Title: Never Walk Alone

(I removed the story some time ago as I lost all inspiration and motivation to continue it. However I found a scene that made up for an acceptable ending so I decided to post it again.)

Author: Morgana
Author's Email: morganalebeau
Pairing; Severus Snape/Remus Lupin (slash eventually)

Rating; M

Summary: Severus decides to offer Remus sanctuary and to work on improving the Wolfsbane. While doing so, they grow closer to each other and start to understand and respect each other.

Disclaimer: Not mine. No copyright infringement is intended. All mistakes are mine.

Never Walk Alone

(Megadeth)

Let me wrap my arms all around you
suffer the trespasses that you made
I will drink your pain away
forever and a day
if you just call out my name
If you just call
call my name
if you just call
Even whisper it

When you feel that something wrong
Ill shelter you and keep you warm
Ill never let you walk alone
I loved you when you still hated me
I'm coming and it wont be long
Time to reap what I have sewn
Never ever let you walk alone
I know your enemy it once was me

Never Walk Alone

Remus Lupin regretted that he had to leave Hogwarts. He had found a home here; staff and students had accepted his presence among them and he had made the mistake to grow used to feeling he belonged. Even Severus had tried to keep the truce they had established when Remus had joined them at the start of the school year.

Severus… Remus felt a twinge of guilt whenever he thought of the wizard. He had hurt Severus at a young age – even though unwillingly – but the damage had been done none the less. He had been furious when he had realized that Sirius had set him up. If it hadn't been for James feeling guilty and worried, Severus might not have lived through that night. Back then, when the werewolf had been upon him, Remus had had little to no control over his actions. He might have torn Severus apart that night in the shack. Remus flinched upon realizing that something even worse might have happened; he could have bitten Severus and thusly, he could have infected him with the curse of the werewolf. He was grateful nothing like that had happened.

That was why he couldn't blame Severus for letting the truth slip – even on purpose. Remus didn't doubt that Severus had spread the rumour with the intention of either making him resign or Albus asking him to leave Hogwarts. Undoubtedly, Severus had done what he had felt was right. Remus didn't doubt that being confronted with the werewolf again had brought old fears to the surface. Severus had never worked through the trauma he had suffered so long ago, and seeing Remus transform into a werewolf had brought it all back.

Could he blame Severus for wanting to protect himself and the students? For Remus didn't doubt that Severus predominantly had their safety in mind. Severus Snape might sneer and snarl and install fear in the hearts of his students, but Remus also knew he cared about them – especially his Slytherins.

"I do wish you would reconsider, Remus." Albus Dumbledore stepped into Remus' private rooms.

Remus looked up from packing and offered the older wizard a resigned smile. "I can't stay, you know that. Now that the word is out that I am werewolf none of the families will agree to me teaching their children. And truth be told, I can't blame them. I lost control last night. I am a danger to everyone at Hogwarts." Albus had tried to talk him out of leaving before, but Remus had dismissed the wizard's arguments, countering them with heartfelt concern. "You can't possibly want to risk injuring your students because you are allowing me to stay. The students must come first."

"I regret the fact that Severus let the truth slip. I wish he hadn't done that." Albus had realized Severus' intentions too late, or he would have attempted to stop the younger wizard.

Remus nodded. "But he did and I must face reality. And reality is that I can't stay."

"You seem rather accepting of his situation," Albus remarked in a puzzled voice. He knew how much Hogwarts meant to Remus. During the last year, Remus had had a home, something which the werewolf had been deprived of for years. Years, during which he had been on the run – from himself mostly.

"I don't blame Severus, if that's what you are wondering about. If anyone knows the danger I represent it's Severus and he is within his rights to look out for the students." It was the truth as far as Remus was concerned.

"I fear that Severus still carries the fears of his childhood with him," Albus agreed. "Still, I do not believe it validates outing you."

Remus reached for his walking cane and heavily leaned on it for support. "What do you really want, Albus?" He cocked his head and studied the other wizard. "If you came to say goodbye you are doing it a roundabout way."

Albus smiled. "I was rather hoping to convince you to stay, Remus. I do not wish for you to leave. You are a fine Defence against the Dark Arts teacher and I do not want to let you go."

"Thank you for putting your trust in me, Albus, but the time has come for me to say goodbye. Harry should be here any moment now; he wants to say goodbye too. He's a good boy, Albus, I am happy you took him under your wings."

"I can't take complete credit for that," Albus mumbled absentmindedly. "I have had help."

Remus nodded in understanding. "I was rather surprised to hear that Severus has been watching out for him. Harry told me that Severus saved him from Quirrell during that Quidditch match."

"Why does that surprise you? Harry is Lily's son." Albus reckoned that observation offered ample explanation.

"Yes, but Harry always tells me how Severus bullies him and compares him to James."

"That's something Severus should explain, if he chooses to do so," Albus hinted. "Don't ask me to reveal something so personal."

That Albus trusted Severus unconditionally still came as a bit of a surprise. Remus, of course, knew that Severus had adored Lily, but still, the other man had taken the Dark Mark at one time. He suspected that guilt motivated Severus, even after all this time. After all, Severus had still been an active Death Eater when Voldemort had murdered Lily and James and had orphaned Harry. Shortly after that, Albus had told the Order that they had gained a spy in Voldemort's inner circle, and when Remus had finally found out the man's identity, he hadn't been as shocked as he had thought he would be. Severus had never been truly evil – not in words and certainly not in deeds. Remus suspected Severus had merely sought out Voldemort in the hope to finally belong, and maybe, to be offered protection. Life had never been easy on Severus – certainly not at Hogwarts during his school years.

Albus made his way over to Remus and rested his right hand on the werewolf's shoulder. "If you ever find yourself in need of a safe haven, you have my permission to seek refuge here. I will not turn you away, Remus."

"Thank you." He wouldn't take Albus up on that offer though as he didn't want to endanger the school, but the fact that the Headmaster offered him sanctuary meant the world to him.

"Where will you go?" Albus inquired before squeezing and then removing his hand.

"Grimmauld Place," Remus whispered. "Sirius is already there and I know he wants me to stay. That way I might still be of some use to the Order." Grimmauld Place was his only option; there was no other place for him. Once word reached the Ministry that he had attempted to attack students – and even a teacher – they would come for him. They wouldn't put him on trial or sentence him to Azkaban; no, they would put him to death. Werewolves still had little to no rights in the wizarding world. Even if Albus pleaded his case he would face death.

Lost in thought, Remus didn't look where he was heading and tripped over his luggage. Albus reached out and quickly steadied him; his hold was surprisingly strong. Remus had always been under the impression that Albus was rather frail where his physical strength was concerned. Now he stood corrected. "Thank you." He steadied himself and drew in a deep breath. Last night's transformation had left him unusually weak. It was ironic that the following weeks would see him recover, only to be rendered feeble again after the next full moon. Not for the first time, he wondered why he continued to fight. It would be so much easier to finally let go.

"I will ask Severus to continue to brew your Wolfsbane." Albus offered, obviously disliking the depressed expression on his friend's and former student's face.

"I would be grateful for that, but I doubt Severus will agree to it." Why would Severus Snape continue to prepare the potion when he was at Grimmauld Place?

"Let me talk to Severus," Albus said encouragingly. "When he let it slip that you are a werewolf, I don't believe he realized all possible consequences. You might not believe me, but I think that Severus merely wanted to issue a warning and not per se drive you away."

Remus shook his head tiredly. "He wants to protect the students, Albus. We already discussed that." Albus' words however made him wonder if he had ever properly apologized to Severus for what had happened back then. To be honest, both of them carefully avoided addressing the matter. Severus might sneer about the incident, but that was about it. "Maybe I should talk to Severus before I leave."

"And why would you do that?" Albus' smile brightened considerably at hearing that.

"We never really addressed the incident," Remus said and cringed at hearing himself phrase it like that as well. "About the Marauders setting him up and luring him into that shack. If it hadn't been for James stopping Severus…" Remus swallowed nervously. "I might have killed him."

"Remus, you are not, and never were, to blame for what happened, and in his heart, Severus knows that." Albus sighed deeply. "But out of the four Marauders you are closest to him and so you are the receiving end of his wrath. He can't lash out at James – he is dead. Peter is on the run and doubtlessly on his way to join Voldemort, and Sirius… Sirius lost half of his mind during his imprisonment at Azkaban. Sirius is also out of his reach, so in his desire to make someone pay, Severus targeted you. Maybe you should talk to him, Remus. I do believe it will help."

Unfortunately for Remus, Harry would join him shortly, so if he wanted to talk to Severus he had to do so right before he left. "Do you know where I can find him?"

Albus continued to smile. "During this time of the day he usually harvests his potion ingredients in professor's Sprout green house. He will spend the rest of his afternoon there."

Remus nodded and decided to seek Severus out after saying goodbye to Harry. Maybe he could right a wrong committed long ago.

/

Severus delicately cut two leaves from the protesting Tentacula and quickly slid the substance into a pouch. Although he had Pomona's permission to harvest any plant for potion ingredients, the plant itself – regretfully - didn't know so, nor did it agree with losing its leaves. Moving through the green house Severus made his way over to the small patch of Dittany plants. Very rare, very precious, and very hard to grow. Therefore, he took extreme care to inflict as little damage as possible while removing one of the stems. After examining the cut he had made, he nodded to himself and stepped away. The plant had suffered minimal damage.

"Severus? I would like a word with you."

Since he stood with his back toward Albus, Severus allowed himself to roll his eyes backwards in an uncharacteristic show of annoyance with the Headmaster. At least the older wizard had waited until he had finished harvesting his potions ingredients. After carefully slipping the Dittany into a different pouch, Severus turned around, and faced his mentor. "What about?"

Severus noticed the way Albus kept a close eye on the Tentacula, even though it was several feet away from them. Severus knew why. One of the plants had once bitten Albus' nose. Ever since the older wizard demonstrated extreme caution when inside the green house.

"Remus, of course!" Albus still distrusted the Tentacula, but forced himself to concentrate on his conversation with Severus instead.

Severus fought for composure; he refused to show the irritation he felt at Albus bringing up the werewolf again. "We already discussed him, if I am not mistaken. I do not see a reason to address the matter again." He preferred to avoid discussing Lupin. He knew he had made a mistake when informing several pureblood families that Lupin was a werewolf. At the time, it had seemed the best course of action, but after walking in on Lupin accidently, he had realized the ramifications of his deed. Lupin, who had found refuge, and even a home at Hogwarts, had resigned from his post. And although Severus had hoped for that to happen all along, he felt strangely depressed, and guilty even, for his part in the drama.

He had assumed that Lupin losing his teaching position would thrill him, but the truth was that he regretted exposing Lupin and he wondered why he felt pity for the werewolf instead. Maybe because Lupin had looked like a lost puppy, kicked out of the litter and sent off to face the world on his own. Severus stopped that particular line of thought and focused on Albus.

"You do realize that Remus is on his own again? Hogwarts was not merely a sanctuary, it is also the only home he has ever known."

"How touching," Severus sneered, but Albus was right, and he knew only to well that he was the reason why Remus was leaving Hogwarts. The fact that the werewolf had resigned made it a hollow victory, which left a bad taste in his mouth.

"He will head for Grimmauld Place, as it is the only place where he is even remotely safe from the Ministry. You know what will happen if they find out that Remus threatened to attack students?"

Of course, he knew. They would apprehend him and sentence him – probably to Azkaban. Not that it concerned him, though. "Lupin did attempt to attack Potter, Granger, and Weasley – and my own person, if I might add that little detail," he snarled. Though, that wasn't exactly true, was it? He had placed himself between the werewolf and the students. He had willingly endangered his life, but how could he have stood by and have done nothing? He was sworn to protect Harry Potter and he would do anything in order to make sure the boy survived.

"Will you at least continue to brew his potion?"

Severus studied Albus. The older wizard must have a hidden agenda; he always did. Albus had a reason for seeking him out and making him discuss Lupin again. The question however was, what did Albus hope to achieve? Why were they having this discussion? "I will, if you order me." He had made his move in the game they were playing; now he was waiting for Albus' reaction. The older wizard sighed, but then his expression became alarmingly alert and Severus knew Albus was about to reveal his real reason for seeking him out.

"I had hoped you would continue to work on the Wolfsbane potion, Severus – to improve, and one day perfect, it."

Now that piqued Severus' curiosity! "In what manner?" And what would Albus gain if he managed to improve the potion?

"Imagine what an impact such a potion would have on the werewolves out there! Severus, if we could offer them a means to control their actions during the transformation, they might be swayed to join us and fight Voldemort."

Ah, that was what Albus was after? A new way to manipulate the werewolves? "We discussed that before," he reminded his mentor. "If I were to create such an improved potion it would take weeks, maybe even months of carefully constructed work. It is not something I can hope to achieve while being sidetracked by teaching and keeping Potter out of harm's way."

"But the summer holidays are coming up, Severus! You will have two months to improve the Wolfsbane! You have all the facilities you need here at Hogwarts!"

Severus' eyes narrowed suspiciously. Albus had once more managed to set him up! "There has been no sighting of the Dark Lord yet. We have time…" Severus said, manipulating Albus in turn.

Albus shook his head. "We do not have much time, Severus. You know the prophecy too. Peter is on his way to join Voldemort, and once he returns to his side and finds a way to strengthen him…" Albus didn't have to finish that sentence for Severus to understand what he was hinting at.

Severus glared at Albus. He knew the prophecy of course and Pettigrew's escape might indicate that the Dark Lord's return was approaching. He hoped not, but couldn't dismiss Albus' conclusion. There was more though. Albus was still giving him that certain look which meant the older wizard wasn't done. "What else?" he hissed, realizing Albus had planned something unpleasant for him.

"Wouldn't it be constructive to your research if you had Remus at your disposal?"

Severus didn't like this one bit. "What are you suggesting?" He had to make sure he fully understood what Albus was implying.

"Your quarters come with a guest room…"

Severus finally fully understood Albus' intentions. "You want me to take in Lupin? You can not be serious!" The idea was ludicrous! "Why should I invite the wolf into my home?" The whole purpose of letting the truth slip was to get rid of Lupin!

"Let us be rational about this," Albus said carefully. "You are one of the few potioneers who can successfully brew the Wolfsbane and maybe even improve or perfect it. Wouldn't it be best if you had your subject close during your research? What better way to test your results as to try them on Remus?"

Sometimes, Albus' scheming made him angry—and this was one of those times. "You suggest I use Lupin as my guinea pig? Albus, once I start working on the Wolfsbane there might be unpleasant side effects. By giving Lupin the potion in order to test it, you might endanger him!" He knew he had to test his improved Wolfsbane eventually, but what Albus was suggesting angered him!

"My, Severus, you sound like you care about Remus' well-being!"

Severus downright glared at Albus for being accused of that. "That is ridiculous." But Albus wasn't that far off with that statement. The fact that his sentiments regarding Lupin confused him, vexed Severus. He wasn't ready to admit that he cared about Lupin's safety though, let alone voice it! "I will not allow the wolf entry to my quarters. What is wrong with the rooms where he is currently residing? As you remarked earlier, it is the end of the school year, and although Lupin no longer holds a teaching position, he can stay right where is, at least until you find someone suitable to replace him."

"You are not going to apply then?"

Albus actually possessed the audacity to wink at him! "I suppose I must act the part; I will act indignantly at being rejected once more." It was important that the pureblood families whose children were housed in Slytherin believed that he was still a Death Eater at heart. Upon Voldemort's return they had to believe that he was cross with Albus for being denied his desired teaching post and would therefore side with the Dark Lord. The fact that he was continuously denied the position of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher would merely support that notion. "Do you already have someone in mind?" He knew how fast Albus' mind worked.

"Moody perhaps?"

Severus' facial features contorted at the mention of that name. He greatly disliked the Auror, but couldn't deny that he was the perfect candidate for that position. "I will have to endure his grating presence then."

"Remus will have to move out eventually. The house elves will ready those rooms for Moody and modify them to his personal taste. Those changes must be attended to during the summer holidays. You had better accept that Remus will occupy your guestroom for the next few months."

Severus could see the logic to the Headmaster's reasoning, but that didn't mean he liked it. "I am only doing this in order to strengthen our position, Albus." For if the werewolves sided with them, they would stand stronger against Voldemort when the time came. "And not because, I, as you imply, care about Lupin!" He shouldn't have added that last bit, because Albus would read between the lines and hear the lie in his statement.

"I wouldn't dare doubt your words," Albus said, barely containing his mirth. "Will you tell Remus the good news, or shall I inform him?"

"I will tell him," Severus said quickly. If he left it to Albus, there was no way of knowing what Lupin would make of the news. Albus tended to relay messages in a rather encrypted way. He, however, would make sure there were no misunderstandings!

/

"It is for the best, Harry. I am sorry to leave you like this, but I can't possibly stay. I compromised the Headmaster's reputation too much already." Remus would have loved to stay and support Harry. The boy had just met, and then again, lost his Godfather.

Remus carefully wrapped an arm around Harry and tried to smile encouragingly. He wasn't sure he succeeded in doing that, as Harry's expression grew even sadder. "Maybe professor Dumbledore will allow you to visit Sirius and I," he said, trying to lift Harry' spirits.

"I don't want you to leave," Harry said, obviously feeling miserable at having to let his new friend, and maybe even mentor, leave like that. "I want you to stay." He needed someone to talk to – someone who understood what he was going through, and so far Remus seemed to be the only one who was making an effort to understand his problems.

Remus understood that need, and wished he could continue to support Harry, but the truth was, he needed support himself. Remus was struggling with his own life – his own needs. "I am so sorry, Harry." The boy nodded and Remus hugged him – carefully though as he was still a bit wobbly on his feet and already abusing Harry as a means to support himself. He was sorrier than he could ever say.

Remus looked up upon hearing someone ascend the staircase to his office. He wasn't expecting any visitors and wondered if Albus had returned. But why would the Headmaster do so?

"Lupin…"

Remus blinked, surprised to see Severus stand in the doorway. The other wizard seemed displeased, already glaring at him. What had he done wrong this time around? "Harry, meet me in the hall in a couple of minutes. I still need to discuss something with professor Snape." Had Albus told Severus that he wanted to apologize and was that the reason why Severus was here? Remus noticed the way Harry eyed Severus before nodding and leaving the office without looking at his Potions Master again.

"Severus, I hoped to be able to talk to you before I left. There is something I need to say to you." Remus studied Severus closely and still wondered why the other wizard had sought him out. "I hope Albus didn't tell you why I wanted to see you." He wouldn't put it past Albus though to meddle in their affairs.

"Say what you have to say. My time is precious and I am already wasting it standing here, talking to you." Severus wasn't looking forward to extending his offer of help and therefore felt irritated.

Remus suddenly felt nervous. Although he had practiced apologizing to Severus a hundred times, now was the time to actually say the words and make them reach the other man. He couldn't allow Severus to irritate him. "I am sorry," he said, taking heart. "I am sorry for what happened back then. I never wanted to scare you, even less hurt you or cause you any kind of pain. I didn't know that Sirius was setting you up and luring you into the shack." Although he had already lectured Sirius a million times throughout the years, he was still angry with his friend. "I am sorry, Severus, for everything."

Severus felt frozen. When he had come here to talk to Lupin he hadn't expected an apology – certainly not phrased like that. He was tempted to cast Legilimens in order to see for himself if Lupin was sincere, but stopped himself just in time. This situation didn't call for such extreme measures. There were other ways to find out if Lupin truly regretted what had happened that night. "Apology accepted," he said in a formal way.

Remus stared at the Potions Master in utter shock. He hadn't expected to be forgiven that easily! "Are you sure?" What had made him ask that? Remus shook his head, but doing so brought on a wave of vertigo that nearly knocked him off his feet. He tried to steady himself by supporting himself against the desk, but somehow, his coordination was off and he started to fall.

Suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, his fall was stopped and he was saved from crashing face first into the stone floor. Barely managing to lift his head, he stared at Severus, who had quickly wrapped his arms around him in order to steady him. Remus frowned at first, but then smiled a little. Apparently Severus had been sincere when he had told him he had accepted his apology. Why else would the other wizard help him? "Sorry," he mumbled. He wished he didn't feel so damn weak after his transformation!

Severus quickly looked Remus over and realized the werewolf was suffering from severe exhaustion. He knew the transformation tended to drain Lupin, but until now, he hadn't realized to what degree. He had seen Lupin move about in the past – using his walking cane and looking worn out, but he had never experienced it from this close. Maybe he should also start working on a potion that dealt with the exhaustion? He was setting himself up for more work, he realized that, but he liked to do things right. "You should sit down before you end up all over the floor." He guided Lupin over to the chair and lowered him onto it.

Remus had a hard time believing Severus was actually helping him; was it just his imagination or did the other man sound worried? After resting his head against the comfort of the chair, he turned it slightly so he could study Severus. The expression in those black eyes was impossible to read, but Remus was under the impression that they were devoid of the hatred which normally stared back at him. "Thank you."

Severus curtly nodded. "You know better than to tax yourself this quickly after the transformation," he lectured, but in his mind, he was already thinking of ways to invent a potion that would deal with the after effects of the transformation. "Did you speak your mind? Are you done?"

Remus nodded ever so slightly. "I wanted to apologize, yes." He wondered why Severus lingered, and even more importantly, seemed to be looking after him!

Severus waited until he had Lupin's full attention and then said, "I am here to make you an offer. I also want to stress that you are under no obligation to accept it."

Remus arched an eyebrow tiredly and wondered what it was about. "What kind of offer, Severus?"

Severus disliked being interrupted and let it show when he continued in a sharper tone. "Albus asked me to continue to work on the Wolfsbane. Both of us know that the potion helps a werewolf to maintain his mind, but the werewolf in question still feels out of control. Even with access to it, like you do, most werewolves hide and wait for the full moon to pass."

Remus nodded. Severus bringing up the Wolfsbane like that puzzled him, but he was content to see where the other wizard was taking this. "It is true… The potion helps me realize what is happening, and most of the time, I try to sleep through the night."

"Because you don't trust yourself."

Remus blinked. "That's correct. I don't trust myself around others. The animalistic instincts remain strong and I might injure someone accidentally."

"It is my goal," and at that, Severus minutely rolled back his eyes, "to improve the Wolfsbane to such a degree that you do feel in control and can venture outside."

"Why the…?" Remus mimicked Severus rolling his eyes backwards. He probably shouldn't be challenging Severus, but he was curious.

"I do this at Albus' request, and not because I feel a burning desire to help you." But that wasn't the whole truth; Severus did want to help, but that was something no one needed to know.

"I would like that very much – being in control – really in control," Remus clarified. "I would be grateful to you if you were able to do this. All werewolves would be thankful."

"Not all," Severus replied. "I doubt Greyback will approve of such a potion." He had mentioned Greyback on purpose, curious to see what kind of effect hearing the name had on Lupin. The other man didn't surprise him and Lupin shivered violently. A feverish look appeared in the normally so kind eyes and Remus shifted on the chair, almost as if expecting Greyback to appear unexpectedly. Severus recalled that Lupin had been a child when Greyback had bitten and infected him. Even though he tried to smother the sympathy he felt, he failed. He did pity Lupin and therefore he would work hard on improving the Wolfsbane.

"What do you want in return?" Remus had learned long ago that everything came at a price. "As you said, you aren't doing this out of the goodness of your heart. What do you want from me?" He hoped the price wasn't too high – that it was one he could afford to pay. He sighed, growing increasingly tired. Why did Severus have to pick this moment to discuss this?

Severus watched Lupin closely and therefore realized the conclusion the werewolf had reached. Lupin was correct – most of the time, there was a price to pay, but he didn't think there was much sacrifice involved in this case – at least not from Lupin. After all, it was Severus who would be welcoming Lupin to his quarters and thus lose his precious privacy. "You have to stay at Hogwarts. Albus mentioned that it might be helpful if you were at hand to help me improve the potion."

Severus had managed to surprise him again. "What are you saying?"

"Albus wants you to move into my quarters for the time being. Thankfully it comes equipped with a rather large guest room which you can call your own, if you agree to this, that is." Severus wasn't sure Lupin was lucid enough to fully grasp what he was offering. The blue eyes were glazed over and he suspected the werewolf had truly exhausted himself – his body demanded he rested.

Remus wasn't sure what to do. He moistened his chapped lips and frowned deeply. "I can't believe you want me in your rooms." He understood why Severus had agreed to improve the Wolfsbane – because Albus wanted him to. But he didn't understand why Severus would ever consent to having his home invaded like that. Although Remus had taught for one year at Hogwarts, he had never set a foot into Severus' quarters. He didn't even know their location!

"Trust me when I say that this situation doesn't thrill me either, but Albus is correct to point out that your presence might help."

"Why can't I stay here?" Remus weakly lifted an arm and pointed at his office and adjourning rooms.

"Because Albus asked Moody to replace you and apparently the house elves need to modify these rooms for him." Severus knew better than to believe a single word of that. Albus wanted Remus out of these rooms and had found the perfect excuse to make sure Severus offered the werewolf his guest room.

"Moody is a good choice, but…" Remus was too tired to worry about the effect Moody would have on the students. Moody was a good Auror, but Remus doubted he made a good teacher too. "It's not like I have a say in it any way."

Severus took a step closer and studied Lupin. The werewolf's eyes were closing, and for the first time since he had entered the office, Lupin seemed to relax. "What's your answer, Lupin? Yes or no?" That was all he required. A no would make him turn about and leave, a yes would force him into action. "The choice is all yours."

Remus managed to open his eyes again – only briefly though. Was Severus really pushing for an answer? His head lolled to the right and enabled him to study Severus' expression. Yes, the hatred was definitely gone and he wondered why that was. Had his apology made such a difference? He considered his options; he could either run and hide with Sirius at Grimmauld Place – which was the easy way out as far as he was concerned – or accept Severus' offer and help the Potions Master invent an improved version of the Wolfsbane. By doing that, he would help all werewolves, but it also meant living in close proximity to Severus Snape, and although he was under the impression he had been forgiven, he wasn't sure Severus would be able to deal with his constant presence.

But in the end, the decision was remarkably easy to make. He was done with running – from himself, from the Ministry, and all others who condemned him for being a werewolf. He had never wanted to be one! He was just another victim, but no one seemed to understand – or even attempt to understand!

"I will stay. I accept," Remus managed, hoping he was making the right decision. Exhaustion finally claimed him and his eyes closed. Remus drifted off into a deep sleep, which would help him heal, but would also bring him nightmares like so many times before.

"For what it is worth," Severus mumbled, "I believe you made the right decision." But Lupin's decision also left him with a problem – the werewolf was now his responsibility, which meant looking after him and ensuring he recovered.

/

Severus considered his options; he could move Lupin by casting a spell or carry him. In the end, he decided against using magic and to pick him up instead. He didn't want to risk losing his concentration while working the spell and carrying Lupin seemed the safest solution to his problem.

After grabbing a handful of floo powder, Severus walked over to the chair, pushed his arms beneath Lupin's back and knees, and lifted him. The werewolf weighed even less than he had expected and he had no problems carrying him. Once Lupin was awake again, Severus was going to make him eat regular meals. Now that the werewolf was his charge, he felt responsible for the other man's well-being.

He approached the fireplace, threw in the floo power, and said, "Severus Snape's quarters." A moment later, he stepped out of the fire place and into his living room. He headed for the guestroom, which the house elves had thankfully cleaned and prepared for its new inhabitant. Severus lowered Lupin onto the bed and then stood back, considering his next course of action.

He accio'd pyjamas from his bedroom and then set to carefully undress the werewolf. He hissed occasionally upon encountering certain tell-tale scars, which had been severe injuries once. Lupin's body was literally drowned in the reminders of his painful past – much like his own. Severus quickly banished such thoughts and concentrated on getting Lupin into the pyjamas. The werewolf was a dead weight though, and it took Severus longer than expected.

Once Lupin was clad in pyjamas, he lowered the werewolf back onto the bed and covered him with a blanket. The things he didn't do for Albus! Being reduced to babysitting a werewolf! But then again, it was his fault that Lupin had lost his teaching position and therefore his sanctuary. For one moment, Severus allowed himself to admit that didn't overly mind looking after Lupin and working on the potions these upcoming holidays. At least he would be doing something useful.

Severus was about to turn and leave the room when Lupin shifted in bed. A whimper fled the werewolf's lips, and before Severus realized what was happening, the other man began to trash on the bed.

"No! Run, run away! Get yourself into safety!"

Severus quickly returned to the bedside and grabbed hold of Lupin's wrists in order to make sure that the other man didn't injure himself. He didn't have to cast Legilimens to know what was causing Lupin such distress. He should worry about chasing the nightmares away instead!

Fortunately, Lupin didn't struggle against the hold and seemed to calm down. "You are safe, Lupin. You are in bed – asleep. You can't hurt anyone and no one is going to hunt you down. You can rest." He spoke with as much conviction as he could muster and wove a little bit of magic into his words. He had used that trick before whenever he'd had to calm someone – mostly students from his house. It seemed it also worked on Lupin. He decided that, at the first opportunity he got, he would dose Lupin with Dreamless Sleep.

/

Remus woke up only slowly. The first thing he became aware of was the fact that he was lying down, and that, wherever he was, he felt incredibly comfortable. Something warm cocooned him and the mattress he rested on was soft and felt soothing to his abused body. He shifted slightly and felt relieved upon realizing most of the aches that normally troubled him had lessened or even disappeared.

He opened his eyes and turned his head in order to take in his surroundings. Looking at the walls, he was absolutely certain that he had never been in here before. That raised the question of his whereabouts. Where was he and how had he gotten there?

Cautiously, as he didn't want to wake any aches that still lingered in his body, he used his elbows to attain an upright position. He rested his back against the headboard and blinked in surprise. The room he was in was rather spacious, and although only spartanly furnished, breathed a welcoming air. The bed he was in was a four poster bed with draperies in green and silver. That made him blink again – Slytherin colours?

"Ah, you finally decided to grace me with your presence? Did you get tired of sleeping?"

Remus looked at the doorway and was stunned to see Severus again, looking completely at ease and at home. Did that mean…? "Where am I?" Remus wanted to raise his legs, put his feet onto the floor, and stand, but the moment he tried to move, another wave of vertigo attacked him. He raised his right arm and massaged his temples, hoping to drive the dizzy spell away. He didn't remember how he had gotten here, which worried him.

"These are my quarters, as you probably guessed by now," Severus said as he advanced on the bed. "And this is the guest room I mentioned before you decided to faint." He monitored Lupin closely and realized the werewolf needed a prolonged rest. "You are not to leave your bed, Lupin."

Remus looked at Severus in obvious relief at hearing that. "I highly doubt I am able to stand." Leaving the bed was not an option at any rate. "Why am I this exhausted? The transformation usually tires me, but not to such an extent." He rested his back against the pillows and pulled the blanket, which had shifted, up to his shoulders, as he felt cold.

Severus tilted his head. "I reckon your body grew accustomed to the Wolfsbane, and when you forgot to take it, the transformation weakened you more than it normally would."

"You are right; I forgot my potion. I am sorry for that." Remus managed to establish eye contact and was surprised to see worry on Severus' face. The normally so guarded expression actually revealed emotion. How wondrous was that? "You don't have to look after me. Just let me catch up on my sleep and I will be fine in a day or two." He didn't want to burden the Potions Master, realizing only too well that if Severus tired of him and threw him out, he had nowhere to go but Grimmauld Place. Even worse, he would let down everyone infected with the werewolf curse.

Severus counted to ten before responding to the nonsense Lupin was uttering. "I will say this only once," he started and walked until he stood next to Lupin's bed. "The moment you accepted Albus' offer, you became my responsibility, and although I do not like it, you are in my care now." Severus smirked smugly at that. "I may do as I please with you." He would never abuse Lupin's trust though, but it couldn't hurt to intimidate the werewolf just a little. "Keep that in mind."

Remus swallowed hard; his nervousness mounting. "And what does that mean?" The idea of being at Severus' mercy did scare him, especially considering they were the only two people down here.

"By Merlin, don't act like I am going to torture you, Lupin!" He shook his head in exasperation. "Albus would have my head for mistreating you!" Hopefully that reassured Lupin somewhat.

Remus, however, doubted Severus feared Albus' possible retributions. "How did I get here?" he asked instead, opting for changing their subject. And how had he gotten out of his clothes and into these pyjamas, which weren't his? He didn't possess any pyjamas made from black silk! He had to admit though the material felt soothing against his still healing skin. He had suffered cuts and bruises when Sirius had chased after him.

Severus had expected that question and was prepared for it. "I used the floo network, of course." He suspected that wasn't enough of an answer for Lupin, but he waited to see if the werewolf was going to ask him for more information.

Remus frowned; he had expected that answer, but… Had Severus actually carried him over to the bed, removed his clothes, and put him into his pyjamas? The man hardly ever touched anyone, let alone tend to a werewolf! "Did Poppy..?" He wasn't sure how to phrase his question, which was an awkward one to begin with.

"Would it embarrass you to learn that I tended to you myself?" Severus was curious to find out Lupin's reaction to hearing that. He didn't have to wait for long; Lupin's eyes widened in shock. "I would not dare trouble Poppy for something that trivial."

Remus quickly averted his gaze, suddenly feeling rather ashamed and embarrassed, much like Severus had hinted he would, but not for the obvious reasons. He didn't mind that the other man had undressed him – however he did feel ashamed for the numerous scars on his body and Greyback's bite mark which had never faded. "I am sorry you had to–"

Severus however interrupted him. "Do you think you are the only one with scars? If you do, think again, Lupin." He understood the other man's shame as Severus would have felt equally uncomfortable, had Lupin tended to him. Severus removed a vial from his pocket and handed it to Lupin. The other man's hand shook as he took hold of it. "Drink that. It will help you sleep." He wondered if Lupin trusted him enough to drink the potion merely because he said so.

Lupin nodded, drew in a deep breath, and downed the potion. "Thank you for looking after me. You didn't have to do that." He handed Severus the now empty vial.

Severus merely inclined his head. "Lie down and go back to sleep. When you wake up again I want you to eat."

Remus hoped he would be able to keep the food down. He always had trouble eating during the first week after the transformation. "I will try."

Severus frowned at that reply, but let it go. Lupin relaxed into the pillows, closed his eyes, and drifted back into sleep. No stranger to nightmares himself, Severus hoped Lupin would finally get some decent sleep.

/

"You seem to cope well with your new responsibilities," Albus remarked upon visiting Severus in his rooms. They stood next to Remus' bed and Albus was content to watch the younger wizard sleep. "You gave him Dreamless Sleep?" After Severus nodded, Albus continued, "The nightmares hardly ever leave him alone. There have been nights when he screamed himself awake." Hogwarts told him everything he wanted to know – even details like that. "One of those nightmares is about you, Severus. About the way he frightened you that night in the shack."

Severus wasn't surprised to hear it, but carefully hid his feelings. "You do realize you have given me a challenging task? To research the Wolfsbane and to take care of him at the same time?" At least he didn't have to worry about Potter, who would be protected by the blood wards once the boy got home.

"I doubt Remus will demand much of your time. He isn't the person to demand care and attention. However, he will gladly take whatever attention you give him." The two of them, Remus and Severus, had more in common than either of them were willing to admit, but Albus knew the truth. Both men suffered in silence and made whatever sacrifice that was demanded. He hoped that they would present the other with a mirror and that they would eventually find comfort and support with each other, for both of them needed a partner – someone to stand at their side and to support them. "The students will leave in the morning and I reckon Remus will appreciate being able to say goodbye to Harry. Can you find it in your heart to escort them to the gates tomorrow?"

Severus briefly entertained the idea of telling Albus he wanted to start brewing instead, but then dismissed the notion. Both Lupin and Potter should have a proper chance to say goodbye – maybe once Potter knew that Lupin would still be around during the new school year their parting would less painful. "I will escort him," he said curtly, "this once."

/

Remus felt disorientated when he woke up again. He was thirsty, but overall, he felt much improved; being able to sleep had helped him recover. Looking about the room, he found he was alone. Two lanterns, outfitted with green stained glass, burned in the corners of the room and offered enough light to make him feel comfortable. Actually, he found he liked looking at them and especially at the way the warm, greenish light emanated from within. He hadn't expected Severus to have such items in his rooms. They seemed out of character for him. Maybe it was because this was merely the guestroom?

Was he supposed to stay in bed or was he allowed to get up? He didn't want to get onto Severus' bad side, knowing how easily the other wizard lashed out when displeased. But he couldn't deny being thirsty and there was no water in sight. Maybe, if he moved slowly and carefully he could retrieve some from the kitchen? If possible without attracting Severus' attention?

Remus drew in a deep breath, pushed the blanket out of the way, and carefully lifted his legs while sitting up. The vertigo stayed away and encouraged, Remus placed his feet on the floor. He chuckled softly at seeing the pyjamas. That they were black didn't surprise him, but that they were made out of silk did. He hadn't thought Severus that… sensual? Was that the word he was looking for?

Proceeding with the utmost caution, Remus pushed himself to his feet while resting a hand on the headboard of the bed so he could steady himself should he falter. Luckily the vertigo stayed away and he realized that he felt a lot stronger than before. Just how long had he been asleep? He looked about and found the room lacked windows which could tell him whether it was night of day. He could cast tempus, but didn't want to use his strength unnecessarily. He needed to recover first. Carefully shuffling toward the doorway, he found himself looking into a corridor, which was once more bereft of windows. No help there.

Remus slowly moved into the corridor and continued to support himself by sliding a hand along the wall. The dark stone that made up the walls told him that he was below ground level – close to the dungeons then. Now where was the kitchen? And the bathroom for that matter. He needed to use that one too.

"Didn't I tell you to stay in bed?" The spell Severus had cast to warn him whenever Remus moved about had alerted him and he made his way into the corridor at once, intending to check on his guest.

Remus cringed at the sharp tone. "I am thirsty and I also need to use the bathroom."

Severus fought the urge to roll back his eyes. He had agreed to care for Lupin and would remain true to his word. "The bathroom is over there," he said pointing to the second door on the left. "I will get you something to drink and I expect you to return to bed as quickly as possible!"

Remus headed for the bathroom. Once inside, he quickly closed the door and rested his back against it. The vertigo had returned, although only mildly – thankfully. It did, however, tell him that he had overestimated his strength. He quickly relieved himself, headed for the sink, washed his hands and splashed some of the cool water onto his face in an attempt to revive his senses. He waited for the dizzy spell to pass and then looked about. The bathroom was small, but clean and functional. The only thing that gave away that the current occupant was head of Slytherin were the tiles, which were adorned with tiny snakes. Seeing that made Remus chuckle.

"Lupin!"

Remus flinched; he had better start making his way back to bed. He hoped that the vertigo would leave him alone this time. Remus made it into the corridor without problems, but once there, he began to feel weak in the knees and had to steady himself by resting a hand against the wall.

"The next time that you need to use the bathroom call me," Severus instructed as he headed toward the werewolf. He wrapped one arm, although reluctantly, around Lupin's waist and helped him back to bed.

Remus sat down on the bed and then laid down, resting his back against the headboard. How odd, he hadn't expected Severus to be so serious about taking care of him!

"Drink this."

Remus curiously eyed the mug which Severus handed him. "Another potion?"

"No, hot milk with honey to settle your nerves and make you sleepy. Old Muggle remedy," he added reluctantly.

Remus smiled warmly. Severus might act harsh at times, but warming the milk and giving it to him, told Remus the other man did care. "How long have I been asleep?"

"You have been asleep for ten hours. You needed it." Ten hours of undisturbed sleep, Severus silently added. The Dreamless Sleep had worked wonders and the werewolf looked improved.

"What's the time then?" Remus gasped; he couldn't remember the last time he had slept that long without nightmares haunting him!

"Almost ten o'clock in the evening." Severus cast a mild diagnostic spell, which told him that Remus' overall condition had indeed improved. "I want you to eat. Do you think you can?"

Remus sipped from the warm milk and shrugged. "I am not sure, but I can try. Toast maybe?" His stomach might be able to deal with a light meal – at least he hoped so. The worst thing he could do was throw up the food again in front of Severus. That would be embarrassing!

"I require toast and fruit for one," Severus said, addressing the house elves. A moment later, a tray appeared on the nightstand carrying the requested items. "I trust you can feed yourself?"

Remus quickly smiled in order to reassure Severus. The idea that Severus might feed him instead made him chuckle. "I think so." He set the milk aside and reached for the toast. He nibbled on it and managed two slices in total.

"You will eat the fruit later," Severus instructed, relieved that Lupin was keeping the food down. "Finish the milk first."

After sipping again, Remus sought out Severus' gaze. He gave the other man a thoughtful look. "Why are you doing this?" He still wondered about that; Severus seemed to genuinely care and he hadn't expected that.

Severus raised an eyebrow. Why was Lupin bringing this up again? He thought he had explained his involvement? "Albus requested—" But he didn't get to finish as Lupin interrupted.

"No, why are you really doing this? Don't tell me you are doing this because Albus is making you, because I sincerely doubt Albus can make you do anything against your will." Severus didn't strike him as a person who Albus could coerce into anything.

Severus considered his options; what would he gain by telling Lupin the truth? Or would telling lies be more helpful? He needed Lupin's cooperation, and to a certain extent, his trust, if he wanted the werewolf's help regarding his brewing. Albus was right; having Lupin at his disposal might help.

"Severus? I would appreciate the truth." Remus finished the milk and placed the mug onto the nightstand. Instead of making him sleepy, the hot drink had revived him and he studied Severus extensively. Down here, in his own quarters, Severus obviously felt more at ease and even allowed some of his emotions to show on his face. Remus started to wonder about the real Severus Snape, for he had the sneaky suspicion that Severus had been hiding his real personality all along.

"The truth…" Severus sighed eventually and settled on a course of action. He disliked having to show his true colours, but it might turn out to be to his advantage. "The truth is that I regret forcing you out of your teaching position. I was furious with you when I informed the parents that you are a werewolf. I didn't really consider the consequences. I merely wanted you to leave Hogwarts."

Remus frowned. "I don't understand, Severus. You said you didn't consider the consequences, but at the same time you wanted me gone."

"Yes, I wanted you gone!" Severus hissed the words and turned his back toward Lupin. He stared at the doorway as he found it hard to make this admission and face Lupin at the same time, knowing the werewolf would look at him with those damnable forgiving eyes! "I didn't consider your options; I didn't wonder about where you would go – or could go. I didn't realize at the time that the Ministry might want you for questioning." He had already revealed too much and stopped himself just in time. I didn't realize my betrayal might cause your death.

"Severus, will you look at me? I find it hard to talk to your back." It had never occurred to Remus that Severus might actually feel uncomfortable discussing this, but he should have known better. Severus Snape was a private man and Remus couldn't remember Severus ever easily discussing his feelings – not even with Lily. She'd had to pressure him as well.

Severus drew in a deep breath and then complied. He steeled his gaze and tried to radiate disinterest. "Say what you need to say." The wolf would forgive him, of course; he could tell from the look in those eyes. Why did Lupin have to be so damn forgiving?

"I don't blame you, Severus. I know why you did it, and I understand."

Severus tilted his head. "Why do you think I did it?" What did the werewolf really think of him?

"You were scared, but even more importantly, you worried about the students' safety. I understand that. I really do. I forgot to take the Wolfsbane and when I transformed, I truly became the beast. That reminded you of the danger everyone is in. I get it."

Those had been unique circumstances though and Severus knew that. Remus had forgotten the Wolfsbane because Sirius had shown up and because he had worried about Potter. Severus found it hard – no, even impossible - to lecture Lupin about forgetting the potion. He might have acted in the same way, had he been in Lupin's shoes. The truth was that he had acted out of spite – mostly. He couldn't deny that seeing the werewolf again had scared him, but he was an adult now – a trained wizard and he could defend himself these days. Admitting the truth remained hard though and he refused to do so in front of Lupin.

"You don't need to feel guilty, Severus. You don't need to take care of me because you want to make amends. I don't blame you and you shouldn't feel guilty."

"Why do you have to be so bloody forgiving about everything, Lupin? Why can't you yell at me instead?" Severus stressed each word with a sharp and curt tone. Doing that was easier than allowing his true feelings to show. He didn't know how to handle pity – especially coming from Lupin!

Remus half-expected the outburst and remained calm. In the past, he had often found that people had a hard time with his forgiving nature. "Were our situation reversed I would have hoped for calm and forgiveness from you. I am merely treating you the way I wish people would treat me," he explained calmly. "We make mistakes, Severus. Each and everyone of us. As long as we learn from them, there is nothing wrong with making them."

Rationally, Severus understood what Lupin was trying to tell him, but accepting such kindness directed at him was hard. "You should eat the rest of your meal, Lupin."

Realizing Severus was no longer willing to discuss the matter, Remus complied and picked up the orange slices from the tray. Slowly, he ate them, relishing the fact that his stomach was cooperating. After finishing them, he looked at Severus again. The other man seemed to have composed himself, as that familiar scowl had returned to his face. "And now what?" Oddly enough, he wasn't tired any more. If anything, he felt alert.

Severus realized the same thing. "I don't want you out of bed," he clarified. "You might feel better, but you should continue to rest. I can provide you with books if you feel up to reading." He had briefly entertained the thought of moving Lupin to his living room, but had quickly dismissed the idea; such an action would tire Lupin. It was too early for that.

Remus smiled and nodded gratefully. "I would like that." He also wondered what kind of books Severus kept in his rooms.

Severus gathered his robes closer to his body, turned around, and headed for his study. He selected three books; one on defence, another one on charms, and a fictional novel he had once picked up from a trip into Muggle London. He carried the selection back to the guest room and deposited them on the bed. "Let me know if you require any help and do not leave the bed without telling me. Do I make myself clear?"

"Perfectly," Remus said and couldn't help smiling broadly at the other man.

Seeing that smile frustrated Severus. Why couldn't Lupin simply sneer back at him? That would make everything so much easier! "I will be in the living room. Call me if you need assistance."

"You already said that, but thank you for repeating your kind offer." Remus knew he shouldn't have said that, but for some reason, it looked like Severus was stalling. Severus seemed to realize the same thing and quickly left the room. Remus carefully shook his head; Severus Snape was a mystery!

He reached for the books and quickly discarded the ones on charms and defence. He wanted some lighter reading and he picked up the Muggle book written by a certain Anne Rice. The title read 'Interview with the Vampire' and it instantly piqued his curiosity, dwelling on the fact that some students thought Severus was a vampire. Ridiculous of course, but it did make him opt for the Muggle book. After opening it and skimming the first page, he settled down as comfortably as he could and started reading.

/

Severus soundlessly entered the guestroom and found Lupin peacefully asleep with the book still resting on his chest. He stood there for a moment and looked – really looked – at Remus Lupin. This was a man who had done nothing to deserve the burden placed upon those too frail shoulders. He had been a child – an innocent – when Greyback had bitten him and ever since he had carried the burden of being a werewolf. Severus finally accepted the fact that he wanted to help Lupin.

Where Remus Lupin had done nothing to deserve his fate, Severus Snape had sought out his. He had willingly gone to Voldemort in order to offer him his services. He had felt accomplished when the Dark Lord had marked him, and only after his 'services' had resulted in Lily and James being killed, had he realized how deluded he had been, but back then, it had been too late. And so he had done the only thing he could – he had thrown himself at Dumbledore's mercy and the old wizard had given him a second chance – not that he deserved it though. Ever since that day he had been trying to atone for his crime – to redeem himself in whatever small way possible.

Severus walked over to the bed, collected the book, and placed it on the nightstand. He checked the title and couldn't help but smile. Trust Lupin to be unpredictable when it came to books. He stood there for another moment and made sure Lupin's sleep remained undisturbed. At the first sign of nightmares, he would dose the werewolf with Dreamless Sleep.

"Damocles…" Severus looked about and waited for his familiar to show himself. A tiny black dragon stepped forward from his hiding place and Severus beckoned him over to him. The tiny dragon protested by growling softly, but then complied and flew toward the Potions Master. "Behave yourself. We do not want to wake our guest." Damocles had doubtlessly already spied on the werewolf. "You will alert me the moment his dreams turn restless or when he wakes up. I want to be notified in either case, understood?" Damocles tended to have a will of his own, so Severus wanted to make sure the tiny dragon carried out his orders tonight. Damocles huffed and then settled on the nightstand. Good, that was one problem solved. Now he was going to focus on the Wolfsbane.

