Title: Journey

Disclaimer: Everything that's part of the Harry Potter world belongs to J. K. Rowling (including the dialogue taken from OotP).

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

Author Notes: All right, I always wondered what Severus experienced during the Occlumency lesson featured in this chapter. Harry always thought his mind was wide open when leaving Severus's office and his scar always burned - I wanted to give those two facts a meaning. I missed Valentine's Day, but Severus doesn't think much of it, anyway ;).

Emily-pino: Glad you like the Lucius scenes, I rather enjoy writing them :). And I enjoyed writing about Remus's parents, the way I imagine them to be - artistic freedom here :D - I imagine Remus's father to have been an impressive man. And it was important to me to help Severus sort out this particular problem.

Smurny: Thanks :) Oh, it will take Severus some more time to tell Remus about his feelings, I'm afraid ... and no, Severus doesn't really resemble Severus that much, in fact they're very different. They just share some character traits. They're both condescending, have sharp tongues and are proud of their own capabilities. But where Remus's father is good-looking and much too full of himself, Severus is ... well. And now I'm writing about John Lupin as though he really existed ;). Maybe Remus just WANTED to see their similarities rather than their differences.

soniakay: Thank you so much, that means a lot to me!

Kiraling: Great that Mr Lupin wandered from my mind to yours :D I have such a vivid picture of him ... I just wonder why everybody's parents are already dead even though wizards have such long life-spans, I mean, can they all have died in the war? And yes, I like writing Remus and Sev's dates ^^ the two of them are so different, it is fun to write Remus in contrast to Severus.

Resevius: It's interesting to write from Sev's PoV because you actually start thinking like him - that's why Sirius is such a git when I write him and Voldemort is prancing :D. I like prologues too :) Not epilogues so much, though. And can you read my mind? Read the last sentence of this chapter ;). Thank you for the compliment, by the way, you had me blushing :). I'll answer your message as soon as I have found the right words :).


Severus spent the following days rather light-footedly, having the extremely pleasant possibility to see Remus every day after a mere ten-minute walk, without rousing the slightest suspicion (except perhaps, that his colleagues feared he had taken to drink). Not even Potter's abysmal Occlumency could darken his spirits. He even refrained from mocking the boy during the week that Remus spent at Hogsmeade. And he turned funny when Umbridge asked him about the Veritaserum again: he dared tell her that in winter the Potion would need much longer to mature and she would be the first to be informed when it was ready. He smirked rather self-sufficiently when she believed the blunt lie.

On the day of the full moon, though, Remus declined a visit from Severus on the following day, stating that he was feeling energetic and healthy enough to make it on his own. It made Severus rather sulky but he accepted Remus's embrace as an apology, simply to be able to melt into him once more and forget that they weren't, in truth, the same person, before Remus disappeared again to leave them both lonely for another few weeks.

Severus stubbornly ignored Valentine's Day and was glad that Remus knew him well enough to do so too. The Apparition lessons for the sixth-years were approaching and he dreaded another few boring hours in which he would have to put back together Splinched students. His thoughts were wandering around Remus again and he cursed Valentine's Day and the fact that as common place a thing as Apparition made him think about Remus and how he had stumbled into McGonagall as a mere boy, only of interest to Severus when he was thinking loathingly about his lycanthropy. Indeed, Severus remembered like yesterday the apology Remus had given him after Dumbledore had already made Severus swear not to tell anyone about what he was. Only nowadays Severus knew that Remus had meant every stammered word, every desperate tear.

It was a nice change to make fun of McGonagall without actually laughing at her when the next Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff went so disastrous for McGonagall's team, deprived of Potter and the Weasley twins since the fight they had had with Draco and his friends, that Severus actually had to make a huge effort to keep a straight face. Second-class Beaters and Ron Weasley missing every single one of the Quaffles thrown in his direction as though he were afraid of the red ball, condemned Gryffindor to a ridiculous defeat that was only lessened by Ginny Weasley catching the Snitch. Severus found it a rather nice distraction to mock McGonagall a little and hope for his team's victory in the House Championship. He had so many miserable things to worry about, and that Quidditch would actually cheer him up was so wonderfully ironic that he thought he'd enjoy it thoroughly as long as it lasted.

