Title: Journey

Disclaimer: Everything that's part of the Harry Potter world belongs to J. K. Rowling.

Pairing: SS/RL, implied one-sided SS/LP, implied one-sided RL/NT

Author Notes: Hey guys :D Thanks for your great reviews! I should actually be studying for my exams but I had to post this today because I didn't want to run any later. I am so glad you liked the last chapter because it is one of my favourites (I so love writing Lucius and I find writing Occlumency so very interesting). Enjoy this one too, it is one that I barely changed when reading it a second time because it was just as I wanted it to be :). So, this chapter covers quite a few topics and situations which is the reason for its indecent lenght. Hope you won't get tired of it half-way through. A lot of Remus here, which I enjoyed writing. Here I am, lovey-dovey once again. Mostly.

Now in order of appearance:

KnockerOnADoor: I was actually looking forward to the 'lip-tracing' moment, it fits so perfectly into my story XD. Glad you liked it. Who knows what JKR thought when she included it. Oh, and look: as though I had read your mind I included a Death Eater meeting :D. But really it was time for another one.

Smurny: I agree with you, I think this is one of Albus's biggest mistakes. Also, Severus is just a lousy teacher, I, too, think that most of the the blame is to be put on him not Harry. At least Severus realises he can only fail.

Resevius: Oh, thank you :)! Yes, I know what you mean, in fact I first considered him Severus in book five when we learned he was a person with a background that had made him the way he is, and not just some villain who's cruel just for the sake of it. And, god you are right it was chapter 21! But I named the file chapter 22, because I didn't mean to make chapter 1 a prologue at all. It just seemed right later on ;).

Kiraling: You are very welcome :). Since I didn't include any Lucius in The Teacher (because I simply forgot him ^^°) I wanted to show their relationship, which is always described but never actually shown in the books. At least not that I can recall. I found that strange but it gives me more freedom. You know, I enjoy writing other characters too, just as much as writing Remus/Severus, for the same reasons as you like to read them :) and it is a nice change.

kiki: You can look forward to many more chapters :) thanks for the compliment!

Appreciating Differences

Severus received a summons on the same day, in the dead of night, and the shock of it made him fall off the sofa where he had been sleeping, legs stretched out, book on his stomach. When he scrambled to his legs and laid the book on the table, he twisted his arm to make the vicious burning disappear and rubbed his eyes. In his tired mind he could not quite figure out what the Dark Lord might want but as it didn't really matter he left his quarters and as he went he tried to clear his mind from the blurred dreams he had had.

It was an unpleasant surprise that awaited him as his feet touched the ground in his place in the circle, late as usual. Where there had been gaps between the remaining Death Eaters, there were standing ragged figures, filling the voids they had left fifteen years ago. To Severus's immediate left and right the gaps of Karkaroff and Barty Crouch Jr. remained but they were closed as he arrived by Lucius and Nott who drew nearer to him. The sight of the complete circle made his stomach churn. It must have happened mere hours, maybe minutes before, judging by the ragged prison clothes the convicts were wearing, freezing in the snowy graveyard. He managed to keep his face impassive as his arrival was acknowledged by the Dark Lord who was prancing through the circle, a smug smirk on his snake-like face.

"Behold, my friends," said the Dark Lord and Severus recognised Bellatrix Lestrange's mad cackle accompanying his words, "in what little time your master has proven himself worthy of his title."

Little time, indeed, barely announced, already accomplished. Severus could see the shock visible on his fellows' faces and was glad that he had more control over himself as he kept his own features impassive. The Dark Lord stopped in front of him and gave him a curious look. Nobody even tried to hide how their eyes wandered to Severus's face.

"Why, Severus seems entirely unimpressed," said the Dark Lord and Bellatrix huffed irritably. "How come you don't wonder like your fellows, Severus?"

Severus was no fool, no, he was ready for everything. "Forgive me, my Lord, but I knew you would succeed," replied Severus and inclined his head in the suggestion of a bow. The Dark Lord smirked again.

"I remember you as a mere gaping boy, Severus, and now look at you," sneered the Dark Lord and waved his hand at him, "my most trusting servant. When you were younger I always thought you might take Lucius here as an example to … improve yourself. But as I see with satisfaction, there was no need, after all. Now I wish it were the other way around. Did you not believe in my success, Lucius?"

He turned to the right and Lucius flinched, glancing at Severus. "Naturally, my Lord, I … I would just never have believed that it was possible in such a short time."

The Dark Lord's smirk became more unpleasant. "Well," he said coldly and the circle shuddered, "that is the great difference between you and me, is it not?" Lucius bowed his head, the circle was silent. The Dark Lord resumed his prancing and looked at each and every one of them in turn. "Ah, Macnair, I believe you have taken care of Lucius's little blunder?"