/

Remus woke up all sweaty and entangled in the blanket. He hadn't a nightmare exactly, but it came close. Bewildered, he looked about and almost panicked at finding himself in strange surroundings. Then he remembered Severus' offer and his acceptance of it. He was staying with the Potions Master, he reminded himself, and strangely enough, Severus appeared to be fine with having him here. The two lanterns were still giving of their soft light and Remus drew in a deep, calming breath. He was safe – he didn't have to remain on guard.

Shifting slightly, he realized he needed to use the bathroom again. And he should freshen up, as he was beginning to reek. He cast a look full of longing toward the doorway. He knew the location of the bathroom and felt confident he could make it there on his own, but Severus had been rather specific in his instructions. Remus judged it best to call for Severus and not try on his own. "Uh, Severus?" Just how loudly did he have to call for the other man?

Something moved on the nightstand and Remus instantly grew alert. He shifted away from it and searched the room for his wand, but he couldn't find it. Had Severus taken it away from him? Remus blinked in surprise upon seeing a small, black dragon stretch his wings. It hissed at him and then flew into the corridor. What, in Merlin's name, had that been about?

Remus didn't have to wait long for Severus to join him. Even at this late hour, Severus still wore his black coat and high-necked shirt. Didn't the man ever dress down? "What's that?" Remus pointed at the tiny dragon that now tried to breathe fire at him, but all it accomplished was a miniscule spark.

"That," Severus said, drawing out the word, "is Damocles. Unfortunately my familiar." While addressing Lupin, he carefully looked the other man over. Lupin looked like he desperately needed a bath.

"Unfortunately?" Remus waved the dragon away when it tried to burn his nose. Severus regretfully didn't seem inclined to share more information though. "I need to use the bathroom again, I am afraid."

Severus was already moving toward the bed. "And while you are there, I suggest you take a bath. You need one." He was surprised to see Remus blush at hearing his words. "Mind you, I said bath, not shower. I don't want to pick you up from the floor because you fainted again."

A bath did sound nice, but he wasn't sure he had the energy for it. "Maybe tomorrow."

"Tomorrow you are seeing off Potter. You will not have much time to spare in the morning. I suggest you take that bath now." Severus pushed the blanket out of the way, but then stood back. There was no reason to treat Lupin like an invalid. "Can you get to your feet?" He preferred for Lupin to try himself before assisting him.

"We will find out," Remus remarked as he put his feet on the floor. He stood and blinked, finding himself surprisingly steady on his feet. "I am good."

At that, Severus stepped into the corridor and headed for the bathroom. He regularly looked over his shoulder to make sure Lupin was following. Once inside the bathroom, he turned the taps and began to fill up the tub. He collected a vial from the shelf he stored his toiletries on and added the liquid to the water, which turned a warm yellow colour.

"What are you doing?" Remus frowned as he stepped into the bathroom.

"Just a little something that will help your skin heal."

"Thank you," Remus replied, once more pleasantly surprised that Severus was that considerate of his injuries. "I think I can manage on my own."

Severus nodded. He had no desire to assist Lupin with his bath. "Call me when you are done and do not fall asleep." He wouldn't put it past Lupin to be lured into drowsiness since he was still recuperating. "Damocles, stay." That way, he could keep an eye on Lupin.

Remus wanted to protest the supervision, but then realized he didn't want to start an argument over a tiny dragon. "Did you name him that?"

"No, I did not." Sensing that Lupin wanted more than just a short answer, Severus set to baiting him. "If you cooperate and make it back into bed without causing a disaster I will tell you how Damocles came to live with me."

Remus chuckled; Severus had realized his interest in the dragon! "Consider it a pact. Maybe you will even throw in some Dreamless Sleep?" He would love to spend the rest of the night without nightmares tormenting him. Severus' expression softened and Remus was amazed to see it.

"I will bring some." He had wanted to offer Lupin it at any rate. "Do not take too long. The water will cool down and the cold will intensify aches which you are currently unaware of. Get out while the water is still warm." He turned and left the werewolf to his own devises.

Remus kept a close eye on Damocles while he slipped out of the pyjamas. He turned the taps once the tub had filled up and then slid into the cocooning warmth. Damocles flew onto the rim of the tub and eyed him curiously. The dragon's antics merely fed Remus' curiosity and he really wanted to know how Severus had gained such a cheeky familiar.

/

Upon hearing Lupin open the bathroom door, Severus rose from his chair and made his way into the corridor. He expected to see Lupin standing there, but the werewolf didn't emerge. Growing worried, Severus walked into the bathroom and found Lupin sitting on the floor, wrapped in a large towel, but still dripping wet. "What are you doing?" He lowered himself onto his heels and tried to catch the other man's gaze. Lupin however looked rather dazed.

"I am sorry, but I can't seem to make it back to my feet," Remus whispered, feeling more upset than he wanted Severus to know.

"I warned you to get out on time. Apparently you lingered too long." The warm bath had brought back the werewolf's exhaustion. "Don't fight me," he warned Lupin as he pulled the werewolf back to his feet. By wrapping an arm around Lupin he kept the towel in place and managed to support his guest at the same time. "Let's head back for bed."

Remus appreciated the fact that Severus didn't jostle him. Instead, the Potions Master displayed a tenderness Remus hadn't thought the other man capable of. Together, they made it back to the bedroom and Remus was surprised to find that Severus had changed the bed linen and blanket. He clutched the towel tightly to his frame, growing increasingly aware of the fact that he was naked beneath it. He couldn't do anything but comply when Severus sat him down on the bed, but continued to hold onto that towel for dear life.

Severus noticed it and shook his head at Lupin's behaviour, but he understood why the werewolf felt uncomfortable. "Lie down and stop being skittish." He ignored the hurt look Lupin gave him and covered him with the blanket. "Now hand over that towel."

Lupin finally realized Severus' plan and felt grateful that the blanket now covered him. He managed to wiggle out of the towel and handed it to Severus. "Thank you," he said, suddenly growing aware of the fact that he was continually thanking Severus. The other man took hold of the towel and gave him a nod.

"I will be right back. Don't move." Severus had his guest where he wanted him and now had to make sure Lupin didn't attempt to leave the bed again. Although, now that the werewolf was naked, Lupin might be inclined to stay put. He headed for his private lab and retrieved the Dreamless Sleep along with a strength replenishing potion as Lupin required both in his opinion.

"Drink this," Severus said upon joining Lupin again. The werewolf drank the potions without even inquiring what Severus was giving him. It was beyond him why Lupin trusted him – no one else did! "I will wake you in time for breakfast. Then I will escort Potter and you to the gates." Severus could tell that Lupin wanted to ask him something, seeing the werewolf struggle to find the right words. "Say it," he demanded.

"My trunk… Do you know where it is? It holds my belongings." He might not own such fancy silk pyjamas, but he did want his things.

"Your belongings are still at your former quarters. I will fetch them once you are asleep." Severus had planned to do so at any rate. "You should go to sleep now. Damocles will keep an eye on you and alert me should you need me."

That reminded Remus. "You promised me a story."

"You will fall asleep on me and then I will have to tell it again tomorrow." Severus enjoyed needling Lupin just a little.

"You promised… And I will stay awake." Remus hated the fact that he sounded like he was begging the other wizard to keep his word.

Severus inclined his head, studied Lupin, and realized the werewolf was still much too alert to go to sleep. However, Lupin might be lulled into sleep if he told the werewolf his tale.

Remus hadn't expected Severus to agree to telling him and so he was pleasantly surprised when the Potions Master conjured a chair and sat down next to the bed.

"Damocles…" Severus cocked his head and indicated the dragon should move onto the armrest. Again, Damocles protested by breathing a tiny spark of fire, but then consented and took his assigned place. "Albus gifted the dragon to me about a year ago."

"Albus did?" Remus was surprised to hear it. "Sorry," he added, when Severus glared at him for being interrupted.

"Albus had told me about his plan to hire you as a teacher and I pointed out the dangers to him." Severus noticed the violent flinch that shook Lupin, but refrained from commenting on it. "In the end, I suggested brewing the Wolfsbane for you. Albus was thrilled I had offered to do so. After a few failed attempts, I succeeded in brewing it, and by the time you joined us, brewing it had become a routine. Albus must have really appreciated the fact that I continued to work on the Wolfsbane, because, one day he called me to his office and told me he had a gift for me. I reckoned he had discovered a new sort of candy, which he is disgustingly fond of. Imagine my surprise when he presented me with Damocles. You do know that Damocles invented the Wolfsbane potion?" To his surprise, Lupin was still wide awake; he even seemed spellbound – how odd.

"Albus might have mentioned it once," Remus admitted. He hadn't known that Severus had offered to brew his potion. He had always assumed that Albus had ordered him to do so. "Why did you do it? Why did you make that offer?"

Severus considered his reply – should he lie or speak the truth? "Because Albus was determined to engage you and I wanted as few incidents as possible." He had opted for the truth, since he reckoned he might gain more of Lupin's trust that way. "Damocles is a pest actually. He protests every order I give him and he can be rather stubborn. Yet, the fact that he is small has its advantages, so I decided to keep him."

Damocles tried to make himself appear larger by extending his wings and stretching his neck. It didn't really work though, Remus mused. "I never thought you would keep a familiar."

"And if I did, you would assume it to be a bat?" Severus spat the words at Lupin.

"Ah, that…" Remus wanted to avert his gaze, but in the end, he maintained eye contact after all. "That's what the students call you."

"And some members of staff!"

"I might have let it slip once," Remus admitted. He had been fooling about with Harry, Ron and Neville, and one of the boys had referred to Severus as the bat from the dungeons. "I am—"

"Don't say it," Severus hissed, stopping Lupin. "Stop apologizing."

Remus didn't know how to react to that. "But I am sorry."

Severus rose from his chair, banished it, and walked toward the doorway. "I shall wake you in seven hours. Do try to sleep, Lupin." He didn't wait for Lupin's reply, but quickly stepped out of the room. It didn't help though as he still heard Lupin whisper softly.

"Thank you at any rate, Severus. I do appreciate it."

/

Remus woke the next morning because Damocles kept hissing into his left ear. Severus was right; the dragon was a little pest! "Stop doing that!" Damocles flew away, but not before slapping Remus' nose with his tail. "All right, you are a big pest." But Remus couldn't be angry with the tiny creature. He had woken in much worse ways in the past.

The room was warm with sunlight, which rather surprised him, as he hadn't seen any windows the night before, but then again, it had been dark. Now that it was light, he realized there was a window to his right. Maybe the curtains had been closed during the night? Did that mean they weren't below ground-level?

While searching the room, Remus felt relieved to find his trunks stacked against the wall. Severus had kept his word and had retrieved them. Remus quickly left the bed, still disliking the fact that he was naked, and made quick work of getting dressed. Clothed, he felt better already, and confident to face Severus. He stepped into the corridor and followed the smell of food. The kitchen was rather small, but like the bathroom, clean and functional. Severus stood at the counter, already dressed in his teaching robes. "Morning," Remus said, feeling shy for some reason.

"Sit down," Severus instructed and pointed at the table standing against the wall. "Coffee or tea? What do you prefer?"

Remus sat down and actually felt hungry at seeing the food. "Tea, please."

Severus selected a teabag, put it into the hot water, and placed the mug in front of Remus. He felt like coffee himself and preferred it strong and black. He sat down opposite Lupin and sipped from his coffee. "How do you feel this morning?"

"Better… and hungry," Remus whispered apologetically as he was already tucking into the eggs and sausages on his plate. Being honest, he added, "I can't recall recovering that quickly from a transformation before. Normally I feel poorly for at least a week."

You had someone to care for you, Severus thought, knowing it made a difference if one had support. I do need to get started on that second potion so he recovers more quickly, even without someone to look after him. He had already started to study the notes he had made when first attempting to improve the Wolfsbane. "We will head for the Great Hall in twenty minutes. Albus wants to address the students and then I will escort you and Potter to the gates."

"I feel much better," Remus said in between bites of baked beans and bacon. "You don't need to watch my every step. I am sure you have better things to do." He didn't want to take up too much of Severus' time.

"In case it had escaped you, the holidays start today. I have plenty of time available." Severus was curious to see how Lupin would react to that.

"If that's what you want, Severus, but I still think you waste your time by escorting me to the gates."

Severus decided to let the matter rest. Starting an argument over such a detail wouldn't accomplish anything. While sipping from his coffee, he watched Lupin eat. It was good to see that the werewolf had regained his appetite.

"Aren't you going to eat?" Remus arched an eyebrow at finding Severus merely drinking coffee.

"I am not particularly hungry." He wasn't a morning person at all, which was why Albus always took care to plan Potions in the afternoon. Lupin however continued to look at him and Severus selected a bread roll which he slowly ate. Returning to business, Severus said, "As you have probably guessed, my rooms can only be entered by pass word. Since I don't want you roaming the castle because you can't get in, I will tell you. It's Gilderoy Lockhart," he said smugly.

Remus chuckled. "I would never have guessed it!"

"That is the point, isn't it?" Severus fondly recalled blasting Lockhart off his feet. "The man was a complete fraud and unworthy of holding that teaching position!"

Remus tentatively cast Severus a look. "And did you deem me unworthy too?" It pained him having to use the past tense, but he was no longer a teacher here.

Severus recognized the pain in the those eyes and found he couldn't sneer at Lupin. "You were an improvement," he said in the end. He didn't expect Lupin to smile at him, but the werewolf's expression brightened.

"That's praise coming from you," Remus remarked.

"If you say so." But Severus was careful not to sound harsh. "If you are done," he said, upon finding Lupin had stopped eating, "we should head for the Great Hall."

"You want me there?" Remus had assumed that Severus would collect him once they would meet up with Harry.

"You will not hide," Severus said after thinking it over. "I do not care if they know you still reside at Hogwarts – actually, it might be best to pretend we don't care about their reaction."

I simply do not understand you, Severus. You wanted me gone and now you are telling me to accompany you into the Great Hall. Severus Snape's actions made no sense whatsoever!

Lupin was an open book – the werewolf always had been, and Severus found it easy to read the man's emotions on his face. He didn't blame the wolf for feeling confused as he didn't understand his own actions either.

/

Severus felt Albus' gaze upon him when Lupin and he made their way over to the head table. "Take your usual seat," he hissed at Lupin and then took his own place. Lupin threw him a confused look, but Severus ignored him, studying the students in front of him. It didn't take him long to single out Potter. He noticed the relieved expression in the boy's eyes when Harry saw Lupin sit down.

Severus barely listened to Albus' parting speech as he had heard it many times before. Instead, he continued to study the glances Potter and Lupin exchanged. It was obvious both of them were happy to see the other. Albus' speech came to an end, and the assembled students started to make their way outside. Only one student remained behind – how predictable.

"Professor Lupin?" Harry had been afraid to believe his eyes when he had seen Remus make his appearance in the Great Hall. He had been under the impression that his friend had left Hogwarts and to see him now…

"Harry, it's Remus now. I am no longer your teacher." Remus got up from his chair and made his way over to the boy.

"Then why are you still here? I thought that you had lost the privilege to stay at Hogwarts when you lost your teaching position!" Harry didn't want to question his luck, but he was curious! And why were Snape and Dumbledore watching them?

"Remus will help professor Snape improve the Wolfsbane, Harry," Albus said, relishing the fact that he had been able to make both of them happy. "Remus will be here when you return for the next school year."

Harry felt thrilled and his happiness showed on his face. He didn't care that Snape was glaring at him. He was simply happy to know Remus safe at Hogwarts! "I am glad to hear it!" Knowing that Remus had a place to stay would make it easier on him to return to his aunt. Had it been up to Harry, he would prefer to stay at Hogwarts too, but he knew that wasn't an option.

"I shall walk you to the gates," Remus announced as he wrapped an arm around Harry. "That way we can talk some more." After inclining his head in gratitude to Albus for allowing him to stay, Remus guided Harry out of the hall.

Albus watched Severus follow suite and grinned smugly. Potions Master and werewolf had apparently survived their first night without major catastrophes!

/

"Why is Snape following us?" Harry cast a suspicious look at the dark shape of his Potions Master who trailed behind them.

"Professor Snape, Harry, and I honestly don't know," Remus admitted. "I told him that I didn't need an escort, but he seems determined to stay close." Did Severus expect him to faint unexpectedly? He did feel better.

"Are you really staying with him? That must be awful." As far as Harry was concerned having to live with Snape was the worst thing that could possibly happen to someone.

"He has been quite decent, Harry. You might not believe me, but he has been looking after me. You do remember the state I was in yesterday?"

Harry nodded. "You do look better," he couldn't deny that. They were approaching the gates, but he didn't want to say goodbye yet. Stalling wouldn't get him anywhere either though. "You will be here when I get back?"

"I promise," Remus said and hugged the boy. "Try to stay out of trouble, will you?"

"I will do my best." Harry hugged Remus back and wished the moment would never end. "I wish you the best of luck with Snape."

Remus was about to remind Harry that it was 'professor Snape' when the gates opened and Albus gestured for the students to head for the carriages. "I will be fine, Harry. I will see you in two months."

Harry reluctantly released Remus and gave Snape a surly look, obviously expecting the Potions Master to mistreat Remus.

Severus noticed it, but ignored it. He had worked hard to make Potter hate him and he wasn't going to change the boy's perception of him. It was bad enough that Lupin was damaging his hard-earned reputation. When Lupin moved to stand next to him, Severus took a step away from him, distancing himself, at least until Potter had moved out of sight.

Remus noticed the movement and frowned at Severus, but then realized what was making Severus act in that way. He too waited for the carriages to leave and then turned to face the Potions Master. "You don't want Harry to know you care."

Lupin had nailed it one go, Severus thought irritated. But he wasn't going to explain himself – not to the werewolf while they were surrounded by members of staff.

/

"What do I do all day?" Remus had followed Severus back to their rooms and was now growing restless. When Severus had guided him into the living room, he had curiously looked about. There was nothing really personal about the room. There were books, a sofa, which looked inviting and a dining table in the corner of the room. There were no windows, so most light came from a huge chandelier from the ceiling. It looked ancient and too decorative for the rather Spartan room

"Keep yourself busy, Lupin." Severus headed for his lab himself. "I want to start on the Wolfsbane. Do not interrupt me while I am working."

"Well, there must be something I can do to help!" He reckoned he could return to his book, but he felt too fidgety for that.

Severus realized he needed to give Lupin something useful to do, but what? The problem was more complicated than it looked. He had to find something for Lupin to do that would carry on for the next two months and probably even after that.

Remus grew wary the moment a certain gleam appeared in Severus' black eyes. Now that he thought about it, hadn't they been a light shade of brown when they had attended school? Or was his imagination playing tricks on him? No, he was quite sure they had been brown and not black!

Severus walked over to the shelves that held some of his books on potion making. He selected three of them and dropped them onto the desk. "Study this one first. Read the first two chapters, and once you are done, go to my classroom and brew the potions explained in those chapters. Do not blow up my classroom!"

Remus frowned in disbelief. "You want me to work unsupervised?"

"You did graduate from Hogwarts, didn't you? Then I reckon you can brew a third year's potion without supervision!" Severus did enjoy seeing the flabbergasted look on Lupin's face.

"But why do you want me to brew in the first place?"

"Because once the school year starts you will assist me during classes!" It was best to keep Lupin close where he could keep an eye on him at all times.

"You can't mean that," Remus whispered nervously. "It has been years since I last brew!"

"Then I suggest you stop wasting time and begin to study." Severus judged it best to give Lupin a moment to deal with his new assignment and then strode into his lab.

Remus stared at the books which Severus had selected for him. Putting them side by side, he realized he had studied them before – as a student that was. That however, seemed a life time ago.

/

"Stop watching me!" Remus realized too late that Damocles had followed him into Severus' classroom. He didn't know if the dragon was merely following Severus' orders or was acting out of curiosity. Demonstratively, he turned his back on the dragon and continued brewing. The first potion he had attempted, he had quickly banished, as it turned out rather disastrous. But now that he had been working for one hour, some of his previous skills were coming back to him and he had managed to brew a pain relieving potion with no difficulties.

He was about to start on the next potion when the door unexpectedly opened and admitted Severus into the room. Out of his teaching robes and black coat, and merely dressed in black trousers and his white high-necked shirt, Severus looked oddly out of place in the classroom.

Severus pointedly looked about and managed a tiny smile. "Apparently you managed to refrain from blowing up the room."

"I am not that bad with potions." He had never excelled at it the way Severus did, but then again, he wasn't nearly as talented as the other man. "I am not sure if you should make me your assistant, Severus. I forgot about the finesses and details when it comes down to potion making."

"You will pick up on it quickly," Severus said and cast an expert look at the pain relieving potion Lupin had created. "Ah, there you are." He spotted Damocles guarding the vial holding Lupin's potion. "I wondered where you had gone." Apparently his familiar had taken a liking to Lupin, preferring to pester the wolf instead of him, which suited Severus just fine.

"Will you join me for lunch, Lupin, or do you rather continue brewing?" Severus had debated whether to ask Lupin to join him for lunch; he didn't want the wolf to get the wrong message, namely that he liked his company, but he did need to gain Lupin's trust.

Remus cast tempus and was surprised to see the time. "I had no idea it is that late. I shall join you." Now that he had stopped concentrating on the brewing, he realized how hungry he was. After making sure he left the class room in perfect order, he joined Severus in the corridor. Damocles quickly flew after him, hissing and growling for him moving that fast.

"No," Severus told his familiar. "You will return to my rooms and stay there!"

Damocles moved his wings wildly and flew up close to Severus' face. High-pitched sounds left his mouth, but Severus remained steadfast and told him to return to their rooms. In the end, Damocles complied, but only after trying to singe Severus' hair. His dragon fire however didn't do any damage, and disappointed, Damocles left.

Remus chuckled at the dragon's antics, but quickly sobered upon feeling Severus' glare upon him. "I am sorry, but I rather like him."

Severus drew in a deep breath. "I do hope Albus will gift you with an equally annoying familiar one day. If not, you can have mine."

Even though Severus had spoken in a perfectly formal manner, Remus heard the hidden humour in it. Casting a quick look at Severus showed that the Potions Master himself let a quick smile slip through on his features. Maybe spending time with Severus Snape wouldn't be as bad as he had thought.

/

Lunch was a quiet affair. Students and most members of staff had left and it was only Albus, Minerva, and the two of them having lunch. Remus seated himself next to Severus, and realized, much to his surprise, that he was hungry. He dug into the food, and while doing so, stole a glance at Severus. The other man was eating, but only a minute amount. Recalling that Severus had hardly eaten anything at breakfast either, Remus wondered about the other man's absent appetite. He decided against bringing it up at that moment, realizing Albus and Minerva might get involved, but he would bring it up later, once they were alone.

"When will you leave, Minerva?" Severus inquired, forcing himself to eat some of the cold meats.

"Within the hour!" she announced. "I will first visit Caithness and then move onto Inverness where I will spend the rest of my holidays. I am looking forward to some peace and quiet after the year we have had!"

Remus noticed the bitter look she shot Severus and he quickly glanced at the Potions Master, but Severus didn't seem impressed.

"It is still beyond me why you had to out Remus, Severus! You agreed to keep his secret when Albus offered him his teaching position!"

As Remus was still looking at Severus, he noticed the minute twitch near Severus' right eye. Minerva's remark had hit its mark.

"Now, my dear, we agreed not to bring the matter up again. I am sure Severus had an excellent reason to do what he did." Albus briefly placed his hand on Minerva's in order to appease her. She sighed, shrugged, and eventually inclined her head toward Albus. Satisfied that he had soothed over the argument, Albus returned to his assortment of fine fruits and selected a strawberry.

Remus continued to study Severus and was surprised that the other man hadn't reacted to Minerva's remark. Suddenly, the Potions Master raised his gaze and met his. Remus fought the urge to look away at seeing the intensity in those black eyes.

The fact that Lupin answered his glare impressed Severus; he had to admit to that. Not many withstood his piercing glare. He felt grateful that Lupin remained quiet and didn't encourage Minerva to continue her questioning.

The rest of lunch took place in silence. Minerva then excused herself to finish packing, leaving the three of them behind. Now that she was gone, Remus moistened his lips and addressed Albus in a soft voice, "Won't the Ministry wonder why I am still at Hogwarts? They won't like hearing I will stay for another year."

"Leave the Ministry to me, my dear boy!" Albus said with confidence. "I will take care of any problems which might arise. You need to focus on assisting Severus on perfecting the Wolfsbane!"

"I studied my notes and see room for improvement, but I am not sure I can manage perfection." Severus cast Albus a meaningful look. "At least not what you consider perfection."

Remus frowned at hearing that. "What do you mean by that?"

Severus knew Albus well enough to see the minute signs that told him the Headmaster didn't want Lupin to know the whole truth, but he disagreed. Lupin should know what they were doing. Albus would undoubtedly lecture him later, but he didn't care about that at the moment. "Albus has asked me to modify the Wolfsbane to such a degree that you will have complete control over the transformation, which includes your actions as a werewolf."

"Meaning..?" Remus wanted to make sure he understood what Severus was saying.

"Complete control over your actions when you are a werewolf. You would no longer think it necessary to lock yourself up and wait for the full moon to set. You would be in complete control of the curse."

Remus stared at Severus in what was a strange mix of hope and disbelief. "And you believe this can't be achieved?"

"Not to such a degree." Severus shook his head. Not by merely dosing you with the Wolfsbane. There might be another way though, but he hadn't researched it yet and was loathe to bring it up, as he didn't want to give Lupin false hope.

"That would be a shame," Albus commented, but he had noticed Severus being preoccupied and that usually meant that the younger wizard had an idea how to succeed after all. He would give Severus the time he needed. "I will leave you to your research then. I will be gone for the next few days. First, I will head to London to see Fudge and then… Who knows where. Severus, I entrust Hogwarts to you in the meantime. Make sure I still have a school to return to!"

Severus chuckled in spite of himself. "You had better tell Lupin that when he returns to his brewing!"

"You are making him brew?" Albus was pleasantly surprised. Apparently Severus had found a way to keep Remus occupied. "I always thought you could do with a teaching assistant, Severus!"

Remus watched Albus wink at Severus, who then scowled in turn. He hadn't known the two of them were on such good terms. It pleased him. Albus would never entrust him to Severus' care if the man was remotely as evil as many made him out to be! "I will do my best," he quickly added. Albus nodded and took his leave as well.

Now that the two of them were alone, Remus reached for the plate of meats and scooped a royal portion onto Severus' plate. He then added vegetables and freshly baked bread. Severus arched an eyebrow at him and pushed the food away from him. "You should eat. You didn't eat much breakfast either. You are too thin."

"Look who's talking." Severus pointedly looked at Remus. "Your clothes hardly fit you." And yet, he had watched Remus eat a full breakfast and the werewolf had also dug into lunch. Why then was the other man so scrawny?

"The transformation – and the recovery from it – takes up a lot of energy," Remus explained. "I am not this skinny by choice. You have seen the amount of food that I eat."

Severus couldn't deny the truth in that; he had wondered about Lupin's appetite before – now he knew why the werewolf ate that much. The pleading look Lupin gave him made him feel ill at ease. Only Poppy had ever bothered to make sure he ate his fill. Why was Lupin now acting in the same way? He suppressed a heartfelt sigh and forced himself to eat.

Remus nodded to himself, pleased that Severus was giving in. It was nothing but the truth though; Severus was much too thin.

/

After brewing three more different potions in Severus' classroom, Remus started to lose his concentration and decided to stop brewing for the day. It was already growing dark and the day had passed by without him actually noticing it. After making sure all ingredients were properly stored away, Remus headed for Severus' quarters, which were also his for the next few months – maybe year even. He would have to wait and see if they managed to live together without hexing each other.

Standing in front of the door to Severus' rooms, Remus recalled the password and said, "Gilderoy Lockhart." The choice of password still amused him, but Remus gathered not many would think Severus used it. The door opened and Remus headed for the kitchen. Upon finding it empty, Remus tried the living room and he halted in his tracks, surprised to find the other man curled up on the sofa. Using one hand to pillow his head with, and the other tucked beneath his abdomen, Severus looked – different, yes, that was the word he was looking for. In sleep, his features had softened and he looked strangely vulnerable. Severus suddenly shivered and curled up even tighter. Remus approached soundlessly, not wanting to draw attention to himself.

Severus began to mumble – incoherently and much too soft for Remus to make out any words. He grew worried though upon seeing Severus flinch repeatedly and the mumbling turned into pained whimpers. Remus didn't know what Severus was dreaming about, but whatever it was, it was causing the other man distress.

Remus wondered what to do. He had seen Severus' lightning fast reflexes and didn't want to find himself at the other end of that ebony wand with Severus hexing him. But allowing the nightmare to torment the other man wasn't something he was comfortable with either. Severus had looked after him the other night and the least he could do was to return the favour, but from a distance. "Severus? Wake up, will you? You are having a nightmare."

He was rather certain that Severus would abhor knowing Remus had seen him in the clutches of a nightmare. Yet, what could he do except help? Remus edged closer, cautiously, keeping an eye on Severus' wand hand at all time. The other man's distress continued to grow though and Severus was almost trashing by now.

"Severus! Wake up!" he said, speaking more forcefully and reaching out to shake Severus' shoulder. Severus reacted as fast as Remus had expected – maybe even faster. Remus had no idea where Severus' wand had come from, but it had appeared in the Potions Master's hand within seconds and it was aimed at him.

"Don't!" Severus, instantly awake, glared at the intruder. "Don't touch," he added, clarifying his demand. He knew what had happened and he blamed himself for giving into his fatigue and lying down on the sofa. He had wanted to rest for just a moment. Instead, he had fallen asleep and had re-lived that night in the shack when he had discovered Lupin, transformed into the werewolf. It was a reoccurring nightmare, doubtlessly intensified by having seen the werewolf again the other night.

Remus immediately backed up. No stranger to nightmares himself, he knew it was important to award Severus some breathing space. "You had a nightmare and I wanted to help," he explained calmly.

"Help," Severus scowled, but then composed himself again. It wouldn't do to lose his control in front of Lupin – the man who constantly haunted his dreams in the guise of a werewolf. He sat up, took stock, and realized he was covered in cold sweat. Did the wolf inside Lupin smell it? Smell his fear?

"Severus," Remus whispered, unwilling to proceed, but knowing he needed to. "Was that nightmare about me?" Maybe he could help Severus face his fear and help the other man deal with it. Then the room stop stinking of the fear, which radiated from the Potions Master. "I want to help – any way I can."

"You can't help me," Severus sneered, as he got to his feet. He felt vulnerable, hurt, and oddly vindictive. "And why would you want to help me after turning my childhood into a living hell?" But no, that was the road to damnation and he didn't want to go there – not anymore. "I need some fresh air. Don't follow me!" he said, pointing his wand at Lupin. "Leave me alone."

Remus made way and let Severus pass, distinctly noticing the way the high-necked white shirt clung to the other man's sweaty skin. He was sure that the nightmare had been about the werewolf – why else would Severus have reacted like that?

A moment later, Damocles buried his tiny claws in the fabric of his coat as the dragon landed on his shoulder and then hissed into his ear. Remus sighed and nodded once. "I worry about him too," he said, not sure why he had made that statement, but for some reason he thought the familiar was concerned about Severus. Severus had told him not to follow him, but Remus felt apprehensive, recalling the way Severus had stormed out of the living room. "We should follow him and keep an eye on him, don't you think?" He could be stealthy if necessary!

Damocles growled into his ear and Remus could have sworn that the dragon actually agreed with him. "Let's go then." He could always track Severus through his heightened senses, but preferred not to let the other man out of sight to begin with.

/

Severus was mostly angry with himself for putting himself in such an awkward situation. He hadn't planned on falling asleep and had even less expected Lupin trying to soothe him because he was having a nightmare. The man was the very reason why he had those nightmares to begin with!

But no, he wasn't fair – not really. Severus had reached the lake and lowered himself onto some rocks. The sun was setting, but the day's warmth still remained and so he removed his boots and socks, unbuttoned the trouser legs and let his feet slip into the cool water. He briefly closed his eyes in order to savour the sensation. He quickly opened them again to take in the last golden rays of the setting sun. Coming here was one of the few luxuries he occasionally permitted himself. It was simply beautiful out here. Even as a student, when the Marauders had been on the constant look out for him, he had found peace and quiet here and it remained his escape.

He picked up a small rock, stroked the flat surface with his fingertips, and then skipped it across the lake. It bounced four times before disappearing under the water. Severus allowed for a small smile. He knew damn well that he was living on burrowed time. Truth be told, he had never expected to live this long. There had been a time when he had fully expected to die miserably in Azkaban, but Albus had pleaded on his behalf and had managed to set his free. After that, his life had been forfeit. It wasn't his anymore - it was Dumbledore's to do with as the older wizard saw fit, and so far, the Headmaster had treated him better than he had expected, even trusting him to such a degree that he was allowed to teach those dim-witted students. Granted, every so often a truly promising student came along, but those were exceptions. He thought Granger was promising, but he would never tell the girl that – it would definitely ruin his reputation!

And now Lupin was complicating his life once more. Severus had known that life wouldn't be easy with Lupin moving into his quarters, but he had thought he would be able to handle it. Maybe he had overestimated himself. Since seeing the werewolf again, the damn creature haunted his dreams. The werewolf - not Lupin the man. He needed to separate the two or he would never be able to find a cure to the curse. Lupin didn't scare him – how could he? But the werewolf terrified him. He withdrew his feet from the cooling water and slipped into his socks and boots again.

An unexpected nudge against his shoulder made him chuckle. "What are you doing out here? You belong in the Forbidden Forest." Turning slightly, he shook his head at the group of Thestrals that stood next to him. It was a family of four; the parents and their offspring. It was Hagrid who had introduced him to them when apparition hadn't been an option – and he did hate flying using a broomstick. He received another, rather playful nod, which made him get to his feet. Raising his arm, he placed his hand with his palm forward against the Thestral's nostrils so it could take in his scent.

"You are lucky no one else is staying at Hogwarts… Hagrid would be shooing you back, and Albus… let's not get into that." He caressed the odd skin beneath his fingertips and realized how much he actually liked them. Once he had looked past their chilling exterior, he had realized they were clever and caring. The Thestral nudged his hand and Severus chuckled again, having a fairly good idea what the creature was offering him.

"You don't mind?" The Thestral nudged him again, and this time, Severus took the hint. He carefully mounted the Thestral. "Where do you want to go?" He had learned to trust their instincts a long time ago. The Thestral didn't answer him verbally, but started to run, spread his wings, and then took to the sky, his family following suit. Severus pressed his upper body against the Thestral's back and looked at the grounds below him. That was when he noticed he had a spectator. It was Lupin, standing half-hidden behind a tree, looking up at him in something akin to disbelief. Severus banished the image from his mind; he wasn't going to let Lupin spoil this wondrous moment!

/

Remus blinked in surprise. Severus had actually jumped onto that Thestral's back and they were now flying away from him. Remus shook himself from his stupor. Thestrals were odd creatures; not dark exactly, but daunting nonetheless. He knew that Albus allowed them to stay in the Forbidden Forest, because they sometimes provided necessary transportation, but Remus couldn't remember Thestrals actively seeking someone out and offering to carry them. Severus Snape was full of surprises, and this development rather annoyed him, as he no longer had ways to follow him.

Instead of returning to their quarters, Remus sat down where Severus had sat and looked out over the lake. He understood why Severus came here; to find peace and quiet. The view was hauntingly beautiful. If only his friends, dead and alive, could be here with him. Not a day passed by without him thinking of them just once; Lily, James, and Sirius of course. Especially Sirius, as the Animagus had often distracted the werewolf and had prevented worse. James hadn't been that good at controlling the wolf in him, but Padfood excelled at it. He missed his friends – still, after all those years. Maybe he could meet up with Sirius during the next full moon? Then he wouldn't be alone during the transformation, and as he would be taking the Wolfsbane, they might even be able to enjoy that night.

That was, if Severus allowed it. During Albus' absence, Severus was in charge of his life. Remus wasn't sure how he felt about that. So far, Severus had been civil and caring even – not counting the incident that had taken place earlier, but he couldn't fault Severus for that. The Potions Master was a private man and it must vex him that that Remus now knew about the nightmares. If only he could help him! But as long as Severus continued to run away from him, he wouldn't be able to.

/

Remus installed himself in the living room. He sat down at the dining table, summoned a pot of tea and scones, and returned to his reading. Interview with the vampire was an oddly compelling book and he found himself eager to continue reading it. It provided him with distraction while he waited for Severus to return. The other man could only avoid him for so long. Even Damocles seemed eager for Severus to come back as the miniature dragon eyed the doorway closely.

Upon hearing noises coming from the corridor, Remus drew in a deep breath and resigned himself to waiting. He didn't want to pressure Severus in the least. He wanted to make Severus feel as comfortable as possible, and crowding or lecturing him wouldn't help. So Remus poured himself another cup and pretended to be reading when Severus finally entered the living room.

Severus steeled himself for an ugly confrontation and was stunned to realize that Lupin was simply ignoring him. He did the same and simply ignored the other man, but he was still angry with himself and Lupin presented him with the perfect outlet for that rage. "You have your own rooms, Lupin. You don't need to crowd mine." He had known he wouldn't take the invasion of his privacy well, and it had only been a matter of time before he would lash out.

"The light is rather poor in that room," Remus started, careful not to let Severus bait him. "And even though it is a generous bedroom, it feels small, especially with all of my things in it."

"Small?" Severus glared at Lupin. "Did you even bother to look properly?"

Remus drew in a deep breath and counted to ten in order to maintain his calm. "Are you saying I missed something?"

"Why don't you go and see for yourself?" Severus said in a sneering voice.

Remus knew he shouldn't take the bait, but how could he ignore that remark? He closed the book, but left it on the table as he planned to return later. Severus wasn't going to banish him to the guest room just to have him out of sight. He wouldn't let Severus get away with that. Remus got to his feet, walked down the corridor, and stepped into the guest room. "Everything is like it was, Severus." There was nothing out of order, was there?

"You look, but don't see," Severus hissed.

Remus was surprised to find that the Potions Master had followed him. He had been convinced that Severus had wanted to get rid of him. "Then why don't you point me in the right direction?" he said gently.

That gentleness unnerved Severus, who was doing everything he could to make Lupin lash out at him. Arguing, fighting, humiliation, sneers, those were things he was familiar with, but he dreaded Lupin's gentleness. He raised his right arm and pointed at the door next to the window. He reckoned that Lupin had only been here to pick up his book and hadn't looked the room over. Why would he?

Remus frowned in surprise. "That door wasn't there this morning." He was fairly sure he would have noticed it. He gave Severus a quick look, and when the other man nodded impatiently, Remus walked over to it. As he did, he noticed that most of his belongings had disappeared. He opened the door and gasped in surprise. He was looking at a rather large study with cupboards and shelves along the wall. A comfortable chair and large desk situated beneath a window completed the interior. "This wasn't here before."

"I expended the guestroom with a charm Albus once taught me. I reckoned you needed a study if you want to assist me with the Wolfsbane and other potion experiments." Severus couldn't say what had made him do it, but when he had checked if the house elves were tending to the guest room, he had noticed how cramped it was. So he had added the study and had thought nothing of it. It had merely seemed practical at the time, and therefore he was completely unprepared for the gratitude that shone from Lupin's eyes.

"Thank you, Severus, you didn't have to that." Remus' gaze lingered on the study for another moment, but then he shifted his attention back to the other man. He studied Severus closely, by sight and smell. The stench of fear was absent; Severus Snape wasn't afraid of him that very moment, which was good. But he did look rather pale and thin – almost wasting away, and that wasn't good at all. Maybe his health was deteriorating because of his nightmares? Remus hoped that was all it was.

"I told you before to stop thanking me," Severus said, feeling ill at ease. "You need a place to read, study, grade… Whatever it is that you will be doing."

"Grading potion essays?" Remus chuckled, hoping to lighten up the atmosphere a little. "Let me guess, first years?" As he had hoped, Severus' features relaxed slightly.

"Maybe… If you can decipher their scribbling."

"I am sure I can manage." Remus considered his next move very carefully. He didn't want to confront Severus about what had happened earlier, but he couldn't completely ignore it either. It was a hard decision to make. Maybe it would be best to detour. "I followed you to the lake. I was worried when you stormed out of the living room like that."

Severus had known that Lupin would broach the matter eventually, but was relieved he was doing it in that way. "I like to go there when I am restless." He would try to remain calm — he would do his best, but much depended on the questions Lupin would ask him.

"I was surprised to see the Thestrals come to you. They don't do that generally, do they?" Remus was relieved that Severus was staying, even though the other man had started to restlessly shift on his feet.

"They rather like me for some odd reason. I don't know why either." So far, things were going well. Severus was surprised that he was actually able to have a polite conversation with Lupin. It helped that the werewolf hadn't mentioned the nightmare, but Severus didn't doubt this was leading up to it.

"Maybe it is because they see you for who you really are?" Remus had given the way he would phrase his reply much thought and hoped it was the right thing to say. As he had been watching Severus, he caught the moment of utter shock in those dark eyes. It passed quickly, but he had seen it and knew he had guessed correctly. Severus Snape wasn't the bastard he pretended to be. Severus Snape cared… Well, too bad for him that Remus knew that as well now!

Severus needed a moment to gather his wits about him. This conversation unnerved him. Just what did Lupin think he was doing?

Apparently, his comment had rendered Severus speechless. He should feel smug about it, but he didn't. He couldn't help but wonder why Severus acted the way he did. In public, Severus bullied Harry and his friends, but Remus had noticed Severus being worried that morning. "I reckon you have your reasons for acting the way you do, but I am growing more and more convinced that it is just that – an act." Taking it one step further, Remus suspected Severus might become more defensive, or even aggressive about the matter.

Severus cocked his head. "Believe what you see fit, Lupin, but don't expect me to comment on your idiotic claims."

Ah, the sneer was back. Did that mean he had hit bull's eye, Remus wondered? It was time to back away from the subject and distract Severus. "Could I possibly bother you with supplying me with some Dreamless Sleep tonight? I would much appreciate it."

"You will have it," Severus replied, grateful Lupin wasn't pushing the matter.

"Will you have some too?" Remus hoped so, because it meant Severus would get a chance to rest properly.

"I can't… I am replacing Albus. Someone needs to keep an eye on the wards and Hogwarts itself." He had replaced Albus before and knew what the duties entailed and how much time and energy they cost him.

"Shall we at least share dinner then?" Remus wasn't giving up yet. He wanted to learn more about Severus – the man intrigued him.

"If we must," Severus snarled unpleasantly. It was bad enough to have his home invaded – now he was supposed to have dinner with Lupin as well!

/

Severus felt Lupin's gaze on him while he forced himself to eat a bit more. He knew that if he stopped now, the werewolf would start to mother him and that was something he didn't care for. Why had he ever agreed to allow Lupin to stay with him? Ah, yes, there was the small matter of having let slip the truth about the other man. Guilt had made him do it.

After a few more bites, Severus pushed his plate away from him. "I will spend the rest of the evening in my private lab. Don't disturb me."

"Under no circumstance?" Remus couldn't help himself. "What if there's an emergency? Am I allowed to drag you from the dungeons then?" He doubted his remark would earn him another smile, but he had to try. The dark anger that emanated from Severus made it hard for him to eat. He wanted that anger to go away.

Severus sighed; what had he done to deserve this? "Don't play games, Lupin."

"I can't help it. I worry about you," Remus repeated. If only he could get through to Severus! "I want you let go of that anger. You think I deserve it, and so may be it, but it is toxic. It will burn you from within. I don't want that to happen to you." Remus braced himself for another verbal lashing.

Severus wanted to scream and shout at Lupin to stop being so damn forgiving and worry about him when he snapped his mouth shut without uttering one vile comment. Lupin wanted to keep him safe – wanted the anger to go away because it was poisoning him from within. By Merlin, could that be it?

"Severus? I regret upsetting you, but…" Remus' eyes widened at seeing Severus raise a hand and dismissing his comment. "Severus?"

"You intend to calm me down… To let go of my anger, is that correct?" Severus summarized, all the while wondering if it would work. There was no reason to inform Lupin of his idea just yet – not when he didn't know if it would work.

"Yes, but…" Severus suddenly jumped to his feet and ran out of the living room, leaving Remus behind rather bewildered. "What was that about?" Remus didn't expect anyone to answer him, but had to chuckle when Damocles started hissing. "You don't know either, do you?" It must have been something he said! "I wonder where he has gone…" There was only one way to find out though. Remus got to his feet, and with Damocles in pursuit, he followed Severus out of their quarters. Severus was surprisingly quick on his feet, Remus noted, and it took time to catch up with the Potions Master. Severus was heading for the library, if he wasn't mistaken!

Severus realized that he was being followed, but paid it no attention. He knew where to find the books he needed, and after he had found them, he would retreat to his private lab to study them.

"Severus, wait for me!" Remus lost track of Severus the moment they entered the library, which was huge; he had never been eager to spend much time there and so he felt lost.

"Ah!"

Hearing Severus' voice told Remus where to head and he found the other man seated on the floor with two ancient tomes opened in front of him. For one moment, Remus recalled another time when Severus had sat like that, studying, only to be crudely interrupted by Sirius hexing him. The memory made him feel ashamed, as he had stood next to Sirius and had done nothing to stop his friend.

"Severus? What did you find?" Severus looked up and his dark eyes carried an expression which he found hard to label. Did Severus perhaps recall the same incident?

"Nothing to concern yourself with… Not yet at any rate. I need to study these texts first, and maybe then – and only then – will I be able to proceed." Severus closed the books, got up from the floor, and clutched the tomes to his chest. "Give me time to work through them, Lupin. I will make sure you will find a flask filled with Dreamless Sleep on your nightstand, but give me tonight to do some research."

It was odd, but Remus could have sworn Severus was beseeching him to let him go. Yes, Severus had recalled the same incident, Remus realized; Severus also remembered being trapped in the library for hours thanks to Sirius' hex. "It's fine, Severus. Go on. I will leave you alone tonight."

"Thank you," Severus hated himself for the way he was acting, but he too had recalled being hexed by Sirius that evening. What Lupin however didn't know was that Sirius had cast a second hex after the first had practically glued him to the floor. The burning hex had caused his hands to blister and he hadn't been able to free himself as he had been unable to hold his wand. In the end, Filius had freed him and Poppy had healed his hands. It was bad enough that Lupin remembered the incident as well. He nodded curtly, trying to regain some of his dignity, and practically fled the library.

Remus watched him leave with a sigh on his lips. When he had accepted Albus' offer to stay at Hogwarts to help Severus with the Wolfsbane he hadn't known he had also agreed to undertake this emotional rollercoaster ride as well. If those memories were causing him discomfort, they had to be hurting Severus even worse.

/

Severus lost himself in his reading, his notes, and the idea that was forming in his head. He refused to linger on the past; the painful events that had pushed him into darkness and had made him such easy prey for Voldemort. He couldn't give into those thoughts, not when he had a task to complete.

/

Remus looked at the closed door to Severus' lab and wished things had gone differently in the past. He should have told James and Sirius to stop bullying Severus, but he had been scared they would turn on him instead. So much for courage, he reckoned. After staring at the door for another ten minutes, he turned around, and headed for the living room, where he sat down and tried to concentrate on his book. It wasn't working though; all he could think about was the expression in Severus' eyes when they had been in the library. He wanted to wipe that misery from those black eyes and replace it with something else. That was wishful thinking though – he could never hope to have such an uplifting effect on the other man. In the end, Remus gave up on reading and headed for his bedroom instead.

Coming to a halt next to his bed, his eyes sought out the newly added study. He hadn't expected Severus to consider his needs to such an extent. Remus snorted; he hadn't expected Severus to offer him sanctuary in his home either!

He sat down on the bed and stared at the flask holding the Dreamless Sleep. It would be easy to lose himself in the soothing darkness that awaited him after drinking it, but Severus was in his lab and would probably continue to work through the night. That would be the second night Severus went without sleep. How then, could he surrender to rest?

"Damn him," Remus muttered beneath his breath. Of all the things he had expected to happen, this hadn't been one of them! He let himself fall backwards onto the bed and stared at the ceiling for a long time.

/

In the end, Remus decided against drinking the potion. Instead, he returned to the living room and his book, which he wasn't able to read because he failed to concentrate. His gaze continued to drift off to the clock that hung on the opposite wall. It told him that the sun would rise shortly and that Severus had been in his lab for six hours straight. This couldn't continue – he would not have it!

