changed, back to the formal school teacher. He added a pinch of something which made the mixture boil violently, and then turn a very dark blue before becoming still. Snape wiped the stirrer on a cloth and put it to one side. He lent back in his chair, cricking his back, and fixed Lupin in his dark gaze again. "You are aware that the man is insane."
"I know." Lupin matched his gaze and held it, inwardly very relieved when it was Snape who broke it.
"And yet you still keep him…"
"Keep him!?! Severus, he is my best friend!"
"Are you sure of that?"
"What?" The question threw Lupin a little; he was used to loud rants about Sirius, full of childish insults and long past arguments, not the quiet almost introspective Snape sat before him now.
"Are you sure that he is still your best friend. I doubt whether he ever was. After all, had you have got to me you would have been destroyed…"
"You 'don't care about that'," mimicked Lupin, aware of his childishness and earning a raised eyebrow for his efforts; "remember?"
"True, it was merely an example. Habit, maybe. There are others, I'm sure. I am simply suggesting that he may not be your best friend any more. That after twelve years in that Hell hole, he has changed."
"Don't you think I don't know that?" Suddenly, it was Lupin who was shouting, eyes getting a slightly wild look, one which Snape teased him mercilessly about they made love, "Don't you think I don't know that he's completely nuts! Half the time he thinks we're at school again, demanding to know where James and Peter are and why I refuse to let him see them! The other half he sits and stares! At nothing! The only time I see any of the old Sirius is when you two are bickering, and that damn near breaks my heart every day, so don't you dare tell me I should be rid of him, I should be just as well to be rid of you!" He stopped, aware of what he just said, glint leaving his eyes as he reached a hand out to Snape's cheek which was brushed away as a mere annoyance.
"I never even mentioned it, I'm sure." said Snape, a little stunned at the out break, but keeping his face entirely closed. Then came a long silence where Lupin took the chair opposite Snape, and both men quietly studied each other, both deep in thought, neither face giving anything away. This time it was Lupin who broke. When he spoke it was barely a whisper, and it went straight to Snape's chest, twisting his heart like an invisible hand.
"He's my best friend Severus. What can I do." The silence came back, thick and full of unspoken sentiment. Slowly, Snape leant over the table and gently brushed his lips across first one cheek, then the other, barely a kiss, but enough to make Lupin feel like sobbing. As his lips passed Lupin's ear, he whispered;
"And what am I?"
As he straightened and made to leave, Lupin caught his hand and fixed him in a pleading stare.
"You tell me."
A frown crossed Snape's face as he thought, gently pulling his hand away he said, with a sad shake of his head as he walked out of the door;
"I'm not sure that I know."
Lupin let him go and quietly said to the retreating back;
"Well when you've figured it out, be sure to let me know."
"Remus. Remus Remus! I have decided, my dear old friend, that it is in-fact you who are nuts!" Sirius Black stabbed the air with a long tattooed finger, a manic grin from ear to ear. Lupin, on the receiving end of the finger just looked tired, and felt even worse.
"And why's that, Sirius?"
"Please! You ask that with a straight face! Oh you're good Remmy, if this is a joke it's really good…"
"There's no joke. I'm tired of pretending, of being careful. You deserved to know."
Black's expression changed as if a switch had been flipped, eyes going steely grey and cold. Lupin kept his expression neutral, breathing deep to quell the panic growing in his stomach which always came these days when dealing with an upset Sirius. He just never knew when the storm would pass in a heartbeat or when it would rage for hours and he would have to cast Silencing charms on the walls lest Molly, or, worse, Snape, come investigating.
"What! I deserved to know! That's a laugh. I'd rather not!"
"Probably not. At least you're not going to be traipsing around behind my back anymore, keeping secrets from me."
"I wasn't. Not how you mean it. You're not angry are you?"
"No No! Why would I be angry? After all, I find out my best friend is sleeping with…urgh, what a thought…the freakish death-eater throw back to God knows what, of course I'm not angry!"
"You shouldn't be, you know."
"Oh I am sorry." The sarcasm dripped richly from his words, making Lupin cringe.
"Maybe we should talk about this tomorrow." He tried to placate, "You must be tired…"
"NO!" roared Black; "Why must I be tired?! Stop treating me like some sick Aunt and being so damn nice! You were always so nice!" He paused, and began to chuckle, his eyes softened and Lupin sighed, that was it, storm over. Black clapped his hands, laughing now; "That's it! You're just being nice to Sniv, you don't have to you know, he could afford to pay someone to be 'nice' to him you know…" the slap which Lupin laid on Blacks face must have stung a little, for all his scrawny frame he still had a Werewolves strength, as Black was sorely remembering. It seemed to do the job though, as the smart grin had left his face and he fixed Lupin in a sobered gaze.
"He's dirty, Remmy."
"Don't be silly."
"It's fumes, from the potions."
"By nurture, not nature."
"A-ha, I see."
Sirius thought for a moment.
"He's Dark, Remus."
Lupin gave a bark of laughter;
"No more than I."
Black studied his face, shook his head slowly, and then his eyes glazed slightly and he stared at a point just beyond Lupins right shoulder. He spoke very quietly, not blinking once and looking as sad as Lupin had felt earlier when Snape had left him.
"What does James think? He won't be happy Remmy. Not at all. Maybe we could set him up…" He grinned again, deep in thought and a different time, "Use you as bait…"
Lupin shuddered, and Snape's words came back to haunt him, 'Are you sure he is still your best friend?'", causing him to look at the fixated man before him and sigh. He gazed at his own piece of wall the other side of the room and tried to sort through the swirling thoughts in his head, resulting in the beginning of a head ache. He wandered at the chance of getting any potion for it from Snape and doubted it.
Suddenly, as quickly as he had switched off, Black was back, staring at Lupin intensely.
"I swear, Remmy, if he hurts you or plays any Death-eater games with you, I'll kill him."
"Thanks, I think. So you're ok with this?"
"Of course I'm not bloody ok with it! But what choice do I have? You're old enough and ugly enough, as they say."
"Just be careful. I spent years with his sort, in that place, and they're not nice. Are you sure he's..."
"Sirius Stop it! I'm sure. Please, just let me get on with this. I know what I am doing."
"And I'll be here to pick up the pieces."
"There won't be any."
"There will be when I blast him into thousands of them."