"Bode is out of the way, master," growled Macnair proudly and the Dark Lord nodded.

"Very good, Macnair, very good. Then there remains nothing to threaten any of us, you can rest your minds, my friends. Welcome back your more unlucky fellows. They will be rewarded for the sacrifice they made to remain loyal to me. Let it be a motivation for you. Leave now. And bring the good tidings to your families; support has come at last to help you. You may leave if you don't forget again what Lord Voldemort is capable of. And Severus, do give Dumbledore my best, will you?"

The icy laugh echoed in Severus's head as he hurried through the castle, his footsteps resounding loudly from the walls. He spat the password to Albus's office at the gargoyle that guarded it and ran up the winding staircase to hammer against the door until it opened and he stumbled in. Albus gave him a tiredly inquiring look. "Severus, if you are here to tell me about your first Occlumency lesson with Harry then I must ask you to come back tomorrow, if it isn't absolutely necessary that you –"

"Headmaster," Severus burst out, unable to wait until Albus had finally finished his speech, "I must talk to you now! I have just returned from a Death Eater meeting; the Dark Lord has freed his Death Eaters from Azkaban, it happened tonight. I have seen them, the ten of the inner circle who were locked up."

Albus's eyes widened. He walked towards Severus and started pacing. "Not even I would have thought that he would strike so soon, I thought that the Ministry would at least be on the lookout. This is grave, Severus, very grave …" he stopped and looked at him, frowning. "He will soon know how to acquire the prophecy. Now more than ever, Severus, it is important that Harry learns how to protect himself."

Severus scowled. "Potter is a hopeless case, Headmaster, there is nothing I could possibly teach him," he growled, rubbing the weal on his wrist where Potter's Stinging Hex had hit him. "And I believe it is already too late. Potter has been dreaming the Dark Lord's dreams for months and now his mind is set on the Department of Mysteries. He won't take advice from me and his anger on me prevents him from clearing his mind. I fear if anything, I will only open his mind further."

"After one lesson, Severus, you must not yet lose all hope," said Albus with a little smile. "I am sure that, somehow, Harry and you will manage. Just try being a little less severe with him and don't give up already."

Severus glowered and crossed his arms petulantly. Then he realised there was another information he had gathered from the meeting. "Macnair killed Bode, the Unspeakable Lucius used to get at the prophecy."

Albus's face turned even graver. "Of course, they had to get rid of him," he said quietly, then he looked up at Severus. "You look very tired, Severus, why don't you go to bed and rest? I will take care of everything else."

Severus nodded and turned slowly. "The Dark Lord wanted me to give you his best," he muttered and looked over his shoulder at the Headmaster who smiled mirthlessly.

"Grant him the fun as long as he can still have it," said Albus coolly. "He will see where his arrogance leads him."

Severus overslept and had missed breakfast when he finally woke, much too late. On his nightstand he found the Daily Prophet, the faces of the ten escapees on the front page. Among them Dolohov, the sick psychopath, the Lestranges, who had cost Longbottom his parents, and of course Rookwood who seemed to be the biggest threat. Severus leafed through the paper and found the article that accompanied the ten photos hardly believable even for absolute dunderheads. At least they had got one thing right: there had indeed been outside help, not from Sirius Black though, oh no, they would soon wish it had been Black. Macnair had used a Devil's Snare to kill Bode, as another article told Severus. He wondered what more the silly wizarding world needed to finally realise that these occurrences were not normal. That Sirius bloody Black could never have freed anyone but himself from Azkaban and that no Death Eater would rally around him. He tossed the paper to the floor.

Severus was absolutely thunderstruck when he entered the staff room on Wednesday morning – Wednesday already being a bad day for the Occlumency lesson with Potter – as he noticed that a knot had formed round a notice on the wall. He came closer and peered over the other teachers' heads, luckily being taller than them and thus able to read another Decree of the evil old hag. Decree Number Twenty-six forbade all teachers to talk to the students about anything that didn't relate to their subjects. Severus wondered how that was supposed to work, as a Head of House he had, after all, the duty to talk to his Slytherins about everything that was necessary to be talked about. Of course, Fudge thought the allegiance of Dumbledore's teachers might tell the children the truth about the mass break-out from Azkaban. McGonagall gave Severus a dark look and in the following days he was more than once involved in hushed conversations between classes with other teachers, all of them casting furtive looks over their shoulders. The school was slowly but gradually turning into a second Ministry where no one dared speak their mind while Umbridge was present. And Severus had much to speak about with McGonagall at least. Life was becoming more unpleasant by the day.