On Monday after the match there was a surprise brought by owls to the Great Hall, and by Albus who had had the idea of giving an edition of the obnoxious Quibbler to every member of staff, except Umbridge. Severus's own was sitting on his nightstand when he woke up early and he only touched it because Potter was looking back at him from the cover, quite intimidated at being in Severus's bedroom, obviously. He snatched the magazine up and turned the pages until he reached the article concerning Potter. An interview. 'Harry Potter speaks out at last' it read and then a full account of the night when the Dark Lord had returned. Severus couldn't find it amusing. He wondered if crazy Xenophilius Lovegood even realised that this might just as well be the first act of a very long tragedy, concerning his enmity with the Dark Lord.

Everyone else was quite delighted with Potter's bravery and Severus couldn't help finding it respectable that the boy went to such lengths, the ban from Hogsmeade weekends, detention and what not to tell everyone the truth. Still, there was no reason to admire him or push presents into his already arrogant hands like Flitwick did. Especially because even in Severus's Potions classes people were constantly losing points for whispered conversations about the interview and exploding cauldrons due to lack of concentration while listening to each other quoting what Potter had said about that fateful night. Severus wondered if they'd finally stop if they knew that he was a Death Eater as well. Some additional fear couldn't do any harm. But the number of parents who would accept a Death Eater as their children's teacher was just as small as the number who would have tolerated Remus.

Draco Malfoy and his friends were the only ones who were not in the slightest excited about the interview. Ever since it had been published they were the subject of much pointing and whispering themselves, since Potter had mentioned their fathers' names as Death Eaters. Severus was glad that he had not appeared in any of it himself, but the fact that Lucius and the others had was not much better, either. Draco even came up to him after Potions that week to talk to him about it and all Severus could say to him was that nobody would possibly take the Quibbler seriously and that his father was a highly-respected man whose reputation could not be damaged by such an abysmal attempt to smear him.

"You would testify for him, sir, wouldn't you?" asked Draco rather more worriedly than Severus knew he cared to admit. Severus looked into his grey eyes and wondered what it felt like to love one's father, to fear for his safety and to care about what other people said about him. Maybe he would ask Remus one day what it was like to have a good father.

"Of course, Draco," he replied quietly, "just like he would for me." And Severus knew he would for he had done so already. Draco nodded, reassured by Severus's support, and left him to his thoughts. His thoughts were disrupted, though, by a burning in his arm that same night and for the first time in months he was scared to answer it. He had a distinct feeling that he would be punished, and if not him then someone else.

The circle was quite nervous when Severus joined them. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Avery squirming where he stood, with pain most probably. Severus had known that he would be punished for the faulty information he had given the Dark Lord. He was lucky to be alive. Rookwood on the other hand looked rather relaxed and sure of himself. Severus dreaded the reason. The Dark Lord stepped between Lucius and Severus and his voice was between glee and anger.

"My dear friends," he said and he touched Severus's shoulder quite deliberately as he walked by, "I have gained precious information."

A long silence followed those words as the Dark Lord walked slowly around the circle. Severus rolled his eyes when Bellatrix leant towards him in worship when he passed her. Impatience was seizing Severus's body and he clenched and unclenched his fists nervously, willing the Dark Lord to go on.

"Rookwood here has proven himself more useful within the last hour than most of you during the last six months. And Avery has experienced what it means to waste my time with futile plans and false assumptions, merely to gain my favour," continued the Dark Lord and Avery whimpered like the worthless git he was. "It seems we have been pursuing the wrong plans for months and all sacrifices, all risks were for nothing. But now, thanks to Rookwood, I have finally found out how to acquire the prophecy that is the key to my success."

