Chapter 4: Full Moon
"You don't have to stay," Remus said, handing the empty beaker back to the potions master.
"I do," Severus answered. "For myself."
"No. I've been afraid of your other form for a long time, Remus. Too long. Ever since..." He nearly cringed at the memory of Sirius's practical joke. "...but that's the past. If I'm to put it behind me, then I need to see it for myself. Or are you questioning my talent at potions after all? If I've done it correctly, you'll be just as docile as you always are."
"I'm docile, am I?" Remus smirked.
"More or less. When you're not screaming out my name in passion, at least," Snape replied blandly. Lupin laughed. He loved the way that Severus could crack a joke without changing his facial expression or tone of voice at all.
It had been four days since Remus's confession. The first night after had been awkward--neither knew if they should proceed as usual, but in the end they'd agreed that there was no reason to stop something they both enjoyed, and every night since they'd enjoyed one another quite thoroughly--every morning, too.
But tonight, well, tonight was the full moon. Remus had taken his potion, and now they entered the Shrieking Shack for what would no doubt turn out to be a very long night. Severus found himself waiting for Remus to transform as if the world was about to end. He hadn't told the werewolf everything he was thinking. He didn't know if he could love someone who turned into something so terrifying. He knew it wasn't Remus's fault that he was a werewolf, but the condition was still present. You can never really let something into your heart if on some basic level it terrifies you. What he was testing tonight wasn't Remus's transformation, but his own reaction to it.
"It's...starting," Remus grit out, feeling his body begin to ache and move. His bones warped, jaws opened, his teeth grew and his fingers stretched and his spine bent over like he had a hunch. And of course, there was also the fur. Once the agony of his transformation ended, he slouched onto a blanket in the corner. He could feel the base instincts--hunt. kill. devour.--in the back of his mind, but his own mind was more prominent. Severus really was uniquely brilliant on the subject of potions. But he felt embarrassed, too. Truth be told, he'd done everything in his power to convince the man out of staying not out of fear, but because he didn't want Snape to see him this way. The bond between them was fragile, for one thing, and if that wasn't enough he was ashamed of this form. It was hard being alone during the full moon, but it was harder not being alone.
Severus watched the transformation in horror, but it wasn't the horror he'd been expecting. Rather than fear, he became consumed by the fact that Remus was suffering and there was nothing he could do to help him. Nothing. He'd never felt so useless in his life. He often considered his own troubles without giving the troubles of others much thought. He was aware of this, but figured if they didn't care about his problems, then he didn't see why he had to worry about theirs. At least, he often thought that while working to protect them--like that irritating and intensely reckless Potter boy. But all of a sudden there was Remus Lupin huddled up in a furry little ball in the corner (well, okay, not so little), and there was nothing he could say to make it better, no potion that could truly fix it, and knowing that there was nothing he could say or do ached as if someone was performing a cruciatus curse on his chest. That's when he realized he was already in love with the man. He probably had been since Remus had first propositioned him. No, before that. There were those dreams. Remus had appeared back into his life so suddenly that the shock hadn't let him come to terms with what was in his heart. But knowing that and saying it were two different things.
"...is there anything I can do?" he asked after what he was sure must have been several hours.
Remus pretended to be asleep. They both knew he was faking it, and the rest of the night was silent and awkward. At some point, Snape had fallen into a fitful slumber sitting up in a chair with a blanket around his shoulders. When the dawn light filtered in, he woke to find that Remus was asleep as well--naked, human-shaped, and curled into a ball on the floor.
Severus yawned, rose, and wrapped the blanket around the other man, brushed the hair from his eyes. Remus startled awake, sat up with his eyes darting as if he was afraid of something.
"It's alright," Severus said as gently as he could manage, which he feared wasn't nearly gentle enough. "It's only me."
Remus's scatter-shocked eyes locked on his and the raw pain Severus saw made him pull the man against him.
"You stayed," Remus whispered.
"Of course I stayed. Merlin, you're freezing."
"Your hands are cold too," Remus answered, unable to resist dropping his head onto Snape's shoulder as the other man took the blanket again and wrapped it around his shoulders.
Snape didn't answer. Instead he said, "I never realized how painful it is for you."
"I would prefer that you put it out of your mind," Remus replied.
"You know I can't."
"It still bothers you," Remus said, disheartened.