On Sunday at least he could leave the castle under the excuse of searching ingredients he needed for some important potions, including the Veritaserum that he was pretending to be brewing for Umbridge. But little did she know. She didn't even think twice when he informed her of it, instead of Albus who had enough on his mind, she just let him go, eager to finally get her hands on the truth serum. The fact that the use of it was illegal didn't seem to concern her. She was the law at Hogwarts.

Severus was glad to leave behind the castle with its many drawbacks and walk over the soft mossy ground to Remus's house which was still covered in snow. The door creaked as he opened it and for a moment he was actually thinking about giving Remus a house-elf to clean his dusty house. Surely Remus, the long term bachelor, was bound to know some household spells? Severus closed the front door behind him and shed his cloak, hanging it on a hook beside Remus's as he passed through the hall and up the stairs.

On the landing his attention was attracted by an open door to his right, some sort of library or office with a heavy wooden desk beneath a window and shelves that reached the ceiling and looked crammed into the room by force. There was a small fireplace opposite the desk and when Severus approached it, he found family photos on the mantelpiece that showed father, mother and son, beaming and blinking and waving and hugging one another. Severus picked one of them up, one that he at first thought, showed a Remus as he knew him now. But it wasn't Remus, it was his father, even with his slightly harsher features and still entirely honey hair, resembling Remus greatly: same hair, same face, same eyes. But different. So very different that, seeing him up close, Severus didn't know how he could have mistaken him for his son.

He was blinking slowly up at Severus and his amber eyes were piercing and shrewd; though his face was stern, now and then the corners of his mouth twitched slightly into a smirk rather like Severus's own. Severus found it odd to look at a man whose features resembled Remus's so strongly and see him smirk quite arrogantly, the look on his face cool and somewhat challenging, as if he dared Severus to say one wrong word to him. He must have been a demanding, strict father. The most striking difference remained the eyes. Swirling gold like Remus's but darker and fierce, harsh and determined, the eagerness in them was striking, though his face betrayed nothing of it, his eyes told of the man who had once defied Greyback and paid the price for it. Severus found him immediately less handsome. Nowhere did he find Remus's kindness and patience, his modesty and mild smile. He only recognised those traits that Remus kept hidden; curiosity, mischievousness, stubbornness, determination.

Remus would never hold his head in such a vain angle, would never smirk condescendingly, and his eyes were soft and deep. But there was that grace about his father, that grace that Remus had surely inherited from him, and Severus could see Mr John Lupin walking gracefully along the brook, his wife clinging to his arm, his son to his hand.

"I thought I had heard you arrive," rasped a voice behind him and he turned, picture in his hand, with a startled look to find Remus before him, barefoot in tee-shirt and pyjama bottoms. His hair was nicely disheveled and for the day after the full moon he looked extraordinarily healthy. Molly's good cooking most probably.

"How come you are up? I feel useless, now," said Severus turning back to the mantelpiece and looking at all the other photos, finding a portrait of Remus's mother just like the one he was still holding in his hands. He liked to look at her much more than looking at Mr Lupin, for it was in her blue eyes that he found the soft kindness he had been looking for. She gave Severus a becoming smile that was much like Remus's and her face was mild and welcoming.

He jumped a little as his sagging hands were raised by one of Remus's and the werewolf laid his arm round his waist, looking down at his father's picture with a reminiscent smile. "Hello, Dad," he said softly and when Severus turned his eyes back to the picture he was astonished to find Mr Lupin smiling warmly at his son, his face quite changed, giving up the cool, arrogant expression he had given Severus, and his features lit up, much to his advantage as Severus thought. His eyes remained fierce and eager, though, as if his very soul were seeping out of them. Remus took the picture gently out of Severus's hands. "Severus has shaken you up, hasn't he?" he asked as his father cast Severus a scathing look. "Here you are, back in your usual place," added Remus as he put the frame down on the mantel exactly in the outline it had left in the dust, facing the picture of his mother at a slight angle. "Don't be angry with Severus, he's here to look after me, he didn't mean to annoy you."

Severus gave Remus a curious look, finding it a bit strange to talk to photographs which, after all, didn't have a fragment of the depicted person's soul in them. But Remus's father seemed to be communicating with him too, gave a nod and looked at his wife with such intense love in his gaze that Severus thought he had found at least one other thing that Remus had inherited from his father. "I was just looking at him," said Severus, giving Mr Lupin, who was watching him rather coldly again, an annoyed sidelong glance. Now he even had to apologise for displeasing a photograph.

Remus looked up at him with an amused smile tugging on his soft lips. "He doesn't like to be moved," he explained matter-of-factly, causing Severus to raise an eyebrow. "He likes to be right there, where he can look at my mother. Where he can see me when I leave my bedroom."

"He is a photograph," sneered Severus and Mr Lupin's expression darkened. "Surely he has no mind of his own."