He walked on into the middle of the circle and pointed his wand at Severus. Severus swallowed and tried not to seem worried or look guilty. The Dark Lord didn't strike, he just let his wand hover in midair, aiming at Severus for a few moments before he addressed him. "Severus, you will be a great help to me," he hissed and the circle looked round at Severus. "Yes, indeed, you will be very valuable once again. You, who has such a perfect position, right next to Dumbledore, in striking distance to Potter. You who can mess with Potter's mind like no other and even on Dumbledore's orders. Hear what I have to say to you, my friend."

Severus bowed and waited for what the Dark Lord had to say, grateful that Albus had not been so abysmal an Occlumency teacher as he was. "I will be honoured to receive your orders, my Lord," said Severus in a solemn voice.

"You must find out if what Rookwood has told me is true," said the Dark Lord, casting a threatening look in Rookwood's direction. "I do not wish another delay, another waste of my precious time. You must go to Dumbledore and find out if he knows – or rather if he is willing to tell you – that the prophecy can only be taken by those whose names are mentioned on the sign. Meaning myself and our dear Harry. If that is indeed the case, you know what you have to do. I will not enter the Ministry again. Potter must do it for me. And to make him do it I will use this handy connection that let him see my attack on the blood-traitor."

Severus swallowed. So Rookwood had actually been able to give the Dark Lord the last bit of vital information needed to fulfil his plans. "I will do as you desire, master. I will keep Potter's mind accessible for your penetration," said Severus and earned a horrible smile. He wished it had been a lie but at the moment there was no doubt about the fact that he was only worsening the problem of Potter's weak mind, instead of erasing it. And Albus wouldn't even consider relieving him of that impossible task. He didn't realise how dangerous it was.

"I know you will, Severus," whispered the Dark Lord and Bellatrix huffed irritably. "I know I can rely on you."

That wasn't a compliment that Severus liked to hear. When the circle was dismissed, Severus went to see Albus immediately. The castle was dark and he blended in with his surroundings, only stepping out of the darkness when he caught two students being a little too intimate with each other behind a suit of armour. They were absolutely shocked to have been surprised by him and they stared at the floor in embarrassed silence, the boy stepping in front of the girl in a protective gesture as they were told off. Severus took twenty points from each Gryffindor and Ravenclaw simply because he felt irritated and stupidly jealous, then he sent them back to their common rooms into opposite directions.

Severus continued on to Albus's office and the gargoyle sprang aside to let him in. Albus was still awake, sitting behind his desk, his hands folded and his chin resting on them. "Ah, Severus, has he finally made progress?" he asked, sounding utterly unconcerned and more bored than anything else. Severus approached him and sat down opposite him. "What news do you have for me?"

"Rookwood has told the Dark Lord that he or Potter have to take the prophecy," said Severus quietly. "He ordered me to ask you if that was true. And if yes, he wanted me to open Potter's mind even further."

"Of course, of course …" muttered Albus and closed his eyes. "I fear that you will have to tell him that this time he is indeed on the right track – you should add how you cleverly tickled it out of me though I was reluctant to admit it, else he will become suspicious as to why I didn't tell you earlier. Let us just hope that Harry masters Occlumency soon enough to repel Voldemort's attempts to manipulate his mind."

Severus shifted uneasily in his chair. "Headmaster, I entreat you to believe me that I have no reason and no hope to assume that he does," he said, even though he had no desire to admit his failure. "I wish you found someone else to teach him, or talked to him yourself. And if not then would you please take other precautions? I cannot guarantee for his safety this time, I do not want to be held responsible for the consequences merely because you found it unnecessary to listen to me."

Albus looked at him and considered him closely. "I have faith in you, Severus," he said and Severus squirmed under his eyes. "Go to bed now, Severus, and do not worry too much."

Severus found that ridiculous advice. He positively stomped back to his rooms and wrenched his robes off himself. In the following night he traveled to the Dark Lord again and informed him of what Dumbledore had told him and he was dismissed with a very approving smirk and a wave of the Dark Lord's skeletal hand. Severus was glad that he could get away so quickly and hoped that for the next weeks he would be left in peace. But it didn't take long until the next incident shook him, and indeed, made him furious.