Tired of waiting, Remus headed for Severus' lab, once more trailed by Damocles, who seemed more restless than normal. Maybe he worried about Severus too?

Remus knocked softly, thinking it best to try the gentle approach first. "Severus? Are you still in there? Are you talking to me?" When no reply came, Remus' worries increased. Either Severus was ignoring him, or he had fallen asleep; Remus refused to think of a third option, namely that an experiment had gone wrong and had incapacitated the Potions Master.

He was about to attempt to take down the wards that surely guarded the door when his hand accidently nudged the door handle. To his utter surprise, the door opened. Severus hadn't even warded it? Remus allowed himself a moment to grow angry with himself for not even trying the door, but then pushed that anger aside. He pushed the door open and looked inside, still careful, in case Severus was in a bad mood and would hex him. But what he found, caused him to grow worried instead.

Severus was asleep at his desk, surrounded by notes, books, vials, and quills still dripping with ink. Severus must have fallen asleep only moments ago. Still cautious, Remus made his way over to the desk and his gaze lingered on Severus for just a moment too long. The Potions Master must have felt the scrutiny and woke with a start.

Severus' instincts told him that he wasn't alone, that he was being watched, and that he had to defend himself if necessary. So he slid his wand into his hand from within his sleeve, and looked up in order to find out the intruder's identity. Thankfully, it was only Lupin – nosey Lupin, who just couldn't leave him alone. "I told you not to disturb me," he drawled, slowly regaining his senses.

"The sun is rising and you have been in here for too long," Remus started and looked at Severus apologetically. Before he could continue, Severus spoke up though.

"Let me guess; you worry," Severus said in what he hoped was a chilling tone, but he failed to pull it off. He sounded tired instead – damn it. And yet, Lupin's worry had perhaps provided him with the answer he had needed regarding controlling the man's transformation. Losing interest in their conversation, he tried to scan his notes and wondered if Lupin had tried to read them. His vision was off though – telling him how drained he really was.

"I had a quick look," Remus said, suspecting what was going on in Severus' head. "But I don't know the language they're in."

Thankfully… Severus thought. He didn't want to give Lupin false hope. He wasn't sure this would work. By Merlin, he wasn't even sure he could go on with this. It would demand a lot of him.

"Will you get some sleep now?" Remus felt it was safe to take another step toward the desk. Severus looked drained and not up to his normal sneers.

"I can't. I need to check on the castle's wards first," he said, his speech slightly slurred due to his fatigue. Duty called; it always did.

"You can do that after you had a few hours sleep, can't you?" Remus hoped he wasn't pushing it, but he wanted Severus to sleep first.

"I suppose so," Severus relented; partly because he realized he lacked the energy necessary to work on those wards. "But only for a short while." He rested his brow back onto his arms and closed his eyes, fully intending to go back to sleep.

Remus was torn between chuckling and scowling. "Don't you have a bed?" he whispered in the end.

"This will do," Severus whispered, already drifting back into sleep. He had slept in much more uncomfortable positions in the past. This was luxury where he was concerned.

This time, Remus didn't feel the tendency to chuckle, neither did he want to scowl at the other man. "Let me help you."

Lupin' gentle voice registered vaguely with Severus, but when the other man wrapped an arm around his shoulders, he startled awake again. His wand, still in his hand, was ready to cast a truly nasty hex at Lupin, who had dared to trespass, but upon looking into those tender and forgiving eyes, Severus found he couldn't lash out at the werewolf. He just couldn't. It was beyond him how a gentle soul like Lupin could change into such a dark creature each month.

Remus wondered about the acceptance, but didn't question it. He had fully expected to be hexed and painfully at that. Instead, Severus allowed him to pull him to his feet and support him as they made their way out of the lab.

"The sofa will do," Severus whispered, still struggling to wake up fully. What was it about Lupin – the man- that made him want to trust him, when he lived in terror of the wolf?

"I am confident we will make it to your bed." It occurred to him that he hadn't been allowed inside Severus' bedroom yet. Well, he would shortly find out what the fuss was all about.

Severus' bedroom turned out to be Spartan – empty save for the bed. The room possessed an odd quality, almost as if had seen too much pain and tears. Remus found himself coming to a halt on the threshold. He didn't know why he was reluctant to proceed… no, it was more than just reluctance. He simply couldn't bear to set a foot into that room. It smelt of salt and sorrow. Then he realized what it was that had made him halt - he smelt blood. Severus' blood to be exact. He shook his head; no, he wasn't entering that room and he wasn't going to leave Severus there under any circumstance. His own bedroom didn't posses that desolate air. It had felt inviting from the start. Remus' mind was quickly made up and he turned around.

"What are you doing?" Severus blinked; why did he feel so bloody entranced? He couldn't be that tired! He had only gone two nights without sleep. Well, there was that night when Sirius had managed to get inside Hogwarts, and the night he had conferred with Albus and the night during which… His head spun; maybe he had simply overestimated himself?

"You are not resting in there," Remus hissed, uncaring that his temper showed. "It reeks of tears and blood."

That didn't surprise Severus, but he remained quiet about it. No need to make things worse and tell Lupin things that were highly personal. Suddenly he was being lowered onto a bed and he recognized the room he was in. Not the sofa in the living room then. "Where will you sleep?"

"Someone told me that the sofa will do. Now be quiet and sleep." Remus stood back and watched Severus turn onto his side and pull his knees to his chest. He collected the spare blanket from the foot end of the bed and covered the sleeping man with it. Instead of heading for the living room – and the sofa – as he had said he would, he sat down on the bed. He rested his back against the wall which rose against the headboard of the bed and watched Severus closely. At least, that was his intention, but after a while, Remus lost the fight to stay awake and followed Severus into sleep.

/

The sun woke Remus the next morning. The warm, gentle light seemed to caress his face, and although still waking up, he smiled in appreciation. The times he had woken up like this – feeling relaxed and warm – were rare and therefore he treasured them.

Shifting on the bed, but slightly, as he didn't want to wake up Severus just yet, he took in the other man's face. Severus had moved onto his other side during the night and Remus liked seeing those normally so harsh features relaxed in sleep, sleep which had finally stripped Severus Snape of his defences. Remus felt like he was getting a first good look at what lay beneath the mask the Potions Master cultivated so carefully.

Remus nonverbally cast Tempus and realized it was still early. It was Sunday and there was no reason for either of them to hurry. Let him sleep, Remus thought, It is obvious he needs it. Plus, the fact that Severus remained asleep offered him a chance to do some exploration of his own.

Last night, when he had wanted to return Severus to his bedroom, he had been unable to set a foot in there. Now he wanted to find out why. Remus knew better than to ask Severus – the man would never tell him, but there might be another way to uncover the truth.

As stealthily as he could, Remus got to his feet and sneaked over to the doorway. He didn't completely close the door behind him, as he did want to hear Severus getting out of bed. He had the feeling that Severus would be furious with him, should the other wizard find out what his dear guest was up to!

Making as little noise as possible, Remus walked down the corridor and came to a halt in front of the door leading to the bedroom. He drew in a deep breath and opened it. He didn't step inside though as the same smell assaulted him almost instantly. In order to focus his sense of smell, Remus closed his eyes. Yes, he definitely smelt blood in there – the iron in it made his nose twitch. After a moment, he dismissed that particular scent and focused on the next sensation he encountered – he smelt salt as well, much like he had last night. Someone had shed a vast amount of tears in that room.

Remus opened his eyes again and knew that if he wanted to find out more, he had to enter that room. He loathed that thought though. In the end, curiosity and concern won, and he walked into the room. He let his heightened senses guide him and came to a halt next to the bed. It was a fairly normal bed with white bed linen, two pillows, blankets and a green quilt. Nothing remarkable except for the scents emanating from it that continued to make him feel queasy.

Remus lowered himself onto his heels and placed his right hand on the stone floor. The scent of blood was strongest here – on the wooden bed frame and the stone floor next to it. Severus must have been bleeding profusely for that much blood to soak into the wood and find its way between the ridges of the stones. In Merlin's name, what had happened in here?

Remus sat down cross-legged and swallowed hard as his nervousness continued to grow. He might be able to find out what had happened, but what if he didn't like what he found? Did he really want to know why Severus had been that badly injured? And why he hadn't been in the Hospital Wing, but had drenched stone and wood with his blood instead?

Yes, he did want to know – no, it was even stronger than that; he needed to know. He might not like what he found, but he had to know. After closing his eyes, Remus let his mind wander. He had done this only a few times before as he hated using the extraordinary talents the werewolf curse had brought him. But he wanted to know the truth, and he would pay the price, if one was demanded. Focusing on his surroundings, Remus honed his senses to the iron in the blood.

He didn't know how his particular magic worked. Remus had never been able to fully explain to another wizard how he did the things he did and he reckoned it was the wolf in him enabling him to do so. But as he concentrated on the smell of the blood, his mind started to wander; his thoughts changed and showed him a different room – one, shrouded in darkness, pierced only by the light coming from a single candle on the nightstand. A nightstand, which he hadn't seen when he had entered the room.

A moan coming from his left drew his attention and his mind nearly shrunk away from the image which presented itself to him. But he gathered his resolve and looked at Severus, who lay in that accursed bed, covered in blood, which didn't merely drip from his slit wrists, no, it pulsated with its own life and soaked the blankets with the precious liquid. The blood then dripped down onto the floor to puddle there. Remus found it hard to seek out Severus' face, but when he did, he found the normally so strict face streaked with tears. The expression in those dark eyes tore at his heart and Remus felt himself reach out in order to comfort Severus. But when his hand only encountered air, the image faded and Remus opened his eyes again merely to find the room empty again.

When he had realized that he could trace the memories which lingered in spilled blood, he had thought he had lost his mind, but then an older werewolf, whom he had once met, had told him that some werewolves possessed that ability and that he was most certainly not going insane. At first, he had attributed the experience to his overly active imagination, but Remus had accepted the truth in the end. He tried to use this ability as little as possible, as it usually led to very painful discoveries – like a moment ago.

Severus had tried to take his own life. That realization shocked Remus, who had never known the other wizard to act emotionally. Most of the time, Severus controlled his emotions tightly. Control or push them away? Remus thought. What happened if one suppressed their emotions for a very long time? They probably surfaced with a vengeance!

Remus tried to recall how old Severus had looked in that memory. Young, he realized, maybe in his late twenties, but he could have been younger. Mid twenties then? Remus tried to recall what he knew of Severus' life. The Potions Master had been one of the youngest teachers ever to be appointed to Hogwarts. Whatever had happened to cause Severus to slit his wrists must have happened at the beginning of his teaching carrier, but Remus couldn't think of anything. That had actually been a time of peace and quiet for all!

But Remus did know that if Severus ever found out he had been snooping about – and found out he had tried to take his life – there would be hell to pay. Severus Snape would probably never forgive him for it, so the last thing he could do was to let anything slip. He couldn't tell Severus what he had found; the only way Remus could discuss it, was if Severus brought it up himself. And he doubted Severus would ever do that.

Remus suddenly felt the urge to leave. He got to his feet and practically fled the accursed room. He stepped into the corridor and quietly closed the door behind him. There was no sign of Severus yet, which made him hope that the other wizard was still asleep. Turning about, he glared at the bedroom door. He felt very strongly about making sure that Severus didn't enter that room again, but how to accomplish that? Severus' magic was imprinted on these walls and wouldn't let him put up barriers. Remus wanted to lock that room though in a way that Severus couldn't open again. He couldn't ward it, damn it. Severus' signature wouldn't allow it.

But he was a born trickster. In his youth he had excelled at pulling pranks on people – with the help of Sirius and James, of course. But he had some tricks up his sleeve as well. He merely needed Severus to think he had charmed the bedroom door – he didn't have to actually do it.

/

Remus pushed the door a little bit further ajar in order to check on Severus. The other man was still sound asleep and oblivious to what Remus had done – good. His gaze shifted to the flask with Dreamless Sleep that still stood on the nightstand. Neither of them had needed it in order to sleep peacefully.

His stomach growled and reminded him it needed food. He could call on the house elves to provide him with it, but preparing breakfast would help settle his nerves. He still felt uneasy about what he had discovered earlier.

Remus went into the kitchen and searched the cupboards, finding everything he needed to make a light breakfast. Recalling that Severus had preferred coffee the other day, he also brew some, making it as strong as he could. He had the feeling Severus might want it that way.

/

Upon opening his eyes, Severus realized he wasn't in his bed. Nor was he on the sofa, which he preferred to said bed. Turning his head slightly, he realized he was in the guest room; the one which Lupin currently occupied. What was he doing here?

Severus used his elbows to push himself up and blinked in surprise. Had Lupin really refused to allow him to enter his bedroom last night? Ah yes, he had muttered something about it reeking of blood and tears. Severus sat upright, placed his feet on the floor, and ran a hand through his dishevelled hair. It was a good thing Lupin didn't know what he had done all those years ago and it was best to keep it that way. He had survived, hadn't he? Unfortunately.

"I hope you are hungry. I prepared breakfast. I even made coffee… You do drink coffee in the morning, don't you?" Remus watched Severus closely and realized that the other wizard was still struggling with the after effects of sleep.

Severus looked at Lupin and wondered what had possessed him to take in the wolf. Why couldn't Lupin simply leave him alone? "Coffee is fine," he managed in the end. And after breakfast, he had to take a quick shower and change into a clean set of clothes.

"Well then, what is taking you? Coffee is in the kitchen!" Remus winked at him; knowing it would startle Severus awake.

Had the wolf actually winked at him? Severus' eyes narrowed. He had noticed Lupin's tendency to take liberties with him and no one winked at him and lived – well, Albus did…

Severus got to his feet, drew in a deep breath, and composed himself. Once he was confident that he could deal with a disrespectful wolf, he made his way into the kitchen, following coffee's inviting scent.

"Sit," Remus said and pointed at the kitchen table, which he had already set for their meal.

Severus arched an eyebrow at hearing that commanding word, but then decided it was too early to get into a row with Lupin. He would postpone it until after he'd had his coffee. Severus sat down and watched Lupin pour the coffee into his mug. Severus greedily wrapped his fingers around the hot drink and pulled it toward him, all the while keeping an eye on Lupin, who was shovelling scrambled egg, bacon, sausages and toast onto his plate. Severus looked appalled when Lupin had the audacity to place it in front of him. "I don't eat in the morning," he reminded Lupin. "The coffee will do."

"Are you telling me I went through all that trouble just for you to dismiss the food?" Remus knew he had to be subtle. He was still figuring out the mystery that was Severus Snape, and had decided to try different approaches in order to find out what worked best. "Just a few bites, Severus. I am sure you can manage and your stomach might thank you for it." Fine, that earned him just a scowling look. "Severus, you need to eat. You are much too thin. When I walked you to bed last night, I could have easily picked you up, and you know how delicate my physical condition is." Let's see if that worked!

Severus threw another disgusted look at the food. "It's greasy and too much for my stomach!"

Remus noticed that Severus wasn't refusing to eat that vehemently any longer. "How about porridge then?" He felt pleased to see Severus actually consider it. "I will add honey, fruits, whatever you like."

Severus wondered why Lupin wanted him to eat at all cost. His body could easily go without food for some time. "I will eat some porridge then, if it makes you happy," he said in a sneering tone.

Remus was about to search the cupboards again when a bowl of steaming hot porridge appeared in front of Severus, accompanied by dried fruits and honey. Apparently the house elves knew what Severus would consider eatable for breakfast.

Severus picked up the spoon, added some of the dried chunks of fruit to the porridge, and dribbled a royal amount of honey onto it. He wasn't sure why, but he felt guilty for discarding the food Lupin had made. Apparently, the other man had gone to great lengths to prepare breakfast. Well, if he had bothered to ask, I could have told him that I barely eat anything except for porridge in the morning! He peeked at the amount of food Lupin had prepared and another sting of guilt hit him. "You shouldn't have done that. You don't need to prepare food. The house elves happily take care of it."

Remus nodded once; hearing the apology behind Severus' words. The sneering quality to Severus' voice was gone and an apologetic tone had replaced it. "I will just have to eat more than I originally intended," he said lightly. "I will know what to get you tomorrow morning so I won't make the same mistake again." Remus carefully monitored the amount Severus ate – which was little to begin with. But at least Severus was eating! Remus dug into the food and sipped from his tea — it tasted better now that Severus was eating instead of merely having coffee. "What are your plans for today?" he said, eager to involve Severus in conversation.

"My plans for the day?" Severus had eaten his fill and pushed the half empty bowl away from him. It vanished a moment later. "I need to check on the wards. I also need to see if Albus sent any messages and then I will work on my research."

Remus nodded. "And where does that leave me? What do you want me to do?"

Severus simply wasn't in the mood for chitchat. First, Lupin had prevented him from going to his bedroom and had simply deposited him in the guestroom. Then, the wolf had made him eat and now he was asking him about his plans for the day. It was too much. "What do I care about the way you spend your day, Lupin? You are by no means obligated to stay close to me. Brew potions in the classroom, go for a walk, pester Hagrid – I don't care."

Remus had expected the outburst sooner or later. It had to be hard on a solitary man like Severus to have a companion. "Are you saying I am free to go where I want?"

Severus rolled back his eyes. "Of course you are free to go and do what you want! Do you see any chains around your wrists? Are you under a spell that forces you to stay close? The answer is no."

Remus knew he shouldn't grin, but he couldn't help himself. It felt good to finally get a rise out of the Potions Master. "I had hoped that maybe you would appreciate my company?" Oh, he knew Severus would take the bait – he just knew it.

"Appreciate your company, Lupin? What, in Merlin's name, gave you that absurd idea?" Severus placed his mug onto the kitchen table with a bang. "I suggest you make yourself scarce for the day!"

"It is a pity that you don't seem to appreciate my company, Severus, as I highly value yours." Remus watched Severus closely and therefore noted the disbelief in those dark eyes, just before Severus' mask slammed back in place.

"Absurd! Nonsense! I won't have any of that!" Severus got to his feet, feeling rather unbalanced after having heard Lupin's admission. He turned and headed for the bedroom, but when he wanted to push down the door handle, an invisible force stopped him. Severus' temper flared again and he turned toward Lupin, who had appeared in the corridor. "What did you do?" Reaching out, he encountered the barrier once more. Something stopped him from opening the door, but that was impossible! His quarters were warded with his magic, and no one – save Albus – could override his commands – not in here!

Remus knew his bluff had to be perfect if he wanted to be successful. "I placed my personal wards on it as I don't want you to enter it ever again."

Severus glared at the other wizard. "How do you dare —" But Lupin interrupted him before he had the chance to put his anger into words.

"That room reeks of blood, Severus. Your blood – and your tears. I won't go as far as to say that it reeks of dark magic, but pain and suffering produce their own magic, which is of the blackest sort. I don't believe you can peacefully sleep in that room or wake up rested. It is the sort of room that conjures up nightmares of the vilest kind." He shouldn't speak that much; he didn't want to let slip what his magic had showed him earlier that day. "You can use the bed in the guestroom, Severus, but you will not set a step into that room again – not if I can prevent it." Remus prepared for whatever reaction Severus would throw at him – be it verbally in the form of scorching remarks and cussing, or magically, by throwing curses at him.

Severus' actual reaction surprised Remus however. The anger suddenly vanished from the dark eyes and a strange, almost defeated expression, replaced it. "Severus?" Remus didn't make the mistake of thinking he was safe now – Severus might be playing him and attack him when he least expected it – but the mellow reaction was odd, to say the least. "I am doing this because I care. That room gives me the chills, Severus. I can't believe you enjoy sleeping in there."

Severus felt at a loss. Was he willing to duel Lupin for this? They had never duelled directly and Severus felt he might win such a fight, but what would it say about him if he took such drastic measures? He was rather sure that Lupin would end up injured and he didn't want that – not over a room he utterly despised to begin with. For everything Lupin had said was true – he hadn't spent a single peaceful night in it. Each time he had lain down to sleep, he had remembered the feel of the mattress beneath him soaked in blood; his blood.

"Severus?" Remus took a step closer to the other wizard as he felt fairly sure that Severus wouldn't hex him. Severus' expression spoke of pain and grief, not of aggression or fury. Apparently he had managed to reach Severus after all. Truth be told, he hadn't thought he would be able to do so.

Severus composed himself. "You will remove your wards from this door. Tonight, I will sleep in my own bed, do you hear me?"

"I hear you, but I am not going to remove my wards and you will not sleep in that room. There's a perfectly fine bed in the guest room and I suggest you use it."

"We are not sharing a bed, wolf," Severus snared in the most vicious way he was capable of.

"Why not? We did so last night and neither of us had any nightmares. The flask holding the Dreamless Sleep hasn't been touched. We didn't need it." That realization made him wonder if they trusted each other on a subconscious level to look after each other. It would explain why Severus wasn't cursing him at that moment. In fact, looking at Severus, he would say he had rendered him completely speechless. It occurred to him that – save for Albus – no one might dare oppose Severus the way he was opposing him now.

He should never have agreed to offer his home as a shelter to the wolf. Damn Albus for tricking him into it! "We are not done discussing this, Lupin," he hissed as he headed for the bathroom. "Or did you put your wards on the bathroom as well?"

"I wouldn't dare, Severus. Enjoy your shower… I am certain we will run into each other during the day!" Remus chuckled when Severus quickly stepped into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him. He would make sure that they ran into each other – at lunch for example!

/

Clad in clean robes and feeling more like himself, Severus made his way into the Headmaster's office. Minerva might be Acting Headmistress in times of need, but Severus doubted Albus had told her about the way Albus entrusted him with a great deal of information regarding Hogwarts. He wasn't sure, but Severus didn't think Albus had ever told Minerva how to look after the wards during his absence. That duty always fell to Severus, although he wasn't sure why. He knew that Albus trusted him, but for the Headmaster to actually show it in such a way was something he had never expected.

Two letters awaited him on Albus' desk. He refused to take Albus' seat behind the desk though and picked up the letters before making his way over to one of the windows. He opened the first letter after realizing Albus had sent it – which meant it might be urgent.

Severus,

I talked to the minister, but failed to remove all of his doubts regarding Remus. He is determined to send Aurors to question Remus – probably under the Veritaserum.

Fortunately they can't enter Hogwarts without your help; this gives you a respite. I urge you to prepare Remus for what might happen. I am certain you possess the antidote to the Veritaseum or know of alternate ways to deceit the Aurors.

I do hope Remus and you are getting along and have not yet attempted murder. Remember, Severus, we need Remus for now. We must find a way to perfect the Wolfsbane.

Albus

Severus huffed sharply. "We need…" he said, "We must find… Albus, you're not even here helping me with the Wolfsbane." But he knew that Albus could provide little help – the Headmaster was mediocre at best when it came to potion making. He set the letter aside and opened the other one.

Moony!

I have heard that Snivellus found a way to kick you out of Hogwarts! It's beyond me why you ever tried to befriend the bastard! If you need shelter, feel free to join me at Grimmauld's Place. It's isn't the best hang out, but we will manage… Oh, do you want me to collect you from some place to make sure you get here in one piece?

Pads

Severus stared at the writing for another moment and then folded the letter again. He probably shouldn't have read it, but a quick look told him that Black had addressed it to Albus – that was why it had been on the desk. In the past, being addressed in that old way, as Snivellus, had pained Severus, but Voldemort had taught him what pain really meant, and so, he merely shrugged at Black's letter. It still hurt – somewhat, but Severus wouldn't let it get to him these days. He had become used to suppressing his emotions.

An antidote… Severus' thoughts returned to the problem at hand. Brewing an antidote would take time. Even if he started to work on it that moment it would take a week for the potion to mature. However, he couldn't rule out that the Aurors would appear at the gates before that. He needed a back up plan.

/

Severus found Lupin at the lakeside, and for one moment, he hated the man for stealing his favourite spot away from him. But he couldn't deny the tranquillity the site emanated and knew Lupin would also benefit from it. It would be selfish and utterly childish to begrudge Lupin that and he had worked hard to rise about that spiteful level.

Remus had heard Severus approach and waited to see what the other wizard would do. Severus seated himself on the rock next to him, but still maintained his distance. It was apparent that Severus needed his private space. "It's beautiful out here. Thank you for showing me." Remus felt it was best to start that way – Severus might be less inclined to sneer at him then.

Severus nodded and briefly allowed himself to savour the peaceful setting. Then he recalled why he had come in the first place, which had not been to view the lake. "These letters arrived. You should read them."

Remus took hold of the letters and was surprised to see them addressed to Albus. "Do you think I should?"

"As they concern you, I believe you should, yes." Severus heard a familiar sound behind him and looked at Damocles from over his shoulder. His familiar was flying toward them and Severus expected him to favour Lupin again, since the tiny dragon had done so from the moment the wolf had showed up in his rooms. But to his surprise, and Lupin's apparent amusement as the wolf was laughing, Damocles landed on his lap instead. After circling the area three times, Damocles curled himself up and pushed his tail and feet below the black fabric of his coat – in the space between two buttons. Severus arched an eyebrow – his familiar was acting odd. Damocles had never done that before. He might land on his shoulder or pull at his hair, but never once had he curled up on his lap!

Remus felt torn between reading the letter and watching Severus' stunned expression. He chuckled softly, and then forced himself to focus on the letter. After reading it, he felt shaken. "The Ministry is sending Aurors to interrogate me? With Veritaserum?" He sighed deeply and felt distraught. "Not even Albus will be able to keep me safe from the Ministry when they find out that I didn't take the Wolfsbane and attacked Harry and his friends… And you… You were shielding them with your body." Remus suddenly startled. "Did I hurt you?" He hadn't thought about that. "I lashed out at you, didn't I?" His claws were sharp – he knew that.

Severus made certain he sounded formal and non-judgmental, when he said, "Some minor cuts. Nothing to concern you with. The skin has already healed."

Remus blinked. "I am sorry. I didn't know." He glanced at Severus. "You didn't use that against me – you never mentioned it." It would have been easy for Severus to make him feel guilty for lashing out.

Severus carefully considered his reply. It was hard to explain something when he didn't understand himself why he felt that way about the attack. "You weren't yourself, Lupin. It was the werewolf who attacked me." Not you, he added privately. He desperately needed to make that distinction.

Remus shook his head at hearing that answer. "Severus, I am that werewolf. I hurt you. It were my claws that cut your skin."

"We are done discussing the attack," Severus said in a authoritarian tone. "I have already started on the antidote, but it is a complicated potion and can't be prepared in a day. It takes a week. Therefore I am looking into alternate methods of tricking the Aurors. If you are lucky, Alastor Moody will be in charge of the investigation and the two of you are… friends, if I may call it that? That might work to your advantage."

Remus nodded. "But Severus, that might also be a reason for the Ministry to send someone else. Someone who doesn't know me from the first war. I am a werewolf and we are very…" His voice trailed off. Werewolves were generally despised and when possible, put to death.

"I do not worry about the Aurors," Severus said, fighting down shivers himself which threatened to make his voice shake. He'd had unpleasant dealings with them himself. "I worry about the second letter though."

Remus unfolded the parchment and his stomach clenched unpleasantly upon reading the first two lines. "He should stop calling you that, Severus," he said, hoping Severus understood the apology for what it was. "You don't deserve that."

"You act like I care…" Severus shrugged. "It's Black's loss if he can't move on."

Remus quickly scanned the rest of the letter and then folded it. He shifted until he could easily study the other wizard. "You seem mellow – too mellow, perhaps? You hate him. You threatened Sirius in the Shack."

"I assumed that lives were at stake, Lupin. Black was still considered a murderer and I believed Harry and his friends at his mercy."

Severus' words made sense, Remus had to admit that. Maybe he should try to look at matters from Severus' point of view more often. "And now you like Sirius?" he said, hoping to provoke a reaction that would tell him how Severus truly felt about Sirius.

"I will never like him," Severus hissed, briefly giving into the darkness that still lingered inside him and which would never let him go. "He made my childhood hell – Black and Potter… You stood by and never stopped them, but we already discussed that." He forced himself to calm down. He had to regain control over his feelings so he could smoothen the surface of his mind. Occlumency was the perfect tool to achieve that. "But I also realize that he spent twelve years in Azkaban while he was innocent. It twisted his mind… I realize that too. Black paid in full for what he did to me back then." And so had Potter, but he refused to think of that at the moment. "As Black is also still a member of the Order of the Phoenix I can't allow my feelings to cloud my judgement. We will have to work together when the Dark Lord returns." And he didn't doubt that Voldemort would rise again as the Mark was growing darker each day. Only Albus was aware of that though.

Remus nodded again, growing hopeful. "Will you allow Sirius to visit me then?" He wanted to see his friend again – a friend, who was like a brother to him.

"Allow him?" Severus wished his surprise didn't show that clearly in his voice. "What do you think you are? My prisoner? As I told you this morning, you are free to move about. But I do urge you to stay within Hogwarts' wards, especially now that the Ministry is sending Aurors."

"So you are saying Pads can visit me?"

"Of course he can. I am not thrilled about it and will make sure that I am nowhere near him when he's here, but I won't stop him." Lupin had shown him only kindness – even when warding his bedroom. The wolf didn't know it, but in a way, he had done him a favour. It meant that he didn't have to drag himself to the bed where past failures haunted him. In fact, he couldn't recall the last time he had slept there. He spent most nights on the sofa at any rate. He wanted to do this for the other man — knowing how important it had to be to the werewolf to see his friend – one of the few he had left due to his condition. "I will reply and tell him when to visit." Severus then reconsidered, "Or maybe you should do so yourself."

"No, I am fine with that. You write to him – just let me know when to expect him." For one moment he had wanted to write Sirius himself, but then realized that Severus having to contact Sirius might help bridge the distance between the two wizards. "Did you already check on the castle's wards?" he said in order to change their topic.

"I did and they are in perfect condition." Severus' gaze drifted off to Damocles when the tiny dragon shifted in his sleep – perhaps due to a dream he was having.

"Seeing to the wards… I thought Albus wouldn't entrust anyone with that, save perhaps Minerva."

Severus shrugged. "Since both of them are away someone else needs to see to them and I have done so before."

Remus carefully stored that information away; it once more confirmed the measure of trust Albus had in Severus. It surprised him that Severus was still keeping him company, even though they had discussed all urgent matters. That was until he realized that Damocles was still asleep on Severus' lap. "He doesn't seem a big pest to me," he hinted and smiled at the dragon.

Severus wasn't sure he should confide in Lupin, but in the end, he whispered, "It's the first time he has done that."

Maybe it is because you are finally allowing him to do so? Remus thought, but was careful to keep that thought to himself. Looking at Severus – the open and surprised expression on his face – Remus found it hard to reconcile that image with that of the Potions Master he had gotten to know during the last school year. "In that case, we shall just enjoy the view a little longer," he hinted smugly.

"Not that long," Severus replied thoughtfully. "I want to research at least one more text this evening and then I have to check on the antidote."

"And have dinner…" Remus had been in Severus' kitchen at lunch time, waiting for the other wizard to join him for the meal, but Severus had never shown up and Remus reckoned, had gone without food for the afternoon.

"And that," Severus sighed. What was it about Lupin and food? If the wolf needed to eat, he should do so instead of pestering him and demanding his presence at every meal.

Remus grew quiet, hoping the serenity of the setting would relax Severus further. When he looked at his companion half an hour later, he found that Severus' long and delicate fingers were absentmindedly stroking Damocles' head.

/

"It's almost eight, Severus, and I am hungry." Remus didn't enter the lab, but remained standing in the doorway. "The House elves already sent down dinner. It will grow cold if you don't join me now."

"You can eat without me. I told you so before." It was the third time Lupin was asking him to abandon his research in favour of joining him for dinner.

"Severus… please," Remus said in a pleading tone, as it had worked that morning. "I am hungry," he added, hoping Severus wouldn't discard that so easily.

Severus sighed; Lupin just didn't fight fair. He considered fighting the wolf on the matter, but recalled that Lupin hardly ever gave in regarding such requests. "Just this one time," he conceded and closed the tome. He looked over his notes; he had memorized most of them and would continue to work on them in his head, should Lupin make it impossible for him to return to his lab later that evening.

Remus felt victorious. Apparently pleading worked best. He had to remember that. He headed toward the living room, where the House elves had put their dinner onto the table. "I hope you are hungry too." He sat down and watched Severus take his seat opposite him. The Potions Master looked oddly listless and rather pale. Maybe it was because he had worked another straight eight hours on his research, locking himself up in that lab. While Remus ate with a passion, Severus merely pushed the food around on his plate and only occasionally ate a bite.

Remus decided not to comment on it, as Severus was eating, although very little. He shouldn't overdo his concern. "Did you already write Sirius?"

"I did. I told him he could visit you the day after tomorrow, providing the Aurors aren't present at that time."

"Thank you for that." Remus drank from his pumpkin juice. "Now that you have brought up the Aurors… How do you plan to handle them? With the antidote still brewing and probably being unavailable when they show up? They can show up at the gates tomorrow for example." He worried about the investigation – more than he was comfortable to let show. Without the antidote, he would tell them the truth under the Veritaserum and that would get him convicted and either sent to Azkaban or put to death. The Ministry didn't treat werewolves the same way it did other perpetrators.

Severus looked at Lupin and studied him – sensing the wolf's agitation and even his fear. "As I said before, I don't worry about the Aurors or the Veritaserum."

"Well, they won't be interrogating you," Remus said more sharply than he had intended.

Severus' reaction was instant; he leaned forward and glared at the wolf. "Do not make the mistake to think I take the threat to your life lightly, wolf. I have been questioned under the Veritaserum in much more uncomfortable conditions than you will be questioned. I know what Aurors can do," he hissed dangerously. "I am aware of the punishment that awaits you, should they find you guilty. I have been to Azkaban, Lupin. It's hell, I know that."

Remus didn't shy away from Severus' outburst. Actually, he welcomed it. "How long have you been in Azkaban, Severus?" The Potions Master's outburst provided him with a valid reason for his question; he did want to know more about Severus Snape and why he was the way he was.

"A month, though let me assure you, it seemed like eternity." Severus quickly banished the terrifying memories that threatened to overwhelm him. "And no, I don't wish it upon anyone – and certainly not you. You wouldn't last a day."

"Why do you say that? Do you think me weak?" Now Remus was getting rather irritated and it showed in the way he raised his voice.

"Weak?" Severus arched an eyebrow. "Your kindness, Lupin, that goodness that dictates every decision you make, is heaven to them. They will devour you – suck up your essence and leave nothing behind but an empty shell. You will be the best treat they had in years." He spoke in an odd mix of compassion and spite, he realized belatedly, and wondered what emotion was strongest inside him.

Remus contemplated the things Severus had said, but found them hard to believe. "Severus, you make me sound like I am some sort of saint. I am not."

"Believe what you will, Lupin, but the Dementors know the truth about you." Severus had lost the little appetite he'd had and shoved his plate away from him. Discussing Azkaban, Aurors, and Dementors usually had that effect on him.

"I am sorry for upsetting you." Remus wondered if he had guessed correctly.

"Upsetting me?" Severus chided himself for letting his feelings show to such an extent. "I need a drink."

"Do you keep Firewhiskey about?" So far, Remus hadn't seen any.

"No, you won't find Firewhiskey or Muggle alcohol in my rooms. I don't indulge in them." And he had a very good reason for that – not that Lupin needed to know though. "I was referring to coffee, or in your case, tea."

"I wouldn't mind coffee actually." It was the one time he liked to drink coffee – after a meal like he'd eaten just now.

"Coffee it is then."

Remus was surprised to see Severus get to his feet and make his way into the kitchen. He thought the House elves would provide it. He made to rise from his chair, but then Severus called out.

"Stay where you are, Lupin. I do not require your assistance in making coffee. I am more than capable of it." After making sure Lupin obeyed, Severus slipped a vial from a hidden pocket inside his robes and emptied it into Lupin's mug. He cast a spell to make sure Lupin wouldn't notice the taste and then carried the two mugs out into the living room. The House elves had cleared the table and Severus placed the mug holding the potion in front of Lupin. "Do you require milk and sugar?"

"No, I prefer it as it is." Remus wrapped his fingers around the coffee mug and waited for it to cool down. "I believe you; I think you will do whatever you can to keep me out of Azkaban." During the time Severus had prepared their coffee, Remus had had the chance to think everything over and he had realized he believed Severus. "I merely don't understand why you changed your mind about me so suddenly. You went from hating me and making me lose my teaching position to caring about me within days."

Severus couldn't fault Lupin for feeling confused as he didn't understand his feelings himself. "Let's agree on the fact that I made a mistake and realized I was wrong. You could say I am trying to make amends." Wasn't that the story of his life though? Making mistakes and atoning for them?

Remus sipped from his coffee and realized it was rather strong. "How am I supposed to sleep when you feed me such hellish brew?" But he added a smile, hoping Severus wouldn't get annoyed with him.

"I am returning to my research after I finish this… I need it to be strong." Oh, he could take a potion which would help him stay awake, but he did like coffee. It was one of the few Muggle things he had really taken a liking too. "And since you refuse to take down that ridiculous spell you put on my bedroom door, I will probably work through the night as I don't have a decent place to sleep."

Remus realized they were back to their old games. He stalled by sipping from his coffee again. "You are welcome to the bed in the guestroom. I am more than happy to sleep on the sofa. I told you so before." But as far as Remus was concerned, Severus hadn't tried very hard to get into his bedroom. He had given up too easily and it told him that Severus didn't really mind being unable to sleep there. "And if it helps you sleep, I will gladly join you in bed," he said, hoping to provoke another reaction. Severus however, merely glared at him in something akin to shock. "The bed is big enough for the two of us, Severus. You can sleep on your side and I on mine." What exactly had shocked Severus to such an extent though?

"I prefer the sofa," Severus said after fighting off the image of Lupin snuggling up to him in his sleep; he would never allow such a thing! He cast a quick look at Lupin's mug and found it empty – good. He could take his leave now. "I will be in my lab for the rest of the evening and most of the night. I expect you to sleep in your bed and take the Dreamless Sleep."

Remus drew in a deep breath and wished Severus would stop pretending. He was fairly sure it was an act. The man cared – it was as simple as that, though Severus Snape would rather face torture than admit the truth. "Take the bed, Severus, please."

Severus ignored the plea and headed for his lab. He still had a lot of research ahead of him and couldn't allow Lupin to distract him.

/

Remus debated his next step quite thoroughly. What would Severus do if he found Remus asleep on the bed? And what would the Potions Master do if he found him on the sofa? Remus sighed in frustration; Severus' reaction was hard to predict. The truth was that he would prefer for them to share the bed. Not in a romantic or sexual way, Merlin forbid! Remus was under the impression that Severus would prefer Azkaban to sharing intimacy with a werewolf! But last night, they had shared a bed and had woken after a restful sleep – without nightmares!

He had to think like a Slytherin and not a Gryffindor, Remus reminded himself, and while he did, the answer presented itself to him.

/

It was with trepidation that Severus stepped out of his lab. It was late – so late in fact that the sun was rising again, but that didn't say much, considering tomorrow – no, today – was the longest day of the year. Summer was at its turning point.

His research had progressed nicely, but it had also given him a headache. He went into the living room, expecting to find the sofa unoccupied, and couldn't help being annoyed upon finding Lupin there asleep, clad in a T-shirt and his trousers. He had clearly told Lupin that he expected the wolf to be in the guest room. Resigning himself to his fate, Severus slouched to the guestroom and lowered himself onto the bed. He had to admit it was nice to be resting comfortably for a change. He didn't bother to remove his clothes – he was too tired for that, and was almost instantly asleep.

/

Remus opened his eyes the moment he was certain that Severus was in the guest room. Quietly, he got to his feet and sneaked into the corridor. A quick look into the room told him that Severus was vast asleep on the bed. Pleased that his plan was working, Remus sat down on the bed. He soundlessly placed a pillow up against the headboard and then propped himself up against it so he could keep an eye on Severus. He made himself comfortable and covered himself with the quilt he had brought along.

He could have easily lost himself watching Severus sleep. It was eye-opening to see the other man utterly relaxed in sleep. Sleep – that sounded nice. Remus closed his eyes and fell asleep with a smile on his face. Maybe he should think like a Slytherin more often!

/

As far as Severus was concerned, heaven was waking up in a warm and comfortable bed with no one forcing him to leave it. No Dark Lord summoning him, no tiring students to teach, and no Albus demanding his presence. It was heaven, even though he was currently sharing it with the wolf. In the back of his head, he had all along suspected it to be a ploy. With Lupin going to sleep on the sofa, there had always been the risk of the wolf exchanging it for the bed, which the other wizard had done.

Severus couldn't find it in his heart to grow furious though. Although his rest had been short, it had also been soothing. The nightmares had left him alone, and as Lupin hadn't cried out during the night either, he assumed the same thing applied to the wolf. His scientific mind couldn't help but be intrigued; why did the nightmares leave them alone when they slept in the same room?

That was something to explore at a later stage though, as Severus needed to attend to other matters first. As stealthily as Lupin had left their bed yesterday, Severus got to his feet as well and headed for the bathroom. After a quick shower and slipping into clean clothes, he carefully checked his right shoulder. He had applied salve since the werewolf had slashed his skin and all evidence of the attack was gone. Not even scars remained behind.

Once dressed to satisfaction, he headed to the kitchen and asked the House elves to provide them with breakfast. He prepared tea and coffee himself and checked the whereabouts of the potion he needed to slip Lupin. It was in a hidden pocket in his robes. It was time to wake the wolf.

He stood in the doorway and considered the sleeping man. It would be easy to yell or hiss at him in order to give him a good fright, but that seemed too easy and way too predictable. Maybe he should be subtle for a change. Severus headed for the bed, lowered himself onto his heels so his lips hovered next to Lupin's ear, and instead of yelling at the wolf, he whispered, softly and sensually, "Lupin, get up. Breakfast is ready and I know you are hungry." His tactic earned him the desired effect, as Lupin's eyes startled open and looked at him in stupor. Congratulating himself with the effect he had achieved, Severus smiled lazily and stood upright. "Don't make me wait," he added in the same velvet tone and noted once more that it affected Lupin – good. Now he could deal with the annoying wolf pestering him during the day.

The moment Severus left the room, Remus released the breath he had been holding. What, by Merlin's beard, had that been about? Remus swallowed nervously, and chastised his body for having such a treacherous effect on him. He was hard – undoubtedly due to the slick and sensual tone Severus had used on him. He hadn't thought it possible that anyone's voice could have such an effect on him. But there was no denying that he was painfully hard and that he had to do something about it. He couldn't join Severus in such a flushed state!

As he didn't trust his voice to sound steady, Remus decided against informing Severus that he was heading for the bathroom first. He quickly gathered a clean set of clothes and slammed the bathroom door behind him. He locked it – grateful he could actually do that. Severus' voice continued to echo in his head and caused him to growl in despair. There was only one solution for the situation he found himself in. He quickly undid his trousers, slid them down his legs and slipped his fingers around his throbbing erection. He rested his back against the – thankfully – cool tiles and closed his eyes. Severus' distinct scent was all around him and that velvet voice continued to echo in his ears.

"Severus…" he whispered the name a second before he climaxed. Breathing shallowly, and much too fast, he opened his eyes again and looked at the mess he had made. Had Severus done that on purpose, whispering to him like that, and hoping to compromise him? But no, Severus couldn't know that it would have such a effect on him.

Remus quickly cleaned himself up, changed into clean clothes, and then took a series of steadying breaths. His body had enjoyed that release and still vibrated with remembered pleasure. How could he possibly face Severus after climaxing while fantasying about him? Well, there was no way out of it; he had to face him.

/

Severus wondered what was taking the wolf. He used a spell to keep the food and drinks warm and was considering starting on his porridge when Lupin finally walked into the kitchen. A quick look told him that the other wizard had already dressed for the day. Which explained why he was late. "Sit and eat," he said in a way similar to how Lupin had addressed him the day before. "Coffee or tea?"

Remus didn't feel comfortable looking Severus in the eye and kept his gaze averted while he sat down. "This morning calls for coffee."

Severus raised an eyebrow at hearing it, but then went to the kitchen counter and poured the black coffee into Lupin's mug. After making sure Lupin wasn't watching, he quickly slipped the potion into the mug. He cast the spell again that would neutralize the taste and then returned to the kitchen table where he placed the mug in front of the other wizard. Lupin looked oddly flushed, almost embarrassed, and Severus was tempted to see what Lupin's memories would offer by Legilimency. But he instantly discarded the idea.

Lupin lacked yesterday's appetite. What had happened earlier worried him. Why had he reacted like that just because Severus had whispered into his ear? Or was it more? Did he want to know?

"You don't seem hungry this morning," Severus said, as he felt the need to break the lingering silence. Although he wasn't one for chitchat, seeing Lupin acting out of character worried him.

Oh, he was hungry, Lupin mused, but it was a different kind of hunger this time. He gathered his courage and looked at Severus, fully expecting to find him gloating and smug. But instead, a truly worried Potions Master looked back at him. Had Severus noticed his odd behaviour?

"Did you take the Dreamless Sleep as I told you, Lupin? Or did you defy me and go without out it and thusly inviting in your nightmares?"

No, it wasn't nightmares that made him act odd this morning. It was the fact that Severus' whispers had aroused him to such an extent that he had instantly needed to take of it. But Remus seriously doubted Severus knew what effect his wake up call had had on him. "No, no nightmares," he replied, forcing himself to act more in character. It was best to distract Severus so the other wizard wouldn't continue to question him. "Do you mind the trick I pulled on you last night?"

"By sneaking into the bed?" Severus thought it over. "I would have expected a Slytherin to act like that, but not a Gryffindor. But no, I am not angry with you."

Remus took heart at hearing those words and managed to smile at Severus, hoping he was looking more like his usual self. He sipped from his coffee and startled at how strong it was. Maybe he should opt for tea in the future. But truth be told, he needed it to get him through the morning.

"Are you going to inquire about my plans for the day now?" Severus said and raised an eyebrow at Lupin. The wolf continued to act rather odd.

"Today is the longest day, isn't it? Summer solstice."

"It is," Severus confirmed. "Does it have a special meaning for you?" He watched closely as Lupin took another sip from his coffee.

"Not really," Remus admitted, "But I do love spending the evening, and night, in the open when possible."

"You are not asking me to build a bonfire with you, are you? Because I will not give into such childish behaviour." Severus finished his own coffee and continued to study Lupin; if only he knew what was off. It might help him with his research.

Remus would have never considered spending Midsummer with Severus in the past. But after what had happened during these last few days, and that morning to be exact, he wanted that very much. "I won't ask you that, but I would like some company tonight. Maybe we can sit at the lakeside and watch the sky during the night?" He wasn't sure Severus would indulge him and so he added, "Instead of you locking yourself up in your lab? Just tonight." He recalled that pleading had worked in the past, and he hoped it would also do the trick now.

Severus wasn't sure he should give in. He already spend too much time in Lupin's company and couldn't afford growing used to it. "Maybe," he said eventually. "We will see what happens."

Remus took comfort in the fact that Severus hadn't downright denied him and it encouraged him to peek at the Potions Master again. He didn't expect to see the frown etched onto Severus' brow, but it was there. Apparently his company was having some effect on the dark-haired wizard as well.

/

Severus' plans for the day were rudely interrupted by an upheaval at the gates. As he rushed over there, he realized the Ministry hadn't wasted any time in sending the Aurors. His irritation mounted upon seeing Alastor Moody was one of the two Aurors sent to interrogate Lupin. Moody's presence would be an advantage to Lupin, but Severus himself despised the Auror with a passion. The other Auror, who stood in front of Moody, however, was unknown to him.

"Snape, we are here on official business and I demand entry to Hogwarts."

Severus now despised the unknown Auror as well for taking that tone with him, but then again, most Ministry officials still thought of him as a Death Eater and treated him accordingly. Although Albus had spoken on his behalf at his trial, his reputation would always proceed him. "And who demands entry to Hogwarts?" Two could play that game and he uttered the challenge in the haughtiest tone he was capable of. To his delight the unknown Auror seemed irritated at being addressed in that way. That gave him a little satisfaction. He also stored that information carefully away for further use.

"My name is Malleus Maleficarum, and as I said only a moment ago, I represent the Ministry. We are here to question Remus Lupin, and if found guilty, to either take him to Azkaban or execute him."

Severus noticed the way Moody twitched at those last words, but then again, the Auror twitched most of the time. Yes, it might come in handy to have Moody here, even though it was obvious that Malleus was in charge. Severus waved his hand although it wasn't strictly necessary, but he wanted to see how the Auror would react to a demonstration of his power. At that wave of his hand, Hogwarts' gates opened and the Aurors quickly moved forward.