Remus chuckled and gave his father's frame a gentle caress that Severus would like to have touched his own face. "You might think so, but I know better. When I moved him for the first time he was sulky and glowered at me until I put him back here. Maybe he's just used to it, but I like to imagine he has feelings. My mother too." He indicated his mother's portrait and she blew him a kiss. "Makes the time here less lonely."

"He is so different from you," said Severus, considering Remus's face and comparing it to his father's. still finding nothing in common but the grace in every one of their movements. Remus raised his eyebrows in surprise and cocked his head to one side.

"Are you joking? I am his spitting image," he said and Severus thought that he didn't want anyone to contradict him. Of course he was right, he had been endowed with a handsome face, the slight variations that were caused by his mother's softer features were only adding up to that.

"That is not what I meant," said Severus impatiently. "You are nothing like him, are you? In character?"

Remus frowned, pondered the question and smiled again. "Well, to be honest, he was a bit like you," he said thoughtfully. "Not exactly like you, but you share certain traits … you have the same look in your eyes sometimes. And he used to put on that cool mask in public, just like you. Impulsive he was, passionate, proud. He told everyone what he thought of them. I think he was quite pleased that I was more like my mother. He always liked to remind me how much I was like her."

Severus quite agreed, and was grateful that Remus had grown up to be like his mother in nature, otherwise he would never have found so many lovable things about him and they would have ended up dueling in that dark staircase at Hogwarts instead of kissing. There was one thing, though, that neither parent had passed on to Remus. There was a deep sadness in his eyes and the lines of his face. A sadness the source of which Remus's father had caused recklessly. And yet there was that loving caress in Remus's gaze as he looked at his father's picture. The werewolf looked up at Severus and just one moment's careful consideration told him what Severus was thinking.

"I never made up with him," he said quietly. "Before he died, I mean. After he had told me that Greyback had bitten me on purpose to take revenge on him, and that my father had provoked him knowingly, I moved out of his house … this house … and never spoke to him again. I have always felt great remorse because of that. I hope he knows it."

Severus couldn't quite comprehend that, but he knew better than telling Remus, who would lecture him about a healthy father-son relationship and after half an hour of discussing from opposite sides they would be no closer to understanding each other. Severus found much more interesting that Mr Lupin didn't seem to be holding a grudge on Remus. Of course he was just a picture, but still, he gave Remus proud looks and against all odds he seemed to have been a reasonable man since he was apparently disapproving of Severus.

"He was a loving father, he never gave up on me, never felt ashamed of me. He was strict, yes, but he did everything for me, he didn't deserve the treatment I gave him." Remus looked even sadder than usual and Severus folded his arms, disagreeing utterly, he walked away from him and heard him padding after him, and soon Remus seized his arm and pulled weakly to slow Severus down. "Not so fast, I'm aching."

Severus looked round at him and walked so slowly that they both staggered slightly. "He was feeling guilty," said Severus knowingly. "That is the reason why he did everything for you."

Remus laid his head on Severus's shoulder and sighed. "That might be true, but that doesn't mean that he didn't love me. And it doesn't mean that I didn't love him." Severus raised a skeptical eyebrow and decided that he was not competent enough to argue. "And you are not useless, I merely had a very good full moon. I'm still looking forward to your potions."

Severus smirked, suddenly very aware of how it must look, since he had seen Mr Lupin smirk just like that. He produced the two phials he had brought and held them out to Remus who first took his hand into both of his, squeezing affectionately, before he took the potions from him. "So, tell me about Occlumency with Harry," added Remus as he sat down on the bed, opening the phials carefully.

Severus glowered at him and made him chuckle into the potion he lifted to his lips. "Don't. Ask," growled Severus, twisting his left arm unconsciously. He felt warm when Remus took his left hand and ran his thumb over his wrist. "You can tell me that it is my fault, but I insist that Potter is just as guilty as I am. He doesn't practise, he doesn't even try to close his mind to the Dark Lord and when he is in my office I can never be sure if the Dark Lord isn't looking at me through him. Sometimes I think Potter just doesn't practise because I tell him to practise."

"Maybe," said Remus quietly. "I wish I could tell you something useful. But I know that what I would do, you would never do. Could not do … there is too much bitterness in you and too much hatred in him." Severus raised his eyebrows at him for being so comprehending of Severus's exasperation and not scolding like Albus.

"It is rare that I hear you speaking sense," said Severus flatly and Remus chuckled huskily. Severus smoothed his soft hair out of his eyes and tilted his head back to kiss him. "I thought you would tell me that I should pull myself together."

"Albus can tell you that, I know that he won't let you stop, I thought I might be able to cheer you up …" said Remus with a shrug and put the empty phials back into Severus's pocket. Then his face darkened. "There are so many things to worry about, what with the Death Eater break-out … I thought you would like to think about something else for a change."