Once again Potter was on the ground in his office and Severus lifted the Legilimency Spell that had shown him something that didn't belong in Potter's head at all. Rookwood kneeling in the Dark Lord's room, no doubt having the conversation that had caused the last Death Eater meeting. That revelation didn't only worry Severus, it made him so angry at Potter that he wished he could slap him. Up to now the only thing Potter had been dreaming about was the door to the Department of Mysteries, but obviously Severus had been right and the boy never even tried to close his mind.

"Get up, Potter," said Severus sharply. "That last memory. What was it?"

"I don't know," said Potter and got to his feet. "You mean the one where my cousin tried to make me stand in the toilet?"

On every other occasion Severus would have sneered and made some mocking remark but right now he wasn't in the mood at all. "No," he said softly, "I mean the one with a man kneeling in a darkened room …"

"It's … nothing," lied Potter brazenly and Severus's anger rose. When Severus tried to make eye contact Potter looked quickly away, obviously realising that Severus couldn't look into his petty mind without looking into his eyes as well.

"How do that man and that room come to be inside your head, Potter?" he hissed daring Potter to make something up.

"It – it was just a dream I had," said Potter evasively. Severus balled his fist so he wouldn't really slap him. What did he think they were doing here? Having a good time together? Bringing Severus up to date with the miserable life he had caused the boy by losing him his parents? Certainly not.

"A dream?" asked Severus and let a deadly silence follow his words during which Potter stared at something or other, just not at Severus. "You do know why we are here, don't you, Potter? You do know why I am giving up my evenings for this tedious job?" he continued and his anger seeped into his voice.

"Yes," said Potter stiffly and Severus felt his fist twist dangerously.

"Remind me why we are here, Potter," said Severus determined to torment Potter until he finally got it into his stubborn head.

"So I can learn Occlumency," replied Potter, his face darkening.

"Correct, Potter. And dim though you may be –" at this Potter finally looked at him again and the hatred was plainly visible on his face, "– I would have thought that after two months of lessons you might have made some progress. How many other dreams about the Dark Lord have you had?"

"Just that one," said Potter. A lie, clearly.

"Perhaps," said Severus, narrowing his eyes at the impertinent boy, "perhaps you actually enjoy having these visions and dreams, Potter. Maybe they make you feel special – important?"

"No, they don't," said Potter, gripping his wand very tightly. But of course they did, Potter was just like Black, liking to feel involved, liking to do something heroic. One day they would both perish and everyone else with them. Potter just didn't want to accept that others were doing the work and that all he had to do to help was lean back and keep safe.

"That is just as well," said Severus coldly, "because you are neither special nor important, and it is not up to you to find out what the Dark Lord is saying to his Death Eaters."

"No – that's your job, isn't it?" Potter shot at him and Severus could see in his face that he had surprised himself with his disrespectful remark. But Severus didn't find that the worst thing anyone had ever said to him, indeed he was rather pleased that finally that matter was clear to Potter. That he knew what Severus was doing for the Order, risking his life, the most important job was his.

"Yes, Potter. That is my job," he answered. "Now, if you are ready, we will start again." He raised his wand and prepared for the flow of Potter's memories that were about to flood his mind. "One – two – three – Legilimens!"

Severus had expected the usual vivid stream that he had seen every time up to now, but the scene he saw was somewhat blurred and vague. He could make out the Dementors in the dark grounds of Hogwarts and yet Potter remained standing this time and his mind focused. The next thing Severus saw was Potter's wand tip and the next thing he heard was Potter's "Protego!" before his arm flew upwards and his Spell was turned on himself and he staggered backwards. His mind was immediately forced violently into his past. He felt as if he were a boy again, crying in the corner as his father shouted at his mother like he frequently did. He had the depressing loneliness in his body as he remembered lying on his bed in his father's gloomy house as a teenager, shooting flies from the air with his wand. The humiliation seeped into his every ounce as he tried to mount a bucking broomstick, being laughed at by a girl from his year. He felt the next memory already approaching and he caught a glimpse of it, fear mounting in his body when he felt the arms of his enemy round his shoulders, dragging him away from his certain death. Here he regained control of himself and he forced Potter out of his private memories before he could get a glance at that memory and the next and then maybe one that would show him things that Severus would rather die than share.

