DISCLAIMER: Don't own Harry Potter or anything associated with the Harry Potter World. This is a non-profit fiction.
Author's Notes: Originally written for Chocolate and Asphodel, I supposed this story kicked me back on the Fanfiction Horse~!
R and R, please!
It was impossible to say he was beautiful.
The way his pin-thin wrists, joints inflamed with premature arthritis, flexed as he grasped the long cauldron ladle. The seemingly impossible way his robe clutched even tighter to the near bare bones of his concave midriff as he shifted his body weight to force the wooden spoon in the thick, blue sludge to dance from one edge of the heavy iron pot to the other, a silent grunt escaping his cracked lips as his weight challenged that of the potion for the ninety-ninth stir. His hair – once thick and lush – now lank, greasy, stained and sticky.
His musk was of undefinable origin. Subtle hints of something oaky in the depths of the initial reek that could only be described as a whisky-soaked carcass, the potions ingredients prominent only during the weekdays.
Truly, nothing about Severus Snape was beautiful.
But, as Remus sat perched atop a dragon hide chest watching the Potions Master, who was in turn carefully monitoring his own brewing of the complex Wolfsbane, he mused on why this unkempt skeleton of a man was so damn stunning.
The werewolf was drawn from his thoughts by a loud 'CLUNK', as the heavy wooden spoon fell against the cauldron edge, echoing off the damp stone of the dungeon classroom.
"It's ready." Severus cleared his throat and swallowed a few times, his Adam's apple visibly bobbing under the tight material. For a moment, Remus wondered if the man could breath at all, and his gaze was distant as he entertained his own thoughts. Severus cut him short once again, clearing his throat louder, however, the werewolf was not entirely sure it was to gain his attention.
Adjusting his vision to the whole image of the Dark Wizard standing before him, rolling his wrists one at a time, Lupin quickly composed himself, a smile gracing his frazzled features instantly.
"Thank you, Severus. Once again, I appreciate the time." He nodded affirmatively.
An ugly scowl passed over Snape's sallow features as he turned to the phial cabinet beside him, opening the heavy glass door and sorting through the various trinkets for a non-silver goblet. Rising from the chest and straightening his trousers, Remus took the moment to observe the Potions Master's long back, his golden eyes glinting in the candle light as they flicked up and down at the sight that nearly made him want to vomit, yet, at the same time, want to caress the prominent vertebrae that jutted through the black robes.
"So, Severus.. ah.." Lupin started, wetting his dry lips and walking closer to the other man. He had apparently found what he was looking for, a large goblet made of some sort of dark wood, and was turning back to the cauldron, unsurprised at Remus's sudden closeness.
"I don't see you at breakfast anymore. Well, lately at least. Everything alright?" The Gryffindor smiled, shuffling out of the Potions Master's way when a flick of the bony wrist instructed him so. Severus simply stood behind the large black cauldron, greasy hair having fallen in front of his face, and mumbling something about his eating being 'none of the bloody werewolf's business'.
If Remus heard the scathing comment, he ignored it.
"Dumbledore tells me--"
"Dumbledore told you nothing." Severus turned on his heel at lightning speed, thrusting the goblet of piping hot sludge towards the brown-haired professor. Remus nodded, casting a sad smile in the other man's direction, much to Snape's distaste, and took the goblet from the veiny hand.
"Well, Bottoms up!" Remus lifted the goblet slightly before bringing it to his own lips, trying not to look at the sea-colored slop before tilting his head back and closing his eyes, imagining it was a pint of butterbeer, to little avail.
When the final drops slithered down his throat, Remus handed the goblet back to Severus, who was wiping his hands clean on the once-fine black robe Remus knew he couldn't have purchased himself.
"I brewed enough for the week. Added some aspirin root so you can take it the 'morning after' to offset the headaches and nausea." The Potions Master crossed his arms, flipping his hair slightly and leaning back on the cauldron, a large breath escaping him. Remus smiled sympathetically.
Snape nodded, clearing his throat to the stone floor before setting his black gaze upon the brown-haired man before him.
"Do you want me to come by later on? Check up?" Remus had to stuff his hands in his pockets to avoid setting his hand upon the Potions Master's angular shoulder.
