The Voyage of HMS Leviosa: A botanical geography of the South Sea Islands discovered on the surveying voyage of His Majesty's Ship Leviosa under the command of Captain Lucius Malfoy. (Severus Snape/Remus Lupin, NC17).
Snupin Santa gift for blpaintchart, who wanted: Non-magic, non-werewolf AU, with Remus as a lieutenant on Captain Malfoy's ship. The arrival of gentleman naturalist Severus Snape on board raises eyebrows (and other things.) Secret smexing at sea in an unforgiving environment and era. Jealousies, intrigues, brutality or threesomes all possible, but no psychotic Lucius, please. Cameo appearances by other characters would be a lovely bonus. In a nutshell: Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes; Yup. Kinda. No, no, some, no, gotcha. Yes.
Warning: This is AU and does not follow the canon timeline (ages of characters in particular). Readers are kindly requested to please go with the flow.
Betas: My Darling M, My Sweetest S, The Divine R, S my Beloved
…There is a beauty of sound, as Segrais has observ'd, in some Latin words, which is wholly lost in any modern language. He instances in that mollis amaracus, on which Venus lays Cupid, in the First Æneid. If I should translate it sweet marjoram, as the word signifies, the reader would think I had mistaken Virgil: for those village words, as I may call them, give us a mean idea of the thing; but the sound of the Latin is so much more pleasing, by the just mixture of the vowels with the consonants, that it raises our fancies to conceive somewhat more noble than a common herb, and to spread roses under him, and strew lilies over him; a bed not unworthy the grandson of the goddess.
(John Dryden, Dedication to the translation of the Æneid. http://www.bartleby.com/13/1002.html)
OF THE SOUTH SEA ISLANDS
DISCOVERED ON THE
SURVEYING VOYAGE OF
HIS MAJESTY'S SHIP LEVIOSA
UNDER THE COMMAND OF
CAPTAIN LUCIUS MALFOY
IN THE YEARS 1830 TO 1832
AS OBSERVED BY
SEVERUS SNAPE, OP
IN FOUR VOLUMES
LONDON: BASILISK PRESS, DIAGON ALLEY.
I have the honour of dedicating to you this the fruit of my Researches and Observations of the Islands discovered by the Voyage of His Majesty's Ship Leviosa, between the years 1830 and 1832.
Captain Malfoy has authorized me to present these Results of my Botanical Endeavours conducted during the Expedition which he commanded. It is my greatest wish that you find the Discoveries herewithin enlightening of the Marvels and Mysteries of God's Hand in the World.
I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient servant,
My Dearest Narcissa:
Well, I have spoken with Mr Snape, and while I cannot be sure that he will be motivated by Honour or indeed any sense of Feeling for Family, the Invitation to join the Voyage of exploration, which I secured for him at the price of my own Pride, ought to afford him much Pleasure & Success in his professional pursuits. He was not, as you might surmise, overly pleased to Once Again be approached by a Malfoy; but the letter from Sir Harry in his own hand and affixed with the Mark of the Order did seem to ease his agitation; I have every hope that he will Accept this offer and thus release our family from the Unspeakable debt which you, my dear Heart, and Draco our Son were forced into due to my own Misfortune not to mention your Sister.
But enough of such matters which ought not to be any Concern of yours. Do tell me of the progress of the Boy. I do Trust that he has been persuaded away from emulating the Fashions of the day & has Reined in & Mastered his Ambitions. . . .
I Close With Fondness & Love,
Monday, October 12th, 1830. Fair and sunny with the breeze good and strong, turning westerly at nightfall.
Set sail bound first for Madeira and thence Cape Horn. The crew eager and impatient after being harbour-bound these past ten days beyond our desired departure. We made good distance, spirits are high.
Wednesday, October 20th, 1830. The same.
Saturday, October 23th, 1830. The same, clouding over at evening with blustery wind building from the south.
Made port at Santa Cruz, Tenerife. . .
I find my record of the voyage to the South Seas to be detailed, meticulously so; and yet on rereading it now years hence, I think that it is woefully incomplete. The memory of what transpired will cease to exist when I do, but somehow I find my memories more real now than any of the bound volumes that gather dust on my shelves. . . .
I was thirty years old; I'd first gone to sea on leaving school at thirteen. The Lupin family's fortunes, never very fortunate to begin with, had taken a drastic turn for the worse, and I was fortunate in that Mr Dumbledore, the headmaster of my school, took an interest in my future and secured me a place in the Royal Navy.
I was a lieutenant on the Leviosa when she set sail from Spithead, serving under Captain Lucius Malfoy. He might have been on the wrong side in the last war; he'd been in prison for it, at any rate, although his name was cleared in the end. But I'd lost good friends and family, I'd seen the ravages of war and been robbed by betrayal, and all of those things were long done and buried: I couldn't really be bothered to care about the loyalties he might have had.