"ENOUGH!" he yelled and waved his arm to push Potter magically backwards. The boy staggered and crashed into one of Severus's shelves, breaking a jar. Severus's breathing was shallow and his mind felt sore. "Reparo," hissed Severus to mend the glass and save its contents. He felt his fingers trembling and hated Potter, hated him with such might that he lost control very rapidly. He wanted to punish him for looking in on his past, for forcing him to relive those memories. "Well, Potter … that was certainly an improvement …" Severus couldn't help feeling apprehensive of the memories he had stored in the Pensieve. He straightened it, still breathing heavily, and as the thoughts inside it swirled he made sure that he had stored all the most secret of them away. He closed the strong room in the back of his mind more firmly and tried to stop imagining that Potter might just have glimpsed a memory of how Professor Snape had kissed Professor Lupin the other day. Severus wondered how he would have reacted to that. "I don't remember telling you to use a Shield Charm … but there is no doubt that it was effective …" Potter didn't speak but when Severus faced him, not even bothering to hide his hatred, he looked anxious and worried. "Let's try again, shall we?" added Severus and stepped back behind the desk, raising his wand, determined to pay Potter back. "One – two – Legilimens!"

All of a sudden, Severus left his office and found himself running down a dark corridor to a black door. He almost expected it to be the same memory he had once before seen in Potter's mind but then the door to the Department of Mysteries flew open and he advanced in. It was here in the circular room, with doors all round the wall, that he realised he was no longer in Potter's mind and this was no memory, he felt the distinct wish to find the right door, the wonder which one it would be and knew that Potter and he had just joined the Dark Lord in his dreams – hopefully only his dreams – and that they were both in danger. This was the first time that he could actually be sure that the Dark Lord was looking at him through those emerald eyes, and suddenly he felt the red lights burning into him from beyond Potter's mind.

"POTTER!" he cried, lifting the spell, upset and furious. The boy stumbled with the force with which the Spell was wrenched away from him and he fell to the floor, panting heavily, to remain lying on his back. It was just as well. Severus didn't want to look into his eyes right now. He walked round the table as Potter opened his eyes and glowered down at him. "Explain yourself!"

"I … dunno what happened," said Potter stupidly, as he got up, flushed and confused. "I've never seen that before. I mean, I told you, I've dreamed about the door … but it's never opened before …"

Severus was boiling with anger. He didn't need to be told that they had just joined the Dark Lord while he was actually imagining reaching the Department of Mysteries. Let it have been only a dream, only his imagination. "You are not working hard enough!" Severus snapped at the boy. "You are lazy and sloppy, Potter, it is small wonder that the Dark Lord –"

"Can you tell me something, sir?" interrupted Potter viciously. "Why do you call Voldemort the Dark Lord? I've only ever heard Death Eaters call him that."

This Death Eater is going to teach you some respect, Potter! Impertinent brat, oblivious and naïve! Just when Severus thought that he'd risk a slap, snarling hatefully at Potter, a woman's scream came from above and startled them both. Severus whipped up his head and looked at the ceiling. "What the –?" he muttered in wonder and when some noise could be heard following the scream he looked round at Potter, frowning. "Did you see anything unusual on your way down here, Potter?"