The Dark Wizard seemed to consider it for a long moment. His eyes cast downward, twitching as if following the pattern of the mortar in the stone, the red-rimmed edges spasming.
"N--" He huffed loudly, running a hand through his greasy hair before looking back up to the werewolf, "Yes."
"Are you sure?"
Severus nodded slowly, discontinuing any further conversation by turning back to the cauldron, hands clasping the rims tightly.
Remus nodded and turned, walking towards the door, not looking back. But Severus did.
"It has indeed been a while, Severus." Remus shook his head at the antique mirror, running four fingers through his stubble anxiously and casting a lazy glance at the reflection of the clock. It had only been an hour since he had gone to Severus for the Wolfsbane, and the small fire the house elves had set up for the new professor was just beginning to warm the terrace room.
Remus liked to keep the large, French doors to his own personal balcony open, no matter the cold that combated the fire fiercely. A simple cardigan solved the problem, and the mousy-haired professor enjoyed the combined smells of both the fresh, Scottish air and the charring wood.
The werewolf tugged the slightly dusty blue cardigan tighter around his aching form and assumed a small chair nearby the open doors, looking up at the moon that was hovering contently above him.
Remus had never seen a full moon with his own, human eyes. But now, with the promised Wolfsbane Severus had agreed to brew, he could maybe derive some beauty from it still.
"Severus...." he mumbled under his breath.
It had been nearly 20 years since their paths had crossed. And from naive schoolboys, men had come forth. But two completely different people had emerged from the shells of youth.
Remus remembered a time where subtle glances and folded pieces of parchment would be the highlight of any Slytherin-Gryffindor double class. A certain raven-haired boy standing over a student cauldron, perhaps a peek of tongue revealing itself from between two rosy lips in concentration.
"Severus..." A smile accompanied his whisper to the winds this time, and he closed his eyes and remembered...
'Shhh, Remus. They'll hear us!' The Slytherin smiled, uncharacteristically stuffing his books in his bag in a rush, and slinging the tattered leather case around his narrow frame. Peering out the Charms classroom's open door intently as a brown-haired boy danced and whistled behind him.
'What do I care?' Remus smiled, twirling around excitedly. 'I get to spend the whole holiday right here. And guess with whooooo?" The Gryffindor sing-songed brightly, poking at Severus's grey vest.
'Cut it out, Lupin!' Severus sighed comically, but Remus continued to attempt to provoke him to 'guess!'.
Finally, the black-haired teen gave in. 'Hmmm... Does his name begin with an S?'
Lupin smiled at this, nodding his head frantically, 'Yep! Keep going...'
Severus' copper clasps clicked together as he fastened his bag shut, turning to give Remus a crooked smirk. 'His name's not Severus, is it?'
Remus mocked surprise, clasping his hands together cheesily, 'You got it! Want to know what your prize is?'
'Prize?' The Slytherin tried not to sound curious, instead, lolling his head to the side and raising an eyebrow to compensate for his weak tone.
A moment of silence passed between the two boys accompanied by a crisp breeze that must have weasled in through a crack in the window seal, pushing the thin linen curtains open to reveal a rolling field speckled with brown and red leaves blowing about wildly.
'Prize.' Remus repeated, curiously gazing into Severus' obsidian eyes.
Slowly, the red and gold robe sleeve fell downward as the arm inside it lingered in air, hovering just over Severus' pristine green collar. Remus felt close to jumping with excitment as he grasped the soft material, victory rushing through his viens and a smile on his breath. The young werewolf could hear the heavy beating of both their hearts, and was exhillerated to find that they were nearly synchronised.
A wheezy laugh escaped Severus, as he looked down at the floor in slight embarassment, flushing red when his cheek brushed against Remus's fingers, but as he shyly jerked away, his expression changed dramatically. He grimaced and clenched his eyes shut, as if in pain, and Remus tore his hands away, terrified.
'Oooo...' The Slytherin groaned deeply, stiffening up like a board before falling clean to the side, Lupin attempting to grab at his robe as he cascaded. It was only when Remus heard the snickering that the bile gathered in the pit of his stomach.