Severus sat down beside him and Remus pulled his black robe round his own shoulders, creating a deliberate closeness. "Very considerate of you," muttered Severus into Remus's soft hair. "Tell me, do you know what happened to that werewolf you met at St. Mungo's?"

Remus shifted his head in surprise. "Well, no, though I saw him when he was leaving and he asked me if I would meet him again," he said and Severus knew he should not dislike the idea of that newly bitten werewolf wanting to meet his werewolf but he did. "I would like to help him. I hope he tries to contact me."

"Really?" asked Severus with a slight edge to his voice.

"I'd try all I can so he doesn't join Greyback," said Remus. "He was nice. And so unlucky, really."

"Everything?" growled Severus and Remus chuckled, seeing right through him. Severus scowled and decided to deflect. "Greyback asked about you. He wants to offer you a place in his filthy pack."

"He is still angry that he didn't get me, that would have devastated my father," said Remus flatly and leant heavily against Severus. "I would never even consider joining his band of savages, turning people into werewolves on purpose."

"Was your father a big-mouth?" asked Severus, no longer finding it impossible. "Greyback called him that."

"He was a bit too full of himself and didn't hesitate to tell people what he thought of them," replied Remus quietly. "That was one too many obviously. He learned his lesson." Remus sighed and straightened up, kissing Severus's cheek, his stubble scraping pleasantly over Severus's skin. "Can you stay overnight?" asked Remus quietly, shuffling so close that his thigh was touching Severus's.

"No," said Severus shortly and Remus bent his head, not even trying to keep his face from falling. "But I am here now," added Severus, laying his hand into the back of Remus's neck. "I know it is too little time to enjoy my marvelous presence in all its wonderful facets, but more I cannot provide for obvious reasons."

"I'll take whatever you can give me." Remus kissed his cheek once more and chuckled against it, the warm hum of his breath washing over Severus's skin. "Don't leave too soon," he muttered, his lips still against Severus's skin. Severus wondered if Remus knew that he didn't want to be anywhere but by his side, that he would give anything just so he didn't need to return to Hogwarts where he was alone and cold and missing him. As Remus pressed his face into the crook of Severus's neck, he caused him to put his arm around his thin frame. Severus closed his eyes and felt like he had always felt when holding Remus, two years ago now. Two years. He sighed. Well, it could have been two years. All in all they had managed a bit more than one year now. Severus wondered how many more he would be granted. Without saying anything meaningful at all.

"I will be lucky, if I can bring myself to leave you at all today," said he softly into Remus's hair. "Or rather unlucky."

Apparently, this day after the full moon coincided with Severus's birthday, even though Severus only noticed when Remus suddenly gave him an apologetic look and said, "Speaking of being unlucky … I'm sorry I have no present for you."

"What do you mean?" asked Severus, slightly perplexed. Remus smiled at him, obviously having a shrewd idea that Severus had forgotten his own birthday.

"It's your birthday, Severus," replied Remus quietly and patted Severus's leg half affectionately, half pityingly.

Severus straightened his back and scowled down at Remus, averse to admitting that that was news to him. "I know that," he snapped defiantly. "Why would you bother?"

"I have no present," repeated Remus sadly. "Just like I had no Christmas present for you. And I wish I had something to give you."

Severus raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to one side like Remus always did. "You have yourself, or do you not?" said he quietly and it made Remus smile.

"Much more romantic than you are letting on," said Remus, like he had said it before, his smile audible in his voice.

"I believe I'm letting on quite a lot at the moment," said Severus smoothly as he let Remus lean in with a chuckle on his smiling lips.

They ended up lying side by side on Remus's bed, gazing out of the window, Remus pointing at clouds and Severus rolling his eyes at him. Severus inhaled Remus's sweet scent, his arm already prickling from lack of blood where Remus's head lay on it but he didn't withdraw it, instead he closed his eyes and listened to Remus's husky voice as he talked quietly about the shapes of clouds and when he opened his eyes again, the room was dark and Remus's voice had fallen silent. But the weight was still there on Severus's arm, a hand on his chest, a leg across both of his. He groaned.

"Remus?" he snapped angrily and the werewolf stirred, raising his head off Severus's arm and the blood flowing into it stung unpleasantly. "Why didn't you wake me? Didn't you listen when I told you I couldn't stay?" Remus put his head back down on Severus's arm before he could move away.

"It is not late yet, and I was sleeping as well," he mumbled tiredly and wouldn't budge even one inch when Severus tried to get up. "You can stay a bit longer, please."

Severus gave up and huffed irritably, running his hand over Remus's spine. "You don't understand, I was supposed to fetch ingredients and now I'm returning empty-handed."