The boy shook his head. The scream was repeated. Severus decided to find out if help was needed, gripping his wand tightly as he strode out of his office. After a moment he heard Potter's steps following him. When Severus reached the Entrance Hall, the shocking scene before him incited a thought in him that he knew was inappropriate. A disheveled and weeping Trelawney was standing in the middle of a circle of students and teachers looking at her and when Severus glanced over their heads he made out the reason for this spectacle. Umbridge was standing opposite Trelawney and Severus knew that she was dismissing her. Just like she would dismiss Hagrid. Severus had no desire to watch that scene. He had watched cruelty too many times to watch it voluntarily now. When he saw Potter joining the crowd he returned to his office, put back his memories into his head and stepped as quickly as he could through the fireplace, that was currently not being watched, into the kitchen of number twelve, Grimmauld Place.

There was no one to be seen and it suited Severus very well. He ascended the stairs quietly and opened Remus's bedroom door without knocking, finding the werewolf dozing peacefully in his armchair. Severus enjoyed the sight of him for a moment before he approached him, knelt down at his feet and ran his hands up his thighs to take his delicate hands into his own. Remus stirred but didn't wake, merely turned his head, his lips quirked into a slight smile. Severus didn't wake him, just laid his head to Remus's chest, listening to his slow heart beat. It was calming. Very slowly he felt his body relaxing and his mind stopping to ache.

It felt like hours until Remus's hands squeezed Severus's gently and the werewolf woke, sighing quietly when he kissed the top of Severus's head. Severus felt drowsy and content when he lifted his head off Remus's heartbeat to allow Remus to kiss him gently, the taste of strawberry drops on his tongue and then on Severus's as well. Remus smiled like Severus loved him to smile, mildly, warmly, welcoming. Happily.

"What gives me the pleasure of your presence?" he asked huskily and Severus shivered, cradled in Remus's warmth. He laid his head back against Remus's chest and let go of his hands so he could embrace him. He tried to remember for a moment why he was at Grimmauld Place and sighed heavily when it came back to him.

"Potter," he mumbled into Remus's robes.

"What did he do now?" asked Remus, amusement in his wonderful voice. Severus felt much better already, just because Remus acknowledged that it was Potter who had done something to him, not the other way around.

Severus hesitated for a moment and decided to recount everything in chronological order. "He caught me off guard for a moment, used a Shield Charm on me and broke into my mind …"

"But surely he didn't see anything too private, did he?" said Remus quietly. "Surely you keep those things hidden much too deeply inside for Harry to accidentally come across them?"

"You mean the memories in which he would lose his respect for you?" replied Severus and though he was being serious, Remus chuckled nicely. "No, he saw nothing of the sort. He saw scenes from my childhood. And in my childhood it was only your mysterious illness that was of interest to me."

"You found me strange," said Remus knowingly.

"Yes," agreed Severus, "I still do sometimes … you are an enigma to me."

"I know," chuckled Remus. "You've told me before … but what did Harry see that upset you so?"

"He saw me," said Severus. "Me like I was as a child. Me crying in a corner while my bastard of a father was yelling at my mother. Me as the awkward teenager I was … I don't want anyone to see me like that anymore. I don't want to see myself like that anymore. He has no right to intrude on my past. To force me back into these situations. I hate to be reminded of my lesser self."

"Everyone has had a childhood, Severus," said Remus, his hand caressing Severus's tense back. "I know you don't like to think about it but there is no need to be ashamed of it. You see his past all the time, and I daresay it is similar to yours. Maybe it will make Harry understand you a bit better."

Severus huffed and pressed harder against Remus's chest. "That is very comforting, thank you," he drawled ironically and Remus chuckled again.

"But that isn't all, right?" said Remus. "There was something more to upset you."

Severus grumbled. "I was just using Legilimency on Potter when it happened," he admitted, shuddering, and Remus tightened his arms round him. "We were in the Dark Lord's mind. We saw him dreaming, I think, of the Department of Mysteries. It wasn't a memory of Potter's, we were there, with the Dark Lord, in his head. And then I felt as if he had seen me. As if he had noticed us and used Potter's mind to find out what was going on. It was eerie. It was like a warning. And the foolish boy didn't even realise it, didn't seem worried at all. When I told him the truth, that he was too lazy and careless, he was impertinent enough to be cheeky with me!" Severus had talked himself into a rage, so he stopped talking, scowling at the bed.