Standing in the doorway were James and Sirius, James's wand drawn and held before him.
'Nice one, Prongs!' Sirius encouraged, motioning towards their friend to come closer.
'You... look what you did! You hurt him!' Moony dropped to his knees, where Severus was still groaning in pain, and a nasty looking cut had pierced through the back of the second-hand uniform.
'C'mon, Moons.... We're just playin' around! Decided to not go on the train after all, wanted to stay and keep you company for those... rough times you need us.'
James snickered, looking down at Severus's prostrate body, droplets of blood trimming the edge of the white and grey uniform.
'He's bleeding.. We need Madame Po-' Remus was interrupted when the Slytherin shoved him away, causing him to fall on his backside. Severus scowled, eyes brimming with betrayal as he rose to his feet, grabbing his bag and robe, and swiftly exiting through the alternate exit into the stairway.
Remus grimaced, trying to shake the final part of the memory from his mind. Instead, he wanted to focus on what would have happened if James and Sirius had just stayed on the train and gone home.... And if his hands were free to roam the pale neck and soft skin that was to be their prize.
How would he have been able to make the usually cold boy feel? Remus wondered. How would it have been for Severus? Would it have changed anything?
After the incident that day in the Charms classroom fall of 1975, Severus had still accepted Remus's company, but with a barrier so great the other boy felt as if he would never break through. They seemed drawn to each other, however. Over the holidays, eating lunch in separate parts of the Great Hall, nearly having entire tables to themselves, save for when James and Sirius were lively enough to wake up by lunch, having stayed up into the early hours of the morn talking about Quidditch.
Remus would slowly begin to inch his way closer to the young Slytherin. Every time alone, moving a foot closer on his own table to where Severus sat at the opposite, his back to him him and reading a book or scribbling something down loudly. It would be the day before Holidays ended that he finally was close enough to slip his tray beside the raven-haired wizard's own and quietly seat himself down as well. Surprisingly, Severus gave no protest, and they silently shared a piece of toast.
As the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, Remus felt as if he had to reenact that slow gaining of trust all over again. This time, not having to inch over in person, but rather, in voice.
'Might you pass the marmalade, Severus? Thank you."
Perhaps the next day he would be able to squirm slightly more.
'Hell of a Quidditch match, wouldn't you say. Slytherin did a fine fight! Hufflepuff didn't stand a chance!'
Soon enough, the responses would get longer, more detailed and more civil, until the two could manage a basic conversation over dinner without too much hassle.
Remus often wondered if he was simply a filthy opportunist, or if Severus really had given him a chance to get far closer then he had ever thought possible by allowing him into his private chambers to witness the monthly brewing and distilling of the Wolfsbane. The Gryffindor had attempted more personal questions in the privacy of the dungeons, but was shot down by the Potions Master every time.
Somehow it made Remus feel like Severus had been stuck in a stitch in time all these years. Unmoving, ungrowing, unliving simply because Remus hadn't been there to witness any of it, and had no information of with which to account for the years gone and everything that did undoubtedly happen.
Where was Severus Snape?
Where was the pale-skinned schoolboy that he never truly knew existed until he found someone else hiding underneath the black veil of hair?
Remus opened his eyes from his thoughts and immediately checked the time before rising achingly from the wooden chair, allowing himself a mental note to burn the uncomfortable hunk of bark the moment he returned. Until then, he found a tin bucket half full of water the house elves had left him, and he tossed it onto the fire, turning his head away and coughing as the ash and smoke piled from the stone crevice.
Swatting the blackness away with the fold of his loose cardigan, Remus grabbed a pinch of floo powder and tossed it into the fireplace.
"Professor Snape's Quarters," he declared loudly, and the green flames enveloped him half a step later.
Shaking his head and wishing he had taken the stairs, Remus stepped out of the large fireplace to find himself in a pit of green smoke, indicating that there was a fire going. He jumped out quickly, and the floo flames turned blue and then wrinkled back to their original orange and yellow glow.
The Potions Master's rooms were quite different than what he imagined, though still only set up for functionality.