"If you tell me what you need I can tell you if I have it," said Remus matter-of-factly. "I have many herbs and things that I grow in my garden. I have some stores of my own."

Severus looked round at him in wonder and Remus met his eyes, grinning slightly. He sat up and got out of bed, causing Severus to follow him out of the bedroom and down the landing to the last door on the left which Remus unlocked with his wand. When they stepped in together, Severus smelled immediately the many ingredients that were stored in shelves and cupboards round the walls. Plants were growing in pots near the window, some mere seedlings, others apparently only inside for the winter.

"I carried on what my mother began and … to be quite frank, it reminds me of you. They are useful for all kinds of things, not only potions. I cannot sell them, I have no license … just help yourself," said Remus, softly caressing a leaf of his Tentacula. Severus pulled out a few drawers and told Remus to produce some phials. Remus waved his wand and they appeared out of thin air, hovering in the right height for Severus to fill them.

"You do realise there are black markets for people without a license?" he asked and knew what the answer would be.

"You do realise black markets are illegal?" replied Remus with a small smile. Severus raised a mocking eyebrow at him, thinking about the many rare or forbidden ingredients he had already purchased illegally, but didn't press the point. That was Remus. And Remus had everything there that Severus had wanted to buy. When he had filled the phials with everything he needed, he turned to Remus with narrowed eyes and considered him closely.

"Were you made especially for my content, I wonder?" he said quietly, his voice sarcastic but not his eyes and he enjoyed how Remus beamed at him, his Tentacula wrapping an affectionate tendril round his thin wrist.

The weeks fled by and became duller and harder with every day. Severus spent many more frustrating evenings with Potter, trying to teach him Occlumency but every time the boy left his office he was clutching his forehead and more vulnerable than before. Albus wouldn't hear any of it, wouldn't look at Potter or listen to Severus, insisting that he must be exaggerating when saying that Potter was a dismal student and more likely to learn how to brew Felix Felicis than mastering Occlumency. Severus was condemned to continue those futile lessons until he got proof that the boy could never repel the Dark Lord. Severus wanted Potter to learn, he really wanted him to be able to protect himself, that was all that mattered now, but he just couldn't teach him anything but how it felt to fall to one's knees on the hard stone floor in Severus's office.

When January leaked into February, Severus found himself being guiltily grateful that the full moon was approaching. It seemed that Remus's suffering meant his joy right now. He wasn't aware however that his own suffering was Remus's suffering too. And he didn't know that Remus missed him equally painfully. It became clear to him when he was walking along the high street in Hogsmeade, distracting himself from the tedious work at Hogwarts as someone bumped into his side and sent him stumbling. He whirled round and was ready to snap at whoever had been too clumsy to look where he was going when he heard that caress of a voice in his strained ears.

"Oh, forgive me, Severus, I was having a daydream."

Severus looked at him and thought that it was him having a daydream. Good grief! He was becoming more and more like a Gryffindor. He felt the strong impulse to pull Remus close in the middle of this highly frequented street and kiss him senseless, just for the fact that his werewolf had somehow felt his longing and come to his rescue. Just for his pleasure. Surely! Severus tried to muster all that was left of his Slytherin spirit.

"I didn't know that the full moon affected your eyes as well," he said but it didn't come out quite as sharply as he had intended. He couldn't bring himself to snap anymore when the sun broke through the clouds and made Remus glow warmly. He scowled. Honestly, when he had been together with Remus everyday he had been much more balanced. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

Remus smiled and started walking up the street, causing Severus to follow him. "I thought I'd make it easier for you to deliver the Potion," he said quietly, considering the shop windows on either side of the street. "I had to get away from Grimmauld Place, Sirius has been insufferable lately. I know that doesn't make me a good friend, does it?"

"As if I cared," growled Severus, pushing Remus to the left and off the high street. "Are you staying here?"

Remus nodded and took Severus by the arm, making him stiffen and look around. They were alone on the narrow street leading to the Hog's Head and Remus pulled him further uphill. Severus had an unpleasant notion of where Remus was staying.

"Aberforth gave me a vacant room for free until he needs it," said Remus and Severus groaned. "To be honest, I think that he doesn't usually need all his rooms. I will leave for the full moon of course and return to Grimmauld Place afterwards."

"What is there between you and Aberforth?" asked Severus, glowering at the werewolf as they drew closer to the pub. Remus chuckled and his breath formed clouds in the cold air.

"I assure you there is nothing out of the ordinary between us," he said as he shouldered the door open and pulled Severus, who was glancing around him worriedly, into the dingy but warm Hog's Head. "I'm just a little more charming than you when I ask a favour."