"Yes," Severus answered honestly. "But not for the reasons you think." He hesitated. Part of him wanted to share his inner feelings with this person he cared for more deeply than he could have imagined, but another part was so used to keeping secrets it was difficult to speak. "...I expected to feel the same fear I did on that night, when I realized that Sirius's prank almost killed me. I expected to feel my bones turn to ice. But that isn't what I felt when I watched you transform. It...upset me that you were suffering and I could do nothing to help you. There was nothing I could do to ease your pain. I've never felt that way before. Never. You know that I loved Lily deeply and that I would do anything to protect her and keep her from suffering--I failed in that, true, in spite of all efforts to the contrary--but until the end, Lily was happy. She wasn't in pain. The only times she was hurt were the times I said things recklessly and made her angry. It's different with you. You've suffered. You still suffer."
Remus felt his heart burst and ache. "Severus. I'm hardly the only person who has ever endured a little pain. You..."
"This isn't about me," Severus interrupted.
"Yes, Severus, it is," Remus sighed, pressing his palm to the other man's heart. Deep down, he thought, Severus was probably still an awkward, lonely boy out of touch with his own feelings. People change, true, but only in small increments and subtle shifts. Their basic nature remains the same. He watched Severus's dark eyes for a few long moments and wondered how he'd ever found the man's expressions devoid of emotion--everything was there, if you stopped long enough to look for it. "Who did you think it was about, silly man?" he continued at last. "Me? I already know what I feel."
Snape's gaze hardened. "Don't patronize me, Lupin."
"I'm not patronizing," Lupin sighed. "I'm reminding. Merlin, you're still so defensive."
"Well, you're still too glib," Severus answered testily.
Remus noted though that he was still being held close though, in spite of the complaint. He smirked faintly. "Severus." He said the man's name patiently as if he felt he'd better humor him.
"I love you." Severus was as surprised he'd said it as Remus seemed to be at hearing it. The words just suddenly leaped from his throat before his brain could stop them from embarrassing him. Maybe it was just that he was getting too old to hold everything in. Maybe his subconscious just knew he couldn't endure loving someone the way he'd loved Lily all over again--from a distance, never saying anything. Or maybe he was just a little braver than he realized.
"Really?" Remus asked once he remembered to breathe.
"Yeah well, maybe...a little." Severus's lips curled downward, his tone sulky as if he was already wishing he could take it back.
Remus leaned up and kissed him deeply. "Or maybe a lot?" he murmured against Snape's lips.
"...maybe," Severus answered. It was the furthest his pride would allow him to sink and they both knew it.
Remus pulled him down to the floor so that he was laying against him, hips between the werewolf's pale thighs, and kissed him deeply again. It was a softer, more lingering kiss than the ones they'd shared in the throes of passion before, but Severus wasn't a fool. "Is sex all you think about?" he sighed as if exasperated, but it was all just posturing--they both knew he wanted to make love to Remus just as much as the naked man beneath him wanted it.
Remus smirked playfully. "If it is, you only have yourself to blame," he answered. "Besides, it's Saturday morning, and we're in the Shrieking Shack. I think that means you have an entire weekend to show me how much--or how little--you love me, inside and out."
"Pervert," Snape replied, but his voice was muffled by the love bites he was already laying along Remus's throat. He didn't know how Remus did it--but the slightest lewd comment issued from the man's soft lips made him feel like a lascivious teenager. He'd thought himself more or less controlled when he was younger (though he'd thought about sex as much as the next teenage boy) but now it was like he could barely get through the day without it.
Time lost all meaning as they writhed and moaned together. Severus had no idea how many times they'd made love, but he had a feeling that he'd need both hands to count it out. The only clue he had to how long they'd been going at it was the quality of light filtering over their naked, sweaty bodies as they lay panting together in the afterglow. The sun was low in the sky. Evening then, which meant they'd been at it all day.
Remus curled against his love's shoulder contently. The sex was great before Severus had said those three small words, but now... Now it was as if the flood gates had opened up at the dark haired sex god he'd somehow fallen for was trying to pour every emotion he'd ever had into him via whichever orifice Remus saw fit to offer at the time. "The muggles have a word for this, don't they?" he mused, tracing patterns idly across Snape's pale chest.
"For what? Two men having intercourse?" Severus asked.
"No, for people who become addicted to sex."
"Ah, yes, I believe they call it a 'nymphomaniac'."