Two emerald green chairs sat opposite each other by the fire, a long, threadbare beige area rug lazily thrown down in the center of the room, and if one were to walk on it to its fringe, he would end up at a single step leading to a quaint raised platform containing a large writing desk and several high bookshelves overflowing with time-worn books.
That being the only extra furnishing in the room. A large, four poster bed stood proudly in front of Remus, bronze snakes slithering and hissing around the dark wood, obviously upset at Remus' incessant staring. But in the folds of the plush white duvet, no one sat, nor did it look like anyone ever had. The DADA professor smiled, thinking about what disarray his own bed was in at this very moment, even though he had made it up in the morning.
The room was empty, and had Remus listened sooner over the dominating crackle of the fireplace, he would have heard the water running in the nearby washroom, and small strips of steam emitting from under the door kickplate. It was only until after the loud, scraping creak of the old plumbing being forced back did Remus turn his attention to the heavy wooden door shielding the bathroom, and he nodded before finding a comfortable place in one of the large, green chairs, but not before seeking out the copper tea kettle, which filled with a filck of his wand and a simple, quiet incantation, and setting it over the fire.
It was five or ten minutes before Severus emerged from the washroom, pushing the heavy wooden door open with a heaving breath and finding his way out of the abundant clouds of steam, a bath robe and slippers the only thing covering him.
Remus' voice startled the black-haired professor, and he whipped around to see the other man pouring two cups of tea, an obnoxious smile on his face.
"Sorry. Floo'd and got here a tad early, I'm afraid. Made some tea!" Remus held up the small white cup, and Severus regained himself, clearing his throat and straightening his back before moving over the other fireplace chair and sitting down, taking the tea cup cautiously and silently.
The two sat in silence, as they did many years ago, and drank their tea. But the silence was uncomfortable, not at all natural or polite, and though Remus was considering saying something, it would be Severus to break the silence.
"Did it work?" The Potions Master breathed.
"Hmm?" Remus curiously gazed up from his nearly empty cup.
"The Wolfsbane with aspirin root.. Did it stop the headaches accompanying the waxing moon?"
The werewolf perked up and smiled, setting his tea cup down, "Actually, Severus, I don't at all recall getting any pains in the ol' noggin." Remus pointed to his head, "Usually, I can't think or anything when I get a headache caused by the cycles, and I was thinking quite a lot.. So it must have worked!" The Gryffindor smiled crookedly, catching sight of the delicate wrists as the robe fell back over the sharp bones when Severus picked up the teacup once more, tilting his head back to drink the final drops and unknowingly also revealing a spot on his chest, collar bones prominent.
A moment of silence passed between them, somehow more organic than the last, but still anxious to be broken, "You're so thin." Remus whispered, but it didn't escape the other man's ear.
"And?" He snorted impatiently, loudly setting his tea cup down on the table between them, challenging Remus with his dark eyes.
"I don't mean it like that Severus." The brown-haired professor was quick to justify, also setting his cup down, "I simply noticed." The Gryffindor's gaze took on a distant look, and a tragic smile crossed his face, "Why, you're barely bigger than you were when you were a fifth year."
Severus scoffed, absentmindedly pulling the robe righter over his thin form before angrily glaring at the fire.
"It's so damn cold in here!" Irritated, the Dark Wizard stood up to stoke the fire, first letting his hand fall close to the flame, as if checking to see if the fire was hot at all.
"I'm actually quite warm," Remus said, adjusting to the new conversation, "Very warm as a matter of fact." And he moved to unbutton his cardigan, peeling off the heavy fabric and setting it down by the foot of his chair, watching Severus poke at the fire and toss another log on before backing into his own chair again, reaching for the still-full tea kettle and pouring the hot liquid into the small mound of green tea leaves settled at the bottom of his cup.
Remus watched Severus fix his cup, adding milk and a bit of sugar, his wet hair flapping about his face as he moved to lean over the table, stirring slowly and carefully. It was only until Severus violently shoved the teacup from the table and into the fireplace did Remus turn his head away.
The Potions Master fixed his hands on both sides of the table, nostrils flaring and teeth bared.
"Stop. Looking. At me." He breathed, knuckles so white and stretched over the clasped table edge, Remus was sure they would rip right in half like a piece of parchment.