"I trust you have confined Lupin? It would be dangerous to have him prowling the castle," Malleus said, his voice almost hissing.

Severus decided to play the game his way. "We will meet Lupin in the Headmaster's office." He would tell one of the House elves to fetch the wolf. It was a good thing that he had started preparing for this event the moment he had received Albus' warning. Carefully monitoring Malleus, he said smoothly, "I would be glad if you decided to take him off my hands. He is a nuisance." He ignored the glaring look Moody sent his way. "It is beyond me why the Headmaster asked Lupin to stay at Hogwarts. A dark and vile creature like him should never be allowed inside a school." Moody glowered at him, but Malleus grinned victoriously. Severus had thought he would and the Auror hadn't disappointed him. Manipulating Malleus would prove easier than he had thought.

"Bastard," Moody whispered at Snape the moment Malleus took a few swift steps that took him out of hearing range. "You want Remus executed, don't you?"

Severus decided against saying anything and focused on Malleus instead. Moody presented no danger to Lupin, Malleus however did. The Auror seemed eager to deal with Lupin for once and for all and that was why he had to focus on that wizard instead.

/

Remus felt worried – no, it was more than that – he felt terrified. When one of the House elves had told him that Severus wanted him in the corridor leading up to the Headmaster's office because the Aurors had arrived, he had barely stopped himself from running off in blind panic. His worst nightmare was quickly coming true; Severus hadn't been able to give him the antidote, as he was still working on it, and that meant he was defenceless when the Aurors questioned him. The end of his life had arrived quicker than he had thought and he didn't want to die – not yet.

"Impressive building…"

Remus looked up at hearing the alien voice and looked into the direction the sound had come from. Upon seeing Moody accompanying Severus, he relaxed slightly, but then startled at recognizing the Auror walking up front. It was Malleus – they were no strangers to each other. The Auror had questioned him before on his so-called crimes and hated him with a passion. He was doomed then – he would either be sentenced to Azkaban for life or executed on the spot. He sought out Severus' eyes, but the dark-haired wizard avoided looking at him. For some reason, being ignored like that hurt.

"Lupin… We meet again. I have the feeling it will be the last time I will ever have to deal with you."

Remus shivered at the malicious tone in Malleus' voice. He knew the Auror would do anything in order to pronounce him guilty. Malleus would twist his words, make him say things he didn't want to be known. It didn't help that Moody was giving him an encouraging look. He knew he was lost.

"Professor Snape," Malleus said, indicating he should open the door to the Headmaster's office, as he was eager to get started.

Severus nonverbally told the Gargoyle the password, as he didn't want either Malleus or Moody to hear it. The statue moved aside and Severus quickly passed Lupin by in order to enter first. He felt Lupin's pleading eyes on him, but ignored it. He had to play his part in this travesty to perfection if he wanted Lupin cleared of all charges. Unfortunately that meant giving the other wizard the cold shoulder.

Remus felt matters were hopeless, especially now he seemed to have lost Severus' support as well. He had been convinced that Severus would help him through the interrogation – he had been sorely mistaken then. He felt betrayed – even more than just angry with Severus.

Severus was very much aware of Lupin's desperation, but ignored it. Instead, he guided his guests over to a spot near a window where several comfortable chairs awaited them. "Sit," he said, but waited for the three of them to sit down before he did, choosing a chair opposite Lupin – carefully manoeuvring all pawns to the game in the desired positions.

"Thank you, professor Snape." Malleus had warmed up to Snape now that the wizard seemed eager to get rid of Lupin. He had found an ally in the other wizard, which boosted his ego. "Now, Lupin, you know why we are here. No reason to be polite or formal. You let the werewolf loose on students and a teacher of this school."

Although he made sure it didn't show, Severus felt sorry for Lupin, who looked utterly defeated. Good – that was the way it should be. Lupin was a remarkably bad actor and had to believe he was facing death or conviction for this to work.

Remus remained quiet, not wanting to compromise himself before it was absolutely necessary. His survival instincts urged him to try even though his situation seemed hopeless.

"We shouldn't jump to conclusions like that," Alastor said, hating seeing the defeated look on his friend's face. "We need to question him first."

Malleus seemed irritated, but then grinned rather smugly. "But of course. Hand me the Veritaserum, Alastor. We must make sure the wolf is guilty."

Remus tried to make eye-contact with Severus, but the other wizard continued to ignore him and looked at Malleus instead. During that moment, Remus felt utterly alone. Why had he even bothered to befriend Snape? Why had he bothered to care?

"Drink this." Malleus handed Lupin the vial holding the Veritaserum. "Drink it all and don't even try to trick us, Lupin," he hissed. "We will know…"

Drinking it would seal his fate, but what choice did he have? None! His fingers trembled when they wrapped around the vial and then he downed it in one go. Maybe it was best to get everything over with. If only Severus hadn't deserted him! Remus had really believed they had started to be friends – how wrong he had been!

"Now," Malleus said, and this time he was almost purring with pleasure. "Let us find out the truth." He cast Moody a venomous look, as he was aware of the friendship the two of them shared. It was the very reason why he had managed to convince the Minister to appoint him as head interrogator in this little interview. He wanted to be sure that it resulted in Lupin's death. "What is your name?"

"Remus John Lupin," he replied, knowing he wouldn't be able to fight off the effects of the Veritaserum. He had stopped trying to catch Severus' gaze as the other wizard continued to stare at Malleus. Why had Severus deserted him? What had he done wrong? Except for being a werewolf? his conscience kicked in, reminding him.

"At what age did Greyback turn you?"

Malleus knew the answer to that question as he had asked him that before, but Remus knew of the perverse pleasure which Malleus took in making him re-live it all. "At six…"

Malleus delighted in hearing the agony that lined Lupin's voice. "And you turn into a werewolf at full moon, do you?"

"Yes, I do." How he wished he could change that. If only he had never been bitten! But that was wishful thinking and wouldn't get him anywhere. The only place he was going to was Azkaban – or to his death.

"Tell me, does your perverse nature also show in other aspects of your life? Let me guess, do you prefer the rough touch of men to that of a gentle woman? Do you?" How he enjoyed making Lupin squirm like that!

Moody hissed at hearing that question. "Malleus, we are not here to question his sexual preference!"

"I am surprised to hear you object," Severus whispered in a dangerous voice, while keeping his gaze carefully focused on his hands which rested on his lap. "I recall you asking me the same question when I was chained and under the Veritaserum. You wanted to know that too." Finally he looked up and cocked his head before meeting Moody's expression. "You seemed to enjoy humiliating me."

Moody glared at Snape. "That was different – you are a Death Eater, Snape. You lost any rights to a decent trial when you took the Dark Mark. I am under no obligation to treat you with respect – you never showed your victims any respect either!" Moody spat viciously.

Remus tried in vain to allow their argument to distract him as he was struggling not to answer Malleus' spiteful question, but the Veritaserum made that impossible. "I prefer men, yes," he said eventually, feeling immensely humiliated. He stared at the floor, wishing he was anywhere but in Albus' office being questioned in such a manner. Malleus didn't have any right to ask him something so personal! His sexual preference was private!

Severus looked knowingly at Moody. When he had given the Auror the same answer back then, Moody had thrown several cuss words at him and had called him a pervert, just like Malleus had done a moment ago when he had asked Lupin that question. This time, Moody however remained quiet, but stared at him in such a way, that if looks could kill, he would have died that instant. Hypocrite… You will defend Lupin, but you enjoyed making me tell you all the details about my life.

"I thought so," Malleus remarked in almost a casual tone. "Tell me, Lupin, do you like being the female in such an encounter? Do you like to take it up your arse?"

"That's enough!" Moody roared and grabbed Malleus by the collar. He dragged the Auror's face closer to his. "If you ask one more question like that I will report you to the Minister!"

"You didn't defend my rights back then, Moody," Severus whispered in his deceivingly sweet voice. "You even went for the details regarding my… perversion," he said, carefully weighing his words and very much aware of the shocked expression on Lupin's face. The wolf would probably make him discuss it later, but he couldn't think about that now – not when he needed his wits about him. So far everything was going according to plan and he needed to keep it that way.

Remus had a hard time dealing with, and believing, the things Severus and Moody had revealed just now. He had never wondered what it had been like for Severus to be interrogated back then. Remus once more lost the fight to remain silent. That damned potion made it impossible for him to withhold any answer. "I do like it, at times." Moody's anger rose again at hearing his words, but that anger was aimed at Malleus and not at him, for which Remus felt grateful. A quick look at Severus told him that the Potions Master's face was a perfect mask. Although his words dripped with venom whenever he addressed Moody, his face was emotionless. How, in Merlin's name, did Severus manage that?

"I thought so." Malleus straightened his collar and moved his chair further away from Moody. "Now that I am convinced you are speaking the truth, we will move on to the night during which Black returned to Hogwarts."

Remus felt miserable; he was going to condemn himself to Azkaban or death. Although, if Severus was right and he wouldn't survive the first day in that prison, Azkaban was a death sentence itself. He would prefer a swift execution in that case, but he doubted Malleus would make it swift and painless – not for a werewolf.

"Did Professor Snape brew your Wolfsbane potion during your stay at Hogwarts?" Malleus kept a close eye on Lupin and Moody, realizing the other Auror might interfere with his questioning if Moody felt he was asking inappropriate questions.

"Yes, he did." Remus cringed and tried to make eye contact with Severus once more, but the other wizard no longer seemed to even notice his presence. It hurt – more than he had thought possible. It brought home that he was truly alone.

"Did he also offer you your potion during that night?" Malleus continued, fairly sure this was a done deal. His informant had told him everything he needed to know to get Lupin convicted.

"Yes, he did." Remus dreaded the next questions, knowing he had to answer them truthfully and by doing so, would sentence himself to death.

"Did you drink your Wolfsbane the night the murderer Black showed his face at the shack?" Malleus prepared for his moment of triumph. Finally, after hunting Lupin for years he would get retribution!

Remus closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. Suddenly he found himself speaking against his will. "Yes, I did." Remus blinked. What had he said just now? He had told Malleus he had taken his potion when he hadn't – he had lied! But how was that possible?

"I repeat my question," Malleus said, growing nervous now that Lupin had managed to deny the accusation. This was not according to plan. "Did you drink the Wolfsbane the night Black appeared at Hogwarts?"

"Yes, I drank the Wolfsbane that night." Remus had no idea what was happening. Although it was his voice saying those words, it wasn't what he was thinking. It felt like someone else had taken over his speech. It frightened him, but at the same time, he realized he might still have a chance to escape persecution.

"Did you transform that night?" Malleus didn't give up yet. There had to be a way to trap Lupin into accusing himself!

"Yes, I did." Remus glanced helplessly at Moody, and read concern, and even compassion on the Auror's face. Had it been up to Moody, the Auror would have cleared him, probably even without questioning him, but it was Malleus who was in charge of the investigation.

"Did you attack Harry Potter that night? And Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley?" Malleus shifted forward on his chair. There was no way Lupin could deny that – his source was extremely trustworthy!

"No, I did not." Remus felt his breathing speed up, but not to such a degree that Malleus would notice. That had not been the answer he had felt compelled to give. Someone else had spoken in his stead - again!

"Did you attack professor Snape? Did your claws slash his skin?" Malleus knew his information was sound as Lucius Malfoy himself had supplied him with it, claiming his son, Draco, had witnessed the attack.

"I did not attack professor Snape, nor did I injure him. I did not touch him at all." Remus had no idea what was happening – how could he be lying while under the influence of the Veritaserum?

"There! You heard it yourself!" Moody exclaimed happily. "Remus Lupin hasn't attacked anyone and he took the Wolfsbane. Your accusations against him lack proof!"

Malleus wasn't giving up yet – not yet. He still had one trump up his sleeve. He turned toward Snape and uncovered another vial filled with the truth potion. "I need you to drink this in order to confirm Lupin's claims." He was fairly sure Snape's confession would reveal the truth.

"I will not drink that! Never again!" Severus hissed and shot Moody a murderous look. He recalled the anguish he had been in when Moody had questioned him and allowed the memory to feed his hatred toward the Aurors, knowing his emotions had to be genuine or else they would see through him.

"You will!" Moody exclaimed and jumped up from his chair in order to tower over Snape. "You can confirm Remus is innocent and you will drink it! If necessary, I will make you!" He had enjoyed force feeding the potion to Snape in the past and would gladly do so again. All this talk from Albus that Severus had switched sides was nonsense. Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater!

"Like you forced me back then, Moody? Choking me so I had to open my mouth and swallow it? You left me bruised and struggling for breath each time you forced it on me!" Severus gripped the armrests furiously, his fingernails digging into the wood.

"You shall drink it," Malleus stated triumphantly. "If not, I will take the two of you to the Ministry and we shall continue the questioning there."

Severus then grabbed the vial and drank it. He threw the empty vial onto the floor in obvious contempt. "Ask your sordid questions then…" he said, challenging them.

Remus was unable to react. He watched in growing horror as the drama unfolded. Severus should never have been forced into that position! His head still reeled from the things Severus had revealed a moment ago. The Potions Master had hinted earlier that day that his questioning under the Veritaserum had been much worse than what Remus would face that day. Now he was beginning to understand how traumatic it had been for Severus. It pained him that the other wizard had to go through another similar experience now and all because of him.

"Did you prepare and offer Lupin his Wolfsbane on the evening Black appeared at the shack?" Malleus was eager to get to the truth so he could deal with Lupin. He was so eager to get this over with that he didn't care for his usual game of humiliating the defendant.

"I did. I prepared it and offered it to him." Severus' deadly glare lingered on Moody for another moment, before aiming that lethal look at Malleus instead.

"Did Lupin drink the Wolfsbane?" Malleus shifted forward again, precariously balancing on the rim of his chair.

"He did. He drank all of it." Severus continued to glare and his fingernails scratched the wooden armrest, leaving behind traces.

"Did Remus attack you, Snape? Did he injure you?"

Malleus hissed at Moody for taking over his questioning, but he was also eager to hear Snape's reply and so he focused on the Potions Master instead.

"Remus Lupin did not attack me. Therefore he never injured me." Severus knew where they were headed and was prepared. These Aurors thought they were all mighty and oh so cunning when in reality they were nothing but predictable. It would save Lupin though.

"In that case, you won't mind showing us your right shoulder. My witness tells me that it's where Lupin slashed your skin." Malleus narrowed his eyes. "Show me - strip."

Severus' glare intensified as he directed it to Moody. "You ordered me to strip too, do you remember, Moody? I wonder – did you get off on it?"

"Snape, if you can clear Remus of all charges, just do it!" Moody hated having to ask Snape for a favour.

Remus looked pleadingly at Severus as well, but with a different request. "You don't need to do it. I don't want you to do that." The things he had learned about Alastor made him feel ashamed that he called that wizard a friend. If the things Severus had said were true then Moody didn't deserve his friendship!

Severus nodded to show he understood. "Moody is correct. I can clear you of all charges. And I rather remove my clothes willingly than allow them to force me to do that." Painstakingly slow he undid the buttons to his black coat and then those of his high-necked white shirt as well. He slid the fabric down his right shoulder and defiantly glared at Malleus. "Look then."

"See! His skin is intact! Remus never attacked him!" Moody felt terribly relieved.

Severus was much quicker when it came to donning his shirt and coat again. After dealing with the numerous buttons, he settled for glaring at Moody, knowing the Auror would do the rest. Lupin and he had won, even though no one else realized it at that time.

"Malleus, it is time we leave. We questioned not only Remus, but also Snape under the influence of the Veritaserum and it cleared Remus of all charges. We have no more business here."

Malleus jumped out of the chair and towered above Lupin. "This is not the end of it, werewolf. We will meet again and when we do, I will have the pleasure of casting the killing curse at you for your crimes." Malleus turned and climbed the chairs to the corridor.

Remus sighed in relief now that the Auror was gone. He still didn't understand what had happened – how he could have lied to the Aurors, but he had, and it had saved his life. "Thank you for trying to help me," he said, addressing Moody, who smiled at him in turn.

"I'd do anything to help a friend, you know that, Moony!" Alastor got to his feet as well, but then looked at Snape in utter contempt. "Too bad Albus got you off the hook, Snape. As far as I am concerned you belong in Azkaban, paying for what you did back then."

"The feeling is mutual," Severus said in a clipped voice. "Now get the hell out the office, Moody, and take that bastard with you."

Moody ignored Severus from that moment on, and after shaking Remus' hand, he stalked after Malleus, for he was furious with his colleague as well.

"Severus, what happened in here? I…" But Remus grew quiet when Severus placed a finger across his lips, telling him to be quiet. They sat in silence, watching each other for at least ten more minutes before Severus nodded.

"You can speak now. They have left Hogwarts." Severus stretched and moaned softly. That confrontation had taken a lot of out of him.

"Severus…" Remus left his chair and sat down on the one next to Severus. He needed answers and knew damn well only Severus could supply him with them. "I lied to them."

"Yes, you did… I knew you had it in you." Severus allowed himself the luxury of chuckling softly. "The fools believe the Veritaserum to be infallible, the idiots." Looking back at the altercation he had enjoyed himself playing them, even though old, never dealt with trauma had caused his fury to rise during the interrogation. Thankfully it hadn't backfired on him.

Remus inched closer still. "Explain this to me… What happened? What did you do?" He knew Severus had to be responsible for this – who else knew how to handle Aurors like that?

Severus cocked his head, crossed his arms in front of his chest, and slowly withdrew from Lupin's mind. The wolf had never noticed his presence or the fact that Severus had answered in his stead. "Let it suffice to say that we tricked them. You do not need to know the details. Some secrets are mine to keep for they serve me well."

"Did you do something to me?" Remus frowned. "The answers I gave them weren't mine. I was set on speaking the truth, but the words that left my lips weren't mine." Then his eyes widened. "That was you? But how can that be?"

Severus realized he needed to tell Lupin a little bit just to keep him from becoming too annoying. "I slipped you a potion – yesterday and this morning. It allowed me to enter your mind in a way no one would detect – not you, nor the Aurors questioning you. It enabled me to take over your speech."

"You slipped me a potion? When?" Remus blinked and wondered why he didn't feel furious with Severus for that.

Severus was beginning to enjoy confusing Lupin. "Do not worry. The effect will wear off during the day. Since I didn't know when they would question you I had to dose you slightly higher than I normally would. You can trust me not to enter your mind again in such a way. Unfortunately it was necessary to hide this from you. You are a very bad actor, Lupin."

Remus shook his head in disbelief. He had never realized what Severus had been doing. "You tricked them! But… they made you drink the Veritaserum too, and yet, you lied!"

Severus shrugged once. "Moody forced me to take that potion too many times in the past. In order to make sure it would never affect me again, I dosed myself with the antidote for a long time. As a result of being over exposed to the serum itself and the antidote I became immune. It no longer affects me. But you had better keep quiet about that."

"That is why you said you didn't worry about the Aurors. You already planned for that event."

"Of course! Do you think I would leave anything to coincidence?" Severus almost regretted cutting his ties with Lupin's mind. The man's mind was just as gentle as his disposition and he had enjoyed its tranquillity.

"What will happen now?"

"They will report to Fudge, and Moody will make sure you are cleared of all charges. If we are lucky, Moody will report that Malleus was out of line and then the Minster might reprimand him for it."

"Out of line…" Remus echoed. "Are you referring to those… personal questions he asked me?" He still cringed with humiliation at having had to answer them.

"About your sexual preferences? Lupin, I haven't met an Auror yet who doesn't like to indulge in such questions. It helps if the victim feels humiliated."

"Did Moody really ask you the same things?" Remus recalled the animosity between the two wizards. "If he did, I apologize in his stead."

"Lupin…" Severus shook his head again. "Why do you insist on carrying burdens that belong on someone else's shoulder? You have no reason to apologize for anything Moody did. If anything, I should apologize to you for making you answer truthfully. But I had to convince Malleus that the serum was working. He would have continued to ask you questions until he would have humiliated you."

"I want to discuss that with you some day – what happened when Alastor interrogated you."

Severus tilted his head and studied Lupin. "You mean, during one of the many times he questioned me? Or a specific event?" Why would Lupin want to hear about that?

Remus momentarily averted his gaze. "I want to know how much he hurt you."

Severus blinked. "It's in the past – best to leave it there."

Remus raised his gaze and smiled questioningly at Severus. "How did your wounds heal that quickly? I know the damage my claws are capable of. Even with your skill at potions and salves, you can't have healed your injury that quickly." He had been startled when Malleus had demanded to see Severus' right shoulder, for he had been certain the slashes would still show.

"A very potent salve," Severus replied and smiled back. "And a minor spell in order to deceive them. They think they can pick up on all spells, but as long as you don't over do it, you can fool them."

"Does that mean you are still hurt?" Remus cringed at that realization.

"A minor injury." Severus waved Lupin's concern away with his hand. "I have been through worse and it will heal within the next few days."

"Still, I am sorry I wounded you." Remus wondered if he would ever stop apologizing for the werewolf's actions.

"Don't concern yourself with it." Severus decided another distraction was in order as Lupin looked much too depressed. "You want to enjoy Midsummer, if I remember correctly?"

Remus was surprised that Severus was bringing it up that moment. He was still trying to deal with the fact that Severus still hurt due to his assault. "I do, but I am not sure I still can. I feel… tainted." The interrogation had left a bad taste in his mouth.

"I understand," Severus whispered. "I really do." He had been in Lupin's position several times. "I do not know if a promise coming from me means anything to you, but I will never tell anyone what you were forced to reveal to Malleus and Moody."

"About my sex life?" Remus flinched visibly. "I would appreciate that."

"You do realize there is nothing to be ashamed of? Love is precious and it doesn't matter in what form it comes," he said, feeling rather melancholy. He had loved Lily once, but his love had been platonic. It hadn't been less significant because of it though. Only years later had he had realized that he was attracted to men — which explained why he had never tried to kiss her.

Remus tried not to feel embarrassed as they were discussing something rather personal. "If you are not ashamed of it, I will try to do the same."

"Good!" Severus hoped he had set some of Lupin's worries to rest. "Maybe we should distract ourselves and try to forget Malleus' tricks?"

Remus found he liked that suggestion. "What do you suggest we do?"

Severus pressed into the comfort of his chair and couldn't believe he was going to suggest it, for doing so was completely out of character for him. Yet, he couldn't stand the depressed expression that still lingered in Lupin's eyes. "How about a picnic at the lakeside?"

Remus laughed softly. "Does that mean you are willing to eat? Without me prodding you?" It felt good to focus on something positive for now. Malleus, and the way he had questioned him, would continue to haunt him, but it was like Severus had said – he didn't want to waste this special day because of that bastard.

"I might." Severus allowed himself to relax now that they had dealt with the Aurors' threat. "Providing you make sure the House elves cater to our needs. Maybe you can organize a small picnic basket with matching napkins."

Remus couldn't help himself; he burst out laughing. By Merlin, it felt good to laugh after what had happened earlier. "I shall see what I can do, Severus."

"Good," Severus whispered contently. He would try hard to help Lupin deal with today's events and maybe, in doing so, he could heal some of his own hurts as well.

/

"Pink napkins? Lupin, this is torture, you do understand that?" Severus did his best to sound like his normal aloof self in order to distract Lupin, but it was harder than he thought. He didn't feel like it today. Instead, he wanted to comfort Lupin, but then huffed at the very thought of it. Comforting the wolf! He would prefer Moody's interrogation to coddling the wolf… Or did he? No, he didn't. He had suffered enough at the Auror's hand. Moody still didn't realize just how much he had hurt him back then – or maybe the Auror did and just didn't care. He was just another Death Eater after all!

"I am sure you will survive, Severus." Remus smiled at the Potions Master. He realized what Severus was trying to do and felt grateful for it. However, he had also noticed the way Severus' mood had plummeted and that the other wizard was depressed himself. That didn't surprise him, considering the things he had learned that day. Severus must have greatly suffered during those interrogations. Remus knew his own questioning had been easy compared to those. He wasn't going to bring that up though – not today. They both needed to relax.

Severus set out for the lake and was lost in thought most of the time. He did however look up when Damocles decided to abuse his shoulder in order to hitch a ride. It was odd that his familiar was starting to seek him out more often. He had fully expected the dragon to continue to favour Lupin.

"This seems like a good spot." Remus sighed appreciatively. "Perfect view and we will be able to catch the last sunlight." He put down the basket and sat down on the grass. Since Severus still stood, he had to glance up to the other wizard. Severus was still dressed in all those impossible layers of clothing. "Don't you grow hot wearing all that?" The evening's temperature was still high and Remus had opted to wear a loose-fitting T-shirt to go with his trousers, leaving his jumper and jacket in their rooms. Our rooms… When did Severus' quarters become mine as well?

Severus had to concede that Lupin had made a valid point. He did feel sweaty beneath all that fabric. Normally he would never give in, but today wasn't a normal day.

Remus hardly believed his eyes upon seeing Severus undo the buttons to his coat and then shrugging out of it. The dark-haired wizard placed the coat on a rock and then sat down next to him. Remus noticed the sigh that left Severus' lips. He didn't doubt that it felt good to be out of that constrictive garment. Maybe Severus should undo the top buttons of his high-necked shirt as well, but Remus knew that suggesting it would be pushing it.

"You scared me today, do you know that?" Severus looked at him in surprise and so Remus explained, "During the interrogation – when you refused to look at me. I thought I had lost your support and your… friendship," he said after hesitating for a moment. "After what you did for me today I hope I may call you that."

Severus considered it. "I do not have friends, Lupin. I just do not."

"Why is that? Because of your sunny disposition?"

Severus chuckled. "That might help."

"Seriously, Severus, why would you deny yourself my friendship?"

Severus became serious again. "I don't have much experience regarding friends. During my childhood, I had only one; Lily. And I even managed to lose her friendship as well. I am used to being on my own, Lupin. I see no reason to change that."

Severus' admission worried Remus. "You need friends, Severus. Isn't Albus a friend?"

"A friend? Maybe a mentor, but I would never call him a friend." He would never mistake Albus' manipulations for friendship. Oh, the older wizard meant well, Severus was aware of that, but plotting Voldemort's permanent demise would always come first and any personal needs which Severus had, second.

Remus bit onto his bottom lip as he was growing frustrated. "What does friendship mean to you?"

"As I said, I have had little experience in the matter. Can we stop discussing it?"

As Remus didn't want to upset Severus further, he gave in. However, he didn't regret addressing the matter as discussing it had taught him more about the way Severus' mind worked. "Are you hungry? You promised to eat."

"What did those blasted House elves supply us with?" First, he wanted to know what he would be eating!

"Something sweet!" Remus chuckled at uncovering pie, muffins, scones, and even chocolate. "They must know I love chocolate."

Severus studied the content and selected a blueberry muffin. "Just this once," he told Lupin.

Remus continued to smile. "And butterbeer. You do drink that, don't you?"

Severus nodded as he didn't want to argue either. His head still reeled from confronting Moody earlier that day. "This is acceptable." Lupin handed him a bottle and he took a swig from it. Sitting next to Lupin, sipping from the butterbeer, and feeding himself by picking at the muffin, he started to relax. He was allowed to enjoy himself sometimes, wasn't he?

"It is beautiful out here. Why didn't I come here as a teenager?"

"Because neither Potter nor Black were able to appreciate such serenity." Which reminded him… "I will make myself scarce after opening the gates to Black. Remember not to venture into the Forbidden Forest or to step outside of the castle's wards. You are safe here, and so is Black, but danger might await you outside of the wards."

"What do you know?" Remus sipped from his butterbeer and selected a piece of pie.

Severus knew better than to keep this from Lupin. "I detected some activity just outside of the wards. I can't be sure, but I sensed a werewolf."

Remus momentarily forgot to breathe. "Greyback?"

"Possible, though I can't be certain. I implore you to remain alert at all times."

Greyback haunted him day and night. Remus had never managed to rid himself of the fear that the werewolf still managed to awake in him. "I will be careful," he promised. He didn't want Greyback to attack him again. "And I will keep an eye on Sirius."

Severus nodded and then watched Damocles who flew toward the lake, undoubtedly in order to cool down. It was close to midnight but the air remained hot and suffocating.

Remus cocked his head and studied the man sitting next to him. Severus looked relaxed, but at the same time, an alert expression lay in those dark eyes. "Severus?"

"What is it now?" Severus sighed.

"I don't recall your eyes being black when we went to school together. I remember them as being a very light shade of brown. Is my memory playing tricks on me?"

Severus hadn't believed Lupin to be so perceptive and cussed privately. "They used to be brown, yes."

"What happened? How did they turn black? Is such a thing even possible?" He hoped Severus would tell him, would confide in him, but he wasn't sure the other wizard trusted him enough to do that. "I really want to know, Severus."

"Some secrets are mine to keep, Lupin." Severus wasn't going to share something so personal with the other wizard. Lupin sighed audibly and it made Severus look at the other man. Lupin looked defeated – why?

"I hoped you trusted me – to some extent. After what you did for me today … I was hoping to offer you some comfort in turn."

Was that the reason why Lupin had asked him about his eye colour? He had assumed Lupin was prying out of curiosity. "I will tell you if you will answer a question of mine in return."

Severus nodded. "I will do that." He hoped Severus wouldn't embarrass him too badly when asking his question. "How did it happen, Severus? What caused the change? I never heard of it before."

Severus pulled at some strands of grass and rubbed them between his fingertips. "It wasn't just one event that caused it. It were several things happening in swift succession." He glanced at Lupin and found him staring at him. Why had he given in? He shouldn't have, but he had agreed to it. "They began to darken during my stay in Azkaban. As you gathered from my confrontation with your good friend Moody, being interrogated didn't help either. They chained me to a chair and it hurt… Aurors are not allowed to cast Unforgivables, but they know plenty of curses that come close." Thinking back to that time still made him shiver with remembered pain. "The Dementors tormented me in my cell – trying to suck every memory out of me. Moody did the same thing – leaving me feeling exposed and tainted, much as Malleus did to you."

Remus wanted to offer Severus some sort of comfort, but wasn't sure it would be welcome. So he decided to wait a little longer before making any kind of move.

"Albus got me out of Azkaban and I agreed to teach Potions at Hogwarts. I didn't have that many options left." He laughed embittered. "It took me a while to shake off the terror I had experienced and I…"

Remus' gaze was drawn to Severus' hands, which had let go of the grass. The fingers rubbed against the insides of his wrists through the fabric of his shirt. He tried to commit suicide, Remus realized, recalling the memory he had witnessed in Severus' bedroom.

"Desperation got the better of me. Albus helped me through that time." Severus didn't want to remember any of it; the way Albus had cared for him after he had slit his wrists. He had expected Albus to be furious with him, but instead, the older wizard had cared for him. "I never noticed my eyes darkening until Albus pointed it out one day."

Too much grief. Too much pain, and then trying to take his own life. No wonder he shuns contact and hides behind that mask all the time. Remus however was determined to show Severus that friendship did exist and that the Potions Master had a friend in him. He gathered his courage, as he feared the other man's reaction, and then placed his hand atop of Severus'. Severus startled and tried to pull his hand away, but Remus wrapped his fingers around it in a gentle, yet demanding way.

Severus stared at Lupin's hand resting on his and wondered what possessed the wolf to do so. "Don't touch me," he said, words which he had intended to carry hate and contempt, but instead, they turned out mere whispers which held a pleading touch. How he loathed himself for being so vulnerable! He wanted to withdrew his hand, but then Lupin held onto it, stopping him. Severus continued to look at the way Lupin's fingers were wrapped around his and an odd sensation swept through his stomach. He didn't feel queasy exactly, but he felt something…

It surprised Remus that Severus gave up that quickly. He had expected the other wizard to demand he let go of his hand. Instead, Severus merely stared at it. Encouraged, Remus took it one step further by intertwining their fingers. He continued to watch Severus closely though, still afraid to hope that the other man would allow the touch.

Severus frowned upon feeling Remus adjusting his hold by twining their fingers. The sensation was most odd. He had never held hands with anyone in that manner before and wondered why Remus was doing it.

"Anything wrong?" Remus tried to make sense of the expression on Severus' face, but utterly failed to do so. Too many emotions were at war with other.

"I am not sure," Severus sighed the words and then looked at the lake instead. Was some unknown magic at work here? Why was Remus holding onto his hand like that?

Remus rubbed the skin beneath his fingertips and was stunned to find that Severus didn't pull away from the caress. Apparently Severus enjoyed the touch after all. Judging it best to refrain from speaking, Remus merely continued the caress. Maybe Severus would eventually allow himself to relax.

/

The sun was finally setting, but Severus knew it would rise again before long. The summer solstice had passed and they would move toward winter from that moment on. It also meant that he had spent several hours at the lake with Remus Lupin holding his hand and stroking his skin in a soothing way. He blinked, as if waking from a long, but comforting dream.

Remus felt the same way – the last few hours he had spent in Severus' company had been some of the most relaxing in his life. He couldn't recall a moment he had felt this at ease before – wanted even, for Severus continued to allow the caress. He didn't want the moment to end.

"We should return to the castle," Severus said eventually, noticing his voice shook considerably. "Black will be arriving shortly." Should he address what was happening between them? Or would Remus dismiss it? He didn't want to make himself vulnerable. He wasn't even sure he knew how to address the matter to begin with.

"Severus, thank you for spending the night out here with me. And even though you told me that you don't believe in friendship, I want you to know that I consider you a friend – a good friend at that. Friends offer each other comfort when they are hurting and I couldn't ignore the fact that you were in pain." He moved their joined hands slightly as to stress the point he was trying to make. "You didn't have to let me do this, but you allowed it. That couldn't have been easy."

"You are right… I do not allow anyone to touch me – not if I can help it. I do not know why I let you, Remus." He realized his slip too late; the damage was already done. Remus gave him a ridiculously pleased look.

"You didn't call me Lupin!" Remus chuckled. "That's a first. I like Remus best."

The hold on his hand briefly tightened so Remus could squeeze it, and for the first time in almost twenty years, Severus fought a blush that threatened to utterly embarrass him. He didn't blush! He just didn't!

Remus realized that Severus felt upset, but didn't understand the reason for it until he caught the slight blush on his features. Severus quickly looked away and tried to free his hand, but Remus didn't allow it. In the past, the Marauders would have made fun of blushing Snivellus and Remus wanted Severus to know that things had changed. "I like your company too," he simply said, hoping the words offered enough explanation without making Severus feel even more awkward.

Severus didn't know how to respond to that. He hadn't been in a similar situation before. In a way it scared him, but he couldn't deny feeling slightly excited too.

"Come on, let us prepare for Sirius' visit then." Remus got to his feet, feeling slightly stiff from sitting on the grass for so long, and then proceeded to pull Severus to his as well. Severus gave in and allowed it, sending another thrill of pleasure through him. Remus didn't know what had changed between them during these last few hours, but he was certain that something had.

/

"You don't have to leave right away. Maybe it is time to make peace with Sirius?" But even as he spoke the words, Remus knew Sirius would be the one to put up a fight and provoke Severus whenever he could. "Fine, forget I ever said that." To Remus' surprise Severus smiled. The Potions Master was once more wearing his buttoned up coat and cravat; cultivating the image he had so carefully created during his teaching years. It was a front, designed to keep everyone at a distance – everyone except him, Remus mused? For he felt like he had gotten through those defences yesterday.

"I am relieved you noticed the absurdity to those words. There is no way Black and I will ever be able to be civil toward each other." Severus wished Black would finally apparate. Then he could admit the other wizard into the castle and leave. His research looked rather promising and he wanted to continue it. A crack in the air announced Sirius Black's arrival and Severus steeled himself for what would follow. Black was predictable!

"Snivellus!" Sirius quickly looked at Snape in order to find out if he should get out his wand. The other wizard's wand hand was empty though and so Sirius decided not to provoke him yet. "Moony!" He wanted to greet his friend, but those damn wards prevented him from entering and he glared at Snape.

Annoyed with Black already, Severus nodded and the wards modified momentarily so the other wizard could enter.

Sirius' glare indicated he still didn't trust the situation, but nonetheless he stepped forward and moved closer to Remus, who opened his arms and hugged him next. Sirius sighed contently at having his best friend close once more. "I missed you!" he told Remus while squeezing the other wizard's back.

Since his work here was done, Severus turned around and headed back to the castle. He hoped Remus kept his warning in mind and wouldn't venture into the Forbidden Forest or outside of the protective wards.

Remus lifted his head and watched Severus march away. It pained him to see Severus retreat in such a way and almost called him back, but he didn't, knowing Sirius would provoke Severus if he did. "I missed you too, Pads, but do me a favour?" Sirius took a step away from him to give him a searching look. "Don't call him Snivellus. He doesn't deserve that. His name is Severus and I would appreciate it if you used it."

Sirius snorted loudly. "What happened to you, Moony? Why are you all defensive about old Snivellus all of a sudden?" But then again, that was Remus Lupin all over; always determined to see the best in someone, even in a dark creature like Snape!

"I will tell you why," Remus said decisively. He knew he had to tell Sirius what had happened with the Aurors if he wanted his friend to feel some measure of respect for Severus. "Why don't we walk to the lake? It is a beautiful day and I don't want to spend it inside the castle's walls."

"Lead on! I prefer the open myself." He had been locked up long enough!

/

Sirius tried to feel the peace and quiet – the serenity of the place, as Remus put it – but couldn't help feeling itchy. It wasn't like him to 'commune with nature' he thought wryly, and yet, that was exactly what Moony was asking him to do. "Snivellus had no right to invade your mind like that. Not without your permission!" It irked him that Moony refused to see Snape's vile nature!

"Pads, you are determined to see the worst in him. Severus saved my life by doing that. You know I can't act, even if my life depended on it. Had I known what he was up to, I would have been much too relaxed and Malleus would have noticed something was wrong. I agree with Severus that it was the right thing to do." Seeing Sirius was about to object again, Remus raised an arm and silenced him. "Would you really prefer for me to go to Azkaban or be put to death? Because that would have happened if Severus hadn't intervened."

Sirius sighed and had to admit he felt slightly confused. He hadn't expected Snape to help Moony like that. "He revealed your secret to the parents and made you lose your job, Moony."

Remus was growing frustrated. "And he admitted it was a mistake. Pads, he treats me as an equal. He doesn't belittle me or put me down. He doesn't treat me as an outcast because I am a werewolf! He is quickly becoming a companion – even more than that. He is becoming a very good friend – one that saved my life. Even Moody would have been unable to stop Malleus." Remus hadn't told Sirius what he had learned during the questioning- namely that Moody had enjoyed tormenting Severus. That was private as far as he was concerned. "And you should really stop calling him Snivellus, Pads. We aren't sixteen year old bullies anymore. At least, I hope so!"

Sirius shrugged. "He deserves it."

"No, he doesn't, and you know it. You simply have fun bullying Severus and you don't want it to stop. It was you who set Severus up that night and made him enter that shack. Pads, I would have killed him and that would have made me a murderer… But in fact, you should have been charged for murder and not me. You were setting both of us up! You would have made me a killer."

"It was supposed to be a bit fun – put some serious fear into Snivellus," Sirius said, although he realized that Moony had made a point. "I never wanted to harm you."

"You shouldn't have tried to harm Severus either, Pads. I wish you would finally understand that Severus is helping me deal with this." Remus picked up a stone and threw it into the lake. The surface broke apart momentarily, but then the water calmed again. "I like him, Pads." He wasn't sure how Sirius would react to that. "What you see is a mask – a front. The man behind that mask is quite different from what you see. I wish you would give him a chance, Pads."

Sirius wasn't sure he could do that. It would mean admitting he had been wrong about Snape all that time. "He is a Death Eater," he tried again, but with lessening conviction.

"He was," Remus corrected. "And you know what Albus said at that hearing: Severus switched sides and was spying for him. You know we would have lost more Order members if it hadn't been for Severus' intelligence. Everyone makes mistakes, Pads. Severus did, undoubtedly, but so did we."

Sirius wasn't sure he could do what Remus was asking him and so he chose the easy way out; he transfigured into his Animagus form and ran off.

"Oh, Pads, that's not the answer. You can't run away forever." Remus got to his feet and followed the black dog as he continued to run.

/

Severus' eyes narrowed at finding Black running toward the wards. If the Animagus continued like that, he would leave the safety of the wards within seconds and Severus wasn't sure what awaited Black on the outside. He had sensed a vile presence, but had been unable to identity it so far. He was tempted to follow him and leave his cover, but if he did, Remus and Black would know that he had been watching them – and listening to Remus defending him. Hearing Remus defend him would have surprised him in the past, but it didn't anymore. He knew the dynamics between them had changed. However, he needed to keep an eye on them – on Black especially. And so the situation forced him to do something he hadn't planned on doing.

/

"Pads! Stop running! You reached the wards!" Remus cussed beneath his breath, wishing Sirius would find the courage to face the past – and himself. "Pads, stop it!" But Sirius didn't listen and continued to run. A silvery flash signalled he had passed through the wards. Hogwarts' magic no longer protected him!

Remus reached the wards himself and wondered what to do. He wanted to help his friend, but knew that once he stepped outside the wards he would be without protection. He was still debating what to do when a dog's howl, filled with fright and pain, reached him. "Pads!" Someone must have attacked his friend, but who? And why? Severus had mentioned a threat just hovering outside the wards, and he realized he hadn't taken it as serious as he should have!

Remus flinched at seeing something throw Pads onto the ground – only a few metres from his feet, but still outside of the protective wards. Pads' right flank was bleeding and Remus called out to his friend. "Sirius, do something!" Why didn't his friend return to his normal form and hex the attacker into oblivion? Then a creature, born out of nightmares, emerged from the trees that had hidden it sight. Remus involuntarily backed away and stared at it in horror. It wasn't Greyback, or another werewolf, which he had feared at first. It was a Banshee and she was about to release her high-pitched scream in order to kill them. Remus knew he had to do something, had to act, but he felt paralyzed and could merely stare at the creature.

Suddenly, there was movement to his right. Remus watched in surprise as a massive, black wolf jumped through the wards and buried its deadly fangs in the Banshee's neck, effectively snapping and breaking it. The Banshee fell onto the ground, lifeless and no longer presenting a threat. The wolf flung her about once more, as if to make absolutely sure he had snapped her neck. Then he moved away from her and aimed his yellow eyes at the dog, which was pitifully moaning at him.

Remus forced himself to act. He had already shamed himself by freezing in the sight of fear and stepped outside the wards in order to check on his friend. "Pads, how badly injured are you?" He cast a quick look at the wolf. The pitch-black wolf and his yellow eyes followed his every move, but didn't seem to consider him a threat. "Thank you," Remus whispered at the wolf as he placed a protective hand on Sirius' back while his friend assumed his human shape. "I don't know why you helped, but you saved our lives today."

Sirius, in spite of the pain that swept through his side, stared at the wolf as well. It was big – much bigger than he when he was in his Animagus form and those dangerous fangs showed as the animal lifted its upper lip in warning. "Moony, do you know him?"

Remus shook his head. "Why do you think I know him? Just because he is a wolf and I am a werewolf? I have never seen this creature before." And yet, it had saved them. If that Banshee had managed to wail at them – he shuddered - they might not have survived. A Banshee's scream was nearly almost fatal. Had this wolf not gone directly for the neck and snapped it… Remus allowed himself to draw in a deep breath and to relax. "We need to look after your injury, Pads." He kept one eye on the wolf though and realized it was watching them in turn. A moment later, the wolf turned around and ran back to the castle, easily passing through the protective wards.

"That was quite something," Sirius commented, still panting slightly. "That damned Banshee was on me before I had the chance to change myself back." He accepted Remus' assistance when his friend hauled him to his feet and wrapped an arm around his waist. "I didn't know Banshees dwelt so close to Hogwarts."

"Severus warned me," Remus said. "He told me it wasn't safe and that he had picked up on some suspect movement, but he couldn't tell me for sure what kind of creature it was."

"We know now, don't we?" Sirius looked down at his body in order to examine the injury. "That Banshee lashed out before I realized what was happening." It looked like a mere scratch, but he was bleeding profusely. "Damn fingernails are as sharp as razors."

"Poppy isn't around to take care of it, but I can help. Let's get you to the Hospital Wing. I am sure we will manage to find the right potion or salve." The moment he had said that, Remus wanted to kick himself. "We should seek out Severus instead."

"Not Snivellus!" He would die of shame, having to subject himself to the bastard's care. "Leave me alone… It's nothing but scratches and they will heal!"

"You don't want to mess with that, Pads. Banshees are vile creatures. You don't want to risk any kind of infection, do you?"

Sirius had to admit Remus might be right. "But if he tries to touch me, then…"

"Then you will let him! Damn it, Pads, it's time you stopped acting like a teenager!"

"I doubt Snape will be civil about it. He will laugh at me!"

Remus however didn't think so. "You just need to get to know him, Pads. He isn't that bad."

"That's what you think. I am not convinced!" He doubted anything Snape did could make him view the wizard in a different light! But the cuts did hurt and it might be nice to get some balm to soothe them!

"Let's go. We are wasting time discussing Severus." Remus though couldn't suppress a smile. He was already looking forward to Severus' reaction when the Potions Master realized he had to nurse Sirius' wounds! He stepped forward and wanted to pass through the wards when a barrier stopped him. "By Merlin's beard…" Why weren't the wards accepting them?

"Maybe Albus set them in such a way that you can get out but not in again?" That made sense to someone as paranoid as Black. "I would do that."

Remus sighed; this complicated matters. "How do we inform Severus we need him to let us back in?"

"Send him a messages via Patronus?" Sirius offered in a moment of clarity.

"Oh, he will love having your dog or my wolf invade his quarters." Remus cringed, having the feeling that might not go over well with Severus at all. But they didn't have a choice. "Let me do it." He suspected Severus wouldn't react well to seeing Sirius' patronus. Better send his wolf on its way then.

"I just knew you would get into trouble."

Remus blinked and watched in surprise as Severus stepped towards them. Where had the other wizard come from?

"It's spooky when he does something like that," Sirius whispered into Remus' ear. "He can't apparate, can he? So how did he get here so quickly?"

He would find out later, Remus mused, but right now, he had to take care of Sirius. "Severus, a Banshee attacked Sirius and the wards refuse to re-admit us." He shot the other wizard a pleading look. "Help?" he half chuckled, just knowing Severus would help.

Severus nodded. "Step forward then. The wards will admit you." After he had changed back to normal form he had stayed close so he could watch them. He still felt furious with Black for leaving Hogwarts, but found comfort in the fact that Remus hadn't followed Sirius outside the wards. At least the wolf had proven to have some sense!

Remus supported Sirius while they moved back into the safety of the wards. "it was my fault," Remus said, trying to placate Severus, who glared at Sirius. "I was cross with him."

"Your fault?" But Severus didn't continue. He didn't want to provoke Black, as he didn't want to hurt Remus' feelings. It had come to this then – he mused – he worried about hurting the wolf's feelings!

"No," Sirius remarked, making his decision. "It wasn't Remus' fault at all! I was angry with Moony and ran… I didn't pay attention to where I was going. It is my fault this happened. Remus had nothing to do with it."

Showing some backbone at last? Severus thought, feeling appeased. "You should take more care the next time, Black. That was merely one Banshee lying in ambush, but there are more dark creatures out there. The Forbidden Forest calls to them and they repeatedly attempt to enter it. Follow me. I am sure I have something to heal those cuts with." Severus turned their back to them and walked back to the castle. "I assume you are still capable of walking?" he sneered for good measure as he didn't want to come across too mellow. That would merely confuse Black.

"Of course I am! It takes more than a shrieking Banshee to keep me down!" Sirius wondered about Snape though; the other wizard was definitely acting out of character, even when counting that sneer just now. He gave Remus a quick look and found his friend smiling.

"Told you so, didn't I?" Remus whispered. "Just give him a chance, Pads, and you will might actually like him."

Sirius doubted that, but he could do Moony one favour – he would try to be behave around Snape.

/

"You were lucky to carry away such minor injuries." Severus selected the most appropriate salve from Poppy's cupboard and handed the jar to Remus. He wasn't going to tend to those cuts personally. Black would never allow it and the mere thought of touching the other wizard made him feel uncomfortable. "You might need to apply it again later today, but the cuts should be gone by tomorrow. Keep the jar, Black."

Sirius kept studying Snape, which wasn't lost on the dark-haired wizard, for he returned the scrutinizing glare. Even though Moony had assured him that Snape could be trusted, he still felt suspicious.