Severus glared at him but let himself be ushered to a table in the darkest corner of the pub and sat down on the bench, Remus lowering himself slowly beside him. The pub was just as empty as last time, only that this time, Aberforth did not leave the bar, but scrubbed away at the counter with a grimy cloth, staring at Severus and Remus rather suspiciously. No, not at Remus, only at Severus. That caused Severus to avert his eyes and scowl at Remus some more.

"Are you serious?" he grumbled and Remus looked past him at Aberforth, a grin spreading over his face. "How am I supposed to relax while he is staring at me?" The werewolf gave him an apologetic look and squeezed his hand under the table. As much as Severus had longed for Remus's closeness, this situation was highly frustrating and disappointing. He was just leaning closer to Remus to whisper into his ear when two glasses were slammed down on the table before him and he started, sitting up straight and stiff to look up into Aberforth's glowering face, his blue eyes, so much like his brother's, piercing him malevolently.

"Well, well, Snape," he growled, filling the glasses with some amber liquid – the bottle was so dirty Severus couldn't make out what it was, "sticking your overlarge nose into things it doesn't belong again?"

Severus glared with all his might, fully aware that looks couldn't kill, and furious about it. He didn't retort anything, just clenched his teeth. He couldn't possibly retort anything. Aberforth's words had rendered him speechless with shame. And he wished he could admit it. Remus looked from one to the other of them and seemed disappointed that he had to witness such a scene once again. Severus wondered if Remus would ever realise that there was indeed a reason why nobody liked the man he had chosen for his own.

"Aberforth, whatever it is that you dislike in Severus, I assure you, you are mistaken in him," said the werewolf and both Severus and Aberforth gave up their glaring match to ogle him. "I would be much obliged if you could give us some time alone."

Aberforth raised an eyebrow at him, glanced scathingly at Severus and shrugged before turning and leaving them to themselves looking quite like Albus from behind. Severus leant back and looked at Remus who took his glass and held it to his nose, apparently trying to find out what was in it. Severus shifted uneasily. "There was no need to say that," he muttered irritably and knew he was being ungrateful. But it was good to be glared at by Aberforth, for the things he had done.

Remus glanced at him, took a sip of his drink and made a face. "Whisky," said he hoarsely and put the glass back on the table. "I don't like it when people look at you like that and talk to you like that, when they have no idea how honourable you are, what you do for all of us!" he continued in a rather more forceful voice than was normal for him.

Severus averted his eyes and looked at the door that led to the bedrooms. "Not everybody … nobody is as forgiving as you. And I do not consider it cruel that they don't forgive me."

Remus looked at him for a few long moments, then he took his hand and leant against him. "I hoped we could spend a nice day together, without thinking about bad things," he sighed and drummed his fingers on the table. The nervousness seemed to be starting already.

"That is impossible," said Severus and eyed his glass suspiciously, not daring to drink from it. "Maybe it would be best if I fetched your Wolfsbane and brought it here."

"But you will come back as soon as possible, will you not?" asked Remus, looking anxious. "I don't want to be alone anymore …"

Severus got up and waved a hand at him. "I will sneak in, get the Potion and sneak out again," he said, approaching the door, "and I will be with you again in no time." He stopped and looked at Remus, sitting there in his too shabby robes with his too long hair falling into his too sad eyes. Too beautiful. Too out of place in this dark pub. And Severus wished he could take him somewhere nicer, even the Three Broomsticks would have been nicer than this. He cursed Umbridge for interfering.

He wondered if his thoughts had been carried by the wind to Umbridge's office, for she cornered him as soon as he entered the castle and inquired after the Veritaserum. He had to make up some lie and it was highly tiring. Almost as tiring as being with Remus in the Hog's Head, chastely holding hands under the table while there was a tension hanging between them and Remus tried to make him talk. But Severus didn't feel like talking. He was looking at the door to the bedrooms again and he remembered like yesterday how he had opened it, with petty intentions.

"Severus, you aren't with me at all," said Remus softly and his nose brushed against Severus's cheekbone. His knee rested against Severus's quite gently and it drove Severus absolutely mad. This intimate touch reminded him of a day when they had not even kissed yet but been closer than ever before. Severus needed those touches, needed those memories and he needed Remus. "You are not in the mood to be with me, are you?"

Severus snapped out of his thoughts and turned his head, startled when he found himself nose to nose with Remus. He withdrew slightly before replying. "Rubbish," he muttered, "I'm not in the mood to be here. It depresses me."

Remus drummed his fingers on the table again. "Well, we … we could go upstairs."

Severus crossed his arms and scowled. "No," he said curtly and when Remus gave him a disappointed look he added, "I've told you before that I do not want to stay here, in a room of his, up there."