"Please, Severus. Don't be like that."
The fire was sputtering and cracking with the foreign material and liquid in it, sparks dazzled the floor for a moment.
"I'm not some bloody freakshow!" Severus stood forcefully, though Remus continued to sit.
"I never said you were. You're not." Severus looked across at the werewolf and scoffed, eyes red with rage.
"Then why are you looking at me like that?" This was quieter, and Remus choked at the way it almost sounded hopeful as if now Severus was expecting something totally... totally different. He put a fist to his lips until he opened his mouth to speak, collecting air.
"You've changed." Remus blurted out, coughing through rapidly building mucus in his throat, his face getting increasingly hot and red. But he knew these weren't the words to say, he knew Severus wouldn't understand how he felt about the empty years gone past.
"Changed..." Severus hissed, as if the word was venom. "So sorry I can't freeze myself in time for you, Lupin." The Potions Master growled, " But some of us had to live our LIVES!" His pale nose twitched as his nostrils flared.
Remus stood forcefully, pushing the chair back with his legs as he did so. He had several inches on Severus, but somehow always felt smaller.
"And what happened in your life?" Remus' tone dropped murderously, "What bloody happened? You won't tell me."
A shrill, bark of a laugh tore through the stone walls as Severus turned from Remus, pacing to the center of the room and back again, thrusting a long, bony finger into the taller man's chest, "My LIFE is what happened. My goddamn decisions!" Severus clutched on to his left robe sleeve, ripping the loose material up violently, displaying his Dark Mark like a paragraph in an open book. Remus grimaced at the ugly mark, a faded grey that would have been barely visible on anyone else's skin, but the paleness framing it highlighted every curve. A brand painted on bone.
"So that's what happened. You went and became one of them." Remus swallowed, his flushed face fading as more came into focus. Backing up to return to his chair, and throwing himself into the cushion, the DADA Professor pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes.
"Tell me... Severus."
He could hear the other man scuffle slightly, before the familiar sound of springs aching under pressure was heard.
"Tell me. Would it have changed anything at all, if we had been together?"
"Would it have changed anything if I had loved you properly?" He dropped his hand to his side, opening his eyes to watch Severus unmoving on the bed, lying on his side with heaving breaths and a quick-beating heart.
"The way you deserved to be loved?"
The springs squeaked slightly, and Severus sniffled, but did not respond.
Remus rose from the chair silently, moving over to the bed and nearly getting bitten by one of the snakes in the process of sitting down at the edge. Putting a hand on the frail leg, and stroking slightly, he asked again.
"Would it have changed just one. Little. Bit?"
The weak form underneath him quivered, before Severus turned his blank face into the pillow and gasped for breath as a force of a sob tore through him. The unfamiliar pain in the back of his throat being worse than Cruciatus at the hands of the Dark Lord.
"Get out..." Severus gasped, lips quivering hollow under a tear-streaked face as he peeked from the pillow and cast a glance downward at the other man.
Remus was silent, and he sighed slowly, patting the pale leg before rising, pausing for a moment as if contemplating something. He nodded, as if agreeing with something unspoken, and turned to the door, not looking back. But this time, Severus didn't either as he flipped around, back facing the door, hiccups convulsing through his lungs. Several moments passed before the chill whipped at his bones again, and as he leaned to the end of the bed, grabbing the folded blanket there, he caught sight of Remus's blue cardigan, lazily pooled at the bottom of his chair.
'I can't wait to get out of here, Remus... I don't need this place!' Severus smiled with the brightness of youth.
'Where are you going to go? What are you going to do?' The Gryffindor lay on his stomach in the tall yellow grass, reading a book, but propped himself onto his elbows when Severus spoke up, stepping onto a raised root and holding his head high, fists on his hips.
'I'll be a Potions Master! Maybe go to Germany and study with Professor Vanderholtz.. That great inventor!'
'Germany!' Remus gasped, frowning before shooting a small smile at the other boy, 'It's so far away.'
Severus sighed, looking out into the empty distance before spinning around, and jumping from the root, tumbling to the ground to lay with Remus.
'You'll come with me...' he whispered mischievously.
And Remus was happy.