"Thanks, Severus." Remus took hold of the jar, opened it, and scooped the salve onto his fingertips. "Hold still, Pads!" Sirius however continued to squirm for some reason.

"And do put on a shirt when you are done, Black. I am sure Lupin has a spare which he can lend to you." Severus wondered why was still hovering close instead of leaving them. He found himself watching Remus as the other wizard covered the lashes with the salve. Black was extremely fortunate to have a friend like Remus. Did Black realize that?

Remus finished tending to the cuts and set the jar aside. While checking his handiwork, he found the cuts were already closing and starting to heal. "Something strange happened, Severus, when that Banshee attacked Pads."

Severus' eyes narrowed as he hadn't expected Remus to bring it up with Black still present.

Remus raised his gaze and looked at Severus, only to find a guarded expression in those dark eyes. "A wolf saved us – a black wolf with extremely powerful jaws. He snapped that Banshee's neck with ease."

Sirius also eyed Snape closely, wondering what the Potions Master would say to that.

"A lot of creatures dwell in the Forbidden Forest, and those include wolves. Maybe one of them took the Banshee's presence as a personal threat?" It was a good thing he had prepared himself for that question. "Creatures which roam the Forbidden Forest do not look kindly upon competition. They like to keep the Forest to themselves." His reasoning sounded perfectly sensible to himself, but the question was, would they believe it?

"Maybe," Remus admitted. "But there was something odd about that wolf." It was a pity he couldn't put it into words. It was more like a feeling than anything else. It felt like the wolf had saved them on purpose, fully knowing what he was doing. That was it! The wolf had been much too sentient! It had possessed a mind of his own!

"I would not worry about that wolf, if I were you," Severus said, trying to distract Remus, who looked much too intrigued for Severus to feel at ease. "Worry about the wards and the creatures trying to attack you."

Sirius had watched the exchange as well and had to admit Remus had made a point earlier; the Snape he was seeing now differed from the one he had encountered in the past. It was in his interaction with Remus mostly – it was most visible there. "I will be careful in the future," he said, as he had learned from his mistake.

"Good, keep that in mind, Black." Severus realized his work here was done and he should leave them. "I will be in Albus' office, should you require my assistance," he told them and then curtly marched out of the Hospital Wing, still angry with himself for having been forced into action by Black's stupidity. He could only hope that Remus wouldn't bring up the mysterious wolf again, but he was fairly sure – unfortunately – that Remus would dig for answers.

"Albus allows him into his office?" Sirius looked at Remus in disbelief. "Did I hear correctly?"

"You did. It's where Malleus questioned me." Remus sat down next to Sirius on the bed. "You had a look good at that wolf too, didn't you?"

Sirius nodded. "Impressive beast… Not as impressive as you though when you are a werewolf!" he added quickly and smiled apologetically.

"You don't hurt my feelings by saying something like that, Pads. I take no pride in turning into a werewolf. You know that." Sirius however was distracting him from what he had wanted to ask him. "What impression did that wolf make on you?"

Sirius shrugged. "That Banshee rather distracted me, I am afraid."

After releasing a heartfelt sigh, Remus turned toward Sirius and watched him intently. "I don't believe that wolf was just an animal. When he looked at me – he looked at me. Do you understand what I mean?"

"You mean, like he knew you? I have to admit he rather scared me, showing up like that and taking out that Banshee so damn efficiently. He didn't hesitate, that wolf."

Remus nodded. "Exactly. I don't think the wolf merely defended his territory, although wolves can be rather territorial. This felt personal. Like it was protecting us." Remus found it hard to put his feelings into words.

"I know that look," Sirius commented. Normally he would cheer Moony on, but this time he might discourage his friend instead. "You want to search the Forbidden Forest for that wolf."

Remus chuckled. "That thought did occur to me, but I don't want to call down Severus' wrath on me!" Sirius frowned at that and Remus playfully swatted his friend's shoulder. "It is only a matter of speech! A joke!"

"Ah, you worried me for a moment… We can deal with Sni—Snape!"

Remus inclined his head toward Sirius. "I do appreciate you making the effort." He knew it would take time for Sirius to shake that habit. "But maybe we can seek out Hagrid instead? Severus mentioned that the he was still on the grounds. Hagrid knows everything there is to know about the creatures that call Hogwarts home. I am sure he can tell us more."

Sirius could consent to that. Now that Snape was acting so out of character he felt it was best to play it safe.

/

"It's been a while since I last talked to Hagrid." Sirius looked forward to visiting the half-giant. "He has this dog, Fang, drools all over me each time I visit." He didn't mind though – he liked dogs!

"Fang is huge," Remus agreed. In his mind, he was already trying to think of a way to bring up the wolf in a manner that wouldn't make Hagrid suspicious. Hagrid was a lovable, but odd fellow, and sometimes hard to predict. Remus looked up when they reached the half-giant's cabin and thought it best to announce their presence. "Hagrid, are you home?"

"Moony, there's smoke rising from the chimney," Sirius pointed out to his friend.

"Pads, I am merely announcing our presence…" Remus shook his head in mild amusement, but then sobered. "How is your side? Still causing you discomfort?"

"No, that salve Snape supplied works just fine."

"Who's there?" Hagrid opened the door and looked outside. His smile broadened upon seeing his visitors. "Professor Lupin! Sirius!"

"I am not a Professor anymore, Hagrid, or didn't you hear?" Remus walked up to the half-giant and felt insignificant in size compared to Hagrid. "It's good to see you, Hagrid." The mere sight of the half-giant cheered him up and he gladly accepted the hug Hagrid gave him.

"Well, best not ter talk 'bout that," Hagrid said and gestured for them to step inside. "Want tea?"

"Tea would be lovely," Remus said as he sat down and made himself comfortable. Hagrid's home was cosy and he had always liked spending time there. Remus chuckled upon seeing Fang run toward Sirius and practically jump him. Sirius had to steady himself against the wall, or else the hound's bulk would have knocked him off his feet.

"Now calm down, Fang. I know you like me, but don't over do it." Sirius petted the hound, who then settled down – thankfully – and sat down next to Remus. Fang remained close though and rested his massive head on Sirius' knee.

Hagrid poured both men tea and placed the cups in front of them. Only then did he pour himself some tea and sat down. "I mus' confess I'm surprised yer visitin'. Thought yer would stay up in the castle."

"I have been staying with Severus, yes," Remus said as he sipped from his much too sweet tea. How much honey had Hagrid put into his cup?

"Good man, professor Snape, good man." Hagrid smiled contently and sipped from his tea, which wasn't sweet enough for him and so he added more honey.

Remus exchanged a look with Sirius. It seemed Hagrid liked Severus. "Pads and I did something rather stupid today." Hagrid huffed, which made Remus chuckle again. The half-giant had also done some pretty stupid things in his lifetime. "We went outside the wards and a Banshee attacked us."

"Monsters they are," Hagrid interjected and nodded repeatedly. "Vile an' deadly. Listen ter them wail and yer dead before yer know it!"

Remus nodded and looked at Hagrid from over the rim of his teacup. "But we were lucky. A big, black wolf saved us. Took that Banshee out with one bite – snapping her neck and killing her." Remus noticed the change in Hagrid immediately. The half-giant suddenly seemed ill at ease and shifted on his chair as if he wanted to get up and leave. "It must be one of the creatures that live in the Forest for I can't remember ever seeing it before."

"Yes, that mus' be it!" Hagrid quickly agreed. "Forbidden Forest sounds good teh meh."

Hagrid fidgeted and looked about, obvious looking for something to use as an excuse so he could leave. Remus and Sirius noticed it both. "Hagrid," Remus said and leant in closer, "Do you know the wolf we are talking about?" He was certain Hagrid did!

"Mebbe, but I ain't tellin' yer!" Hagrid quickly shook his head. "Promised ter keep it a secret, an' I'll stay true ter my word!" Hagrid got to his feet and moved over to the door. "Yer should leave now an' neva mention it 'gain!"

"Hagrid…" Remus didn't get up though; he wanted to try again. "Suppose Sirius and I would venture into the Forest, with your guidance of course, would we be able to find that wolf? I am feeling rather curious." He turned his head and studied Hagrid who looked ready to flee his cabin. "Hagrid?"

"Yer shouldn' be askin'! Nothin' good can come out of it. Leave him 'lone, it's fer the best!" Hagrid opened the door. "I t'ink yer should leave now."

Sirius was about to get to his feet, but Remus stopped him by placing his hand onto his friend's arm and shaking his head. "Not yet," he whispered, at which Sirius nodded to show he understood. "Hagrid, we won't find that wolf in the Forest, will we?"

Hagrid was about to panic. Why couldn't they simply stop asking him those questions and leave? "Can't tell yer! Professor Snape would be upset wit' me if I did, an' I don' wan' that. Good man, he is!"

"Snape?" Sirius mouthed at Remus. "What does Snape have to do with it?"

"Yer should leave him 'lone. He's a good man!" Hagrid finally realized that they weren't leaving and that it was up to him to take action. "Fang, come on, boy, we're leavin'!" Fang jumped to his feet and obediently followed the half-giant out of the cabin and onto the grounds.

Remus turned to face his friend once more. "Our questions made Hagrid nervous. I can't recall him ever ending a conversation like that before. Most of the time, he loves to talk about his animals."

"Maybe it is because you are right and this wolf is no regular animal."

"But, Pads, assuming you are right, then what can it be? If it is not an animal?" Remus' eyes suddenly widened and he knew Sirius had reached the same conclusion when the other man nodded. "An Animagus? But if that wolf is a wizard in his Animagus form then… I mean, there is no one left at Hogwarts except…"

"Snape," Sirius supplied as Remus hesitated. "I explains why poor Hagrid was so defensive about Snape…Or do you think Hagrid is an Animagus?"

"No, not Hagrid," Remus whispered, feeling stunned. "But a wolf? Pads, Severus is still terrified of the werewolf. He told me! Supposing he found out about his Animagus form, why would it be a wolf?"

"There is only one way to find out," Sirius hinted. "We need to talk to him."

"He is never going to admit it, Pads – never." Remus was certain of it. "Think of it – I doubt he ever registered with the Ministry. They would use it against him if they ever found out." No, he couldn't endanger Severus like – if they had reached the right conclusion, that was. "I never heard anything about it before – not even rumours about him being an Animagus!"

Sirius snorted in amusement. "I am surprised his Animagus form isn't that of a bat!"

"Pads! Now really… Actually, if you think about it, a wolf suits Severus' personality just fine. He is quite territorial." Remus shivered briefly. "And the way he moved in for that kill – that is Severus too. He can be rather ruthless; I learned that when he dealt with Malleus and Moody. He had planned it, Pads, and pulled it off without blinking once."

"If you put it like that, I guess a wolf makes sense. I am surprised he managed to hide it this long though. Someone must have noticed!"

"I think someone did…" Remus looked expectantly at Sirius. "Think Pads!"

"Hagrid! Of course!"

"And Albus probably too. I can't believe Severus would keep something like that from Albus. They do trust each other. I didn't realize that until the other day." Yes, everything made sense, but they wouldn't know for sure until Severus had confirmed it and he doubted the other wizard would ever admit to it.

Sirius wasn't sure how he felt about Snape possibly being an Animagus. "Do you think he found out because he was jealous of us? Of James and I?"

"That's assuming he discovered his Animagus form early in life. I don't think he did. I am sure Moody would have found out when he interrogated him during his trial. He would have used it against Severus. No, I think he discovered that talent later in life. It would also explain why he managed to keep it a secret."

"What do we do, Moony? Tell Snape we know he is an Animagus?"

"No, if we do that, Severus will simply deny it and that will be the end of it. No, if we want to find out we need to be as sly as a Slytherin and it will take time. Sooner or later, he will betray himself." Remus nodded thoughtfully. "I doubt he wanted us to see him in his Animagus form to begin with, but had he shown up as himself in order to deal with that Banshee, we would have known that he had been watching us! By Merlin, Pads! That is why he joined us that quickly! You said he couldn't apparate – and he can't! He was there already! Oh, all the pieces fit, Pads!" Remus couldn't believe the conclusions they had reached. If they were true then Severus had been hiding something important from him. "No one can find out, Pads. If anyone does, it might put him in danger."

"Moony, we are not even sure Snape and the wolf are the same thing! Until he confirms it, it might still be one of the wolves roaming the Forest. We shouldn't get ahead of ourselves!" Sirius recalled the way those jaws had closed around the Banshee's neck and the eerie sound snapping it had made. He shivered. But Remus was right – the cold, calculated and highly efficient attack had Snape's name all over it. "Are you going to try to find out?" Looking at Remus, he cringed, reading his friend's answer on his face. "Of course, you are."

Remus closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. Severus Snape an Animagus whose form was that of a wolf? What did it mean? "Don't mention any of this to him, Pads." He opened his eyes again and looked pleadingly at his friend. "He will never confide in me if he remains suspicious. He must feel safe before I can ask him."

"Snape? Feeling safe? I doubt he ever lets down his guard!"

"No, Pads, you are wrong. He does – he did so last night." Remus remembered those precious hours they had spent looking out over the lake and when he had held Severus' hand – even caressing it. "I will let you know, should I find out, but until then, don't bring it up."

Sirius nodded. "Looks like it means a lot to you."

"Sirius," he whispered in a remarkably soft voice. "When we were young, you would distract and contain the werewolf as much as you could, and it meant the world to me that you and James did that for me. But I was a feral creature. I was a werewolf in every sense of the word. But that has changed, you see. With Severus providing me with the Wolfsbane potion, I maintain my mind during the transformation. Most of the time, I just curl up and try to sleep through it because… I don't have someone like you to watch me during the full moon, but if Severus really is an Animagus and, by Merlin, a wolf, he…"

"He could run with you…" Sirius felt a sudden pang of jealousy. He didn't want Snape to take his place at Moony's side!

"Pads, I know what you are thinking and I don't need to use magic to do so. It's written all over your face! And I would run with you if I could, but I can't! You need to remain hidden, and I have found refuge here at Hogwarts. Please don't be angry with me."

Maybe it was time to grow up, Sirius mused. Earlier that day he had endangered them both by running away from his fears and feelings. Maybe he should try facing them instead. "I won't begrudge you that," he said eventually after being honest with himself. "I would prefer it to be me, but… I need to put your needs first." Remus blinked at him in surprise, making him blush. "Well, someone told me I had to stop acting like a teenager and act like an adult."

"That was me," Remus whispered gratefully. "Thanks, Pads."

"Calm down though, will you? You are not even sure Snape is the wolf. You are getting ahead of yourself." He hated being the voice of reason – in general, but at that moment especially.

"You are correct," Remus admitted, but it was hard not to get excited. "I will find out though."

"Do be careful." Sirius wrapped an arm around his friend. "Don't go wolf-hunting on your own. Especially one as ferocious as that one. For if it is just a wolf, and not Snape, he might turn on you, instead of taking care of another Banshee. Maybe we just got lucky earlier."

Remus tried to calm down – he really did, but it was difficult.

/

Severus looked up from his research. During the last hour, he had moved from Albus' office to his private lab, doubting they would call on him again. He wanted to make the most of his time, and he had discovered a spell that needed further examination, for he might be able to use it to his advantage during Remus' transformation.

"Severus? Are you busy?" Remus stepped into the lab and offered the other wizard a smile. He wasn't going to bring up the wolf – he wanted Severus to feel safe.

"We can talk," Severus said, putting down his quill and closing his note book. He doubted Remus could read Aramaic, but he wasn't going to risk it. "Where's Black?"

"He went back to Grimmauld Place." Remus advanced on Severus and noticed the wild array of books and papers crowding the desk. "How is your research coming about?"

"Actually – promising," Severus said in a clipped voice.

Remus sighed and realized they were back to where they had started. Severus was suspicious of him because of the questions he had asked earlier. "Do you have any idea what the time is?"

Severus looked at the antique clock on the opposite wall. "It is close to midnight." He hadn't realized it was that late already; he had lost himself researching the spell.

"I am not going to pester you about dinner… I doubt you ate though." The fact that Severus didn't contradict him merely confirmed it for Remus. "But will you walk to the lake with me? It's still rather warm and I like it there."

Severus considered it. He did like spending time at the lake – even more so in Remus' company. And he had to admit that he felt relieved because Remus wasn't asking him about the wolf. "For a short time then."

Remus' smile broadened; all was not lost yet.

/

Severus lowered himself onto the grass and smiled, savouring the peace and quiet that surrounded the lake. Only here could he really unwind. Remus sat down next to him and Severus looked at the other wizard. Remus looked equally pleased to be here.

"I am sorry for Pads getting himself in trouble. I tried to stop him, but you know what he is like – too bloody impulsive."

Severus nodded. "It will be his downfall if he doesn't learn how to control it." He wondered if Remus would bring up the wolf now; had the other wizard lured him here in order to make him relax and then hit him with his questions? That would be a tactic worthy of a Slytherin, but wasn't Remus a true Gryffindor? However, Remus had shown he could be as sly as a Slytherin if needed.

"That water looks inviting, don't you think?" Cooling down after a hot summer day sounded nice. Maybe he would go for a swim! That might convince Severus that he was quite safe from questions for now. "Will you come along for a swim?" He looked at Severus and had to suppress the chuckle that tried to escape him at seeing the dumbfounded expression on the Potions Master's face. "What's amiss?"

"I do not swim…" Severus shuddered at the thought of having to remove his clothes in front of Remus. That wasn't going to happen!

"You don't or you can't?" Remus wasn't giving up yet.

"I know how to swim, Lupin! I merely prefer not to do so!" Severus hissed, growing rather defensive.

Remus noticed it; Severus had called him Lupin again. It was time to back down. "Well, suit yourself. I don't know how you can stand wearing all those layers of thick cloth, but if that's what you prefer… I am going for a swim though." Remus got to his feet and removed his shirt. Next, he stepped out of his trousers, and clad only in his shorts, he walked toward the lake. He tested the water with his big toe, before wading into it. He had been right - the water was refreshingly cool – but not cold - and began to swim. All the while, he felt Severus' gaze on his back. He didn't look at the other wizard though and ignored him instead.

Severus felt stunned. Had the wolf really stripped to his underwear in front of him? How… embarrassing. Severus tried to redirect his gaze and to not stare at Remus' form, but in the end, curiosity got the better of him and he looked. What he saw, shocked him. Remus' back and shoulders were covered in scars – some deep, some shallow. Peeking a glance at the other wizard's chest told him that Remus' front was covered in scars as well, as well as parts of his legs. Severus knew that the transformations were painful, and that Remus often harmed himself in frustration, anger, or frenzy, but he had never realized the extent of it. His stare grew professional and he scanned each part of skin visible to the eye. Did Remus hate being covered in them? Why hadn't the wolf said anything about it?

Severus continued to study Remus even after the other wizard had left the water and was on his way back. He wasn't sure if he could heal the deepest scars, but he might be able to help – if Remus wanted that.

Remus wondered about the change that had come over Severus. The Potions Master had gone from looking away in embarrassment to scrutinizing him. Why? He spelled himself dry and put on his clothes again. He sat down next to Severus and wondered if he should mention the matter. In the end, he didn't have to, as Severus addressed him instead.

"I can do something about those scars – if you want them gone." Severus felt nervous about making that offer. He didn't know how Remus viewed them – as badges of honour fighting the werewolf or resenting them for what the transformation did to him.

Remus never expected Severus to say that – not in a million years – and felt thoroughly lost for words.

"I regret mentioning it. Please forget I ever addressed it." Severus, thinking he had made a mistake in offering his help, quickly tried to remedy his error.

"No, that's not it." Remus still felt surprised, but at the same time, also deeply touched. "You merely surprised me."

Severus stared out over the lake and pointedly refused to look at Remus, when he said, "I created a very effective balm years ago. You might need to apply it for a few days in a row, but it should take care of most scars."

Remus nodded. "I would like that very much." To his surprise, Severus got to his feet and marched back to the castle. "I reckon that means you want to apply that balm now?" Quickly, he got to his feet as well and followed Severus.

"Why wait?" Severus wondered what had made him offer. Remus wouldn't be able to apply the balm to his back, so he would have to assist – that meant touching the wolf, and that was not according to plan! Why hadn't he thought it through?

/

Remus couldn't quite explain why, but the thrill he had felt when Severus had offered to heal his scars, was quickly changing into embarrassment. He always made it a point not to look at his scars for they reminded him of the curse he carried. Most wounds he had inflicted himself. In the beginning, because he had been furious for being locked up; he had turned on himself, unable to hunt for prey. Later, when the Wolfsbane had allowed him to retain his mind, he had felt disgusted with what he had become and he had clawed at himself in order to atone for the vile creature he was. Severus was making him face all that and it scared him.

"We will start with your upper body. Remove your shirt." The only way he would get through this was to be utterly clinical about it – much like Poppy was when dealing with a patient. He couldn't allow his feelings to get in the way. The last thing he wanted was to make Remus uncomfortable.

Remus removed his shirt and kept his gaze on the floor. They had returned to Severus' lab and Remus suddenly wondered if he could still decline the offer and flee to the guest room.

"Sit," Severus said clipped and pointed at the chair behind his desk which he usually occupied.

Severus' curt manner oddly enough set Remus' nerves at ease. It was something he could deal with – it would have been harder if Severus had fussed over him like Pads did, but then again, he didn't think Severus ever fussed over someone! Remus sat down and a slight smile broke through onto his features. He was safe with Severus – he trusted him. This was the man who had allowed him to hold and caress his hand, and Remus was sure it had been a leap of faith for Severus as well when he had let him do that. He could do the same thing for the Potions Master.

Severus scooped the salve onto his fingertips and carefully applied it to the scars zigzagging Remus' right shoulder. He forced himself to act impersonal and professional, and it helped. He moved onto Lupin's other shoulder and then his back.

The moment Severus' fingertips touched his skin, Remus tensed, but once Severus continued to apply the salve, he started to relax. In fact, the touch felt soothing and even mirrored a caress. By Merlin, he could get used to being touched like that! He hadn't thought it possible that a man as harsh as Severus, possessed a touch which was so damn gentle!

Severus closely monitored his charge and noticed the way Remus began to unwind under his touch. Muscles, which had tensed earlier, loosened, and a sigh escaped Remus' lips. It stunned him that Remus enjoyed his touch that much. After attending to the scars on the lower back, Severus stopped and walked around Remus until the other wizard could look at him. Remus didn't do so at once – a moment passed by before the werewolf raised his head in order to make eye contact. "You can attend to the rest of the scars yourself. Should you need my help, let me know." Severus felt rather awkward about touching Remus' chest in such a way. "I will be over there," he said, pointing at the cupboard holding his potions.

"Thank you," Remus whispered, feeling a bit disappointed that Severus had stopped touching him – caressing his skin in such a way. It had been years since someone had touched him like that. He noticed the way Severus fled his presence, and at first, he thought the other wizard felt repulsed after all, but that made no sense. Severus wouldn't have so tenderly tended to him had the scars repelled him. Maybe he felt uncomfortable for a different reason?

Involuntarily, Remus tapped into his heightened senses, wondering what they would tell him. Severus' heartbeat was fast, but not too fast. He didn't smell any fear on the other wizard. Severus wasn't scared, wasn't repelled, so why…? Remus watched Severus turn his back to him as he busied himself rearranging his potions. There was only one other reason Remus could think of that might explain Severus' retreat – attraction. Did he smell pheromones? He tried hard not to draw Severus' attention when he deeply inhaled his scent, and thankfully Severus didn't seem to notice. Yes, he picked up on something – not very strong, but it was enough to tell him that he had guessed correctly. Severus Snape was attracted to him.

Remus couldn't stop himself – he grinned broadly at that. Ever since he had fled into the bathroom to bring himself to orgasm, he had hoped that Severus would notice him. Merely recalling that velvet and seductive voice whispering into his ear caused him to grow aroused again. He tried to stop it though, as he wasn't in the position to run off into the bathroom again. Instead, he reached for the salve which Severus had placed upon the desk and set to tending to his scars.

/

Remus looked at himself in the mirror. He had retreated into the bathroom because he needed a moment to get to terms with the fact that the scars were fading beneath his very fingertips. The shallow ones had vanished already and the deeper ones looked less angry. Severus had told him that if he applied the balm again tomorrow most of the scars would completely disappear. It felt too good to be true. He could barely remember what he looked like without scars. He huffed, as the thought amused him. Skin without scars and his mind slowly healing as well? And all due to Severus Snape's ministrations? He wouldn't have believed it a month ago!

He dressed in sweat pants and a T-shirt and stepped out of the bathroom. It was early in the morning, but he still felt awake – too awake to go to sleep. Upon entering the living room, he found it empty and it made him wonder where Severus had gone. After checking the empty lab, he walked down the corridor and looked into the guestroom. He leaned against the doorway and smiled lazily at finding Severus asleep on the bed. He had even removed his coat and boots before lying down, but the high-necked shirt was still in place. Did Severus ever take it off? Well, he probably did, but when he was alone.

Remus walked over to the bed and lay down as well. He turned onto his side, so he was facing Severus and took great pleasure in looking at the other man's face, which was once more relaxed in sleep. It was odd that neither of them had suffered from nightmares since he had moved into Severus' rooms.

Severus was a light sleeper – Remus was aware of that, but he still decided to take the risk and moved closer until he was able to his rest his hand on Severus' hipbone. The fabric moved beneath his fingertips and he grew aware of the warm skin beneath it. He had heard students joke that their professor was a vampire, but right now, Severus felt warm and nothing like a dark creature.

The black eyes instantly opened upon contact. Remus didn't tense up though - instead he smiled apologetically. "Do you mind?" If his senses were correct – and they were hardly ever wrong – Severus wouldn't mind. He could only hope that the other wizard wouldn't pretend to be annoyed when he wasn't. Remus would hate bringing up the pheromones Severus was emitting at that moment.

Severus never expected Remus to reach out and his first reaction was to tell Lupin to remove his hand – that he was trespassing and that he wasn't going to allow it. But he had to admit the touch felt nice – reassuring actually. Remus' fingertips rubbed his skin beneath his shirt and Severus found himself at a loss. He had yearned for such a touch for years, but never expected to actually receive it one day. "I do not," he admitted eventually in a subdued voice. What was happening to him? He had always prided himself on being able to separate his mind from his heart. He had always been the rational one. Only once had his emotions gotten the better of him and that had been when Lily and he had been friends. To allow Remus into that void – to allow him to fill it with his presence, scared Severus. What if the wolf let him down? Was it even worth trying? Wasn't it better to stop this attraction now?

Remus thoughtfully gazed at the other wizard. Normally, Severus carefully guarded his emotions, but this time, he could easily see the turmoil Severus was in. He wondered if Severus truly understood what was happening between them. Did Severus realize they were attracted to each other? "Severus," he whispered, although he was afraid he would break the spell they seemed under. "I am glad you are here with me. I like your company and the fact that you have stopped fighting me over the bed." He chuckled, hoping it would settle Severus' nerves.

Severus was at a loss. What was he supposed to say to that? He simply wasn't good at expressing his feelings; he'd had so little opportunity to do so in the past! He worried he might say the wrong thing and decided not to say anything at all.

Remus read all those emotions – and maybe even more – in Severus' black eyes, which were open and inviting when they looked at him. Remus felt drawn towards them and he shifted closer, wrapping his arm around Severus' shoulder, who – thankfully – allowed it. He had to go slow, he knew that, and was more than comfortable with that pace. He hadn't had that many relationships either. Most of them had been one-night-stands with people who hadn't known what he was. He would still be a virgin if he hadn't kept silent about the curse. At the time, he had felt guilty about keeping the truth from them, but what choice did he have?

Severus wasn't sure he liked the fact that Remus had inched closer. The other wizard was in his personal space and that made him nervous. The problem was that he didn't trust easily. The one person he had ever trusted had let him down. Could he try again and trust Remus Lupin of all people?

"Sweet dreams, Severus. Try to sleep, will you?" Remus sensed the fragile balance they had established and knew it was up to him to keep it. Doing what he thought was best, he closed his eyes, and willed himself to go to sleep.

The fact that Remus allowed him his silence meant a lot to Severus. It told him that Remus understood the confusion he was in and gave him the time he needed to sort through his emotions. Severus drew in a deep breath; a part of him felt appalled by the weakness and vulnerability he had displayed a moment ago. It chided him for being emotional. But another part, one that seemed to be gaining the upper hand, felt thrilled that he wasn't alone tonight. That someone – someone who cared – was close to him and even holding him. He had been alone for a long time, and although he was afraid of what the future held for him, he realized he desperately wanted to find out.

/

His personal wards buzzed with alarm and Severus immediately opened his eyes in order to find out what enemy threatened them. He sighed, annoyed, upon finding his guestroom invaded by Albus' patronus. The old wizard's timing often irritated him. Albus seemed to know exactly when he wanted some privacy. Next to him, Remus stirred as well; apparently, the wolf was a light sleeper too.

"What's wrong? Oh…" Remus stared at the swirling energy, which revealed a silver phoenix close to the bed.

"Albus, of course," Severus informed Remus in a clipped voice.

"Apparently Remus' interrogation didn't go as well as Malleus hoped." Albus' chuckle echoed through the room. "Even worse, Alastor reported Malleus' misconduct; he apparently abused his power by asking some rather personal questions. For that, Remus, I am sorry."

Severus merely raised an eyebrow and waited, knowing there was more. Albus wouldn't contact them for such a minor detail. Suddenly, he grew aware of Remus' hand resting against his lower back. He half glared at the wolf, who had the audacity to merely grin back at him and rub his skin through his shirt.

Remus realized the exact moment Severus became aware of the caress. The glare Severus shot him merely made him smile though. Severus could pretend not to like it, but the fact that the other wizard remained in place and didn't remove his hand, told Remus of Severus' true desires.

"Fudge lectured Malleus and decide to cancel most of his privileges. He appointed Alastor to keep an eye on him and Malleus is no longer allowed to act on his own. This enraged Malleus and he stormed out of Fudge's office, telling them he would get even with you, Remus. Severus, make sure Remus doesn't leave Hogwarts. He needs to remain inside the wards. I have a very bad feeling about this – especially since Malleus hasn't been seen since. Let me know if you received my warning." At that, the patronus faded.

Remus didn't want to show the alarm he felt and did his best to radiate calm instead. He wasn't sure Severus believed him though.

Severus considered Albus' words and knew he had to sent a reply. Otherwise Dumbledore would continue to harass them by sending his patronus again. Looking at Remus, and seeing the hidden worry in those eyes, he felt strongly protective of the other wizard. "I will be right back," he whispered, much to his own surprise. Why had he said that?

"As long as you promise to return," Remus said, removing his hand and retreating further onto his side of the bed. He didn't want Severus to move out of his sight.

And Severus sensed that. Oddly enough, he didn't want to worry Remus, but did he want the wolf to see his patronus? Remus knew what it represented. Ah, by Merlin's beard, so be it then – let Remus see the truth about him. He picked up his wand from the nightstand and whispered, "Expecto Patronum." He avoided looking at Remus the moment the doe took shape in a sea of silver light. "Albus, I received your warning and I will be extra alert. Remus is safe at Hogwarts, but do let me know if you find out more about Malleus' whereabouts. Now go," he commanded the doe, which ran out of the guestroom at hearing that command. Severus didn't want to face Remus; he feared the questions he might be subjected to.

"Severus?" Remus used his elbows to push himself up and rested his back against the headboard. "About your patronus…" Should he bring it up? He didn't want to – not really – but he couldn't ignore it either.

Severus drew in a deep breath and decided to have mercy on Remus. "I loved her, yes… She was very dear to me and…" He had almost admitted his part in the betrayal. He had been about to confess to Remus that he had been the one taking the prophecy to the Dark Lord and sealing Lily's and James' fate by doing so. But he couldn't. The moment Remus found out, he would hate him and he would lose the other man's friendship – he was sure of it, and so he remained quiet. He looked at his hands; his right hand still holding his wand and his left lying idly in his lap.

Remus didn't need to hear the words to know how much Severus had loved her. It was obvious he still missed her and maybe even mourned her death – even after all those years. "You were very good friends. I understand that you miss her."

If only it was that simple! He missed her, yes. He mourned losing her – he still did, but foremost, he felt guilty. He was convinced he had caused her and James' death. His betrayal was the reason the Potters had died and why Harry was an orphan. If he hadn't hurried to the Dark Lord's side to inform him of the prophecy no one would have died. Lily's death was his doing. As far as Severus was concerned, his actions equalled throwing the killing curse at them himself.

Remus didn't want to pry and respected Severus' silence. But he did reach out to the other wizard in a physical way. He moved closer and slid an arm between the headboard and Severus' lower back and pulled the dark-haired wizard close to him. Severus tensed at once, but again, allowed the touch. "Thank you," Remus whispered into Severus' ear. He made sure to keep the touch light so Severus wouldn't feel trapped. "I appreciate you trusting me."

Severus sharply looked up at that and stared at Remus in surprise, knowing those words to be true, but he hadn't fully realized it until that very moment. He trusted Remus Lupin! Out of all the people he could have chosen to put his trust in, he had chosen the werewolf! How was that for irony?

Remus smiled knowingly – apparently the realization had hit Severus at that moment. "I doubt you let anyone get this close to you."

Severus nodded; Remus was right and he continued to wonder about that.

/

After breakfast, Remus watched Severus lock himself away in his lab to study his notes and he allowed it until noon. He had gone without Severus' company for four hours and wanted to have tea with him – maybe even grab a bite to eat if Severus was up for it. He pushed down the door handle and was surprised when the door opened as he had heard Severus turn the lock earlier. "Am I disturbing anything?" He stepped into the room and grinned at finding the disarray on Severus' desk had increased further. "What is that you are studying?" And why couldn't he read that bloody language?

Severus rubbed his brow and briefly massaged his temples. He felt a bit tired after focusing on the spell for hours. "Something that looks rather promising." He wasn't yet sure though how to best apply it to Remus' condition. "What do you want?"

"Tea? Scones? Muffins? Sandwiches?" Remus made his way over to the desk and came to a halt behind Severus' chair. Slowly – keeping in mind that Severus at times tended to overreact – he rested his hands on the Potions Master's shoulders and felt the tension there. Not due to his touch – no, he didn't think that, but because of the cramped way Severus had been sitting. Still acting slowly, he began to massage Severus' shoulders and neck. He was ready to stop at the first sign of discomfort on Severus' part, but to his – very pleasant – surprise, Severus exhaled and the tension slowly faded from his shoulders. Remus continued the massage, working on the tight knots that had formed beneath Severus' shoulder blades. He could imagine how much effort it took on Severus' part to allow this.

Severus grew anxious now that Remus stood behind him and he couldn't see the other wizard. He nearly jumped out of his chair when Remus rested his hands on his shoulders, but then, those fingers started to work on the tension between his shoulder blades, his neck, and back. And Severus found he savoured the sensation so much, that he was loathe to stop it. He even rested his head on his arms and closed his eyes in bliss. This did feel good.

Remus' heart missed a beat at finding Severus truly relax. It was strange how a mere touch could cause Severus to tense, or relax. Severus had also let go that evening at the lake, allowing him to hold his hand. "I reckon that must feel good… You are much too tense." Remus kept his tone playful and he winced in sympathy when Severus groaned as his thumbs dug into a particularly sore spot. He was about to suggest Severus removed his coat and shirt so he could work on those shoulders more easily, but stopped himself just in time, knowing Severus would probably shut down if he suggested that. But why? Why was the other wizard so intent on keeping his clothes on? He had to remain patient then, but he promised himself that he would find out.

"Does tea sound nice?" Remus whispered into Severus' ear the way the dark-haired wizard had done that morning. He watched Severus' reaction closely and felt the slight tremor that moved through him. A moment later, the pheromones were back, filling the air surrounding him. Remus felt relieved; he rather smelt pheromones than the stink of fear. He smiled and decided to take another step.

Severus' eyes widened upon realized Remus was kissing the top of his head. The lips brushed his hair, and although the touch was incredibly light, Severus still trembled due to the sensation.

"Come on then, or the tea will cool down." Remus noticed the way Severus had to compose himself before rising from his chair. It was obvious the Potions Master had never expected that particular gesture on his part and it left him unbalanced. If a mere kiss does that to you, how alone you must have been… It hadn't even been a real kiss – on the lips.

Severus hesitated when Remus curled his fingers around his hand. He was stunned and so he allowed it. Warm fingers twined with his and Severus' mouth went awfully dry. The touch itself was rather simple in nature, but it totally undid him to see his hand cradled like that. Remus had done that before – that night at the lake – but to experience it again was beyond expectation.

Remus wondered about Severus' stunned expression but refrained from prying. He instinctively knew that doing so would upset the fragile balance between them. However, he was forced to let go when they sat down for tea. The House elves had added sweets, scones, muffins, sandwiches, and even slices of cake. It was a real treat. "Hungry?"

Severus nodded. He selected a scone, added clotted cream and marmalade to it, and savoured eating it. He seldom indulged himself that way. The silence between them actually felt comforting and in a way even reassuring. Severus knew it was the perfect moment to share his research with Remus, but still hesitated to do so as he wasn't sure himself if the spell would work.

"What's on your mind?" Remus finished his sandwich and blew onto the surface of his tea. What bothered Severus?

Severus put down his teacup and tentatively took in Remus' expression. He looked relaxed – so maybe they would be able to discuss this without a row. "I discovered a promising spell in one of those ancient tomes."

"Is it written in that strange language you have been studying?"

"It is Aramaic, yes," Severus confirmed and averted his gaze. He stared at his hands instead.

"In what way might it help?" Remus frowned at Severus' uncharacteristic reaction. Was it unpleasant news then?

"It is not a dark spell. I want you to know that and keep that in mind when I tell you the rest." Severus wasn't sure Remus would ever allow him to cast that spell, and without Lupin's permission, he would never do it.

"You scare me, Severus. What is that spell about?" He believed Severus had his best interest in mind. Even if said spell had been dark, Remus believed, Severus would have only used it in order to help him. It seemed trust went both ways.

"In ancient times, healers cast that spell to further their patient's recovery. It works because the spell caster only has his patient's health in mind."

"And how would this help me?" So far, he failed to see why Severus was hesitant.

Severus sighed. He was trying to explain it in a way so Remus fully understood what the spell did, but it wasn't easy. "Let us assume I take the place of the healer and I cast that spell at you."

"I had gathered that much, Severus!" Remus rolled his eyes.

"If my desire is true, namely to aid your recovery, my magic will join yours. It will strengthen you, and not the werewolf, as he would be considered the disease."

Remus frowned. "Join your magic to mine? Would that enable you to control me?"

"Not control exactly," Severus mused. "My magic would blanket yours with a protective layer."

"And what will that accomplish?"

"As I said, I am still researching the spell and I never cast it before, but I believe that I can aid you during your transformation and make it painless. And during your transformation I could strengthen your mind against the influence of the werewolf. The Wolfsbane potion can only go so far… I improved it – slightly, but I am sure additional spells are needed in order to give you the measure of control Albus wants you to have."

Remus thought everything over. "Can you do this from a distance?" He wasn't sure he wanted Severus close during his transformation. He might be able to control the beast inside him, but there was always the chance he hurt Severus accidentally.

"No, the spell will not work when we are apart." Severus drew in a breath. "I need to touch you."

Remus didn't like it at all. "Severus, I can't control my actions during the transformation. I might hurt you." And even if he didn't lash out at Severus, he was afraid the sight of the werewolf would cause Severus to panic.

Severus however shook his head. "I will be able to aid you during your transformation. You won't feel the need to lash out at me."

Remus studied Severus. "Why do I feel you are not telling me everything?"

Because there was more… Severus raised his gaze and looked into Remus' eyes. "In time, I might be able to perfect casting that spell, and I might be able to stop the transformation itself. You would stop changing into a werewolf during the full moon."

Remus blinked, truly surprised. "You think you can stop it?"

"Not during the first few full moons, no. I need to find out how the spell works, how I can control it and how I can use it to stop the transformation. It will take time." He was determined to be honest with Remus. "I didn't tell you earlier, because I didn't want to give you false hope."

The fact that Severus was confiding in him now told Remus that the Potions Master believed the spell would work. Otherwise Severus wouldn't have told him. "Do I need to do anything? Except drink the Wolfsbane?"

Severus picked up his teacup again, and as the tea had cooled, he sipped from it. "Do you meditate?"

Remus shook his head. "I am too restless for that."

"You will have to learn to meditate then." Severus knew he had to stress one more detail – Remus had to be absolutely sure what he would agree too. "You will feel me in your mind. I won't take away your free will, but I might influence you at times."

Remus recalled the way Severus had manipulated his answers during the interrogation. He hadn't even realized Severus was inside his mind. "Influence me in what way and to what extent?"

Severus noticed the apprehension in Remus' voice and wished the other wizard didn't feel that way about him, but Severus knew the stunt he had pulled during the interrogation might have made Remus suspicious. "You want examples? Assume you want to claw at yourself… I would stop that. Or your werewolf instincts succeeded in taking over… I would push them back. As I said, I will not take away your free will, but I would make sure you didn't harm yourself – or others."

That sounded sensible to Remus and he would be able to accept that. "When do you want to start preparing for this?"

"If you agree to it, we will start with meditation today. One hour each evening." There was however something else that Severus needed to make very clear. "And during that hour we need to touch."

Remus' expression brightened at that. "I can hold your hand?"

Severus chuckled briefly, as the tension that had been building inside him, needed out. "For example."

"Or wrap my arms around you and hold you?" Remus laughed softly – truly enjoying the fact that they had to touch for the spell to work.

"If you believe that necessary," Severus whispered, suddenly sobering. He hadn't considered Remus might want that much physical contact. The prospect thrilled, and scared, him at the same time. "And you need to take the Wolfsbane, but only for the three nights leading up the transformation. It is not as much the potion, as the spell that will give you control."

Remus found that idea oddly pleasing. It gave him another reason to touch Severus and to find a way through the man's defences. "I want to try it."

Severus nodded. "In that case I should better resume my research. I need to study the spell so I fully understand it and will be able to cast it properly." He was about to get to his feet, when Remus moved forward and placed a hand on top of his. The werewolf squeezed his fingers and a strange, burning sensation started in the pit of his stomach.

"I have faith in you, Severus."

Severus could count the times someone had said that to him on one hand. Albus had said it once and so had the Dark Lord, but he still shivered recalling that moment. He had done everything the Dark Lord had demanded of him, just to assure Voldemort trusted him. Not even Albus exactly knew what he had done in order to gain the dark wizard's trust and Severus wanted to keep it that way. As Albus had once said, the end justified the means. He nodded and removed his hand from Remus' hold. "I need to resume my research," he offered in afterthought, and almost apologetically, as he hadn't want to break the contact either.

Remus understood. "I will see you tonight?"

"You need to grow accustomed to meditation." He needed Remus as calm as possible before and during the transformation. Then the spell would work best.

"I am already looking forward to it then." Remus watched – somewhat amused – Severus retreat to his study. He already liked the way that spell worked for it involved touching Severus again.

/

Severus sat at his desk and found himself unable to focus. Instead, he sat staring at the wall opposite him, wondering why he allowed himself to care about Remus Lupin. During the last decade he had watched his emotions carefully – had guarded them as well as he could. No one, not even Lily's son, nor Albus, had managed to get past his defences and now Remus had managed the impossible? Had succeeded where all others had failed? How could he have let it spin that much out of control?

It wasn't like him to worry about someone else's wellbeing, but lately he found himself concerned about Remus. He felt the need to lighten the other wizard's burden – that of a man who had never wanted to be a werewolf. He wasn't sure if the spell would work to that extent, but he owed it to Lupin to find out.

After reading the details about one aspect of the spell, he realized he faced another complication; even if he managed to perfectly cast that spell, Remus would need someone to cast it. It wouldn't work if Remus cast it himself. The spell worked because another person joined his magic to the one living under the curse. If cast often enough, the spell would eventually create a bond between them.

Remus would always need someone to be with him – a mate – a companion for life. Wolves mated for life, didn't they? Severus groaned, realizing what that meant for him if he decided to pursue this. He had to make a lifelong commitment in order to grant Remus a painless and peaceful existence. Could he do that? Did he even want to take such a step?

What if the Dark Lord returned and he was called to spy on the dark wizard again? Where would that leave Lupin? How could he possibly explain such a bond to Voldemort? And would Albus allow it? Dumbledore's orders had been straightforward – to perfect the Wolfsbane and by offering it to the werewolves, to ensure themselves of their loyalty. How would Albus react once he learned of the direction his research had taken him?

Groaning, he bowed his head and rested it on his forearms, once more recalling the soothing and reassuring way Remus had massaged his shoulders earlier. I do not want to be alone - not any more, he realized with a start. During the war, his duties as a spy had assured no one would get close to him. But now, with the Dark Lord gone, his loneliness was growing oppressive.

Remus seemed a good choice; he was an outstanding wizard and most importantly, Remus Lupin cared about him. He touched him easily – maybe even too easily – but he could grow used to being touched. Remus had a gentle disposition and appeared to have a calming influence on him. It hadn't escaped Severus' attention that the nightmares, which both of them normally suffered from, left them alone. Severus Snape was an intelligent wizard and knew it implied a sense of trust on a deep, probably even subconscious level.

He was running around in circles and needed to clear his head; he had to do so alone. Remus' presence would merely distract him. Severus walked over to the fireplace, grabbed a handful of floo powder and called out "Albus Dumbledore's office, Hogwarts."

A moment later he appeared in the empty office. Some former Heads of Hogwarts looked at him in surprise, but then the paintings ignored him as he was a common visitor to Albus' office. Severus left the office and walked toward the main court yard. Once outside, he wondered what to do. He could accio his broom, or he could use his ability to fly as Death Eaters did. He quickly discarded that notion though. He wasn't a Death Eater anymore and didn't want to remind himself of the fact that he had once revelled in the gift the dark wizard had bestowed on his followers.

He accio'd his broom instead, and even though he would never love flying that way, he took to the sky anyway, leaving the castle behind him in order to check on the wards. The flying helped to clear his head, as he had hoped, and he realized he had allowed himself to be steered down that certain path. He could have stopped it, could have thrown Lupin out. Bloody hell, he hadn't been obliged to offer the wolf a home, and yet, he had done so! Out of guilt maybe? Maybe the attraction had always been there on some level, but he had been too determined to ignore it. An attraction like that couldn't form in just a few days – it had to have been dormant for years!

Angry with himself, Severus landed close to the spot where the banshee had attacked Black. Scanning the forest in front of him, he noticed a few odd shadows between the trees and behind some bushes. It was as he had suspected – the banshee hadn't been alone. More dark creatures dwelt here and would try to enter Hogwarts at the first opportunity they got. He should chase them away or take them out, but Severus knew better than to do so at that time. He was too distracted – not focused enough – and his actions might get him injured or killed. He couldn't help but wonder if Malleus was also on his way to Hogwarts to avenge himself on Remus. He couldn't take that risk and carefully checked the condition the wards were in. They were in perfect condition though and no one would be able to breach them. Remus was as safe as he could be.

Severus mounted his broom again and headed for the lake, still wishing he was able to apparate, like Albus could. It would save him time and effort. He landed close to the lake and sought out their favourite spot where he sat down. Our favourite spot! It has come to this then! Shaking his head at his own stupidity for letting the attraction grow, he looked out over the lake. What was he going to do with Remus Lupin?

"I had a feelin' I might find yer here."

Severus smiled. "Hagrid, I didn't expect you." He looked at the half-giant who was walking toward him, thankfully without Fang in pursuit. Hagrid sat down next to him, rather awkwardly and noisily. Severus reckoned being a half-giant did have its drawbacks. "What brings you out here?"

"I'm worried," Hagrid admitted and looked rather guiltily at his friend. "Remus an' Sirius sought me out yesterday and I might have let somethin' slip."

"What about?" Severus cringed, suspecting what this might be about.

"They asked 'bout the wolf," Hagrid said and gave Severus a look that could only be labelled as apologetic. "I didn' say it was yer, but… They might have figured it out."

Severus had feared as much. He wondered why Remus hadn't mentioned it yet. "It was my fault, Hagrid. I made the mistake to show myself. I shouldn't have done that."

"But the Banshee…" Hagrid looked troubled. "Yer had no real choice, professor. Yer couldn' let that wench kill them."

"You are correct, but that doesn't excuse the fact that I acted carelessly." So Remus knew, or highly suspected he was an Animagus. It was good to know that.