"I understand your anger, Severus," said Remus, his voice calm and soothing. "Don't let it get to you. Be patient with him. I am sure he will realise that he is being unreasonable."

"No!" cried Severus angrily, raising his head. "You don't understand, he does the opposite of whatever I tell him. When I want him to see how dangerous this is, he just glares at me and I'm sure he secretly plans to keep having the dreams so he sees what's going on and can do something stupidly heroic just to annoy me. Today he openly declared that he mistrusts me!"

"Are you sure that you interpreted his words correctly?" asked Remus in a voice that sounded very much like Albus's. Severus glared at him.

"He asked me why I called the Dark Lord by that name and said he had only ever heard Death Eaters call him that," he growled and Remus frowned. "How does that sound to you? How would you interpret that?"

"Well, he suspects you to have been a Death Eater," said Remus slowly. "Maybe he wanted to take revenge on you for what you said to him."

"Oh, he knows that I was a Death Eater, he has seen me showing my Dark Mark to Fudge to make him see sense," muttered Severus, angrier than ever. "He wanted to tell me between the lines that he suspects me of being a faithful Death Eater even now. I would have slapped him if we hadn't been interrupted."

"Such Muggle behaviour, Severus?" said Remus, his tone weary. Severus's glare darkened and Remus kissed him tenderly on the lips to soften his temper. Successfully. "Nobody else thinks you a faithful servant to your old master. And Harry only likes to believe it so he has a reason to be angry with you."

Severus put his head back down, hearing Remus sigh a relieved sigh and he smiled into the shabby robes. "You know, I come to you to hear you saying these things. Hearing them again and again might make them come true."

"I am glad you come to me," said Remus and Severus knew that he too could read between the lines and hear that Severus had left some things unsaid. A 'thank you', a 'you're right', maybe a 'you are the only one I can really talk to'. Remus had heard them all. "I seem to be unable to convince you that you are respected in the Order."

"You respect me, you dunderhead," replied Severus. "The others don't want to argue with you, that is why you believe that you have convinced them that I am trustworthy." Again an 'I'm grateful' left out. But Severus had never said everything he had had on his mind. Words didn't mean anything. His head over Remus's heart was loud enough.

"They will see, in the end, that I was right. And they will apologise to you."

Severus wondered for a moment if Remus actually believed that, or if he just wanted to encourage them both. People didn't like to admit to their mistakes, and even if they found out about Severus's true nature one day, they would not change their minds about him. He was too unpleasant a person anyway. He couldn't even name anybody whom he hadn't insulted or offended yet. Not even Remus. Least of all Remus.

"I will stay tonight," said Severus matter-of-factly.

"Oh, please do," said Remus and a smile was audible in his voice. "I'm always glad to see you and stay with you, not only on the full moon." He chuckled softly and Severus's chest vibrated pleasantly with the sound of it. "Sometimes I feel like the secret lover of a married man, who can only be visited when the husband gets away from his wife with a good excuse."

Severus snorted. "If Umbridge were my wife the excuse would probably be her death," he muttered and he felt the snicker that Remus was suppressing. "I do not like to make you feel that way, though you are secret, indeed …" Severus had wanted to say 'there is no one else' but he thought better of it. It wasn't quite true after all, there was still someone else occupying his mind. Though quite different of course, not physical, never physical, never requited. And Severus would have found it wrong and injuring to tell it to Remus, who was beyond comparison, who had given him more than anyone had before.

"That is fine," said Remus affectionately. "I am happy as it is. It is more than I ever thought possible."

The room was completely dark, there was only the light of the waxing moon, shining through the grimy window to illuminate Remus's soft features. Severus straightened up and ran his thumb over Remus's lips, causing his werewolf to close his eyes. He kissed him gently and Remus's legs closed on Severus's hips, his arms holding him close. Even if he had wanted to leave, Severus was sure that Remus wouldn't have let him go. And Severus felt at home, here at Grimmauld Place. More romantic than he was letting on.