The Tail That Wags the Dog
Disclaimer: I am returning to Ms Rowling all of her characters whom I have had in my possession. There has been no exchange of money. I'm still waiting in hope...
Ron lifted the confectionery to his nose and sniffed it with suspicion. "I don't get it. Why do they like these spicy chocolates?"
"Lupin used to eat them. I thought it was just a werewolf thing."
"Isn't chocolate poisonous to dogs?"
Harry frowned. "Remus wasn't a dog."
"This wedding seems a bit rushed, if you ask me. No church, no big reception, just family and a few friends." Ron nodded towards the bridal couple. "Mum nearly had a fit when she saw Hermione hadn't had her hair done properly."
"She looks beautiful though, doesn't she?" They both sighed as they gazed at her.
"Yeah, France must have suited her; she looks so mature. Y'know, I don't remember 'Mione mentioning meeting Snape again after his trial, though she says she's known him for years. Personally, I can't understand what she sees in him."
Harry smiled and waved as Hermione looked over at them.
"He's still a git, but they seem really happy together. There must be some kind of magic between them, I reckon. He can't keep his eyes off her and calls her charming beloved at the drop of a hat."
Ron made a gagging noise at the back of his throat. "That's just gross."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, "but cute, too."
"Snape? Cute? You're off your rocker, Harry."
"What about his new tattoo? It's a Unicorn's Blaze, apparently."
"Is that why there are all these blasted, spiky-horned critters prancing about?" Ron pushed a miniature unicorn gently with the toe of his boot, stepping behind Harry quickly as it tucked its head down and charged at him.
"The Blaze is supposed to have his true love's initials on it. I had a bit of a shufti earlier. To me, it looked more like a C and a B, or maybe an R. I wonder what that means. He'd better not be messing around on our 'Mione."
"It's for his charming beloved, you dork."
As they watched, Hermione slipped her hand up Severus's forearm, pressing her thumb gently to the Blaze, and Snape smiled.
"Did Snape just smile?" Ron's face screwed up as he spoke.
"Eww!" Harry gagged.
"Blimey, Harry, it's a wedding. No vomiting allowed."
"Have you seen the hideous picture they got from Minerva? It's not something I'd like to have hanging on my wall. A werewolf mauling a unicorn. What's that all about?"
Ron shrugged. "Dunno, mate. It isn't even clean. There are lip-stick kisses and slime marks all over the glass. Yeuch!"
"Maybe it's an in joke, which we're not getting."
"Wasn't it a bit strange, Snape not having a best man for the ceremony? When I get married, Mum's bound to make sure it's done properly with the big church, huge reception, and a heap of relatives in the bridal party. That cantankerous bat couldn't even rustle up someone to stand next to him at his own wedding." Ron glowered in Snape's direction.
"What was it he said about wishing his best friend could be there in person?"
"I don't know and don't care, Harry. Just show me the way to the wedding feast and I'll be a happy man."
"That's enough, you two." Hermione tapped the glass. "Stop fighting."
"He started it."
A silvery ripple ran through its long mane as the painted unicorn shook its head, denying the accusation.
"He did. He poked me," whinged the werewolf.
Hermione rolled her eyes and wagged an admonishing finger at the image. "Play nice, boys."
"It's no wonder Minerva couldn't wait to give us your picture," grumbled a deeper voice.
"She said we were driving her bonkers."
"I think she said you were irresponsible wan—"
"That's quite enough, boys! Now, give me a kiss before I go to bed."
Hermione pressed her lips gently to the glass as Remus licked it on the inside.
The unicorn gave a whinnying laugh and prodded the werewolf with its horn before galloping off into the distance with the growling werewolf in hot pursuit.
Snape stood behind Hermione, arms crossed, scowling over her shoulder at the pair. "Ridiculous delinquents," he muttered as he turned away. "I should move their portrait into the broom cupboard."
Pressing his forehead against the cool, glass pane, Severus gazed towards the edge of the forest, hands clenching the edges of the frame. He knew this was the only way to ease his discomfort when he couldn't sleep, but he felt like he was betraying his new wife, sneaking out of bed in the dark of the night.
"I don't understand it, Lupin," he whispered. "I miss you more now than when you died in the last battle. It's almost as if Charmaine's return has opened a poorly healed wound. Now I have her, but I want... I need..."
The werewolf laid his head against the other side of glass, his hands splayed flat as if trying to push through the confines of his portrait. "Miss you too, Sev. Love you."
Hermione paused, unseen in the shadows of the doorway, watching the two men who stood head to head and eye to eye on opposite sides of the glazed barrier, their breathing laboured and synchronised. The depth of feeling between the wizards was palpable. Her heart lurched and stumbled before steadying again. How had she not realised?
Holding her breath, she waited for Severus to respond, but he remained silent, his shoulders shuddering with barely restrained misery.