"I don' understand why yer feel yer need ter hide that from Remus – him bein' a wolf himself."

"He is a werewolf, Hagrid. There is a difference." But he wasn't sure Hagrid would understand. "You didn't confirm their suspicions, did you?"

"Nah, I left before I could let somethin' slip!" Hagrid felt pleased with himself. "Are yer goin' ter tell him though?"

Severus hadn't thought it over yet. He had been too busy worrying about the spell and the bond it might create. Although Severus suspected that their attraction would deepen even without him casting that spell. "I do not know, Hagrid. Do you know why I need to hide the fact that I am an Animagus?"

"Yer not registered wit' the Ministry! Can' blame yer. I don' want them ter know everythin' about me either!" He still remembered the way they had wanted to execute Buckbeak! "Yer worried they will arrest yer?"

"Hagrid, I am a former Death Eater. They will never trust me. If they find out that I have hidden the fact that I am an Animagus they will try to incarcerate me in Azkaban!" Hagrid shuddered and Severus barely managed to suppress the same reaction.

"I owe yer, professor. I'll keep meh big mouth shut!"

Severus looked at the half-giant and smiled. "You always were a good friend to me, Hagrid. Even when I was a scrawny child trying to survive the Marauders' pranks." Hagrid had looked out for him and had even gotten him out of some tight spots.

"And yer were kind ter me in turn! Yer helped me. Yer restored my wand and hit it in the umbrella! A stroke of genius!" Albus had also offered to restore his wand, but for some reason the Headmaster had never gotten around to actually do so. So when Severus had offered, Hagrid had happily accepted. "What are yer doin' out here on yer own?"

"Thinking, Hagrid, or at least making an effort to do so."

Hagrid took an educated guess. "About Remus Lupin? I noticed the two of yer like ter come here at night."

Severus shook his head and berated himself for not noticing they had been watched! He should have noticed Hagrid of all people! The half-giant wasn't known for his stealth!

"If two people can sit together in silence like that, and enjoy each other's company, they are well-suited, don't yer think?" Hagrid remarked in a surprisingly gentle voice. "I can' recall havin' seen yer look that much at ease before. Maybe that should tell yer something!"

Severus chuckled; Hagrid knew about the attraction then. "I had never thought it possible, but I enjoy his presence, Hagrid."

"His companionship?" Hagrid offered.

Severus considered denying it, but Hagrid already knew the truth. "Aye, his companionship, Hagrid."

Hagrid's smile broadened. "I hear he's stayin' wit' yer? He even moved in ter yer rooms?"

Severus cocked his head. "How do you know that? Did Remus and Black tell you?"

Severus couldn't hope to lie successfully to Hagrid, and Hagrid had the same problem; he couldn't lie to Severus and hope to get away with it. "The Headmaster visited 'fore he left. He told me."

He should have suspected Albus' hand in it. Severus decided against questioning the gentle half-giant and looked out over the lake instead. It was a lovely evening, but truth be told, he would have enjoyed the view even better with Remus at his side, maybe even holding his hand once more.

/

Remus felt puzzled; the last time he had seen Severus, the other wizard had headed for his lab, but now that he was checking on the Potions Master, he found him gone. The lab was empty. He had noticed the odd mood that had taken Severus after discussing that spell, but he hadn't expected him to flee – because that was exactly what it looked like.

Remus closed the door and turned around, feeling thoughtful. He knew Severus well enough to understand the emotional turmoil he was in, but still… he had hoped they had achieved some sort of understanding. He was still lost in thought when he entered the living room and therefore failed to notice he wasn't alone anymore.

"You seem worried, Lupin."

Remus looked up at hearing Severus' voice. The Potions Master was sitting on the couch, and although he tried to radiate a sense of calm, Remus smelt the unease on him. "Tell me, do I need to worry about you, Severus?" He was a bit surprised to see Severus gesture him closer. He sat down next to the other wizard and continued to study the dark eyes, which were guarded once more.

"Maybe…" Severus sighed; hiding his distress was useless. Remus would see through it. "Maybe I should tell you."

Remus grew hopeful at hearing that and nodded. "Tell me then." Was Severus really going to address the attraction between them? He found that hard to believe.

Severus in turn found it equally hard to believe that he was in fact contemplating discussing his feelings. He couldn't quite remember the last time he had made himself so vulnerable. Maybe it had been the day he had begged Dumbledore to help him save the Potters.

Remus noticed Severus' apprehension and took pity on the other wizard. He gently gathered Severus' right hand in his and rubbed the skin beneath his fingertips. Hopefully being reassured in that way helped Severus open up. Remus felt pleasantly surprised when Severus returned the caress and stroked his skin as well. "The feeling is mutual," he whispered, realizing Severus found it even harder than he had thought. "I feel it too – the attraction."

Severus sighed relieved. He had dreaded making himself vulnerable only to be turned down by Lupin. "I do not know how it happened." He stared at their joined hands and rubbed Remus' knuckles with his thumb. "I doubt it happened overnight though." He finally found the courage to look into those blue eyes. "Were you aware of the attraction before you moved into my rooms?"

Remus considered the question put to him. "I always liked you, Severus, and during the last year I tried to get to know you, even to befriend you. But you always kept me at a distance." Maybe the attraction had been there all along, but Severus had never shown an interest in him and so it had continued to slumber, never gaining its full potential until now. "I want to explore this, Severus. I like having you close… I like touching you and if you let me, I'd like to deepen this relationship, if I may call it that."

Severus nodded. "I cannot deny the attraction either. For the very first time in my life I feel like…" He found it hard to find the right words though. "Like I do not want to be alone anymore."

Remus knew what it had taken Severus to acknowledge that and to speak the words aloud. "We are agreed then," he said and squeezed Severus' hand. He chuckled and smiled warmly at the other wizard. "Dating Severus Snape… Who will believe me?"

"You are not telling anyone!" Severus looked at Remus in horror. "No one can know!"

"And why is that? Do you believe I can keep my feelings a secret for long? You know what I am like, Severus. I am a bad actor, remember?"

Bloody hell… That was true! "You can only tell the ones who need to know… No one else." He groaned upon realizing Remus would want to tell Black.

"I will need to tell Pads at one point," Remus confirmed. "But not yet." He wanted to be sure about them first. Deciding that Severus had done enough emotional bloodletting for one day, Remus decided to be merciful on him. "Will you teach me how to mediate?"

"Ah, about that…" Severus straightened his shoulders and wondered how to tell Remus. "There is something you need to know before fully agreeing to this course of action."

"And what's that?" Remus frowned.

"Now that we have established the fact that we are attracted to each other…" Severus paused briefly upon seeing Remus give him an eye-roll. "You need to know that the spell can create a bond between us."

"A bond?" Remus echoed. "What kind of bond?"

"A bond between… lovers." Damn Lupin for making him say it!

"Lovers?" Remus' smile returned. "You would consider taking that step? You know what I am, Severus."

Severus pulled Remus' hand toward him and experimentally wrapped his other hand around it as well – cradling it firmly. "I know who you are. I do not care what you are."

"Interesting," Remus couldn't help remarking. "Satisfy my curiosity, will you? What attracts you to me? I know it's not my feral character." Had he put it that way on purpose in order to remind Severus whom he was getting involved with? Perhaps, but he was curious to hear the answer.

Lupin was going to make him do this, wasn't he? Severus sighed softly, but then Remus moved a little closer and smiled at him in that way – in an odd mix of innocence and mischief. "You accept me the way I am. You do not pressure me into revealing my secrets. You give me the time I need."

"I do hope you will confide in me eventually," Remus admitted.

"I probably will," Severus conceded, knowing he would have to share his sordid history with Remus should they continue down this path. "But what attracts me the most to you is your kindness. The tenderness to your touch… the compassion in your expression when you look at me. No one ever looked like that at me before and I realize I crave it."

Remus had hoped for, but not expected, such honesty from Severus. The way he had phrased it, and the expression in those dark eyes that accompanied the admission, convinced Remus that Severus meant every word he said. "You almost sound like a poet, Severus." Remus smiled. "I can't recall anyone ever telling me I am kind and compassionate – not in such a way." It had been a declaration of love, he realized that. One, which only Severus Snape could make in such a fashion. "Thank you for that." Remus leaned in closer, hoping he had the timing right and that Severus wouldn't deny him even though the Potions Master was nervous.

Severus sharply drew in his breath upon realizing Remus' intention. Soft lips brushed his in an affectionate gesture which bordered on a kiss. Why had Remus done that? As if entranced, Severus raised an arm and touched his own lips with his fingertips.

Remus' heart clenched painfully upon seeing that gesture and it made him wonder if Severus had ever had a lover – or had even been kissed before. But that was an insane notion! Severus was in his thirties! He must have had a lover or at least one-night-stands! Although, now that he thought it over, Severus didn't strike him as someone who had casual sex. He didn't want to ruin the moment by asking something that personal, but he did file the information away for later.

"We should meditate. The spell will work best if you are calm." Severus suddenly felt shy. By Merlin! He had never felt so timid before – not even around Lily!

Remus realized he had to back down and didn't mind. Severus had admitted he had feelings for him and Remus was content with that. "What do you want me to do?"

"Lie down on your back with your head in my lap." Severus shifted slightly; he still found it hard to look at Remus after the confession he had just made. The other wizard knew that the attraction was mutual now.

Remus complied; he stretched on his back and rested his head in Severus' lap as instructed. Looking up, he smiled at seeing the weak blush that threatened to spread across Severus' face. He wanted to raise his arm and caress Severus' face, but then the Potions Master caught his hand and rested it back onto the sofa. "Spoilsport," he snorted.

"If you continue like that you will never be able to calm and control your mind," Severus chided him. "And I need you to be able to do that."

Growing serious again, Remus nodded. "Tell me what to do then."

"Close your eyes," Severus said in his calmest voice. "Close your eyes and slow down your breathing." He placed his right hand on Remus' brow and noticed that the smile on the other man's face was broadening again. "Focus," he said, barely keeping himself from hissing.

Remus drew in a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, and then released it. Closing his eyes was harder, as he wanted to look at Severus instead, but in the end, he complied, sensing Severus was serious about this.

"Now picture the lake," Severus said once Remus' breathing had evened out. "Picture the calm surface in your mind. There is no wind to move the water… There are no fish… There is nothing but the steady surface… Water is calming… Water is soothing." Severus nodded absentmindedly, sensing Remus' mind was adapting to the image and beginning to adjust to it. "Very good," he whispered and wondered why Remus claimed he found it hard to reach that tranquil state of mind.

Severus' voice possessed an entrancing quality as far as Remus was concerned and it was easy to obey the demands Severus made.

"Now imagine yourself floating on the surface. You are as light as air. You hardly weigh a thing. The water cradles you, covers you, and blankets you with its calming cool." Severus gently rubbed Remus' brow, and nonverbally cast Legilimens in order to find out if his approach worked. The moment he entered Remus' mind, the cool presence of water surrounded him and a sense of peaceful calm enveloped his mind. "Excellent," he whispered and withdrew as gently as he could. "Now we take the last step. Imagine the soothing water close over you… You sink deeper and deeper, until all you know is a soothing sense of darkness that surrounds you. You are finally able to rest – to sleep, if you will." He knew he should feel honoured, and he did. The way Remus reacted showed the vast amount of trust the other wizard had in him.

Severus grew quiet then and went through a routine he had learned at a very early age. He calmed his mind like he had soothed Remus', and allowed his thoughts to come to a stop and rest. At the outskirts of his mind, he still sensed Remus' presence though, and for a moment, he worried if the spell he had cast just now still connected him to the other wizard's mind. But that wasn't the case. It wasn't due to the Legilimens he had cast, not at all. It was something else – some unknown force that continued to connect their minds. Severus briefly considered forcefully breaking it, but as he didn't want to upset Remus' mediation, he allowed for it to linger. He would deal with it later.

/

"It is time for you to join the world again, Lupin," Severus quipped. They had meditated for one hour, just as planned, and at the end of it, he had easily cut the thin cord that had temporarily connected their minds.

Remus opened his eyes and felt like waking up from the best rest he had ever had. "How did I do?"

Severus considered settling for a 'passable', but then decided he was done playing games. "You did well. I am surprised you found it difficult to meditate in the past."

"Well, it might have something to do with the fact that Pads kept jumping me the last time I tried," he offered apologetically. "After that, I didn't bother again."

"You should meditate more often… And you will. Tomorrow evening we will mediate again." Severus sucked in his breath at seeing Remus raise an arm and caress his face with his fingertips. He barely contained the urge to close his eyes and to lean into the touch; but he wasn't ready yet to make himself that vulnerable. So instead, he looked at Remus and tried his best to act unfazed.

Remus saw through the pretence though. "Come to bed with me. Mediation tired me and I want to get some sleep."

Severus stared at the wall opposite him. That was the first time ever he had received that particular invitation. "Go to sleep then. I will join you shortly."

"Do not take too long, Severus." Remus brushed his thumb across Severus' cheekbone and smiled warmly. Severus might pretend the caress didn't affect him, but his heightened senses told him differently.

/

Severus felt nervous as he made his way over to the bed. Remus was watching him and the smiling expression in those blue eyes told Severus that the other wizard was eager for him to join him. How odd; that they had ended up together like that. Severus drew in a deep breath and surrendered to his fate, much like he had when he had gone to Albus to beg for help.

"Severus, it's warm in here and I do not believe you are comfortable wearing all that," Remus whispered and pointed at Severus high-necked shirt, which was still buttoned up all the way. "Why do you not remove it?"

Should he tell Remus the reason why he wanted to keep his shirt on? Or shouldn't he?

"Tell me," Remus demanded as he moved closer and rested his hand on Severus' thigh. The Potions Master arched an eyebrow at the gesture, but didn't move away or remove the offending hand in question; he stayed put instead. "What troubles you?" Remus rubbed the skin beneath the fabric in an attempt to reassure the other wizard.

Severus realized he had to confess if he wanted them to grow closer, but the realization didn't make admitting the truth easier – not at all. "I do not want you to see the Dark Mark." He felt more confident hiding it.

"Ah…" Remus hadn't thought of that. He knew Severus had taken the Mark at a very young age and he even understood that the other wizard felt awkward about it, but until that moment, he hadn't fully understood just how ashamed Severus felt. Instead of answering Severus verbally, Remus sat up and began to undo the top buttons to the high-necked shirt.

Severus quickly caught Remus' hand in his and shook his head. "Don't."

But Remus ignored the whispered word and continued. After undoing the top five buttons, Severus finally released his hand and resigned himself to being undressed. Remus smiled warmly. "I like you the way you are, Severus, and that includes your mistakes. I know how hard you have worked to redeem yourself – the risks you took each time you spied on Voldemort. I smelt the bloodstains on your coat. The black fabric of your clothes kept others from realizing your injuries, but I smelt the blood on you, Severus, your blood."

Severus bowed his head and Remus' heart went out to him. He then decided to clarify his feelings – for his own, and Severus' sake. "I love you the way you are, Severus Snape." As expected, Severus' head jerked up and the Potions Master stared him. "Why pretend I feel anything less for you? I am not ashamed of admitting that I am in love with you."

Severus felt at a loss; he hadn't expected that admission that quickly!

Remus merely grinned at him and managed to undo the last two buttons. "There is no need to feel ashamed, Severus. Not with me – understood?" Slowly, he slid the shirt down Severus' shoulders, and by doing so, revealed scared skin. He cringed at realizing how deep some of scars ran. Tracing them with his fingertips, he frowned at Severus. "That salve works just fine. My scars are gone. Why don't you use it yourself?"

Did he want Remus to know? No, not really, but what choice did he have? "I do not want them gone. They remind me of the mistakes I made." But that was only a half-truth; they also reminded him of the fact that he deserved all the pain he had felt at the Dark Lord's hands. After all, he had caused the Potters' deaths!

"Oh, Severus," Remus sighed. He understood better than Severus suspected. He didn't need to hear the unspoken words, for he had felt like that for a long time himself. "You need to forgive yourself for that. You can't cling to your guilt like that."

Severus swallowed hard upon realizing he had to tell Remus the rest of his crimes as well. He couldn't go ahead with this relationship without Remus knowing the truth about him. "I am responsible for the fact that the Dark Lord murdered Lily and James Potter." Saying it felt like a liberation. Even though it might cause him to lose him Remus' affection, he had to tell him. He couldn't let Remus do this without knowing how evil he had been in the past.

"What do you mean by that?" Remus frowned, but refused to release Severus. As they sat close to each other, he wrapped an arm around Severus' shoulder and cringed when his fingertips encountered a particularly deep scar – someone had cut Severus, digging the tip of the knife quite deeply into the soft tissue.

"The Dark Lord ordered me to spy for him, and so I did. When I heard of the Prophecy I knew the Dark Lord would praise me for learning of it. And so I hurried to his side and told him." Severus shivered, reliving his shame. "The moment he learned about it, he realized it had to refer to either the Potters or the Longbottoms. When I realized that, I panicked. You know how much I cared about Lily…" He expected Remus to release him and to back away from him, but when the werewolf didn't, Severus tried to distance himself instead.

"No, stay," Remus said resolutely. "Tell me the rest." He had always suspected something like that must have occurred. For Severus to switch sides something truly momentous had to have happened!

Severus bowed his head and drew in a deep breath, barely believing Remus was staying. "I contacted Albus. I was not certain he would listen to me, but he did. I begged him to save them – Lily's family, and he said he would help."

Remus frowned. "And what did you give him in turn?" Severus gave him a surprised look and Remus shook his head at seeing it. "I am no fool, Severus. I know Albus. I know of his tendency to scheme and manipulate. What did you offer him in turn?"

"Everything," Severus whispered, stunned that Remus had seen through Albus. "I promised him everything. If he saved the Potters."

"What happened then?" Remus couldn't help but feel sorry for Severus. How old had Severus been at the time all that had happened? Nineteen? Twenty? He couldn't have been much older than that.

"Albus' plan did not work as it should have. You know what Pettigrew did."

"Yes, I do… If I ever get my hands on that rat…" Remus quickly composed himself; Severus needed him calm. "Albus failed to protect them and yet you remain at his side?"

"Lily's son survived." Severus looked away again, unable to witness the compassion he had read in Remus' eyes a moment earlier. "I vowed to protect him. I will do anything I can to ensure his safety."

Remus sighed again and tightened his hold on Severus, pulling him against him. "I always thought you detested him. The way you act around Harry led me to believe you hated the very sight of him!"

This time, Severus chuckled softly, but in a bitter way. "Think, Lupin! We know that the Dark Lord will rise again. When that day comes, I must return to his side to spy on him. Children of Death Eaters are in my House and in my classes. When the day comes everyone must believe that I never stopped supporting the Dark Lord! I can not allow Harry to know that I care. No one can."

"Well, now I do," Remus whispered thoughtfully. "You are an excellent actor, Severus, so much better than I am. If you hadn't told me, I would never have realized the truth."

Severus finally raised his gaze and sought out Remus' eyes. "I will not stop you if you decide to end this. I will not stop you from leaving my rooms if you decide not to be with me. I understand that you want to reconsider this relationship."

Remus had known all along that Severus would do this. It hadn't been hard to predict and so he was prepared when the Potions Master tried to move away from him. "You made a mistake, Severus – a terrible one, but you didn't kill Lily and James. Voldemort did. You would have gladly died in their stead..?" After seeing Severus nod – he had expected nothing less – Remus continued. "But you should reconsider your unconditional surrender to Albus. He failed to keep them safe, Severus, don't forget that. He is not infallible. Be careful where his scheming is concerned."

"Remus," Severus frowned as he hadn't expected that warning. "Albus' sole goal is to ensure the Dark Lord's permanent demise. I share that objective."

"I know you do – and so do I for that matter – but I want to see it realized with as few casualties as possible." Remus rubbed Severus' shoulder and waited for the other wizard to collect his thoughts. Without any doubt, Severus was struggling with what had just happened. In order to show Severus his acceptance, Remus reached for the arm that carried the Mark. It had faded somewhat, but it was still clearly outlined. "If you hadn't taken the Mark, more people would have died in the war. You saved many lives; remember that whenever guilt threatens to overwhelm you. You have done much good, Severus, even if you do not want to admit it."

Severus wanted to deny it, but then Remus' fingertips ghosted over the Mark, silencing him.

"I accept you as you are, Severus. That hasn't changed."

He didn't deserve it – he really didn't.

/

Remus continued to watch Severus after the Potions Master had finally succumbed to sleep. He loved those moments; moments during which Severus' features were open and peaceful. It pained him that Severus had expected to be turned away after his confession about his part in Lily's and James' death. Remus understood why Severus blamed himself for their deaths, but he honestly couldn't hold Severus accountable for that. It was Pettigrew who had betrayed them, and it had been Voldemort who had cast the killing curse. Severus had tried to stop it. He reverently placed a light kiss onto Severus' brow and then released the other wizard from the embrace he had wrapped him in. He was about to leave the bed when Severus' raspy voice made him halt in his movements.

"Where are you going?" Severus had woken the moment Remus had moved away from him. He had instantly sensed the loss of body warmth.

"I am only going to the bathroom, Severus. I will be right back. Go back to sleep." In an attempt to reassure Severus, Remus stroked the black hair and even massaged his scalp. The sigh that escaped Severus' lips made Remus smile. "Sleep now," he whispered and he placed another kiss on Severus' brow the moment he closed his eyes and went back to sleep. Content that Severus was resting once more, Remus quickly left the bed and headed for the bathroom.

After relieving himself, he splashed some water onto his face. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and frowned. He still had to get used to the fact that the scars were gone and it was definitely a changed man who looked back at him. His eyes, which had always looked dead to him, twinkled with life, and his expression, once empty or ashamed, now shone with affection. He smiled in a silly way and saluted himself before turning away from the mirror. He would make the best out of the chance life was giving him.

Remus was about to step back into the guestroom, but then halted abruptly in the doorway. The sight that greeted him froze the very blood in his veins and made his heart thunder in his chest. Two Dementors floated above the bed and one of them was sucking the life out of Severus. Severus' features were contorted in pain and his hands had turned into claws, as if he was trying to tear the Dementors apart. That wouldn't work though. Remus cursed the fact that he had left his wand on the nightstand. He accio'd it immediately, but one of the Dementors was already heading his way. Remus' instincts kicked in and he cast the patronus charm! He had to help! He had to save Severus!

His patronus tore at the dark creature and it quickly vanished, but the second Dementor was still tormenting Severus. Silver threads sprung from Severus' eyes and the Dementor greedily absorbed the wizard's energy. Remus watched in horror as the Dementor pulled back its hood and dove toward Severus trying to clamp its jaw around the struggling wizard's mouth in order to deliver its devastating kiss. "No!" Remus called out and wished his patronus would move faster. It felt like an eternity before the charm finally reached the Dementor and chased it away from Severus. An angry hiss echoed through the room and then the Dementor was gone!

Remus rushed over to Severus. His fingers remained tightly clasped around his wand. He wasn't going to make the same mistake twice! He jumped onto the bed and crawled toward Severus, who had gone eerily quiet. "Severus? Severus!" He wrapped his arms around the other man and pulled him close to his chest. "Severus, can you hear me?" Had he dealt with the Dementor in time or had it already started to devour Severus' soul? He cradled Severus in his arms and whispered reassurances, telling the unconscious man that the threat was gone, that the Dementors had fled. "Severus, please open your eyes! Please let me know that you're not injured! Severus, please, just look at me!" He was panicking; Severus remained unconscious and his eyes stayed closed. "Please, Severus," he said again, more urgently this time. "I need you to come back to me!"

Remus' voice, and especially the urgency to it, reached the depths of Severus' mind, and he fought himself a way back to the surface. He had done this before; he could do it again! He actually had a reason to fight this time around; he had to assure Remus Lupin that he would be fine in the end!

Remus continued to rock Severus and smoothed back the black hair, tucking the strands behind the ears. "Severus, if you can hear me, I need you to open your eyes. I need you to talk to me! Don't do this to me, damn it!" Remus sucked in his breath as Severus shivered in his arms and then began to trash. He continued to hold him, making sure Severus couldn't accidentally hurt himself in that state. Suddenly Severus' eyes opened, and when they did, Remus froze in shock; the white had completely disappeared. He stared into a pit of darkness upon looking into Severus' eyes. "By Merlin, what…?"

Severus forced himself to remain calm and to lie still. He knew – from past experiences – that he would be weak and that he should move as little as possible. His body – and foremost his mind – needed to recover from the attack. The Dementors had taken him by surprise; he had never expected them to infiltrate his quarters!

"Severus? Can you hear me? Do you know what I am saying?" Remus cringed; Severus' black eyes now focused on him and scared him more than he wanted to admit. "Severus?"

"I hear you, Lupin… No need to keep repeating yourself," Severus managed, although weakly. He was angry with himself; he had let his guard down. He had felt too sure of himself – had enjoyed Remus' presence too much and it had caused him dearly. What had possessed him to let go of his vigilance? But how was I to know Malleus would find a way to send Dementors after us? How could I have known that?

"Severus, are you injured? Did that Dementor kiss…" His courage left him at the last moment.

"He wanted to," Severus whispered and shuddered at recalling the terrible cold that had enveloped him – still cloaked him. "But you stopped him in time." He looked at Remus and was grateful that the Dementor had found only him in bed instead of the two of them. That way, Remus had been spared the pain. "I will be fine… Just give me a few hours." A few days was more like it – maybe even a week, but he would recover – he always did. It just took time.

"Severus, what happened to your eyes?" Remus asked with trepidation. He rested his hand on Severus' brow to soothingly stroke it. He held onto Severus for dear life and never wanted to let go again.

"My eyes?" Severus wondered about the question at first, but then realized what had happened.

"The white's gone… Your eyes are all black." Remus brushed Severus' face with his fingertips, trying to offer as much comfort as he possibly could.

"It will go away in time. Do not concern yourself with it." Severus tried to sit up, but was still too weak and therefore resigned himself to letting Remus cradle him protectively against his chest.

"I never saw anything like it before! Does it hurt?" Remus wished he could do more in order to help Severus.

"It happened before," Severus said, growing more tired with each word he spoke, but he couldn't go to sleep yet. First, he needed to ensure their safety. He had been remiss in the past; it was his fault that they had been attacked and he would make sure it didn't happen again. He closed his eyes and focused on the magic inside him, letting it build until he finally released it.

Remus blinked in surprise. A silver cloud rose from the floor and continued to rise until it connected with the ceiling. A silver cocoon surrounded them and Severus twitched in his arms, as if being attacked again. "Severus, talk to me! What is happening?" Had Severus called forth that silver cloud? And how had he done that in his weakened state?

"Something I learned to do in… Azkaban," Severus whispered. He wanted to assure Remus that they were safe now, but he lacked the energy, and so he settled for uttering just a few words. "Safe now… sleep…. Dementors can't get to us…" He would explain everything later, once he felt stronger. Now he needed to rest.

Remus desperately wanted to know what was happening, but he also realized that Severus was too exhausted to explain matters to him. Severus shivered in his arms and Remus quickly spelled the blanket warm and covered them with it. He pulled Severus close and watched him throughout the night.

/

Remus was still awake and therefore caught Severus opening his eyes the next morning. He reckoned it was close to noon, but he didn't care. Severus had needed the rest. He couldn't suppress the flinch that swept through him the moment he realized that Severus' eyes were still all black. "Morning," he whispered. "How do you feel today?"

Severus wasn't sure why Remus asked him that at first, but then remembered the Dementors' attack last night. They had tried to devour his mind, and it is was only due to Remus' actions that he still possessed his soul. "Thank you," he whispered, equally soft. "Without you my mind would be gone by now."

Remus felt relieved at finding Severus once more capable of uttering complete sentences. He also looked much more aware than last night. The blackness of those eyes continued to worry him though. "I would like hot chocolate for two," he said, addressing the House elves. A moment later, one of them appeared and placed a tray onto the nightstand, giving both of them a worried look before disappearing again. Even Damocles sat quietly in the corner of the room, trying to fade into the background.

"Can you sit up? I want you to drink some of that." Severus was still too weak to sit up unaided and so Remus pulled and pushed until Severus sat upright. He reached for a mug filled with hot chocolate and helped Severus wrap his fingers around it. He was once more relieved to find that those fingers didn't shake. "Drink, and then we will talk."

Severus wasn't interested in discussing last night, but realized Remus had questions, probably concerning the changed state of his eyes. He resolved to answer them to his best ability as Remus deserved nothing less for saving him last night. "What do you want to know?" he asked after carefully sipping from the hot chocolate. He watched, feeling rather mesmerized as Remus had rested a hand on his abdomen to gently stroke the skin there. That touch was rather distracting…

"Why are your eyes like that, Severus? You seem to be recovering from that attack, but your eyes…" He shivered briefly and turned onto his side so he could study Severus better. Damocles also scooted closer, but still remained at a distance.

"It is a long story. Are you certain you want to hear it?" Severus sipped again and then placed the mug onto the nightstand. Instead, he claimed Remus' hand which continued to distract him. He couldn't possibly carry on a conversation with Remus touching him like that!

"I am certain. Tell me," Remus demanded and twined their fingers.

Severus moistened his lips as he needed a moment to gather his thoughts and to think of the best way to tell Remus. But in the end, he realized there wasn't a good way to tell him. "Do you recall the fact that I was arrested and interrogated by the Aurors after the war?" After Remus nodded, Severus continued. "I was taken to Azkaban in-between questionings. I was put into a cell and the Dementors were given free reign. After all, I was a Death Eater and had lost my rights, just as Moody said."

"I remember," Remus said softly, dreading the next part.

"The Dementors knew they were not allowed to kill me or wholly devour my soul, as I still needed to stand trial, but they were free to act otherwise." Severus averted his eyes then, unable to look at Remus any longer. "They delighted to threaten me with the Kiss. Most of the time, things happened the way you witnessed last night. They would start to Kiss me, and just before they would extract my soul, they stopped. Then it would start all over again."

Remus shook his head in horror. "Severus…" What could he say to that?

"They managed to damage my mind the first few times they half-Kissed me, but I learned to defend myself against them. I did not have my wand with me. The Aurors took it away from me, but I was always able to do some minor wandless magic. I had to perfect it while I was in Azkaban."

Remus briefly looked at the silver mist that still swirled across the room, and then back at Severus. "How did you do it? Defend yourself?"

"I learned to cast my patronus without the use of my wand. But that only offered me a momentary respite. It would chase them off, but they would return. So I turned it into a defensive spell instead. Whenever I could rest, I cast it. The spell has a defensive and protective nature and it prevented them from touching or Kissing me. It kept them at a distance and I finally received a chance to rest." Severus reached for the hot chocolate again, knowing it would aid his recovery and drank from it.

Remus' head reeled from the things Severus had told him. "Did the Aurors know? Did Alastor know what those Dementors were doing to you?" He had always considered Alastor strict, but fair. If Alastor had willingly participated in this form of torture then he had to seriously rethink their friendship.

Severus kept his gaze averted. "They did. At times, one of the Aurors would enter my cell to collect me for another round of interrogation and the Dementors continued their games, trying to Kiss me, with an Auror standing in the doorway. I do not remember if Moody ever witnessed it. Maybe he liked it best to watch me suffer whilst hiding."

Remus tightened his hold on Severus' hand and stroked the skin in-between the knuckles. "How long did you stay in Azkaban?"

"A month, but it felt like forever. It was only because Albus pleaded for me at the Wizangamot that they released me. I still wonder how he convinced them to let me go. Other Death Eaters were not as fortunate." Severus finished his hot chocolate and briefly closed his eyes, which made him recall Remus' original question. "During that time, my eyes changed. The prolonged contact with the Dementors and their continued attempts to Kiss me affected me. I recall a time when Albus visited me in my cell. I had not perfected the spell yet and he entered while one of the Dementors was tormenting me. He cast the expecto patronum spell and got rid of it. I still remember the expression in his eyes the moment he looked into mine. After that visit, he doubled his attempts to clear me of the charges." Talking exhausted him, but he would answer any remaining questions Remus had. Then he would rest, and once he had recovered, he would hunt down Malleus and make the bastard pay!

"Severus, I do not want to pressure you, but can I ask you one more thing?" Remus wasn't sure bringing it up would do them any good, but he had to try.

"What is it?" Severus finally turned his head and made eye-contact. The first thing he noticed was the compassion in Remus' blue eyes and then he grew aware of the fact that the other man was still holding and caressing his hand. Apparently his past wasn't sordid enough to chase Remus away. He felt grateful for that. He still expected Remus to desert him whenever he revealed another nasty bit regarding his past.

"I want to know about these," Remus said and used his hold on Severus' hand to turn them around. His fingertips moved over the scars disfiguring the wrists. "When did this happen?"

Ah, Remus had noticed then? He should have kept his shirt on instead of giving in to the other man. "It happened shortly after the trial. Albus had managed to clear me and took me to Hogwarts. It was his plan to appoint me as the new Potions Master, as he wanted me close. Also, once Harry started to attend Hogwarts I would be able to keep a close eye on him. But it did not work as he had planned – not at first." Severus' gaze shifted from Remus' eyes to his scared wrists. "During my first night here, everything came rushing in on me. I had to suppress my feelings during my time in Azkaban; they had attempted to break me, but it had not worked. I had fought them all the way. But once I was here – safe, and what I consider at home, I snapped. Everything overwhelmed me; my betrayal, finding Lily and James dead… Taking Harry from his crib and delivering him to Albus and Hagrid… My stay in Azkaban… the interrogation at the hands of the Aurors and the Dementors… It was too much. I know how to sever my arteries and I tried – I really tried to end my life that night. Unfortunately Albus found me and took me to the Hospital Wing where Poppy stopped the bleeding. It took me a long time to accept I had survived."

Remus swallowed convulsively. "I am sorry you had to go through that." He slipped an arm around Severus' shoulders and embraced him. He then placed a kiss onto Severus' brow and drew in a deep breath. During all those years, he had never once considered what had happened to Severus after he had been arrested as a Death Eater. And even worse, he had never realized Alastor's role in it. He realized he needed to talk to his friend – or maybe even former friend, for he needed Alastor to answer some questions for him.

"With that Dementor trying to Kiss me again, the contact must have been too much… Hence my eyes." Severus grew quiet and hoped Remus no longer had any questions he wanted answered, for he felt drained. "If you do not mind, I want to rest now."

"Of course, you need to recover." Remus moved Severus even closer towards him. "You do not mind me holding you while you sleep, do you?"

"I welcome it," Severus whispered as he closed his eyes. "The spell will adapt, should you need to leave… And it will admit you, should you return."

"At the moment, I am exactly where I want to be," Remus mumbled and kissed Severus' hair. "Now stop talking and sleep."

Severus managed to chuckle lightly before finally succumbing to sleep.

/

Two hours later, Remus was still gently stroking Severus' hair and trying to figure out his feelings after everything he had learned. He felt incredibly protective of Severus at the moment; he would defy any Dementor, Auror, or whatever force that would try to hurt him. Remus also felt angry with Alastor for the way the Auror had treated Severus. Even as a Death Eater, Severus should have been treated with some minimal decorum. Instead, Severus had been stripped of his rights and been tortured. Remus also felt grateful to Albus for rescuing Severus from Azkaban. Whatever ulterior motive the Headmaster might have had at the time, he had saved Severus from death – or a fate even worse than death.

Now where did that leave him? Remus knew he had to talk to Alastor and he wanted to do so as quickly as possible. He wanted some answers from his supposed friend. "I will be right back, Severus." He flashed back to saying the same thing last night, only to return to find Severus about to be Kissed. "You are safe," he said, reminding himself of the spell Severus had cast. Damocles moved closer and settled down on the head board in order to watch over the wizard.

After leaving the bed, Remus tucked the blanket carefully around Severus' sleeping form and moved into the living room. He was angry – angry like hell! He paced for a while and then cast Expecto Patronum. A wolf appeared and looked at him in wonder, as there was no threat in sight. "Find Alastor Moody and tell him I need to talk to him. Tell him to come to Hogwarts tonight. I will wait for him at the gates." Now that it had received its assignment, the wolf ran off in order to deliver the message. "Damn you, Alastor, did you really do that?"

Remus didn't have to wait long. Ten minutes later, Moody's bulldog appeared in the living room. "I will be there at nine."

Remus nodded privately. It looked like he would get some answers tonight – good.

/

Remus slipped into bed again and once more cradled Severus against him.

The black eyes opened and looked at him questioningly. "Where did you go?"

Since Severus had been honest with him, Remus could do nothing less. "I sent a Patronus to contact Alastor. I want answers."

"You should let the matter rest," Severus whispered. "You do not want to attract his attention." He feared Remus might let something slip during a conversation with Moody – something that would get Remus sent to Azkaban after all.

"I can't do that, Severus. Don't you understand? I always thought of Alastor as a friend, but if he did that to you – if he allowed the Dementors to torture you like that... then I can't call him that ever again. I need to find out if he knew what was happening in Azkaban."

Severus understood, but that didn't mean he agreed. "When will he arrive?"

"Tonight at nine. You do not have to present, Severus. I know you are still recovering."

"You actually believe that I will allow Moody into Hogwarts without keeping an eye on him?"

Remus chuckled softly. "You suffer from paranoia, do you know that?" But upon seeing Severus' expression, he sobered. "I am sorry. You have good reason to be like that. I apologize."

"No need to apologize, Remus. Just watch your back around Moody. Do not trust him."

"I will find out tonight, I reckon, whether I can trust him – or not."

/

"You do not have to do this. Not on my account." Remus kept an arm wrapped around Severus' waist, even though the other man insisted he didn't need the support. Remus however, knew the truth. He had let go of Severus earlier; the Potions Master had stumbled and would have fallen, hadn't Remus provided his support once more. He still shivered each time he looked into those all black eyes.

"As I said earlier, I will not allow Moody to roam free in Hogwarts." He would distance himself once Moody had arrived, but he would monitor him at all time.

A crack in the air alerted Remus that the Auror had arrived and he tightened his hold on Severus, who groaned softly. Remus knew he wasn't hurting; Severus was merely voicing his discontent. "Behave," he whispered into Severus' ear.

"I will once you unhand me!" Severus knew he needed the support. However, he hated the fact that Moody would see him in that state. He refused to run or back down and would face his former tormentor.

"Remus!" Moody raised an arm in greeting, but then the wards stopped him from approaching his friend. "Snape," he growled, all set to launch another tirade, but then he looked at the former Death Eater and gasped in shock. "What happened to you?"

Severus gathered his strength and pushed himself away from Remus. He swayed momentarily, but then found his footing. "What do you think, Moody? You saw me like this before, didn't you?" Reluctantly, he adjusted the wards so Moody could enter. "Keep your distance, Moody. I am not in the best mood today and I will watch you closely. Harm Lupin in any way and you will answer to me." After uttering that very satisfying threat, he stalked away, trying not to give into the vertigo that made his head spin.

Remus sighed deeply upon seeing Severus struggle to maintain his dignity, but understood why the other man felt it was necessary. Severus would rather die than allow Alastor to see his vulnerability.

"What's this about, Remus?" Alastor frowned. "You didn't tell me why you wanted to talk to me. Does it have something to do with Snape?"

"Actually it does." Remus was too restless to stay put and started to walk toward the lake. Alastor caught on and fell into pace with him. "I want to discuss Severus with you."

"Severus? When did that bastard become Severus instead of Snape? Do I have to remind you that he is responsible for you losing your teaching position?" Alastor growled angrily. It would be just like Snape to find a way to wind Remus around his little finger!

"Contrary to what you think he had a good reason for that. He worried about the students' safety. Alastor, you know what I am. You know the damage I can do! I do not blame Severus for what he did. I even understand why he did it." Remus cast a quick look at Alastor. "And then he saved my life." Severus wouldn't agree with this course of action, but Remus knew he had to do this if he wanted to get through to his friend. "He saved me from being executed or sent to Azkaban when Malleus questioned me."

"You forgot to take the Wolfsbane," Alastor realized; he had suspected it. "And you did attack Snape!" Well, he couldn't hold that against his friend!

"I didn't just attack Severus! I would have attacked Harry and his friends if Severus hadn't shielded them with his body! I did injure him, Alastor!"

Moody's frown deepened. "But that doesn't make sense! Why did Snape cover for you? He hates your guts, Remus. Why didn't he tell Malleus?" He narrowed his eye at Remus and his artificial one came to a halt as well. Come to think of it, how had Remus been able to lie to them?

"Severus does not hate me!" Remus said fervently. "I had no idea he was looking out for me during that interrogation! I fully expected to be discovered and arrested and when that didn't happen… Severus helped – he made sure Malleus didn't find out. And no, I will not tell you how — even if you decide to bring me in for questioning. I will not betray his trust." It was the first test of faith he had designed for Moody. Was his friend – or former friend – going to deliver him to the Ministry? He hoped not.

"I still don't understand any of it," Alastor admitted and came to a halt to look out over the lake. "I accept that Snape knows of ways to trick me, but why would he risk that for you?"

"Because he cares, Alastor!" Remus barely managed to control his anger; and they weren't even discussing the thing that really pissed him off! "He does not want me dead or rotting away in a cell in Azkaban!"

Moody flinched; he didn't want that either. He knew that Remus was a good man who had been cursed in a terrible way and he had looked out for Lupin more than once. "I will keep the secret, as I don't want you arrested either. Your secret is safe with me."

"Thank you. I had hoped for that reaction." Remus sat down on a large rock and contemplated his next step. "Alastor, I need to ask you something."

Ah, so the real reason why Remus had asked him here was still to come? "What about?"

"You noticed the change to Severus' eyes, didn't you?" Remus left it at that, eager to find out if Alastor would bring up the matter out of his own accord.

Alastor's features contorted momentarily. So that was the reason why he had been summoned! "Yes, I did," he said and sighed while sitting down next to Remus.

"Do you know what happened last night?" Remus turned his head and studied Alastor closely. The fact that Moody looked troubled seemed a good omen.

"I reckon it involved Dementors." Alastor decided against playing games as Snape had doubtlessly told Remus about his time in Azkaban.

"Yes, two Dementors invaded Severus' rooms and attacked him. One of them tried to Kiss him. I managed to stop it just in time." Remus grew quiet and waited for Alastor to make his move.

"Damn it! I knew that Malleus was up to no good, but I never thought he would send Dementors after you!" He was going to have a heart to heart with his fellow Auror! "I will take care of it."

"Thank you," Remus replied, "but Malleus is not the reason why you are here."

Alastor frowned and looked at Remus. "He isn't? Then what is?"

"Did you know that the Dementors were giving free reign during the trials? That they Kissed the prisoners? Death Eaters like Severus? That they would tug at their soul, and just before actually devouring it, pull away? Did you know that?" Remus' tone had grown increasingly angry and upset, but he was unable to stop his rage from showing.

Alastor's features twisted once more. "I did."

"And you didn't stop it?" Remus jumped to his feet and towered over the Auror. "You let them do that? You let them torture the prisoners like that? Do you have any idea what it did to Severus? How much it damaged him?"

"You must understand, Remus," Alastor said, relieved to hear that his voice sounded steady. "They were Death Eaters and those had been direct orders from the Ministry. They wanted to acquire as much information as they could – by all means necessary. And Snape was just another Death Eater. He deserved –" But Remus interrupted him in an angry tone.

"Severus had switched sides and you knew that! Albus told you!"

"I figured Snape had cast a spell on Dumbledore… I didn't believe it."

"Alastor!" Remus grabbed the Auror by the collar and pulled him to his feet. "Regardless if a prisoner is guilty or not, you shouldn't have stood by and let it happen! Everyone, even a suspect, has rights!"

"But –" Again, Remus cut him short.

"Severus' eyes have been like that since that Dementor tried to Kiss him last night. He told me everything that happened at Azkaban, including your perverse method of torture. I foolishly believed you had no part in that! I was ready to defend you against Severus, but I decided to talk to you first. Alastor, why did you do it? Why did you allow it? Why didn't you…" Remus abruptly released the Auror. "Why am I wasting my time on you when Severus needs my support?" He turned away. "I considered you a friend, Moody."

"Remus, wait!" Alastor quickly caught up with Remus, who had started to walk away from him. "Listen to me, damn it!" He came to a halt in front of Remus and stopped him by placing a hand against the younger man's shoulder.

Remus stopped walking, but the look he gave Moody clearly showed his rage and distrust.

"Everything was insane back then! We had defeated Voldemort and everyone was looking for retribution! Severus Snape was a Death Eater, and at that time, we had no reason to suspect he had changed sides!"

"You knew he was working for Albus! Dumbledore had told you! But you chose not to believe him! You admitted that a moment ago!"

"Yes, but…" Alastor shook his head, wondering how to explain himself to Remus. He didn't want to lose Remus' friendship – not over something like that. "I guess it is easier to blame someone else than to admit one's own mistakes."

Remus blinked. "What did you say?"

"I was wrong! Damn it, I know that now!" Alastor glared at Remus for making him say it. "Albus and I talked several times during the last few years and he explained Snape's part in the war to me. I know I was wrong back then, but what do you expect me to do about it?"

Remus narrowed his eyes. "Do you understand that Severus switched sides? That he spied on Voldemort, risking his life each time he went to one of their meetings? Do you understand that he stopped being a Death Eater and merely pretended to be one in order to spy on Voldemort?"

"Yes, all that," Moody admitted grudgingly. "But what you need to understand, Remus, is that each time I look at him, I am reminded of the mistake I made back then." His anger slowly died. "I am not proud of what I did. I take no pride in the way I questioned him – humiliated him. The other Death Eaters deserved their treatment, but Snape… I should have stopped it after Albus talked to me that first time – after he told me about Snape being his spy, but it was easier not to."

Remus drew in a deep breath. "You should tell Severus that."

"Never!" Alastor glowered at Remus. "How can you say such a thing? I'd rather let a Dementor Kiss me than apologize to Snape!"

Remus moistened his lips. "Do you have any what a mere attempt at being Kissed does to you? I held Severus during the night and for most of the day. He was trashing – he still feels cold to the touch and… You saw his eyes. Each time a Dementor attempts to Kiss you, it damages the soul. And you know it," he added in afterthought. "You saw his eyes just now."

Alastor wished the attack last night had never happened for then they wouldn't be having this discussion. He found it hard to admit he had been wrong in the past, and the mere thought of telling Snape that, frustrated him to no end.

"I have no idea how long his eyes will stay that way. Severus tells me not to worry about it, but I do. That darkness must also eat away at his soul and I want it gone."

Alastor gave Remus a thoughtful look. "There is a way to fight it. Happiness will push the darkness away."

"Happiness?" Remus frowned and then sighed. "Alastor, I do not know if I can still call you a friend."

Moody briefly bowed his head. "I admit I was wrong back then, Remus, but don't make me apologize to Snape."

Remus thought it over. "I want you to take the first step."

"What do you want from me?" Alastor stood straight and eyed Remus closely.

"I want you to stop calling him Snape in that spiteful way. His name is Severus."

Alastor considered that request and cringed privately.

"And you will take care of Malleus. Severus hasn't actually said anything, but I suspect he is merely waiting until he has recovered so he can take of the threat Malleus presents and I don't want Severus to endanger himself like that."

"I already said that I would take care of Malleus and I meant it." Moody once more fell into step with Remus. "Are we still friends?"

"You are on probation, Alastor," Remus said eventually. "Mess up again and I will not forgive you so easily."

"Understood." Moody frowned upon realizing they were heading toward the castle.

"We will have tea with Severus and you will behave. I hope you will also find a way to let him know that you regret what happened in Azkaban. Alastor, we need to work together. Voldemort will return, and we he does, we need to be able to trust each other."

Moody realized that too. "I will behave, but I am not sure I will be able to…" To apologize, for that was the price he had to pay if he wanted their friendship to continue. The question was, was he willing to do it?

/

Severus tried to study the details of the spell that might heal Remus from the werewolf's curse, but his eyes continued to close and so he was forced to rest instead. Stretched out on the sofa, with his eyes closed and his fingers clenched tightly around his wand, he tried to rest. It wasn't working though – the fact that Moody had returned to Hogwarts, and with the threat of the Dementors hanging over his head, he was unable to sleep. His thoughts continued to drift back to his imprisonment in Azkaban and the interrogations – mostly conducted by Moody and Savage. How well that name had fit that Auror! He shuddered and used his skill in Occlumency to despatch those memories into the pit of his mind.

"Severus, will you meet Alastor and I for a late tea?"

Damocles screeched in alarm, and Severus stared at the silver wolf that had made it past the defensive spell which he had cast when he had lain down. Remus' Patronus had had no difficultly to pass the silver light. Tea? With Moody? Had Remus lost his mind?