Remus gave him a curious look. "I don't understand you. We cannot go anywhere else, if we could I would be the first to suggest it, but it isn't possible. And I just don't understand why you would be so averse to Aberforth's rooms," he said and his voice grew a little annoyed near the end. "If it is that you don't want to be with me, you can just say, I won't be upset."

Severus snorted irritably. "You sound very upset already," he remarked. Remus gave him a look that was very unlike him, very fierce. "Alright," added Severus in an angry voice, "alright if you need to know I will tell you why I am so averse to staying here!" He stretched out his arm and pointed at the door he'd been staring at. "Do you see that door, Remus? Yes? Well, fifteen years ago I followed Dumbledore in here, he was going to meet someone and I wanted to spy on him for the Dark Lord, so I snuck in here and through that door. Up the stairs and down the landing until I had reached the door that Dumbledore had disappeared through. And I bent down and pressed my petty, spying ear to the keyhole to listen in. Now I am sure you can guess what I heard? We were just lucky that Aberforth here saw me following his brother and seized me by the scruff of my neck, dragging me away from the door and shaking me so hard that my brain hit my skull. Then he shoved me into the room where Dumbledore and Trelawney were sitting together and he told them I had been eavesdropping. Do you know what Dumbledore did?" Remus shook his head, quite speechless, obviously, and his amber eyes were sadder than ever. "Nothing," continued Severus with force, "he did nothing but look at me in that disappointed way and say 'let him go'. Just like that, no punishment, no calling the Aurors even though he knew I was a devoted Death Eater, trying to prove myself. No, he told Aberforth to let me go and Aberforth positively threw me out of his pub onto the street where I scrambled to my feet as fast as I could to crawl to my Lord's feet instead, to be honoured by him. To send him after the Potters. Did you know that some prophecies are only fulfilled when those who are concerned know of them? Well, this was one of them. Now I believe you will understand why I have no desire to be here, why I do not begrudge Aberforth his hostility towards me. He is quite right. And I hate to be reminded of it. Being in one of those rooms would be …" he stopped and looked away from Remus defiantly.

Remus was silent for a while, looking at the door and most probably imagining Severus as a twenty-year-old good-for-nothing spy, chased away by a furious Aberforth. That wasn't the picture he wanted Remus to have of him. That picture had cost him love before. But Remus had no sign of disappointment or disgust in his eyes when he looked at him again. He looked loving, good Merlin. And Severus knew why he was the only one who would ever have been told that secret of his.

"Do you know what I think?" asked Remus quietly and got up from his chair. Severus shook his head and wondered if Remus would send him away after all. "I think that it is about time that you left the past," he stretched out his hand to Severus and he took it automatically, "in the past," finished Remus and tugged on Severus's hand to make him get up.

Severus followed reluctantly and let Remus pull him through the fateful door, casting a look over his shoulder. The pub was quite empty. As was Severus's head. Up the stairs, down the landing, last door to the right; but no, Remus stopped before the second but last door to the right. Relief washed over Severus. He could still feel the cold metal of the keyhole against his ear, even now. The hand shaking him violently by the scruff of his robe. Albus's disappointed eyes on him. The dread when realising what he had done. The fear when Albus had Apparated to meet him. Remus's hand in his when he led him to the bed. And indeed the panted desire of their first night.

He looked at Remus, having trouble to focus his eyes on a point in his face, and tucked a lock of silver-brown hair behind his ear. Actually, he never wanted to stop touching him. He never wanted to risk waking up and finding that he had lost him. He didn't know if he could bear it. Especially because he could touch him. The first time he actually touched someone he cared about, someone who meant so much to him. The only time he had been granted that privilege. He drank in Remus's tired features and found the golden pools wide awake and worried.

"This is not the same room, is it?" asked the werewolf hoarsely, concerned with Severus's state of mind rather than his own demands. "This will be alright for you, won't it?"

Severus nodded slowly and thought that Remus had been right, after all, as usual, really, and that in the future he would like to remember himself not as the cowering boy, creeping in here to prove himself a dismal spy, but as the straight backed man, following the one he loved to please him and indeed, hear him sigh like he sighed only in his presence. One learns from one's mistakes. And Severus had become someone who was granted the respect of one Remus Lupin, the most righteous of Gryffindors. Maybe some things did belong into the past, if not all the consequences. But a bit of the bitter regret drained from him when Remus's soft lips brushed carefully against his and he was allowed to lay his arms round that thin frame just like he had used to so many nights before, nights that he wished into the future, not the past. Some things were better kept vivid in one's memory. Though no memory could live up to reality. To the reality of Remus's arms and lips and voice and skin. And Severus's last thought was that he would defy no place, no room, anywhere, if it meant holding his werewolf and waking up beside him, pretending to be angry about not having been woken, acting as if he had never even considered telling him how much he loved him.