Quietly, she approached. Laying one hand on Snape's arm, she placed the other against the glass, palm against palm with Remus. Severus flinched and glanced sideways at his wife, his hands gripping the frame more firmly.
"Hermione, I..." Snape's head drooped.
She rubbed her thumb pad soothingly across Lupin's silvered one. "Did you think I wouldn't know? ...That I wouldn't find out?"
"Hermione, you don't understand. It's the Blaze." Snape's voice cracked a little. "It's started to burn again."
"The unicorn warned me this might happen."
"If you resist this, the burning will only get worse."
"Make sense, woman," Severus snarled.
Tucking a finger under his chin, Hermione turned Severus to look at her. His face was torn with emotion. "You have to tell him, Severus."
"Tell who, what?" queried Lupin.
Shutting her eyes, Hermione sighed. "Gads, you boys can be so thick at times."
"Tell who, what?" Severus repeated.
"Look at the two of you. Severus, you need to tell him what you feel."
A shuttered look dropped over Snape's eyes and he turned away. "I've told him once, and that wasn't a raging success."
"The last time I heard that phrase, you were avoiding telling a certain witch you loved her." Remus chuckled.
Snape scowled at him.
"Just tell him, Severus."
Snape shifted his scowling gaze to Hermione before laying his cheek back against the cool glass. "I told him once, and the inconsiderate git died in my arms. Remember?"
Lupin tapped a finger against the glass. "You... you..."
"Yes, you hairy wassock, I love you. Okay?"
"Ha, ha! I knew it." Remus threw his head back and howled with laughter. "I knew you couldn't resist my feral charms."
"At least, with you stuck in that picture, I don't have to put up with your mangy laundry scattered on the floor and your hideous scent pervading my rooms."
"Love you too, Sev!"
Severus could almost feel the rasp of Lupin's tongue as it licked up the side of his face, and he sensed the urgent burn of the Blaze recede.
Several months later, Harry knelt on the floor of his lounge with his head in the fireplace. "Anyone there?" he called through the Floo connection.
Harry was sure he had seen a movement in the shadows of the Snapes' front room. Leaning a little more forward, he tried to peer further into the room.
"Bugger!" he muttered as he lost his balance, pitching face first onto their hearthrug.
"Anyone there?" he called again as he dusted the Floo powder off his clothes.
"Harry?" a tall figure asked from the darkness beyond the firelight. "What are you doing here?"
The man's voice sounded familiar, and Harry tried to focus on his shadowed face. "Is Snape home? I... um..."
"The Snapes are out for the evening. Can I help?"
Harry moved further into the room, trying to see who he was talking to.
"I just wanted to have a word with Severus about... something." As he stepped out of the fire's pool of light, he was better able to discern the man's features. "I've seen you before, haven't I?"
The man's face tightened imperceptibly, as if flinching. Stepping out of the deep shadows, the firelight glinted off his silvered mane of hair, and his tawny eyes gleamed.
"Harry, it's me, Re—" A sharp rattle from a picture frame above the mantelpiece interrupted him. The wizard paused, watching the unicorn's horn clatter against the glass as it shook its head vigorously. "Douglas?"
"Douglas?" Harry echoed.
"Um... yes... Douglas. Reynard Wolfman-Douglas." The older man stretched out a welcoming hand, which Harry eyed with suspicion.
"You've been here a while, haven't you, Mr Douglas? At first, I saw you only in the background, a mere shadow amongst shadows. Then, one time I Flooed Hermione and caught you massaging her shoulders, but you ducked behind the couch, disappearing from view."
"We didn't want anyone else to know."
"Not even Snape. Or so I thought until the day I noticed you and Severus embracing behind Hermione's back whilst I was talking to her by Floo. Behind her back!" Harry snarled.
"No, let me talk." Harry raised a quelling hand, stalling the wizard's advance. "Then, last night when I called, it was you on the couch with him, wasn't it? With your head in his lap and his hands... his..."
"Ah! Now that's not what it may have looked like."
"The way he ran his fingers through your hair was... was..." Harry's fingers ruffled his own hair as he thought, "...and that's why I'm here."
"He loves you, doesn't he?"
"Um... he... it's complicated."
"So, I... I..." Harry looked down at the hearth rug where the toe of his shoe was squirming its way into the shagpile. "I... um need some advice about... about a boy... a man I've met and seeing you with Snape, I thought—"
"You thought... Snape and I?"
Harry nodded dumbly then looked up as the man threw his head back with a sudden shout of laughter. The motion exposed a vicious, curling, silver scar which had been concealed until then by his hair. It tracked from under his collar, up the side of the man's neck, and over his jaw to his cheek, puckering the skin.
Clamping a hand over his mouth, Harry stared at the other wizard's disfigurement. "Oh, shit! I'm sorry," he muttered.