"Please, Severus?"

He elbowed himself into an upright position. It looked like either Moody had convinced Remus that he had been within his right to treat the prisoners like that, or Remus had forgiven Moody. Neither option appealed to him and he was about to despatch his own Patronus and deny Remus when another thought appeared to him. Did he want to hand over victory to Moody like that? Without putting up a fight? By Merlin, Remus was important to him and he wasn't going down without a proper fight!

/

Moody twitched involuntarily when a silver doe made his way into the Great Hall. He instantly recognized it as he had seen Lily cast her Patronus as well. "Is that Snape's?"

"Yes, it is," Remus said curtly as he looked at Alastor. "What does that tell you?"

Moody was interrupted though before he could reply.

"Meet me in Albus' office."

Alastor blinked, recalling that Snape had known the password to the Headmaster's office and had felt completely at ease there. And now, after seeing Snape's Patronus, Alastor knew it was time to correct some misgivings he had concerning Snape. He waited for the Patronus to fade and then met Remus' gaze. "Maybe he isn't as foul as I believed."

"Alastor!" Remus chided him. "Remember what happened to Raczidian?"

Of course he did! Raczidian was a dark wizard who tried to cast the Patronus charm, but as he was evil, maggots erupted from the tip of his wand and devoured him. It had been a very unpleasant death and the same thing should have happened to Snape, had the Potions Master been evil, as Alastor had believed. Only a wizard who was pure of heart could cast a Patronus successfully. Maybe he had to consider apologizing to Snape after all.

/

Severus was waiting for them when the Gargoyle informed him of their arrival. He asked it to move aside, which it did, and a moment later, with Remus up front and Moody trailing behind, they entered the study. Severus had chosen the office for their confrontation as he would never allow Moody into his personal space.

Remus found it hard to look into Severus' eyes and to not stare at that horribly dark void. If Alastor was right, and happiness would drive that darkness away, he would do his best to make Severus as happy as possible after the Auror had left. "Severus, thank you for joining us." Pointedly ignoring Alastor he headed for the corner where Severus had seated himself – next to a large window and in front of the fireplace, which sizzled due to the fire. He sat down on the chair closest to Severus and cocked his head, wishing Severus had opted to sit on the sofa instead so he could have sat closer.

Severus merely inclined his head and refrained from speaking. He didn't look at Remus; his attention was fully focused on Moody and he was ready to defend himself if necessary. He held onto his wand hidden in the folds of his teaching robes which he had only donned for that very reason.

Moody was an accomplished Auror and knew Snape was ready to strike if provoked, and that fact almost made him forget why he was here – why Remus had asked him to come to Hogwarts. He fought to regain control over his emotions, and in the end, he did. He pushed away his anger, and reminded himself that Snape had every reason to distrust him. He had tried to warn Remus that this would end badly, but Lupin had refused to listen. Alastor also realized that it was up to him to make the first step if he wanted to deal with the hate and distrust between them. He knew it would take time though – and that was if they ever managed to learn to trust each other. He wasn't sure Snape and he ever would get there.

"Alastor, sit down," Remus said, still using that uncharacteristic clipped tone. "And you had better remember why you are here, my friend."

Alastor knew he had reached the point of no return. Either he apologized or he had to walk out on his friendship with Remus. He noticed the way Snape tensed, and cringed, looking into those dark eyes. He should have stepped in back then. He should have shown some backbone. Even though the Ministry itself had given the Aurors and the Dementors permission to torture the Death Eaters, he could have stopped it.

Severus wondered what the hell Moody was up to. The Auror continued to stare at him, but contrary to what he had expected, Moody made no attempt to penetrate his mind. Moody wasn't trying to invade his thoughts so what was that damned Auror doing? His fingers clenched his wand even tighter and he shook his head – minutely – when Remus offered him a cup of tea. He couldn't afford himself to be distracted, not with Moody in the same room with him.

Alastor made his choice then and said, "I will only sit down if professor Snape is comfortable with that."

Severus was sure he had misheard. Moody had never used his title before. What the hell was happening here?

"Severus, I would appreciate it if you answered Alastor." Remus watched the exchange closely and hoped Severus would find it in his heart to do this – for him.

"Look," Alastor said, finding it increasingly hard to maintain staring into Snape's sinister eyes. "I made a mistake – I will admit to that. And I will try not to repeat past mistakes."

Remus knew admitting that had been difficult on Alastor. Now it was up to Severus to react. "Severus, please," he whispered as he leaned in closer toward the other man.

Severus wasn't certain what has happening. Had Moody actually tried to apologize for what had happened in Azkaban? He cocked his head questioningly and focused his stare on the Auror.

Which was starting to affect Moody. During the past few years he had pushed the memories regarding those trials to the back of his mind, but now that Snape's eyes looked like that again, everything came back and he knew he had to do better. "I should not have condoned the torture. For that I apologize."

Hearing it after so many years meant surprisingly little, Severus realized. "Albus told you that I was loyal to him. That I had spied on the Dark Lord on his orders. Everything I learned, I passed on to him and Albus informed the Order. You knew that."

Moody had known it wouldn't be easy, but still… "I was angry and frustrated."

"I was dying, Moody…"

Remus swallowed hard at hearing Severus say that. Uncaring what Alastor might think or say, he moved his chair closer and claimed Severus' hand. "You survived," he said, trying to offer some measure of comfort.

"Each time a Dementor Kissed me, I died a little more. The only thing that stopped from giving in was the fact that Albus was trying to clear me of the charges. You might not believe it, but I preferred your interrogation over spending time in my cell fighting off the Dementors. Even though you did your best to humiliate me, it did not hurt as much as the Kiss did!"

"I am sorry," Moody eventually said, and although he hadn't thought it possible, he actually meant it. "I really am."

What could he say to that? He had never believed Moody would ever say those words! Severus was still trying to think of an answer when the fireplace suddenly emitted a glowing green light. A moment later, Albus' head appeared amidst of the flames. "Impeccable timing, Albus, as always," he deadpanned.

Albus' first reaction was to return the teasing, but then quickly sobered upon seeing the all-black eyes. "Severus, I am so sorry."

Severus knew what Albus was referring to and wished Lupin and Moody weren't close. "It will fade in time."

"I reckon my warning comes too late then. The Dementors already paid you a visit! Oh, my dear boy, I am so sorry that you had to go through that again!"

Severus was astutely aware of the gazes that lingered on him. Both Remus and Moody were eying him closely. "Lupin chased them off, Albus. No harm done."

"I beg to differ, my dear boy. Expect me home tomorrow. Severus, I will do whatever I can in order to help you heal."

Severus wanted to object; he wanted to tell Albus that he was coping, and that there was no reason for the Headmaster to upset his travel plans. He doubted it had been Albus' intention to return to Hogwarts that quickly. But Albus spoke first and thus silenced him.

"Remus, I trust you to keep Severus safe. Make sure he rests, will you? And be careful; those Dementors may try again. They are acting on Malleus' orders and will not stop until they carried out their orders."

"I will take care of Malleus; leave him to me!" Moody recalled the way Albus had cared for Snape right after the former Death Eater had been released from Azkaban. The Headmaster had supported him, had wrapped an arm around him, like Remus was doing now, and had guided him out of the court room. Back then, he hadn't wanted to admit that Albus had appeared worried and deeply affected by Snape's state, but the way Albus was acting now, made it very clear to Moody that the old wizard did care about Severus Snape – and a lot at that!

"Alastor? What are you doing at Hogwarts?" Albus' voice echoed alarm. "You are not there to question Remus again, are you?"

""Do not worry, Albus. I am not here to cause trouble. I am here to…" It remained hard though, "to redeem myself for past mistakes."

"That's good, Alastor! That's excellent! You had me worried just now!"

Alastor acknowledged the fact that Albus had a valid reason to be worried. Shifting his gaze from the fireplace to Snape, he wondered about the way Remus was touching the other wizard – it was rather intimate. He had become an Auror for a reason; he excelled at things like reading body language, and seeing Remus holding Snape's hand in that way explained why his friend had wanted to talk to him about the man's time in Azkaban. "I will take care of Malleus and I will make sure the Ministry calls off the Dementors," he promised. He had never thought Remus could be interested in someone like Snape, and he had never believed Snape would ever allow anyone to touch him like that without hexing them. Things had obviously changed between the two men.

"Excellent," Albus exclaimed once more. "Severus, take every precaution you can until Alastor has dealt with Malleus and expect me to seek you out in the morning. And no, that is not up for discussion," he added upon seeing Severus was about to protest. "Take good care of each other," he said and then vanished.

Severus sighed, belatedly realizing Moody was still present and had witnessed everything. It made him feel humiliated all over again.

"I will leave now," Alastor announced, judging it best to award Snape some privacy. That facial expression promised hell and damnation if he stayed. "I will let you know the moment I dealt with Malleus. In the meantime, remember – constant vigilance! No, stay put, I will find the way to the gates myself." After thinking it over, he addressed Remus again and added, "You are needed here."

Severus quickly swallowed the biting comment he had wanted to make upon hearing those words, as Remus squeezed his shoulder. Fine, Moody was trying to be civil, so he would do the same. He settled for inclining his head toward the Auror and watched until Moody had left the office and moved out of view.

Remus finally allowed himself to relax now that both Albus and Alastor had left. "Severus?" He waited for the other man to turn his head his way and then raised his right hand in order to caress Severus' face. "You heard Albus – you should rest and I am to take care of you!" He was going to use Albus' advise to his advantage!

Severus huffed at hearing that. "I can take care of myself, thank you!"

"Severus, let me… I want to take care of you!"

Severus sighed and cocked his head. "If that is what you truly want."

"I do," Remus insisted and then leaned in closer to kiss Severus – eager, so very eager to show him how much he cared.

/

Remus looked at Severus and felt content now that he had stopped fighting him. Severus had maintained he felt fine and that he didn't need to rest, but once his eyes had closed, he had admitted defeat and had given in. Now Remus faced the next hurdle, however. "Severus, the shirt has to go. You are not going to sleep like that!" Severus tried to sweep his hands away, but lacked the energy to do so properly.

"Bully," Severus settled for in the end. Saying just a single word cost him minimal effort. He resigned himself to losing his shirt, but when Remus reached for his trousers, he grew alert again. "No, you don't!"

"Severus, we are both male. I know what you have got, remember?" Remus wiggled an eyebrow and smiled, trying to radiate trust and acceptance. "Let me, please."

Severus knew he was fighting a lost battle – once that damn wolf set his mind on something there was no escaping it! "Knock yourself out then." He rested his head against the pillows and cringed at being stripped like that. Why wasn't he at least pretending to put up a fight? Remus pulled the trousers out of the way and quickly covered him with the blanket.

"Well, that wasn't that bad, was it?" Remus swiftly removed his own clothes, save for his underwear, and then slipped into place next to Severus. He wrapped an arm around Severus and rolled him towards him, embracing him. "Comfortable?" Well, he was. He was in bed, with Severus safely tucked away in his arms, and they were skin-on-skin at last. It was a little piece of heaven as far as Remus was concerned.

"You are mad, do you know that?" Severus wondered about Remus, who seemed content to merely look after him. He was a burden, and yet Remus relished taking care of him. No one had ever acted like that before.

"You have your insane moments too, Severus." Remus smiled and stroked the dark hair away from Severus' face. Silver mist swirled all around them, as Severus had insisted on casting his spell in order to keep them safe. Seeing Severus wanting to say something, Remus moved faster and promptly claimed his lips instead.

Remus' action took Severus by surprise. After a moment's thought, he surrendered and allowed Remus to deepen the kiss. The tip of his lover's tongue pressed against his teeth and Severus tentatively opened his mouth, allowing Remus to explore further. Mimicking Remus' actions, his tongue locked with his lover's and they twined in a sensual dance.

Severus' reaction encouraged Remus and he shifted on the bed. He ended up with one knee in-between Severus' legs and with his upper body draped across his lover's. He wanted more…

Severus felt nervous now that Remus was crawling onto him, but he wanted to continue their kissing. Being kissed like made him feel warm inside and the freezing cold the Dementor had left in his soul started to diminish. A moan escaped him and it urged Remus on. Warm hands moved over his upper body and eventually Remus wrapped his arms around him, pulling him closer still, causing their groins to grind against each other. That was when he realized that Remus was hard too.

Remus noticed the stunned expression and chuckled. "If you weren't still recovering, I would ravish you right here and now. By Merlin, I want you..." Severus' scent – that distinctly spicy scent, invaded his nostrils and Remus licked across Severus' chest, eager to taste his lover.

Severus wasn't sure what to do, so in the end, he settled for rubbing Remus' back and playing with a lock of hair. "Remus…"

Remus nodded as he had a fairly good idea what Severus wanted to tell him. "I know, Severus, and I understand. We will go slow."

Severus frowned at that cryptic reply. "Remus, I never had a lover in the past. You are the first to…" His courage – and concentration – eluded him because Remus had slipped a hand into his boxers!

"To touch you like this," Remus finished for him. "I am honoured, Severus, though I pity the fools who ignored you in the past." He kissed him again, possessively and clearly staking his claim. "I am no fool though," he whispered huskily once he was forced to release those bruised lips in order to breathe himself, "and I will not make the mistake they made. Severus… I can't seem to get enough of you." Grinning mischievously, he pushed Severus' boxers out of the way. "I know the perfect way to put you to sleep."

Severus quivered at hearing the possessive note to Remus' voice and remembered he wasn't just dealing with another wizard. Remus Lupin was also a werewolf. "Remus," he started, but then forgot what he wanted to say as those long and agile fingers wrapped themselves around his cock.

Remus hummed softly, licking his way down Severus' face and then toward the jugular artery in Severus' throat; licking, and placing teasing bites next to it. He would never hurt Severus, but he couldn't deny his nature. He fisted Severus harder, picked up on the pace, and expertly pushed him toward orgasm with deft strokes. He wanted more of Severus, wanted to know what he sounded like when he climaxed, what he tasted like, how he smelt after sex. The wolf inside him wanted that, but he wanted it too. "Let go," he whispered into Severus' ear. Severus suddenly arched and his head slipped backwards, clearly exposing his throat to him. Remus couldn't stop himself and he sucked hard, leaving his mark on the tender flesh – claiming Severus, marking him in that sensual way, and by doing so, whipping himself into a frenzy. His climax hit him unexpectedly and he growled excitedly.

The situation had spun out of control, and in a way, that scared Severus, but another part, one which he had neglected nearly all his life, disagreed. It savoured the moment, savoured the sensation of Remus' fingers locked around his cock and those lips sucking and bruising the tender skin of his throat. It was too much, and Severus climaxed, moaning and gasping for breath at the same time. Spent, he tried to catch his breath, and a part of him wondered what had possessed Remus to instigate sex at that moment.

Remus however, had his mind set on something else. After licking the tender skin he had marked for everyone to see – clearly visibly above the collar, he noticed with a grin - he moved down Severus' chest. He sniffed appreciatively and drew in Severus' scent. Severus' semen covered his fingers and he licked at it, tasting his lover's essence and committing it to memory. Remus laughed warmly and then kissed his way up Severus' chest until he finally encountered those soft lips. After kissing him again, Remus sighed contently and ran his fingers through Severus' hair. "Tell me, are you sleepy now?"

Severus couldn't help himself; he chuckled tiredly. "All that to make me go to sleep?" He stared at Remus in wonder. "Why did you do it?" he asked, seriously wondering about it.

"Because I love you, Severus." Remus grinned. "And I must admit I was curious about you – how you taste… smell… and how you sound when you come." He looked into his lover's eyes and his heart felt lighter at seeing they had assumed their original state again. Severus' familiar eyes stared back at him – the darkness had retreated, thankfully.

"You made a mess, Lupin," Severus said, but there was no mistaking the tender note to his voice.

And Remus heard it too. "You are welcome. Why don't you go to sleep while I spell us clean?" He pressed a kiss onto Severus' brow and watched as his lover's eyes closed – those familiar eyes, which he loved so much. "I will do whatever I can to keep you safe, Severus. I promise you."

/

Waking up first, Severus needed a moment to remember why he was naked. Someone stirred next to him, and while looking at Remus, who was utterly relaxed in sleep, he smiled as last night's activities returned to him. The wolf had definitely taken advantage of his weakened state, Severus mused, chuckling privately. Well, he had been a most willing participant! Still, the pace at which they were moving surprised him.

"Do you like what you see?" Remus opened his eyes and relished the absence of darkness in Severus' eyes. He cupped Severus' cheek in the palm of his hand and caressed the skin. "Did I already tell you that I love you, Severus?" To his surprise, Severus grew flustered. "I must have for you to react like that."

"You are mad, Lupin," Severus chided him softly. "You could do much better."

"I do not agree, Severus." He moved closer and kissed lips which were still bruised from last night. "Let's start this all over again, Severus. Good morning." Severus' bashful smile went straight to his groin. "You look much better this morning. Must be due to my ministrations last night. Maybe we should work on healing you some more?" His cock twitched enthusiastically. "If you are up for it," he said wickedly.

Severus was about to reply, but then the door opened, and Albus Dumbledore, dressed in outrageous lilac robes, entered the room. Severus considered running over to where he kept the floo powder and flee his rooms, but Albus unfortunately blocked his way.

"My! What an unexpected, but welcome sight!" Albus chuckled in amusement. "Who would have thought that the two of you –"

"Albus! Get out!" Severus didn't care about decorum; he didn't care about the fact that Albus was Headmaster and outranked him. "If you do not leave this moment then –"

"I understand, my dear boy! I will wait for you in the living room. I do suggest you put on some clothes before you join me." Albus winked at them before stepping out of the room.

"That was awkward," Remus commented, ill at ease. "Does he always do that? Barge in like that? Not even bothering to knock first?"

"He is Headmaster, Remus. He can do whatever he bloody well likes!"

Remus rolled onto his side and watched Severus blush. "Is anything amiss?"

"Just remembering…" No, he wasn't going to play along!

"Remembering the way I utterly ravished you? How I had my wicked way with you?" Remus knew he shouldn't be acting like that, not with Albus waiting for them in the living room, but he honestly didn't care. Neither of them had invited the Headmaster into their rooms that morning. His fingertips strolled down Severus' chest and toward his groin and he was amused to see Severus' blush deepen. "Do you have any idea what I want to do with you right now?"

"Lupin," Severus growled. He should leave the bed and get dressed so he could deal with Albus, not listen to Remus whisper seductively into his ear!

"I want to run my hands all over your body, Severus. I want to take you into my mouth and make you moan the way you did last night. I want to suck your cock and run my tongue up and down your hard flesh." Remus wanted to continue, but Severus suddenly jumped out of bed, gathered his clothes and quickly dressed. Remus watched him struggle though, as Severus was clearly aroused. "Well, we always have tonight," he added amused, and left the bed himself. He would behave for now, but only because Albus was waiting for them. After they had talked, Severus was his again!

Severus fled the room and practically ran into the living room, where he found Albus sipping from a cup of tea the House elves had supplied him with. "You could have knocked." He sat down and crossed his legs in order to hide the fact that he was still aroused. Damn Lupin for doing that to him!

Albus merely smiled indulgently. Severus' flushed state didn't escape him and he hoped he hadn't actually interrupted them in the middle of something. It warmed his heart to see Severus that way – flushed, and in love. He had hoped for it to happen, but at times, he had felt discouraged. So few people ever bothered to find out about the real Severus Snape. "I trust your new living arrangements are satisfactory?" He suppressed a grin at hearing Severus growl at him.

"Albus…" Remus said as he stepped into the room. "We didn't expect you this early." He sat down on the sofa next to Severus and resolutely rested a hand on Severus' upper thigh.

Albus' eyebrow arched appreciatively at the possessive gesture. "Early? Remus, it is long past noon in case you had noticed." It amused him to see Severus utterly flushed and visibly embarrassed while Remus delighted in staking his claim. He had thought it would be the other way around, but he preferred it this way. "And you look much improved, Severus. I gather Remus helped chase away the darkness the Dementor left behind?" He had hurried back to Hogwarts in order to see to Severus' condition himself, but it appeared Remus had found an effective way to heal Severus' hurt. "Though, next time I might knock – just to give you fair warning."

Severus noticed the amused expression to Albus' eyes and felt like a gigantic burden was lifted from his shoulders. He hadn't realized it until that very moment, but he had worried that Albus wouldn't approve of this relationship. That approval simplified matters as he didn't have to worry about hiding their relationship.

"It warms my heart to see the two of you have opened up to each other," Albus admitted. "I must admit I hoped something like that might happen when I suggested Remus moved into your quarters, Severus."

"You were playing match maker?" Severus stared at the older wizard in shock.

"Merely trying to," Albus quipped. "I never excelled at match making before. Maybe I am getting better at it." He placed his cup aside and studied Severus extensively. "I worry about you, Severus, and it made me act more rashly than I probably would. When I realized that Dementor had tried to Kiss you again… I had to hurry back. You do understand that, do you not, Severus?"

Severus nodded reluctantly. Albus had been his mental crutch for a long time. After he had tried to end his life, Albus had been the one to support him during his recovery. "I do understand," he whispered eventually.

Remus didn't want to make Severus feel even more uncomfortable, but he wondered if he would ever get such an opportunity again. "Albus, Severus told me about his time in Azkaban. He told me what those Dementors did and that the Aurors abided the torture. I called Moody on it, and he admitted he allowed for it to happen."

Albus' expression grew sad. "I never approved of those tactics. Most Death Eaters turned to Voldemort out of personal need. Like Severus for example – he just wanted to belong." He still hated to see Severus flinch each time he was reminded of that, but he understood Remus' need to discuss it and he approved of it. "I would not have wished it on anyone – save Bellatrix perhaps. She tormented her victims for the sheer pleasure of it."

"Can we now stop discussing my past? It is not something I want to dwell on," Severus forced from between gritted teeth.

Albus nodded indulgently. "We can discuss your research instead. Did you manage to improve the Wolfsbane?"

That was a topic Severus didn't want to discuss either, but he couldn't dismiss it. Albus was within his rights to inquire about it. "I made some improvements, yes, but the potion will not cure Remus of the curse."

Albus arched an eyebrow. He had merely asked Severus to find a way for the werewolves to control their actions – not to cure them. Apparently Severus had made that adaption himself. Interesting. Apparently his concern for Remus was pushing Severus on. "I gather you found a different way then?"

Severus wasn't sure he wanted Albus to know, but then again, he couldn't lie to the old wizard. He owed Albus so much. "I discovered a spell, which might offer the solution we need. I need a few months though in order to perfect it."

Albus thought it over. "A few months are acceptable. Do you require my assistance?"

"Not at the moment. We will have to wait for the next full moon in order to cast the spell." Severus caught Remus' look which told of his unease. "I told you before," he reminded Remus, "I will be safe. You will not attack me. You do not need to worry about that."

Albus smiled at hearing Severus reassure Remus. It warmed his heart to see Severus that caring. Remus had suffered much, and it took someone like Severus, someone who had equally suffered, to realize that. "Remus, I have complete faith in Severus. Please do as he says."

Remus nodded tentatively. "I do trust Severus, but I don't trust myself."

"Let me," Severus whispered and gathered Remus' hand in his. "You helped me, now it is my turn to help you."

Albus sighed contently – young love…

/

After dinner, Severus found himself on the sofa, but this time their positions were reversed. This time, Severus' head rested in Remus' lap and it was his hair being stroked. How odd. Looking at Remus, Severus wondered about the content expression on the other man's face. They had just finished meditating, and strangely enough, it had been Remus insisting they should practice. Severus hadn't even have to remind him.

"And?" Remus smiled knowingly at Severus. "Tell me."

"You do not need me to talk you through it. You are perfectly capable of calming your mind."

Remus' smile turned into a smug grin. "Only because you are such a good teacher."

Severus chuckled, but then his breath caught as Remus' fingertips ghosted over his skin, leaving him wanting more. Severus raised an arm, Remus quickly caught his hand and twined their fingers.

"How certain are you that the spell will work as expected? Severus, I worry about you being close during the transformation."

"You do not need to worry," Severus replied reassuringly. "The improved Wolfsbane will give you more control than you had in the past and the spell will complete the process."

Remus swallowed hard. Severus' amount of trust in him touched him. If only he could be sure that the Potions Master was right about him! Words eluded him and so he decided to let his actions speak for him instead. Leaning in closer, he touched his lips to Severus'.

Severus tensed slightly, but then told himself to relax. He trusted Remus – for some unfathomable reason – and he craved this. After being alone for so many years, he yearned for such contact.

Remus chuckled briefly because of the odd angle he was kissing Severus in, and then caressed the other man's face. He deeply inhaled Severus' scent and knew he would be able to tell it apart from others he would encounter. Severus was quickly becoming a part of him – an extension of himself. "I want to touch you," he whispered huskily and then suckled Severus' bottom lip.

Seeing the intensity to Remus' expression Severus wondered what exactly Remus had in mind. He didn't like being at an disadvantage, but as he had little experiences in these matters, he had to allow Remus to take the lead. "I want that too," he admitted eventually, but his voice shook while saying it.

Remus noticed that it wasn't just the voice that trembled – Severus' hand shook as well. He stroked the back of Severus' hand, brought it to his lips, and pressed a kiss onto the palm. Strong hands – long fingers which were oh so quick when drawing his wand and casting spells. "I love your hands," he whispered and pressed a kiss onto the back as well.

"You love my hands?" Severus echoed in surprise. There was nothing special to them!

Remus however smiled and nodded. "I do…" He released Severus' hand from his hold and then pressed his hand against the Potions Master's, comparing them. "Your hands tell your story, Severus." Noticing the odd look on Severus' face, he cocked his head. "I made you tell me what you find attractive about me, do you remember that?" He would never forget those words; they meant the world to him.

"Of course. Do you wish me to repeat them?" Severus frowned.

"I committed them to memory, Severus. Most of the time, the curse of the werewolf burdens me. In my heart, that beast always rattles its chains and it reminds me of the fact that I am a dark creature. Your kind words silenced him, and for that I am grateful." Remus nodded. "Severus, you doubt my love for you, do you not?"

Severus' features briefly contorted and he sat up – too quickly for Remus to stop him. He sat with his back turned toward Remus as he didn't want to look him in the eyes. "Not exactly."

Remus placed a hand on Severus' shoulder, but didn't turn him around. Severus would face him once he was ready. "Will you explain that to me?" He reckoned he knew what troubled Severus, but also knew that the Potions Master had to voice his fears before he could put them to sleep.

Severus felt miserable. "I cannot believe I am so fortunate as to have found love. I do not deserve you. I did nothing to earn your affection. I am not worthy of—"

"Severus," Remus said, quickly interrupting the litany of misery that sprung from Severus' lips. He had expected it, and yet, hearing it made his heart ache. "Look at me, will you?" He patiently waited for Severus to work up courage to face him, and when the Potions Master turned to make eye contact, Remus' heartache doubled at seeing Severus hurting like that. "You do not need to earn my love. I give it freely. You are worthy because I deem you worthy. My heart is mine to give and I choose to give it to you." But foremost, Severus needed to hear his reasons for doing so. "You accept me the way I am, Severus. You know what monster lurks in my soul and you have every reason to hate me. The werewolf haunted you for most of your life – awake and in sleep. Yet, you decided to help me. You trust me. I see it in your eyes when I look at you. Severus, I felt it that day when you touched my mind. Do you know what it means to me that you trust me? That you want to help me? That you don't flinch at my touch?" Remus sighed. "Do you?"

Severus never expected such an admission and felt at a loss. "Remus, I…"

"Severus, it is my greatest desire to be with you. To support you and to be supported in turn. I want to protect you from harm and I know you will do the same for me. I want to love you and for you to love me back. Severus, both of us made their share of mistakes, but we never gave up. You are a better man today than you were in the past, and I hope you can help me subdue the howling wolf. Severus, I am afraid to believe that the spell will heal me. I cannot believe that any spell can do away with the curse Greyback burdened with me. I cannot envision a life without the wolf tearing me apart from the inside. But with you at my side, I will be able to bear it. Why? Because I love you, Severus, and that love will sustain me." His tone had become rather passionate and mirrored the way he felt about Severus.

Severus fought the blush that threatened to spread across his face. He had never expected Remus to react that passionately. He still found it hard to believe that love forgave so easily, but maybe it did…

Remus moved closer and slid onto Severus' lap in order to straddle him. Amused, he listened to the surprised gasp that left Severus' lips. "Is there a way we can prevent Albus from walking in on us again?"

His body reacted at once upon hearing those words. Remus wasn't suggesting they resumed that morning's activities, was he?

"The look in your eyes tells me you reached the correct conclusion." Remus rubbed his lower body suggestively against Severus' groin. The friction was more than enough to make Severus' body respond and he felt him harden beneath him. "Treacherous thing the body is, isn't it?" He licked along Severus' upper lip and then kissed him. He cupped the back of Severus' head in the palm of his hand and ran his fingers through the dark hair. "Do not worry though. Trust yourself to me instead."

Severus moaned; Remus' other hand had quickly done away with the buttons of his coat and now sneaked below his shirt as well. He quivered as those fingertips slid across his skin and his breath hitched as Remus pinched his nipple, causing his body to hunger for more.

Remus loved the way Severus reacted to his touches. He hadn't dared to hope that his lover would prove that sensitive; it served him well though and he had Severus thrusting against him within seconds. Remus had always hoped, but never dared to believe, that he would one day find someone who could accept him. Someone who didn't flinch at being touched by a werewolf. But not in a million years had he expected that man to be Severus Snape. He wanted to show his appreciation – his love – and as he was a very sensual being, he choose to express his feelings through touch. As far as Remus was concerned, Severus was wearing too many clothes. The coat, shirt, and trousers definitely had to go.

Severus let him, feeling rather dazed, and Remus removed his coat and shirts quickly – maybe even too quickly as far as Severus was concerned. But Remus purred – by Merlin, the wolf actually purred! – as he licked, nibbled, and kissed his way down his chest toward his groin. He was painfully hard by now, but was loathe to direct Remus' actions. He would never force his needs on his lover. My lover… Did I really think that just now? As he was lost in thought – and in his hunger for more – he only belatedly realized that Remus had managed to unbutton his trousers. Oh, it felt good to be free of the restraining material and he closed his eyes in bliss. He expected Remus to repeat that morning's performance, and when that didn't happen, he opened his eyes again.

Remus evidently had other plans. Licking his lips in anger anticipation, he went down on his knees, spelled Severus' trousers away and moved between his lover's legs. Giving Severus' cock an experimental sniff, he growled softly before closing his lips around it.

Severus stared at Remus in disbelief. Remus had hinted at wanting to go down on him that very morning, but he had never believed Remus would actually do it! "You do not need to do this," he whispered, desperately trying to restrain his need. Remus didn't stop though – in fact, his words merely seemed to encourage his lover. The tip of a very talented tongue slid down his length, swirled around at the base, and then licked its way up again to tease the slit. It was a good thing he was sitting down, because Severus was certain his knees would have given out on him otherwise. He bit onto his bottom lip, trying hard not to call out.

Remus peeked at Severus' face, and seeing the lustful expression on it, made his own cock throb with need. He wanted to make Severus come. He wanted him to call out his pleasure and to forget about reigning it all in. He wanted him to let go.

Severus' breathing quickened and he rested the back of his head against the comfort of the sofa, looking at Remus and taking in the bobbing movement of his lover's head as Remus took in his whole length, alternatively sucking and licking his cock. Remus literally teased him into orgasm. Severus' right hand slid into Remus' hair, grabbing it – more forcefully than he had intended.

Remus didn't pull away the moment Severus climaxed. Instead, he greedily tasted his lover and licked at the slit, intend on harvesting even those last droplets. Severus was his and no one else would ever taste his lover in that way!

Remus' actions caused Severus to pant. He fingered a strand of Remus' hair and some of his disbelief still coloured his voice when he whispered his lover's name, "Remus…"

Remus felt rather smug about making Severus finally lose control and moved closer – close enough to kiss him.

It was odd to taste himself on Remus' lips. He still found it hard to believe that Remus had done that for him. It was a gift – a most precious gift and he would always cherish it.

Remus used Severus' momentarily lack of rational thought to his advantage. He locked their tongues in a passionate duel and slid back into position, once more claiming Severus' lap. With his right hand, he quickly freed himself of his trousers and underwear. Reaching for Severus' hand, he guided it toward his erection and encouraged his lover to wrap his fingers around it. "I want you to touch me, Severus."

Severus' heart missed a beat. Had he been sound of mind and not caught in a haze of lust, he would have hesitated, but Remus' needy whimper urged him on. He tightly wrapped his fingers around Remus' cock and recalled the way his lover had brought him to orgasm that morning. Trying not to worry about applying the right amount of pressure, or the pace, he focused on Remus' breathing instead. He hoped his inexperience didn't show too much, but the way Remus thrust into his fist built his confidence, and eventually, he latched onto Remus' lips, kissing him passionately.

It was more than Remus had dared to hope for. Severus seemed to be finally losing his inhibitions and the mere thought that he was responsible for that reaction was enough to push him over the edge and to make him come all over Severus' hand. His heart thundered in his chest and he sought out Severus' eyes, desperately needing to see the answer in them, and yes, it was there; love, support, compassion, and acceptance. What else could he hope for, he wondered, as he lowered his head onto Severus' shoulder? He wrapped his arms around his lover and held onto him while he tried to calm down his erratic breathing. "I love you," he whispered into Severus' ear as he rubbed his lover's back and waited…

"I love you too, Remus."

Severus' voice quavered, but Remus didn't mind, for he knew Severus' admission was sincere. He rubbed his cheek against Severus' shoulder and pulled his lover tighter against him. A moment later, he chuckled.

"What?" Severus moved his head in such a way that he could look at Remus. What had sparked Remus' mirth?

"Albus did not walk in on us this time!" Remus chuckled, feeling utterly relaxed.

Severus couldn't help himself; he laughed in turn. "Well, maybe I should find a way to ward our space against all unwelcome intrusion."

"That's an excellent idea." Remus closed his eyes as he felt tired. "Can we sleep on the sofa? I am tired."

Severus stroked his lover's back and pressed a kiss onto Remus' hair. "Go to sleep then. Tonight, I will take care of you." Not just tonight though, he vowed, but for as long as I shall live.

/

Remus wasn't surprised to find himself in bed the next morning. Severus must have moved them there and he stretched luxuriously. He was quickly getting used to their sexual activities and he had seldom felt that satisfied before. Although, looking at Severus now, the way he rested in his arm, still naked and with his body covered in playful love-bites, Remus was tempted to seduce Severus once more. The mere thought of making him come again was enough to arouse him. He didn't know if it was the werewolf's animalistic sex-drive or his own hormones urging him on, but he was hungry for more.

He crawled toward his lover and gently rolled Severus onto his back for better access. At his touch, Severus' eyes opened and an inquisitive look appeared in them.

"Again?" Severus whispered in surprise. If they continued in that pace Remus would be the death of him!

"Why not?" Remus purred sensually and climbed atop of his lover, straddling Severus. "I want to make love with you." He wasn't quite sure how Severus would react to that – so far, his lover had seemed shy and insecure about their love-making.

Severus swallowed nervously. "In what way?" He needed more information before he would consent to whatever Remus had in mind. He had to be careful, so Remus wouldn't realize why he was tentative about taking that next step. He didn't want Remus to find out that particular truth about him.

"I want to feel you inside me, Severus. I want you to come while you are inside me." He leaned in closer and lightly scraped the skin of Severus' throat with his teeth. "I want you so much."

Severus placed his hands on either side of Remus' face and stopped him. "Remus, look at me." He waited for his lover to comply and then whispered, "I will hurt you. I refuse to cause you pain."

"It does not hurt when it is done properly, Severus. Trust me, I know what I am doing." Remus studied his lover and wondered about Severus' reluctance. He might have expected it had he suggested taking Severus, but it surprised him that he still saw it now. He wanted Severus to top on purpose – so the less experienced Potions Master wouldn't be on the bottom. Remus had expected him to be a bit more enthusiastic. "What is wrong?"

"I do not want you to be in pain – not because of me." Severus' erection faltered and Remus' expression told him his lover noticed it too. "I am sorry, but I refuse to cause you pain."

Remus sobered quickly – his own arousal lessening too. Something was wrong here. "Why are you convinced I will be in pain?" Severus remained quiet though and averted his gaze, looking at the wall instead. Remus' thoughts raced; there was only one reason why Severus would worry about it to such an extent. Had Severus been on the receiving end and had he been in pain? But no, Severus had told him that he was his first lover, so – this simply didn't make sense!

Remus moved off of Severus and settled on his side next to his lover. He cupped Severus' face in his hand and gently turned his lover's face toward him so Severus was looking at him. His arousal had faded and worry replaced it. "Severus, I am a good listener – you should know that by now."

"Not now – not yet," Severus mumbled, trying hard to hide his distress.

Remus took heart when he heard the – not yet- as it implied Severus was already considering telling him at one point. "I shall give you the time you need," he promised. Remus stopped Severus the moment the Potions Master wanted to leave their bed. "Do not do that. Not like that." Severus halted in his movements and then lay down again, much to Remus' relief. "I do not want you to leave our bed in anger."

"I am not angry, not exactly," Severus said, struggling to find the right words. "I feel uncomfortable, but not because of something you did, Remus." It was important to him that his lover knew that. "You did not cause this."

"I gather as much," Remus whispered. "Will you at least tell me whom I should be angry with for hurting you in the past?" He knew he was pushing Severus even though he had wanted to refrain from doing so, but he needed a clue. He needed Severus to point him in the right direction. "Please?" he added, as he buried his fingers in Severus' hair to caress the black strands. "I do not like feeling this helpless."

Severus drew in a deep breath and shuddered. "I cannot tell you what you want to know, Remus – not everything, but…" Maybe he could tell Remus something – what he felt comfortable with. "My father was an abusive drunk, who regularly beat up my mother. He often made me watch and I hated seeing her in pain." That was it – he couldn't bring himself to tell Remus the rest. "I am sorry, but that must do."

Remus nodded slowly – thoughtfully. He knew what it had cost Severus to tell him that. "Thank you for trusting me, Severus. I must admit I never knew that went on in your home." It wasn't difficult to reach the obvious conclusion, namely that Severus had been on the receiving end of his father's anger as well. He wasn't going to mention his suspicions to Severus though. He wanted his lover to feel safe and his wishes respected. Remus was convinced that Severus would tell him the rest eventually. He only hoped that the abuse had only been physical and not sexual as well. Remus cringed upon realizing it would explain a great deal regarding Severus' timid behaviour when it came down to sex. "Can I hold you?" Remus thought it best to ask Severus first as the Potions Master looked rather anxious.

"Why not?" Severus shifted toward Remus and moved into his lover's arms, marvelling about the fact that nothing he told Lupin caused him to turn away. Severus couldn't help but wonder which conclusions Remus had drawn out of the little information he had provided his lover with. Remus was smart and might be able to figure out the truth. He appreciated it though that Remus refrained from questioning him further. Severus was nervous and might have fled Remus' presence otherwise.

Remus was more than content to simply hold Severus in his arms. The trust that had formed between them would help them cope with whatever burdens Severus still carried.

/

Severus and Remus headed for the Headmaster's office; Albus had requested their presence after flooing them. As so often, Severus felt rather suspicious; Albus calling him to the office usually meant trouble, and for Remus to be asked to join him, worried Severus even more. Remus squeezed his hand and it made him focus again. He squeezed back, but more tentatively, as he still found it hard to believe that Remus remained at his side.

Severus tensed the moment he caught sight of Sirius Black, who stood next to the fireplace. He hadn't realized the Animagus had returned to Hogwarts, and apparently Albus hadn't found it necessary to warn him beforehand. He steeled his features and tried hard to radiate his usual arrogance when dealing with Black.

Remus noticed it and he wished Severus wouldn't feel like he still needed to hide behind that mask. Sirius had warmed up to him during his last visit and was no longer the enemy, even though Severus still perceived him in that way.

"Pads!" In an effort to take away some of the sudden tension, Remus released Severus' hand – knowing holding hands made Severus feel awkward now that Sirius was present. He headed toward his friend and hugged Sirius. "It is good to see you again! But – and don't misunderstand – what are you doing here?"

"Merely visiting a good friend. Nothing's wrong – I am fine." Sirius cast a quick look at Snape. He had noticed that the two of them had been holding hands upon entering the office. Albus had already hinted at the relationship that had formed between Remus and Snape, but seeing it was a different experience all together. Apparently, the attraction had deepened since his last visit as he recognized the gleam to Remus' eyes. He knew what had put it there in the past. "You look great," he said, opting for honestly. "I can't remember a time you looked that happy!"

Remus cringed at realizing he was actually growing flustered. Trust Sirius to address that first! "I am happy," he said eventually.

Sirius met Snape's gaze and cocked his head. He wasn't surprised to see the open hostility in those dark eyes, but he wasn't going to play along. Snape meant a lot to Remus, and since Sirius considered Remus his best friend, he would try to get along with Snape – for Remus' sake! "Does Snape have to do something with that, Moony?"

Sirius' comment surprised Remus, but he quickly bounced back. Sirius must have seen them holding hands. "Yes, he does… He has everything to do with it actually." How was he going to tell Sirius about it though? Saying he was dating Severus sounded awkward. They weren't dating! "We are quickly becoming lovers," he said eventually and ignored the sharp hiss Severus emitted behind him. He would explain matters to Severus later. "Can you accept that, Pads?"

Sirius forced himself to think before answering his friend. The last time he had visited Snape had helped him nurse those cuts. That day, he had seen a different side to his old arch enemy. And he couldn't discard the possibility either that Snape was an Animagus who had saved their lives while transfigured into a wolf. He hadn't thought it possible, but yes, maybe he could accept it. As long as Snape behaved around him, that was. "I will work on accepting it, yes," he replied and offered Remus an encouraging smile. "Just give me a little time to get used to the idea."

Severus had watched and listened to the exchange in wonder. He had never expected Black to even consider accepting it! And now… Severus suppressed the notion to shake his head. He had to maintain his posture and think of his reputation. It wouldn't do to get too friendly with the dog.

Remus hugged Sirius again and smiled brightly. He had hoped Sirius would give Severus a chance, especially after what had happened the last time his friend had visited!

"Why don't you go for a walk, Remus? And take Sirius along with you. Hagrid is probably feeling lonely and he might enjoy your company."

Severus' eyes narrowed at hearing Albus make that suggestion. It was obvious that Albus wanted them gone so the two of them could talk in private. He wonder what urgent matter had arisen.

"Maybe Severus wants to tag along?" Remus said, not having caught on the way Severus had.

"I regret that I must claim Severus for the rest of the afternoon. I need to talk to him – rather urgently and the matter can't wait."

And it is rather obvious you don't want Remus and Black to be privy to that conversation, Severus thought. Finding Remus looking questioningly at him puzzled Severus, but then he realized his lover wanted to know his thoughts in the matter. "Take the dog for a walk, Lupin. He might enjoy his momentary freedom," he hissed in his arrogant way, knowing it would ensure their speedy departure.

Remus blinked, feeling rather stunned by the viciousness of that comment, but then understood. He wasn't sure why Severus was putting up that act – either for Sirius or Albus, or maybe for both of them? But he would play along. "Come on, Pads, we're not wanted here!" he grabbed Sirius' hand and pulled his friend along, but the look he gave his lover indicated that they would discuss the matter later.

"You should not alienate Sirius, Severus. He is part of the Order of the Phoenix and when Voldemort rises again, we might need his help." Albus seated himself behind his desk and conjured a chair for Severus.

Severus however, chose to stand. He merely placed his hands on the back of the chair. "What do you want to discuss? What has happened?"

"Nothing urgent, I assure you. Else I would not have waited for you to chase off Remus and Sirius. Severus, this animosity between Sirius and you must end!" He had hoped he had put an end to it when he had made them shake hands.

"Do you really think it is that easy?" Severus shook his head in wonder. "You know what your precious Marauders did to me."

"Severus, my dear friend, that is in the past!" Albus got to his feet and covered the distance between them. Cautiously, because it wouldn't be the first time that Severus would shake off his hand, he rested it on the Potions Master's shoulder. "I told you before how much I regret letting them get away with their behaviour back then. If you must blame someone, blame me. James, Sirius, and Remus were teenagers, like you. I was the adult. I should have intervened, but instead I continued to favour them."

Severus considered shaking off Albus' hand, but in the end, he decided that it didn't matter. "The pain they caused me remains though. I cannot simply discard it. It shaped me into the person I am today. Your Marauders were part of the reason why I joined the Dark Lord… Why I took the Dark Mark!"

They'd had this discussion many times before and it always ended the same way. But this time, Albus decided on a different tactic. "But things have changed, have they not? You are in love with one of those Marauders, and may I say, the one who scared and hurt you the most?"

"No, Remus never hurt me. He scared me, yes. Even months after that incident in the shack I continued to see the werewolf everywhere. It was Black who bullied me the most, and you know it."

Albus nodded. "I do know, but Severus, as I mentioned a moment ago, you are in love with Remus and if my old eyes do not deceive me, he returns your feelings. I have never seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you. And Severus, you never allowed anyone to get as close to you as Remus – not even me. You needed me, yes, and I do hope you realize that I love you as a son, but… You always kept me at a distance and I am happy – truly happy, that Remus finally found a way to reach you."

Severus shook Albus' hand off. "I am done discussing this matter. Is there anything else you require from me? Otherwise I shall return to my rooms."

"Actually, there is." Albus sighed defeated. "You can help me organise the Triwizard Tournament. And Severus, you will need to be civil once Alastor joins us as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."

"As long as he behaves, I will behave." Severus hoped he would be able to avoid Moody most of the time. Even though they seemed to have reached some sort of understanding, he would do his best to avoid the Auror as much as possible.

/

Instead of heading for Hagrid's hut, Remus and Sirius settled down in one of the many corridors. Remus selected a hidden corner and sat down on the windowsill, followed by Sirius.

Sirius recognized the expression in Remus' eyes and knew his friend wanted to discuss something – something serious, as his smile had faded. He waited, knowing Remus would start when he was ready. In the meantime, he thought back to his encounter with Snape a moment ago. He had – amazingly – caught on, and realized that Snape had spat at him on purpose; the comment had lacked the usual hatred that always twisted his voice. Severus had merely acted the part and Remus had confirmed that on their way over here.

"Pads, I need a favour."

"Of course! Anytime! What do you need?"

"I need you to remember what those first days of the school year were like. I want you to recall anything you can about Severus' arrival at Hogwarts on that first school day. I need you to add anything that I might have missed." Remus had thought it over and realized he needed to do this.

"Why?" The request was not what Sirius expected. "Why do you want to go back in time?"

"Because I believe I missed something important about Severus back then." Remus moved closer and searched his friend's eyes. "I need your word that you will keep this private. Severus can't know that I told you."

"Will you get in trouble if he finds out?" Sirius didn't like the sound of that.

"Not exactly. He will not lash out at me or attack me, Pads! Nothing like that! Do not deny you were thinking it!"

Well, he had assumed it would be something like that and so Sirius smiled regretfully. "What kind of trouble then?"

"Severus trusts me, Pads. You have no idea how hard it was for him to start trusting me. If he finds out I discussed the matter with you, he will stop telling me things and I can't allow for that to happen. Promise me, Pads. Promise me that you will keep this to yourself."

"If it means that much to you… I give you my word of honour that I will keep your secret to myself."

Remus nodded; he knew Sirius would keep his word. His friend was like that. "Listen closely then. Severus let slip that he grew up with a lot of violence at home. I need to know if it showed during his time at Hogwarts."

"You mean, if he was hiding at Hogwarts much like I was?" Sirius felt a pang of sympathy for Snape – something he had never expected to happen. But he knew what it was like to grow up with abusive parents – or like in his case, insane ones! Snape and he might have more in common than he had thought!

"Yes, think, Pads! Help me. Did he go home for the holidays? With Christmas for example? You stayed at Hogwarts during your holidays."

Sirius wished his time in Azkaban hadn't messed with his mind that much, but thankfully his Marauding years seemed fairly unaffected. He closed his eyes and thought back to that time. "He went home for the summer hols, but then we all did. Albus didn't allow any students at school during summer." But what about the other holidays?

"He stayed for Christmas too. I remember because I hexed his hair one Christmas Eve. It remained green for the rest of the holidays."

"Pads!" Remus frowned. "Why did you pick on him all the time?"