Remus chuckled. "So we're nymphs then?" He seemed to find the mental image of the two of them running gaily about the forest intensely entertaining.
"Fool," Severus chided. "We are no such thing. It is my understanding that such a word applies to someone who is morally loose and will engage in such activities with anyone."
"Ah, well, then I suppose it isn't appropriate. It's only you that I'm interested in."
The feeling was mutual, but Severus had made enough sappy confessions for a month or so and didn't answer right away. "I think perhaps it is only my intimate regions you love."
"Completely incorrect," Remus declared happily, giving his lover's chest a playful poke. It wasn't often one got to tell Severus Snape he was wrong after all. "Though, I'll admit I am rather fond of that particular part of your anatomy," he quipped.
"Yes, I'd rather noticed," Snape answered flatly as Remus rolled to lay against his chest, pulling the blanket up over their sex-spoiled bodies from where it had landed tangled about their ankles.
"Yes, well, then we're in agreement that I find you anatomically pleasing, but there's much more to love."
"I don't believe you," Severus blanketed. His tone seemed daring, as if he was insisting that Remus prove it.
"You want to know when I realized that I love you?" Remus asked. He continued before Snape could answer. "It was the way you make tea," he lied. It was just a fib, really--watching Severus make tea after shagging had confirmed for Remus what he'd already suspected--that his affection was already hopeless and irreversible. That was when he'd gone from garden-variety love to all out struck-by-cupid love.
"What?" Severus asked as if Remus had just said something completely ridiculous.
"Well, you know, you always make that replenishing tea once we've finished. One day I was laying there and I realized when you got the cups out that you always take down the one on the left first, turn it on the saucer one full rotation, and then take down the right and do the same. You always steep it precisely, and stir each the exact same number of times--nine and a half. And I realized that you add exactly three drops of honey to mine to make it less bitter. Every time. You do that even though I never told you I prefer my tea a bit sweet." He kissed Snape softly. "And I realized that all this time, I'd been watching you so carefully that I'd even counted how many times you stir a cup of tea without having ever realized I'd done it. I realized there were other things too--you always start combing your hair with your fingers at the front right side--your right, not mine--before you grab the comb, and when you pull out a quill you stroke the spine with your left thumb. There were all these little things I'd noticed about you when I thought we were just enjoying one another's bodies. That's how I knew I loved you."
"Because you'd watched me stir tea," Severus blanketed flatly.
"Because I realized how much I would miss watching you stir tea if we were to go our separate ways. Because watching you stir tea somehow had become so much more relevant than how amazing you make me feel in bed. It's not so different for you, you know," Remus pointed out. "You realized you fear for me, more than you fear me. It's actually not that dissimilar. I would miss you more than I'd miss sex with you. ...of course, I don't deny I'd miss the latter quite a bit," he commented idly.
"Remus, be silent," Severus sighed. "If you must have your mouth in constant motion, then make some other use of it." He was sure the man was purposely trying to embarrass him. 'And yet, this is the person I've fallen for,' he thought. 'For better or worse.' "Ahn! Remus!" Severus gasped and arched. Lost in thought, he hadn't realized right away that his lover had disappeared under the blankets.
"What?" Remus asked, poking his head up from beneath the covers. "You said to make better use of my mouth. We've got no food and no whiskey. What did you expect I would do?"
Severus pulled him up into a kiss. He knew eventually the lust would dim, the carnal pleasure between them would begin to fade into long conversations and cuddling--and he knew when that happened they would have to figure out exactly what being in love with one another really meant beyond the immediate desire to consume one another so completely that they were no longer two separate people--but until then, he decided, there was no reason not to enjoy himself.
He let his fingers gently trail over Remus's gaunt cheek. "I love you, Remus," he said softly, willing himself to get used to the way the words felt on his tongue.
Remus put his hand over Snape's and curled his cheek into the touch. "And I you, Severus. All of you. Right down to..."
"...the way I stir tea, yes, you've already said as much."
"I know. I was going to say 'right down to your sarcastic, bitter remarks' but you didn't let me finish."
"Why don't you try finishing one thing before starting another," Snape replied, eyes smirking a bit.
"Oh, that's right, I nearly forgot," Remus grinned. "You wanted me to do something more productive with my tongue than talking."
He disappeared beneath the blankets again.
...and the Shrieking Shack drowned out their cries of ecstasy and confessions of love well into the night.