Harry rubbed at his neck unconsciously. The older man's hand automatically mirrored the gesture, running a finger along his long scar.
"You'd better sit down, Harry. I'll go and get us a pot of tea and some shortbread, and we can have a wee chat."
"Wolfman-Douglas?" Snape sounded incredulous. "Wolfman? How did you get away with that?"
"Just my wolfish charm?" suggested Remus, grinning.
Severus covered his eyes with a hand, shaking his head in despair.
"Harry didn't recognise you?"
"Look at me, Hermione." Remus spread his arms wide as he replied, inviting her inspection. "I'm not the same man I was when I taught him at Hogwarts. I've served as a spy and counter spy, been to hell and back, been unable to speak to my best friend about the love of his life, taken a fatal blow in the last battle, and spent several years trapped in a painting with a bloody unicorn. Some things change a man irrevocably."
The afore-mentioned painted unicorn snorted loudly.
"Not to mention the grey—"
"— Silver! Silver hair, thank you very much, Severus. Also, the scar which I can thank you for, my friend."
"You ungrateful mongrel, I've been working very hard trying to heal that. Don't imagine I enjoy sitting for hours weaving those restorative spells with your mangy head on my lap."
"Which Harry witnessed and misconstrued," Remus interjected.
Snape glowered at him before retorting, "Besides which, you stepped into the path of the curse, you daft prat. I can't be held responsible for your stupidity, Lupin."
"I seem to recall I was saving your worthless hide, you arrogant tosser."
A vicious glaring match ensued, ending only when Hermione crossed her arms and tapped her toe imperiously. "Anyway..." she encouraged.
"Anyway," Lupin continued, "as I was saying before Snippy the Snape got his knickers in a knot, Harry and I had a bit of a chat. He was looking for a bit of advice about his love life."
"So, what did you tell him, Romeo?" Severus scoffed.
"Oh, you know, the usual guff about trust and friendship, standing up for one another, sticking together through thick and thin, watching each other's backs, never missing the chance to tell someone you love them..." Remus replied, throwing Severus a meaningful glance, "...all that malarkey. Harry seemed to accept that, but it made me sit back and think."
"And... well, you know I love you guys to death, but..."
"Well, it made me aware I'm no longer the teenager on the periphery or the endangered spy with his undercover sidekick." He grinned at Snape's growling response. "Nor am I the untrustworthy werewolf anymore, thanks to our friendly unicorn's magic. Remind me to ask him why he waited until we shared a portrait frame before he cured the werewolf thing."
"Please spare us the drivel, Lupin, and get to the point."
"I love you both dearly, and I know you love me. I hate to break this to you, but—"
"Please, tell me you've found someone else and you're leaving," suggested Severus.
Remus paused slightly.
"Actually, I have and I am. Stop punching the air, Snape, and you can wipe that sloppy grin off your face too, Granger. I've met a lovely witch, and I thought I would move out of here and into Charmaine's old apartment in Marseille, if you don't mind, Hermione."
"Where did you meet a lovely witch, Wolfman?"
"Did you think I was coming to visit you, Severus, when I kept dropping in to the Department of Mysteries?"
Severus looked perplexed.
"Whilst I'd love to stay and watch the cogs turning in your head, I really must be going." Remus hugged Hermione and kissed her lightly on the cheek before licking Severus up the side of his face and heading towards the door.
"But you can't speak French, you daft mutt."
"Can so, Sev. I had this gorgeous French teacher when I was at school, didn't I, Charmaine?" Remus countered with a lascivious wink in Hermione's direction. "Au revoir! Love you guys," he called as he left.
"That sly old fox," muttered Hermione. "He's hooked up with Joanna Megansdochter."
Severus sputtered. "That's just not right. What about the prophecy? You know, the one about you and me and Lupin."
"La biche and the emblazoned one with love and a spell of time shall free a man's best friend..."
"Now, remind me about the part mentioning Lupin."
"...and the wolf shall enter antipodean dreamtime."
"Exactly! I thought the prophecy was about us, so how does my Australian boss become his antipodean dreamtime?"
Chuckling, Hermione pulled her husband towards the bedroom. "It's not always about you, Severus Snape. This one was actually about Remus."
A/N: I was given a challenge: Remus is dead, and Severus is mourning. Why? Anything prior to Remus's death has to fit with canon. Hermione should be in there as well. How hard could that be?
I have to admit I'm not very good at sticking to canon, and this was only going to be a one shot, but it got a bit carried away with itself. It's the first long fic I've written, so I hope you've enjoyed the read.
Thanks to everyone for your encouraging reviews.
A super-special thanks must go to sunny33, who suggested the scenario in the first place, then had to read and correct all my mistakes. Silly witch!
If you want more to read, I have several short pieces already uploaded here, and I will be starting to upload my next work in progress in the near future.
Cheers, my dears!