That was a damn good question! "I am not sure… But maybe…" Oh, how he hated admitting that! "Maybe he reminded me of myself in some ways."

"What ways?"

"The way he would sneak about the castle – always on the look out. Always ready to hex us."

"Always ready to defend himself if attacked," Remus added thoughtfully. "Maybe you are right, Pads. Maybe the two of you are much alike in a certain way. It would explain a lot, wouldn't it?"

Sirius still hated admitting it. "Probably. If his father used to beat him up, it might explain why he was always sneaking about like that. He would know better than to allow himself to get caught."

Remus cringed, realizing the fact that Severus had suffered abuse at home explained many things. "Pads, do you remember what Severus looked like on the first school day? I have been trying to remember, but I wasn't always in a sane state of mind. Some first school days happened after a full moon and I was still recovering from the transformation."

Sirius nodded and tried to remember, but not just for Remus' sake. He was growing curious himself. He knew what it was like to be on your guard because your father threatened to lash out and hit you, or even worse, lock you up or put a curse on you. Yes, his father had been fucking insane as far as Sirius was concerned. Ah, back to Snape though. What had Snivellus looked like? Thinking about Snape in that way helped him remember. "I do recall our first day at school during our second year. You weren't around; I think it had been the full moon the night before and James hadn't arrived yet either, so I focused my attention on Snivellus."

Remus hissed angrily. "Pads, I told you to stop calling him that!"

"Sorry, but it helps me remember."

Remus sighed, but decided not to press the matter. "Go on. What do you remember?"

"I recall that day rather vividly," Sirius said, rather surprised. "It was a hot summer's day and yet Snivellus wore a woollen scarf around his neck. It made no sense. He didn't look like he had contracted a cold, nothing like that. Seeing that scarf annoyed me for some reason," he said and grinned ruefully, "And so I set it on fire."

"Pads!" Remus thought he had known of most stunts Sirius had pulled on Severus, but each time, he was told something new. "You could have burned him!"

"I wasn't thinking straight." Sirius knew it was no excuse, but still felt he should explain. "My father had crucioed me the day before in order to remind me to act the part at Hogwarts. You know what he was like – you are pureblood so make me proud and more of that nonsense. I was still hurting and Snivellus seemed the perfect person to take it out on."

Remus took hold of his friend's hand and squeezed it. "I know your father was a total bastard. I am sorry you had to go through that."

"And if your suspicions are right, I acted like a total bastard toward Snape in turn. Bah, I turned into my father after all and didn't even realize it at the time. I had promised myself I would never become such a bastard." Sirius didn't like himself very much at that moment. "Snivellus removed that burning scarf and…" Sirius tried to remember what he had seen and what he had immediately suppressed. "It was his throat – all black and blue. It looked like someone had tried to choke him." Yes, that was it. That was what he had seen and had immediately repressed because it had reminded him too much of what his father did to him during those holidays.

Remus remained silent for a moment and gathered his thoughts. Had Severus' father tried to strangle him? Had he attempted to kill his own son? "Pads, this is important. Do you remember anything else? Anything at all?"

Sirius involuntarily began to bite onto his bottom lip, but stopped because Remus brushed his thumb across it.

"Do not do that. You will cause it to bleed." Remus tucked a strand of Sirius messy hair behind an ear and felt sad, remembering Sirius tended to hurt himself at times – purposefully.

"James arrived that evening and noticed the way I continued to tremble. I didn't tell him it was because of the Crucio my father had cast, but he knew that something was very wrong nonetheless. He dragged me to the Hospital Wing and ordered me to see Madam Pomfrey."

"Pads, what does that have to do with Severus?"

"Patience, Moony. I am getting there!" Sirius cocked his head, trying to remember what had happened then. It had been something unpleasant; something he had tried hard to forget. "Of course…" A veil lifted from his memories and he saw clearly now – saw that evening in the Hospital Wing like it had happened only yesterday!

"Pads!" Remus felt frustrated; he wanted to know what Sirius had recalled!

"Sorry," Sirius started, "but I merely just recalled that Snivellus… Severus was there as well. Madam Pomfrey couldn't see me right away because she was already busy. It was Severus she was tending to. They were in the adjourning room, but the door was open and so I could see what was happening. Severus' shirt was off and… Fuck," Sirius cussed. "Why did I forget that?" He drew in a deep breath which would hopefully help him calm down because his nerves were acting up. All of a sudden, he felt bad – really bad. "His back was bruised too. I think I saw cuts as well, some still bleeding."

"Did he know you were there?" Remus wished he had known back then what had been happening to Severus. Maybe he could have helped. Maybe he would have told his friends to stop bullying Severus. Maybe having just one friend, even one who was a werewolf, would have made all the difference and Severus wouldn't have been tempted to take the Dark Mark!

"I don't think so. At least, he never looked over his shoulder. That would have been the only way for him to notice me." Sirius rested his back against the cold stone wall behind him and shook his head repeatedly. "I must have repressed that!"

"I wonder how bad things were for him at home. He was thirteen or fourteen at the time and his father did that to him – to a child! It makes me wonder how much abuse really went on at his home."

Sirius instantly understood. "You believe it didn't stop there? That his father did more than just beat him to pulp?" During the years he had spent at Hogwarts he had seen a fair number of students who had been abused at home – physically, or even worse, sexually. He had been fortunate – fortunate! - enough to escape that particular fate as his father had never been sexually interested in him. But what if it had happened to Severus?

Remus feared he might reveal too much, but he couldn't shut Pads out now. "I have reason to believe that he suffered sexual abuse as well."

"Sweet Merlin!" Sirius felt worse with every passing second. He felt guilty – bloody guilty for bullying Snivellus like that. He cringed, fully realizing how his action had forced Severus into isolation. The fear of being ridiculed, humiliated, hexed, or chased down the corridors had been the final straw for the boy and had made him turn to Voldemort. "I am such a bastard," Sirius muttered beneath his breath. "I vowed that I would never turn out like my father, but I did a long time ago."

"You were a victim too, Pads. I am not acquitting you, but you didn't know any better at the time. And James carries part of the blame too, and so do I." Remus felt guilty too. "I should have stood up to the two of you. I should have told you to stop, but I was afraid you would turn against me instead and you were the only friends I had."

Sirius raised his right arm and tentatively touched his face, which was, oddly enough, wet. Touching his face, his fingertips encountered tears. He was crying – bloody hell! "How do I act when I see him again? How do I act around Snape the next we meet? Now that I remember those things I will feel awkward when facing him."

Remus acted quickly. "Pads, you cannot reveal what you know. Severus will not forgive us for figuring everything out."

"But someone should talk to him about what happened back then, Moony." Suddenly a lot about Snape made sense. "He never worked through it, did he? That's why he is like that – cold, distant, spiteful."

"He is not really like that – not once you get to know him. It is just an act."

"Moony, what's he like when it is just the two of you?" He had to know if there was still hope for Severus Snape! Otherwise he would never be able to forgive himself for bullying Severus.

Remus knew his friend well enough to realize Sirius' reason for asking something so personal. "He is shy, Pads. He cares deeply about me. He protects me and keeps me safe. Not once did he pressure me – he accepts me the way I am. And he is tender, Pads, almost as if afraid to hurt me, but I know now why he is that way. Honestly, he is a very private, but also very caring, man."

Hearing that settled Sirius' nerves slightly. "Did the two of already have sex?"

Remus coughed in order to cover up his embarrassment. "Pads, you cannot ask people that."

"You're not people, Moony. And I want to know."

Remus took a risk and then said, "Not if you mean intercourse – no. Some hand jobs and I went down on him." He shouldn't be telling Sirius this, but he did need to talk to someone about it. "I offered to bottom, but he froze, Pads. He said he didn't want to put me through such pain."

Sirius sharply hissed. "And that's what made you wonder. That's why you decided to ask me if there was anything I remembered. Moony, you're smart. You figured it out when he said he didn't want to hurt you."

"Someone forced him… That is what you are saying, isn't it?"

"I fucking hope it wasn't his father. That would make it even worse!" The mere thought alone made him shudder.

"He said he never had a lover before. That I am the first. That still confuses me."

"I wouldn't call my rapist my lover either!" Sirius couldn't help it; he spat at the floor to show his disgust. "Maybe it was one of his fellow Death Eaters." He almost hoped that was the case – for Severus' sake. "Please, don't let it have been you-know-who!"

Shivers ran down Remus' spine upon hearing that. "No, please, not that," he agreed. He couldn't bring himself to even think of such a monster as Voldemort forcing himself on anyone. Suddenly, he grew excited. "Pads, I remember something!"

"What?"

"Malleus and Alastor came here to question me, remember?" After Sirius had nodded and mumbled a 'go on', Remus continued, "Malleus wanted to make sure the Veritaserum worked and asked me about my sexual preference. I told him I liked men. Then, he asked me if I liked to take it up the arse." Sirius growled and Remus quickly gestured for him to be quiet. "Severus kept talking in-between those questions, probably trying to distract Malleus, but it turned out Alastor had asked him those questions too when he was standing trail and was being interrogated." Remus reached for the revelation that danced on the tip of his tongue, but then it escaped him. "If only I knew what Severus told Alastor back then!"

"You can't go behind Severus' back like that, trust me. He wouldn't forgive you."

Sirius was probably right. He couldn't ask Alastor to tell himself something Severus had only admitted to because he had been subjected to the Veritaserum – not to mention being tortured by Dementors!

"Pads, what do I do? Alastor may have the answers I need, but by asking him, I will betray Severus' trust in me. I do realize that!"

Sirius gathered Remus' hand in his and his facial features briefly contorted upon noticing the way it trembled. "You care about Severus, Moony. You love him."

A surprised expression appeared in Remus' blue eyes, but then he nodded. "I do. I love him… I really do," he said, enjoying speaking the words.

"Then continue with what you're doing. You are getting through to him. Give him the time he needs to open up to you. Severus trusts you – and considering what he has been through, that is nothing short of a miracle. Continue to treat him the same way. I have the feeling that he will tell you – and that he might surprise himself and tell you rather quickly. He knows you're the best thing that could have happened to him."

"Do you believe that, Pads?"

"I do. Moony… Remus, when the two of you walked into Albus' office you had that special look in your eyes – the both of you. He loves you. Give him time."

Sirius' advice was sound and Remus knew it. "Being patient is difficult. I want to help, Pads. He is hurting and I want to be there for him."

"If what I suspect is true, then he needs time to accept that you are here to stay. He will expect you to turn him down each time he confides in you. The fact that you are still around will eventually convince him that he can entrust himself to you."

"Pads, when did you get so wise? What happened?" Sirius' speech impressed him.

"I went through a fate similar to his, but Severus' personal hell was even worse than mine. I know how he thinks and how he will react because I have been there."

"You are a good friend, Pads - the best!" Remus buried Sirius in a hug. "Thanks for listening."

"Anytime… And I wish I could say the same thing to Severus. It might help if he could talk to someone who went through the same experience. Don't tell him though – at least not in those words, but he has a friend in me." Sirius laughed. "I never thought I would ever say that, but it's true. If he ever needs my help, I will give it to him – without asking for anything in turn."

Some of Remus' dark and depressing feelings started to fade at hearing that. He had always known that he liked Sirius for a reason and now he had been reminded why – Sirius might act all tough, but he had a good heart.

/

Severus sensed Black's presence the moment Remus approached his quarters. He had hoped that Black had left already, but apparently his hopes were in vain. Remus came to a halt in front of the door leading to his rooms and Severus rose from the sofa he had been sitting on. He appreciated the fact that Remus didn't simply allow Black to enter his home. Severus headed to the door and opened it. He glared at Black for good measure and then sought out Remus' gaze. Something odd flashed at the outskirt of his lover's mind and it was hard for him not to pick up on it. He would never invade Remus' mind on purpose though.

"Severus, would you join us for a walk?" It had taken him some time to come up with an activity Severus might feel comfortable with. He knew that the last thing Severus wanted was to have Sirius in his home and he respected that.

"A walk?" Severus echoed and the tone of his voice echoed his surprise. "And why would I do that?"

"Because I am asking? Severus, I want you and Sirius to get along. You know that. Pads is willing to make the effort. He agreed to behave himself. It is up to you now."

Severus wasn't quite sure what to do. He knew that accepting the peace offering would make his lover happy, but was he really willing to put up with Sirius Black voluntarily?

"It means a lot to him," Sirius said eventually. "And I will behave. Remus is right; I want to give this a chance."

Severus still wasn't convinced that he should accept, but in the end, Albus' words returned to him. Remus had quickly become very important to him and he didn't want to run the risk of losing his affection. If that meant putting up with the obnoxious dog, he would have to learn to tolerate him. "But not for long. I want to work on my research this evening."

"The evening is still young." It was only six o'clock and Remus reckoned Severus could afford not to study the spell for one evening. "I promise to return you to our rooms before midnight." He caught the stunned expression on Severus' face when he leaned in closer and kissed him on the lips. Severus quickly glanced at Sirius and Remus watched his lover's hand reach for his wand. "You do not need to worry. Pads is fine with us being lovers."

Severus thought he had misheard. "You cannot be serious." He then recalled Black's mellow reaction in the office. But then his eyes narrowed in suspicion; Black had tricked him before. He would act like nothing was wrong and then hex him when he let down his guard. That wasn't going to happen this time though!

Sirius also realized what was going on in Snape's head and he couldn't blame the other man for being suspicious. "I am not setting you up. Not this time," he took a deep breath and then added, "Severus."

Severus' eyes widened at being called that and he hated the fact that his surprise showed. Remus reached for his wand hand and curled his fingers around it. Severus wasn't sure what to make of this development.

"Maybe we can visit Hagrid? I am afraid Sirius and I were rather curt the last time we had tea with him." Remus wanted to make things up to Hagrid as he felt bad for having tried to the manipulate the half-Giant.

Severus knew he shouldn't do this. He should close the door and ignore them instead. Nothing good would come out of this! Remus however, pulled him along, using his hold on his hand. Severus kept a close eye on Black though. He didn't trust him and never would.

/

"Hagrid's home!" Sirius called out upon seeing the open door. "And there's Fang."

Severus cringed; not the damn hound!

Remus noticed the odd reaction and frowned at his lover. "What is wrong?"

"Nothing – really. It is merely that…" Severus didn't bother to finish his sentence as they would find out shortly.

Fang suddenly ran toward them and Sirius braced himself for impact, vividly recalling the last time the hound had jumped him and nearly knocked him off his feet. To this surprise, Fang passed him by and headed for Snape. Stunned, Sirius watched Fang run in circles and bark excitedly at the Potions Master.

Remus raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Do you need to tell me something?"

"That damn hound is obsessed with me," Severus hissed. "Fang, move!" He tried to set another step toward Hagrid's cabin, but Fang kept getting in the way.

"Ah, company! Lovely!" Hagrid appeared in the doorway and smiled. "Come on! I'll make tea!" Severus gave him a pleading look and Hagrid decided to help out. "Fang, bad boy! Get over here! Now!" He would be surprised if the hound would listen though!

Fang ignored Hagrid's call and continued to bark at Severus, trying to playfully bite into the fabric of his black coat.

"What's gotten into him?" Sirius wondered about the hounds' odd behaviour. Fang was definitely excited and continually tried to draw Snape's attention. "Hagrid, what's going on?"

"He likes ter run with Severus…" Hagrid's eyes widened. He hadn't said that, had he? Even if he had, he tried to reassure himself, he hadn't revealed Severus' secret, had he?

"Run with Severus?" Remus sought Sirius' gaze and they exchanged a look. "I didn't know you enjoyed to jog," he said addressing Severus. He simply couldn't picture his lover that way.

"Not with the professor!" Hagrid added quickly as he stepped aside to let them enter his home. "With the wolf o'course!" Upon realizing what he had given away, he quickly covered his mouth with his right hand. "I didn' say that…. Forget I ever said it!" He sounded muffled as he kept his hand in front of his mouth.

Severus glared at the half-Giant. He should have known better than to come here in Remus' and Black's company. The half-Giant always had great difficulty to keep secrets and he should have known Hagrid would let something slip!

"I'm sorry, professor! I really am! I didn' mean ter say that! It jus' happened! I'm sorry, professor!" Hagrid wished he could take it all back – especially when Severus cast that particular look his way. "Am sorry," he repeated.

Severus straightened his back, drew in a deep breath, and waited for Black to snarl at him for keeping secrets like a true Slytherin. He didn't dare look at Remus though, afraid of the rejection he might see in those blue eyes.

Remus noticed it and reacted at once. "Sorry, Hagrid, but I think I need to talk to Severus right now. We will visit another time."

"Sure," Hagrid quickly replied, glad that he was getting off easy for the moment. "Am truly sorry, professor," he whispered before quickly hiding inside.

"Severus, we need to talk." Remus gave Sirius a quick look, hoping his friend would stay silent and allow him to take the lead.

Severus growled at Fang, who then quietened and lay down next to him. That stupid hound had made Hagrid reveal his secret! "What do you want to discuss then?" He was going to make this as difficult as possible on them!

"About what Hagrid said just now. Severus, you saved Pads the other day, didn't you? You took out that Banshee, and by doing so, you not only saved Pads' life, but mine as well." Remus noticed Severus' defensive posture and regretted that his lover still didn't trust him to support him unconditionally. Severus still expected him to turn away.

"I have no idea what you are talking about!" Severus narrowed his eyes at them.

"Severus, why do you feel you need to hide the truth from me? Pads will not betray your secret. You cannot possibly believe that he will inform the Ministry that you are an unregistered Animagus, because that is the problem, isn't it?" At least, Remus hoped that was the reason why Severus didn't want anyone to know he was an Animagus.

Severus quickly rethought his strategy as he realized that denying the truth wasn't going to work.

"Severus, I am glad I am finally able to thank you for saving us that day." Remus chuckled, trying to do away with the tension Severus radiated. "When did you discover your Animagus form?" Since he still had a hold on Severus' hand, he pulled him along, as he started to walk toward the lake. "Finding out that your Animagus form is that of a wolf must have irked you!" Remus continued to chuckle and stroked Severus' hand in what was hopefully a soothing manner. "How did it happen?"

Sirius decided to keep in the back. It was obvious that Remus knew best how to handle Snape. But hanging back didn't mean he wasn't interested in hearing what the Potions Master had to say, so he stayed close – close enough to hear Snape's reply, should the other man choose to answer Moony.

Severus weighed his options very carefully. He would gain nothing by continuing his denial. Remus knew the truth now – and even worse, so did Black. Remus deserved to hear the truth because they were lovers, but he would have told his story more easily hadn't Black been around. But it was true – they had both seen him in his Animagus form. He could only hope Black would keep his secret. He doubted obliviating Black would go over well with Remus and Albus. They would have his hide for even attempting it! There simply was no way out of it.

"I know you don't trust me," Sirius said, falling into step with them. "But I won't betray you. I owe you my life and I would never repay you by making you lose yours." He hoped he sounded sincere for he did mean it.

Severus nodded and then sped up their pace. Remus and Black quickly followed and didn't pressure him as they made their way to the lake. After sitting down on his favourite rock, Severus stared at the soothing surface for a moment. Remus sat down next to him and Sirius sat cross-legged on the ground – thankfully keeping his distance. Severus wondered about the best way to tell his story. "It just happened one night," he said eventually and carefully avoided making eye-contact with either of them. "I'd had another nightmare in which I was trapped in the Shack and the werewolf was trying to rip me apart. I woke up covered in sweat and needed some fresh air. It was summer – a warm summer's day like today – and the night was still warm. So I left my rooms with every intention to come here and calm my mind." Severus stroked a crease from his black coat.

"When did this happen?" Remus didn't want to interrupt, but he did wonder how old Severus had been at the time.

"A year ago," Severus mumbled.

Remus claimed his lover's hand and cradled it within his. "I am sorry that the nightmares continued to haunt you. It was never my intention to scare you that night in the Shack."

"That was my fault," Sirius admitted. "I should never have lured you there."

Severus shrugged, but his gaze shifted away from the lake and toward Remus' hand wrapped around his. "It happened during my run over here. I started to run the moment I left the building and I couldn't stop running. Suddenly everything grew blurry around me – just for a second. I did not realize it at the time, but I had transfigured myself into a wolf. I reached the lake and suddenly realized something was wrong. Looking at my reflection in the water, I found I had changed – into a wolf of all animals! I panicked. Albus noticed… He knows everything that happens at Hogwarts and he sought me out." Severus shrugged again. "He tried to calm me down so I could return to my normal state, but it did not work. In the end, he decided to take me to Minerva in the hope that she would be able to help."

Remus smiled upon feeling Severus intertwine their fingers. "How did she react?"

"She stared at me in shock – at first." Severus recalled the odd look on her face. "Albus then explained my situation to her and she agreed to help. It took her three hours to help me change back." Those had been the longest three hours of his life. "I was rather stunned myself. I never knew I was an Animagus. But then again, I never tried to find out if I could transfigure myself. I had never felt the need to do so."

Remus sought out Sirius' gaze and read the same question he had in those eyes. "Did she comment on the fact that your Animagus form is that of a wolf?"

"Actually, she did have an explanation for that." Severus felt relieved now that he had told them about that part of the story he felt uncomfortable with. Telling them the rest was easy. "She said it might have something to do with the fact that I am afraid of werewolves. By choosing the form of a wolf – even subconsciously – I chose a form that enables me to fight a werewolf should I encounter one."

To Sirius that oddly enough made sense. "You could run with Moony during the full moon." Severus shivered, something that didn't escape him.

"Hopefully Remus will be sentient enough to control his actions." Severus returned to looking out over the lake. He had kept his secrets for a long time and now they were being forced into the open one by one. He didn't like it.

"Well, I do enjoy running when I am a werewolf," Remus admitted. "There is something liberating in being to run at such a speed."

"Even I enjoy it," Sirius agreed. "There's nothing feral about it. I agree with Moony; it gives me a sense of freedom."

Freedom… What did they know about freedom? He had sold his soul twice – once to darkness, then to the light. One day the gods would judge him for his crimes, Severus was convinced of that. One thing he would never know again was freedom.

Remus felt apprehensive, but still went ahead and addressed his lover. "Severus, I realize that I am out of line asking you this, but… I would love to see you in your Animagus form." He doubted that Severus would indulge him though.

Severus shifted his attention to Remus. "I never registered with the Ministry and seldom use my Animagus form. If – for example – Moody found out about it…"

"He would not use it against you," Remus finished for his lover. "He would have in the past, but that has changed. You might find it hard to believe, but I assure you that you gained his respect." Remus licked his bottom lip nervously. "Just this once?"

Severus wanted to give Remus that, he really did, and he would have, had Black not been present. Now he felt inhibited about assuming that form.

"Don't mind me," Sirius whispered, suspecting why Severus was opposed to the idea of taking on his Animagus form. "But I meant what I said; I won't betray you."

Once more searching Remus' eyes, Severus realized that – for some elusive reason – this was important to his lover. "Just this once," he conceded. He freed his hand of Remus' hold, and as he walked toward the lake, his form changed into that of a wolf. He turned his head and stared at them, hoping they would leave him alone now that they had gotten what they wanted.

Remus' breath caught at seeing the wolf standing in front of him with his head held high. What a magnificent animal! He had only caught a glimpse of him during and after the attack and now he could look at him at leisure. "Amazing." He knelt onto the ground and shakily raised his right arm in order to touch the wolf. "Please," he said, begging Severus to allow this.

Severus held perfectly still and allowed Remus to rest a hand on his head. Fingers ghosted across his fur and he wondered about the reverie in that touch. It was almost like Remus was afraid to touch him. Although it had been his intention to remain in this shape only for a moment, he didn't change back. He wanted Remus to do as he pleased, and if his lover wanted to stroke his fur, so be it.

"Thank you," Remus whispered into the wolf's ear. He loosely wrapped his arms around the animal's neck and rested his brow against the wolf's head. "You have no idea what this means to me." Severus' expression became worried and Remus was amazed to see such awareness in a wolf's eyes. The only wolves he knew were fellow werewolves and they had never looked at him with such understanding. "Thank you for giving me this." Maybe he would be able to look like this at his lover during the full moon when he was a werewolf. He wanted to be fully sentient – fully in control of his emotions and his actions, he realized that now. And he wanted Severus at his side during that time. "I understand that you will probably not agree to my request, but please, will you run with me during the full moon? I…" Words escaped him, as he didn't exactly know what it was he was pleading for.

Since he couldn't verbally reply, Severus settled for nodding. It got the point across though, as the next moment, Remus smiled at him through tears which rapidly dripped down his face. Severus found it unbearable to see his lover in such distress and carefully licked those salty tears from his face.

Feeling that tongue move across his face made Remus chuckle. He wasn't exactly ticklish, but it was an odd thing for Severus to do, and the fact that it was a wolf doing away with his tears, made him feel even more giddy. This was how he wanted to be like when he turned into a werewolf. He wanted to be equally caring and concerned about his mate.

Sirius felt like an intruder and briefly considered sneaking off, but he knew Remus well enough to know that his friend wouldn't like it. So instead, he just kept his distance and tried to draw as little attention as possible to his person. He had to admit though that Severus made an impressive wolf – all black and with fangs that glittered dangerously in the moonlight. Well, wizard and wolf were equally dangerous, he reminded himself. He didn't want to face either of them in battle.

"Will you do me another favour? I hope I am not asking too much." Remus managed to compose himself and smiled at the wolf. "Will you run with Pads? He will never admit it, but he is lonely too. I cannot run with him the way he wants me to." He doubted Severus would indulge him again, but he had to ask. "Pads is not as evil as you think. He is a lonely man, Severus."

Severus raised his upper lip at hearing it. The audacity of that request briefly angered him. He had already revealed so much of himself, had indulged Remus again and again, and now his lover was asking him to reach out to Black! Bah!

"Severus, please." Remus tried one more time. "He has always been a good friend to me. He helped me too many times to count."

Severus cursed privately for being so easily swayed. Just this once, he thought, and then cringed at realizing just how many times he had said that lately. He nodded his head and Remus let go, apparently understanding he had made up his mind. He prowled toward Black and growled.

"What does he want?" Sirius hadn't been privy to their whispered exchange and therefore didn't know what the wolf wanted.

"Run with him, Pads. I know you want that. It must have been ages since you had someone to run with." Remus mourned losing the close contact with the wolf, but knew Severus would return to him later. He could do this – for Pads.

"Are you sure he wants that?" Sirius inclined his head toward the wolf.

"He would not invite you along otherwise," Remus whispered, unable to look away from the wolf.

Severus glared at Black, turned around, and started to walk away. He then looked at Black from over his shoulder and growled again.

"He wants you to follow him," Remus realized relieved. Severus was really giving in to him!

Sirius hesitated; he found it hard to believe that Snape would agree to this. "Are you really sure about this?" The wolf growled again, and this time, Sirius caught the impatience in it. It was true though what Remus had said a moment ago – he wanted to run with someone… Not being alone for once. He felt lonely most of the time. Succumbing to his needs, Sirius changed into his Animagus form and tentatively approached the wolf. For one moment, Pads thought the wolf actually raised an eyebrow at him, much like Severus always did.

Severus had enough of this child's play and started to run. He wasn't going to check if that mongrel was following him.

Pads acted at once and stretched his legs as well. He had to work hard in order to catch up with the wolf, but in the end, he managed to run alongside him. He couldn't contain the happiness building inside him and barked wildly, even though knowing it would probably irritate the wolf. But he didn't care – this feeling needed out.

Severus was tempted to snap at the barking menace, but understood why Black was acting in that way. So instead he simply ignored it.

Remus sighed contently and watched them run. He wished he could join them, but he wasn't an Animagus. But Severus had promised to run with him when he was a werewolf and that had to do. Feeling at peace with the wolf inside him, Remus slowly followed, heading home as well.

/

Suddenly Severus' instincts kicked in and made him spin around. He had picked up a familiar scent, one which he didn't want anywhere close to his lover!

Pads almost crashed into the wolf, but managed to avoid a collision at the last moment. What the hell was that about? Why was that bloody wolf running back toward the lake?

Severus growled as he ran toward his lover, only to find Remus gone. What had happened? How had Malleus managed to get his filthy hands on him? Movement to his right caught his attention. A large number of bushes and trees, that stood just outside of the protective wards, rustled too loudly for wind to have moved them. He was going to rip out Malleus' throat for just touching his lover!

Pads tried to catch up with the wolf, but Severus was much faster. He stared in wonder as the wolf suddenly jumped. An angry growl echoed through the night, and the next moment, a pained outcry followed – one, which had not uttered by the wolf. Realizing something was wrong, Pads hesitated only for a second and then followed the wolf past the wards. What he saw, stunned him.

Severus had buried his teeth in Malleus' shoulder and flung the Auror around. Malleus screamed in rage, but was unable to hex the wolf as Severus had first targeted his wand hand, forcing the Auror to drop his wand. He flung Malleus against a tree, and the Auror's head connected with the trunk. After uttering a last pitiful cry, the Auror's eyes closed and he lost consciousness. Severus immediately changed to his normal form and drew his wand. After quickly casting Incarcerous, he headed for the crumbled form of his lover. "Remus!"

Pads changed back as well and headed toward the other two men. He quickly checked if Malleus was truly incapacitated, and after convincing himself the Auror no longer posed a risk, he joined Severus, who was carefully gathering Remus in his arms. "Is he hurt?"

Severus had already cast a diagnostic spell and was relieved to find Malleus had merely stunned Remus. What had happened after he had left Remus? And why had he left his lover alone in the first place? He had vowed to protect Remus and he had failed him so quickly! "Merely stunned." He could spell Remus awake, but was averse to doing that. It would be best to allow Remus to wake on his own. Cradling Remus tightly against his chest, his gaze wandered to where Malleus lay on the ground, tightly tied up in iron chains. He would never underestimate the Auror! "We need to contact Moody so he can collect that bastard," he said, inclining his head toward Malleus. "Can you convey that message to Moody by way of a Patronus?" Severus couldn't recall if Black had ever mastered that spell.

Sirius felt ill at ease having to admit something that painful to Snape. "I am no longer able to cast it… Ever since I stayed in Azkaban I…"

Severus, growing impatient, knew he had to act himself. After casting the spell, and ignoring Black's surprised gasp, he sent it off.

"I didn't know you could do that," Sirius admitted, pleased, but at the same time feeling pained at seeing Lily's doe Patronus spring from the tip of Severus' wand. It explained a lot though. He jumped in surprise because Moody's bulldog suddenly appeared in front of him.

"Just give me a minute!"

Severus wanted nothing more than to take Remus back to their rooms where his lover could rest and recover from the spell Malleus had cast.

"I can stay. You should get Moony into safety." They were still outside Hogwarts' protective wards.

It wasn't that Severus didn't trust Black to keep Malleus under control, but he felt better if he witnessed Moody disapparating with Malleus with his own eyes. "I will wait."

Sirius heard the final note to that voice and decided not to press the matter, especially since Alastor apparated a second later.

"By Merlin! What did Malleus do to Remus?" Moody moved forward in order to check on his friend.

"Remus will be fine. Malleus merely stunned him. I want you to take that bastard with you. Make sure I never see him again, or else I will kill him."

Moody knew better than to question Severus' statement. "Snape, you almost killed him at any rate!" Moody checked Malleus' injuries and only then saw the bite marks on the Auror's shoulder. "What beast did this?" He briefly considered Black as the perpetrator, but quickly realized that a dog's teeth couldn't do that much damage.

"We had help incapacitating him. Some wolves from the Forbidden Forest were already chasing after him and they took him down. I merely tied him up," Severus said, quickly and easily coming up with a plausible explanation. "Moody, take that bastard with you. I do not have the time to discuss this matter. I need to take care of Remus."

Moody nodded, but knew instinctively something didn't add up. "I will make sure he no longer bothers you." He grabbed hold of Malleus' hand and disapparated.

Severus picked up Remus and cradled him against his chest. Carrying him, he headed for the castle, but then realized Black wasn't following them. "What are you waiting for, Black? A written invitation?"

Sirius stirred into action; he had thought Severus wouldn't want him close, but apparently he had been mistaken!

Severus rolled his eyes back at realizing that. "Remus considers you a good friend and he will want to convince himself that you are fine once he wakes up. He doesn't know what happened after Malleus stupefied him, and knowing Remus the way I do, he will worry you were also injured."

"Thanks, Sn—Severus," he said, quickly correcting himself. He hadn't thought it possible, but Severus was starting to grow on him!

/

Sirius' surprise mounted upon realizing Severus was actually going to admit him into his rooms. He had never set foot inside Severus' home before and wondered what it was like. Following Severus inside, he was amazed at how normal it looked. But why would it look any different? He knew better now; Severus Snape wasn't the bastard he had always thought him to be!

Severus placed Remus in the middle of the bed and sat down on the side. He was growing worried now that his lover remained unconscious and he re-cast his diagnostic spell, thankful that he had taken that medi-wizard course during his studies. The diagnostic spell confirmed Remus was fine, having merely been stunned. "Expergiscimini," he whispered, casting the spell with as little force as he could manage as he wanted his lover to wake up comfortably.

Sirius wasn't sure what to do and headed for the windowsill where he sat down. He watched Severus closely and felt touched at seeing the concern and love on the other man's face. He hadn't thought Snape capable of such emotions – what a fool he had been! Snape had fooled them all by perfectly playing his part!

Remus felt like someone had banged him on the head using a giant hammer and he squeezed his eyes half shut. He felt nauseous, but by remaining motionless, he managed to fight it down. What had happened?

"Malleus got to you," Severus whispered, and used a spell to dim the lights, which had already been low to begin with, but upon realizing that the intensity still hurt Remus' eyes, he acted at once. "You are not seriously injured. You merely require time to recover." Carefully watching Remus' reaction, he caressed his lover's hair. When Remus didn't flinch or show any discomfort at the touch, he stroked his lover's face as well. "Do you recall what happened?"

Remus groaned at the memory. "I remember walking away from the lake and then… something hit me, forcefully, and sent me flying – past the wards?" he guessed.

"Yes, he managed to get you away from the protective wards." He shuddered, thinking of what Malleus might had planned for Remus. "Moody collected Malleus. I doubt that idiot will trouble us ever again!"

"What did you do to him, Severus?" Even now, Severus' eyes possessed a dangerous gleam which warned him that his lover had dealt with Malleus in a most unpleasant way.

"Nothing he will not recover from, unfortunately." Severus leaned in closer and pressed a kiss onto Remus' brow. "You should rest."

"Pads!" Remus suddenly remembered Sirius' presence at the lake. "Did he get hurt?"

Severus looked at Black from over his shoulder and then beckoned him closer. "Your pet dog is fine."

Sirius once more noticed the lack of venom to that statement. In fact, it had sounded remarkably mellow. "I'm fine, Moony. Just like Severus said."

Remus felt relieved at seeing his best friend and his lover at his side. He had hoped the two of them would bury the hatchet, and now that it had actually happened, he allowed himself to simply enjoy their company. "Good, I was worried, Pads."

"You should have seen your wolf attack Malleus. I am surprised he let him live."

Severus snorted at hearing that. "Had it been up to me, I would have killed him, but then Moody would not have been so lenient and apprehended me instead. Unfortunately letting Malleus live was advisable."

Remus rested the palm of his hand against Severus' face and stroked his lover's cheek. "My wolf," he smiled tenderly. "I like that."

Severus arched an eyebrow. "You should go back to sleep." Remus was giving him a distinctly odd look, almost as if dosed on some potion.

"Do not give me that look, Severus. I am still sane." Remus would explain later – after he had rested. "Will you stay with me?"

"Of course!" How dared Remus doubt that?

"Lie down next to me…" He pulled at Severus' sleeve. "Hold me."

Severus peeked at Black, but didn't find anything that indicated disgust or disapproval on the man's part; so he lay down on his side. Remus moved, and shifted closer to him, sliding into his arms. "Sleep now," Severus whispered and couldn't help but look at Black again. He still didn't trust the acceptance Black claimed to feel toward him.

Sirius however merely smiled at Remus and then nodded at Severus. He understood now that he was seeing them together. It was obvious they loved each other and who was he to stand in their way? "I'll head back to Grimmauld Place," he announced, feeling superfluous.

"Stop it, Black. No need to act the martyr. There is a perfectly fine sofa in the living room, but do not drool on it."

Hearing Snape's familiar sneer cheered him up. "Just be grateful if I don't leave any fleas behind on your precious sofa!" He still couldn't believe how much Severus had mellowed! "Are you sure? I don't want to impose."

"I would not suggest it if I wanted you gone, now would I? Now move it, Black. Get some sleep."

Sirius nodded gratefully, for it meant that Severus didn't intend on banishing him from Remus' life. Instead, it looked like the Potions Master was slowly allowing him in – allowing him to befriend him, and for that, Sirius respected the other man, especially considering the way he had bullied Severus in the past.

Severus watched Sirius until the other man stepped into the corridor and vanished from view. "I am sorry I failed to keep you safe," Severus whispered and kissed Remus' brow once more. "It will not happen again."

/

Sirius still felt dazzled that Severus allowed him to roam these rooms freely. He had never expected such a thing. Judging it best to play it safe, he followed Severus' instructions and sat down on the sofa in the living room. He had never thought it possible, but he felt comfortable here. He piled some pillows against the sofa's armrest and stretched, reclining against them. My, the sofa was comfortable indeed!

A soft hiss coming from close by commanded his attention and his eyes widened at seeing a tiny, black dragon flying toward him. It made odd sounds, almost like it was trying to talk to him and eventually it landed on his chest. It lifted its head and continued to babble. "What the heck are you?"

Damocles huffed at being addressed that impolitely. He breathed fire – at least, he attempted doing so, and grew frustrated at seeing the tiny puff of smoke that quickly vaporized. That big oaf of a wizard was in his favourite spot and if he wasn't moving, he would simply abuse the wizard and use him as his pillow instead!

Severus arched an eyebrow as the tiny dragon curled up on his abdomen, resting its head on its tail. "I didn't know Severus had a familiar." It was the only explanation he could come up with. "Well, I reckon keeping a wolf as a familiar might be highly impractical." Then he laughed. Moony could easily pass for a pet wolf!

The tiny creature scowled at him for laughing, which made Sirius shake his head. "Looks like there are still lots of things I don't know about when it comes down to Severus." Carefully, he stroked the dragon's head and the purring that greeted him made him smile. "I might be able to tolerate you." He would never admit it to another living soul, but he was rather pleased to have company – even though it was only a tiny dragon!

Sirius got another surprise when a fine silver mist started to spread from the bedroom Severus and Remus where in, into the living room. The tiny dragon opened an eye, but didn't seem bothered, so Sirius decided not to act. The silver mist surrounded the sofa he was resting on, and when he reached out in order to touch it, a pleasant warmth seeped into his fingertips. Whatever this mist was, it was benign, he was certain of that. Since it emanated from the bedroom, Sirius suspected Snape was responsible for it, and after everything that had happened today, he couldn't imagine that the Potions Master would try to harm him. Whatever it was, it formed a protective shield around him. Sirius' breathing calmed and eventually evened out the moment he fell asleep.

/

Severus didn't want to leave Remus' side, but he had to make sure Black wasn't causing problems. After pressing a kiss onto Remus' brow, he slowly disentangled himself from his lover and left the bed. He stepped into the corridor and headed for the living room, checking on the state of the protective spell he had cast earlier. He still wondered why he had extended it to envelop Black as well.

As he entered the living room, he raised an eyebrow at finding Damocles huddled on Black's chest. Well, it made sense, he reckoned. He had Remus to keep him company and Damocles, that little pest, probably felt neglected. Since all looked well, he turned around and headed for the guestroom again, where he cuddled back up to Remus.

/

The next morning was a bit odd. Remus was pleasantly surprised to find Severus and Pads sitting in the living room having breakfast. They didn't talk though; Severus seemed engrossed in a book and Sirius was throwing bread crumbs at Damocles. The familiar then used his tail to kick them back at the wizard. As a result, the two of them had made quite a mess and Remus was amazed to find Severus ignoring it. Apparently, things had changed.

Severus looked up from his reading upon noticing his lover's arrival. When he had left the bed, he had decided to let Remus sleep and wake up on his own. "Moody sent word half an hour ago. The Wizengamot actually decided to charge Malleus and he has been taken into custody. You no longer need to worry about him – or the Dementors he sent after you."

"That's good," Remus said and yawned. He still felt a tad tired. He sat down, poured himself some coffee, and chuckled at the memory of Severus drugging him in order to manipulate Malleus. Severus looked at him and Remus inclined his head.

Severus had a fairly good idea why his lover was chuckling. "It is not dosed with anything, though I was tempted to add a strength-replenishing potion," he admitted.

Damocles had enough of Sirius pestering him and decided to go for the wizard's finger instead. He bit into it – not overly hard, but hard enough to make Sirius squeal.

"You little…." Sirius glared at the familiar. "That critter is dangerous," he lectured Severus.

"Maybe you should stop pestering him," Severus suggested, but in a mellow tone, which surprised him too. What had happened to hating Black with a passion?

"I am surprised you allowed Pads to stay the night." Remus looked at his lover. "Does that mean you are growing fond of him?"

"Fond?" Severus spat the word. "Never!" Although, he couldn't deny that he no longer abhorred Black's sight. The effort of being polite to Black had resulted in the other wizard doing the same and they had been getting on that morning – even if that meant mostly ignoring the other person.

"Don't worry. I will head back to Grimmauld Place after breakfast." He couldn't suppress a shiver though. He did hate hiding there. His home had never been a real home to him. Mostly, it was the place where he had suffered abuse at his father's hands. He couldn't say he would rather stay at Azkaban, no sir, but the places didn't differ that much – at least not to him.

"You can visit whenever you like." Remus quickly looked to Severus to see if his lover could live with that offer.

Severus sighed, but then nodded. "Remus considers you a friend, so… I will try to do the same. I cannot vouch I will succeed though."

But Black knew the peace offering for what it was. "Thank you," he said. "I do hate that place."

"Grimmauld?" Severus had finished breakfast and leaned back against the comfort of the chair. "It is your home. You lived there all your life. What is so dreadful about it?" He didn't really expect an answer as he had meant it hypothetically. Therefore he was astonished when Black did answer.

"Everything about it is dreadful," he whispered and shivers ran down his spine. "My mother's portrait screams at me all day, going on about how I don't deserve to live there. That I am the Pureblood who ruined the family's name. Her shrieks echo though the entire house and I can't seem to shut her up!

Then there's Kreacher, the bloody House elf. He hates my guts too. Adored the rest of my family, but hates me with a vengeance! And then there are the memories." He wrapped his arms around him, momentarily forgetting it was actually Snape he was confiding in. "My father was fucking insane and he…" Suddenly, he did grow aware of Severus' fixed stare on him and he averted his eyes. Although, what was the deal? Severus had suffered the same way he had, maybe even worse. Knowing he'd had a hard time at home as well might make it easier for the Potions Master to open up to them.

"He used to beat me up all the time. It was always worst at the end of the holidays. I tried to stay at school during most holidays, but throughout the summer hols I had to go home… He was always particularly vicious then. It was as if he felt he had to make up for the months he couldn't discipline me, as he called it. I mean, what kind of father puts the Crucio on a thirteen year old boy?"

Remus had been watching Severus very closely once Sirius had started to talk about his own troubled childhood. Therefore he noticed the little signs that gave Severus' nervousness away. His right hand trembled and his eyes narrowed. Also, the expression in those dark eyes changed as he listened to Sirius, and Remus wondered if Severus had never suspected Sirius had had a childhood similar to his. Probably not. Severus had only known Sirius as a bully during their school years.

"Excuse me. There is something I need to attend to." Abruptly, Severus pushed his chair back, got to his feet, and marched out of the room.

Sirius looked at Remus in wonder. "Did I do something wrong? I didn't mean to. I just thought that if he knew I had gone through something similar he might find it easier to talk about his own childhood."

"You meant well, Pads," Remus said and patted his friend's hand. "I suspect you took him by surprise though. Severus never suspected anything like that happened to you, and then you actually admitted it – it probably shook him up." At least, he assumed that was what had happened.

Sirius cringed. "I didn't mean to upset him – or make him uncomfortable. Should I apologize?" In the past, he would never have even considered apologizing to Snape, but he had gained a new understanding regarding the other man and he understood why his tale had upset him.

"He wouldn't want that. I do not believe he would let you. He merely requires time." Remus thought it over. "For what it is worth, Pads, I think you did the right thing. The next move is up to him."

/

Severus settled down behind his desk in his private lab. Black's admission had taken him by surprise, even though he'd had plenty hints at what had transpired at Sirius' home. But to actually hear the other man say it was something completely different. In order to take his mind off of Black, Severus focused on the spell and the ways he might use it.

Almost thirty minutes later, the door opened and Remus entered his lab. Severus looked up – briefly – and then pretended being engrossed in his work. However, he doubted it would stop Remus from approaching him. He was right; a moment later, Remus walked over to him, came to a halt behind him, and rested his hands on his shoulders. He was about to ask Remus to leave when those agile fingers began to massage his tense shoulders and neck. Remus' fingers encountered an extremely taut knot of muscles and Severus failed to stop the moan that fled his lips. By Merlin, even though it was painful, it also felt good!

Remus noticed the way Severus reacted to his touch and pressed a kiss onto the top of his lover's head. "Pads left for Grimmauld Place. I thought you might want to know." Gently, he guided Severus' head toward the desk, and after his lover had rested his brow onto his forearms, Remus intensified his massage, thrilled by Severus' compliant reaction to his touch. "Just out of curiosity, why did you allow him to stay the night? Not that I am complaining, mind you. I am merely wondering."

Severus sighed. Did Remus really have to bring this up during such a relaxing moment? Although, maybe that was the very reason why the werewolf was doing it. "If you want to know the truth, fine. I felt sorry for him and reckoned you wanted to see for yourself that Black hadn't been injured."

Remus knew that both reasons were true, but the fact that Severus worried about Pads meant a lot to him. It would have been easy for Severus to tell Pads to leave Hogwarts. He leaned in closer, brushed the black hair aside, and pressed a kiss onto the back of his lover's neck.

Severus sucked in his breath at the unexpected caress. He was about to sit up and find out what his lover was up to, but then Remus resumed massaging his shoulders and he couldn't be bothered to find out.

Remus looked at the pieces of parchment lying across Severus' desk. "How come you know Aramaic, Severus? I don't remember it being included in our studies."

Severus snorted, though the sound got muffled. "Not here, no, but I continued my studies after Hogwarts, remember? Most Potions Masters choose to train as a medi-wizard as well. A lot of original healing spells are in that language, though most were modernized, so you do not actually need to study Aramaic. However, I opted to study the original spells as they are usually more powerful than the adapted ones."

"I see. Well, I am grateful you did, seeing it might help now." Remus finished his massage and sat down on the edge of the desk instead. Severus sat upright and turned his upper body toward him as if to find out why he had stopped. Remus smiled, leaned in closer, and claimed his lover's lips in what was the gentlest kiss they had shared so far. Severus sighed, parted his teeth, and Remus wasted no time possessing his lover's mouth. Tasting Severus in that way caused him to grow aroused, but he forced his thoughts away from instigating any love making at that point.

Severus ended the kiss, and for some reason, found himself blushing fiercely. Why? They had kissed before. They had been more intimate than that, and yet, that kiss had touched his very soul. Unable to label the sensation moving through him, he quickly looked away.

Remus smiled warmly and rested the palm of his hand against Severus' face. Slowly, he turned his lover's head until Severus was once more looking at him. The moment struck him as special, but like Severus, he didn't exactly know why. "I love you, Severus," he whispered after deciding to let his instincts take over. "Which means you are stuck with me."

"I do not mind…" Severus bit onto his bottom lip before admitting the truth. "I had always hoped that someone could love me, but I never thought it would come to pass."

Remus sighed. "Severus, you are worthy of being loved. You need to get that into that thick skull of yours!"

Severus should have felt insulted, but he didn't. Instead, he laughed. He raised his arm, wrapped it around Remus' shoulder, and brought him in for another kiss.

Remus no longer wondered about the warmth to Severus' kisses – or touches for that matter. After finding out about the abusive situation at home, he doubted Severus would ever show him anything but tenderness. He was more than okay with that, since it was something he craved as well. Inching toward Severus, he completed the embrace by wrapping his arms around his lover in turn. Back when he had moved into Severus' quarters, he had never expected to find love in the Potions Master's arms, but that was exactly what had happened.

The end

(or to be continued in a sequel?)