Remedial Potions: Regulus/Severus, angst.
"You should have studied harder in school," Snape says. He moves around the brasier with swift competence, keeping the right rhythm for the potion's stirring while he adds ingredients, some of which he needs to kill right there on the marble countertop.
"I learned what I needed to know," Regulus replies. It sounds good: it sounds as if Hogwarts had been the dull preface to the excitement that his life has become. If any spies are listening, his words won't betray him.
The potion on the table, of course, is the essence of betrayal.
"You learned how to manipulate people." Snape pitches in a handful of devil's tongue root and whips out a stopwatch as he begins reciting the incantation backwards. The temperature in the room keeps rising — it's a windowless cellar — and the smell of the potion is overwhelming, making Regulus' eyes blur and his head throb. He's relieved when Snape banishes the potion to a flask and stoppers it quickly, before it can batter its way up and out.
The potion sloshes angrily against the glass, like a liquid murderous impulse. Even Snape looks disturbed, disgusted, afraid.
"It'll keep?" Regulus asks, going to look but not risking picking the flask up. "It has to — "
"It will," Snape cuts him off, and snakes one hand out fast to twist in Regulus' shirt and pull him back, away from the table and close enough to Snape that he can feel his breath.
Regulus kisses him, of course. They've been doing this for years, and Regulus always thought that it never meant anything. That Snape was angry at Sirius, maybe, or too afraid to try this with someone older or bigger than himself.
Up until recently, Regulus has been harmless. Practically safe.
But all that changed, and now just when Regulus has committed himself to letting go of everything — and God he hopes that dying doesn't hurt, but he thinks it will — now of all times Snape kisses him back with desperation and sharp needy breaths and hands that stroke restless against Regulus' skin. It's almost as if Snape wants to hold onto him, wants to pull him inside, hide him away safe, as if his kiss isn't a goodbye but a distant siren call to run away, to go be that boy he was when he discovered sex, all pleasure-stunned and insatiable and invincible and wanton.
It's a kiss that makes them both weak at the knees, drops them to the ground, tangles them up and rolls them this way and that across the floor. But when it ends, and it does end, Snape is curled around Regulus like a shell. Regulus turns and pushes his spine up against Snape's chest, and Snape tightens his arms around him, his breath sharp and short below Regulus' ear, and. It is not enough. They're too small to survive, but if Regulus is strong, and he thinks he is, he might be able to be the nail for want of which the war was lost.
It will have to do. Perhaps when he is dying, he will, he hopes, remember warmth, and kisses.