The King had ordered a hydrological survey of the South Seas as well as a botanical geography, and I was honoured to be asked to join the expedition, as well as grateful for the employment. There were too many officers in His Majesty's Navy; I'd had to find outside employment more often than not over the past ten years, just to get by. To be honest, I had no idea who had put my name forth, not until I heard who the financier was.
Harry Potter. The only son of Captain Potter, whom I'd served under on The Golden Snitch; he had come into his inheritance and was eager to make his mark on the world.
It made me laugh, it really did.
Sunday, November 21st, 1830. Fair and sunny, some clouds, with the breeze good and strong, turning westerly at nightfall.
Crossed the equator.
Saturday, December 18th, 1830. Strong winds from the south and east accompanying heavy rains and squalls..
Arrived Cape Deceit, Tierra del Fuego; forced to seek shelter to wait the storms out.
Wednesday, January 5th, 1831. Fair and cloudless with lively winds.
Finally arrived in the Pacific Ocean after passing through East and West Furies & Tower Rocks.
Words cannot express my pleasure to have entered port and found letters from Yourself and your Dear Mother awaiting me (please thank her for the mended Stockings and Two New Pairs of Breeches, they are Splendid).
As you requested, I shall give Mr Snape your regards, though considering he sacrificed his own Honour and Position when he took your place in that Ill-Advised Duel, and that Mr Dumbledore had been to him as a Father, he has as I have observed these Months over our Dinners & Aboard Ship in general little use for expressions of Gratitude from our family. He has scarce ventured from his quarters this Voyage, though the Surgeon has found his apothecarial skills useful especially in cases of Toothache and Stomach Disorders, and the Stiffness of the Carpenter's joints. Still, he is a Member of the Order of the Phoenix, as are several others on board (Sir Harry managed to persuade a Number of Mr Dumbledore's Navy to join this expedition, and an Odd Lot they are; one of my Lieutenants is of Mixed blood, if you can Imagine).
Your Mother has told me that you are quite Reformed and the young Gentleman, and while I am not so blindly affectionate, do know Draco that it is a Comfort to leave the affairs of our House in your hands.
I remain, Your Father,
I had very little call to talk with the botanical geographer taken aboard as the Captain's companion: we were of course introduced, and dined together, but Severus Snape was not a sociable person. Even his clothes and unfashionably long hair, tied back at the nape of his neck, expressed his scorn for social conventions. He soon gained a reputation for his temper (foul) and disposition (choleric). I would have happily avoided him entirely, save that his quarters were in the chart room.
Snape made it a point to remove every trace of his habitation from the moment he awoke, stowing his hammock, clothes, and other belongings out of sight in the drawers available to him. He did, however, have one of the library shelves for his research materials and the use of the room as a kind of office, so I never felt right about entering without knocking first to announce myself, whether or not the door stood open (which it did more often than not, when the weather was warm).
So I rapped, loudly, and waited.
"Come," he said, not even bothering to look around from where he sat on the other side of the mizzenmast. He had a large volume spread in front of him, illustrated with colour plates of what appeared to be fungal growths. He had always left me to complete my logbook or drafting in peace (well — a sullen, resentful silence, at any rate), but for some reason this of all days he chose to speak, out of boredom, most likely. "Lovely morning, isn't it, Lieutenant?"
The rain had started on my watch several hours earlier, and while it had by now slowed to an intermittent sullen spitting between gusts of moist wind, I felt sodden and dull.
"Delightful," I said brightly, taking down everything I needed for the morning's work. The damp had settled in my body as a deep ache. I was feeling my age, I supposed, irritated, stretching my fingers out from a stiff curl in preparation for battle with the pen. "And how are you this glorious day?"
He twisted around, leaning forward to stare at me with his eyebrows arched in incredulity. "So all it takes is rain to undermine your formidable reserve? Pity. I can't quite remember why, but I'd thought you a more complex puzzle."
I rolled my sleeves up to the elbows and set myself down on the bench so that we were at opposite corners of the table. "Hardly."
"What did you do to your hand?" he asked, pointing with his first two fingers as if I didn't know what he was talking about.
I pulled my fingers back as far as I could and held them right at the edge of uncomfortable for the space of a few breaths, before showing him the scars that ran down from my knuckles and twisted around my arm: my skin had darkened with the sun, and the marks were clearly visible. "A man set his dogs on me when I was a child." I shrugged and checked the nib of the pen, and then the thickness of the ink.
"The physician did a better job with your face," he said, and I was hard pressed not to put my chin down and let my hair fall forwards. I stared back at him, instead. "You might have lost the eye, or had more damage to the muscles."
"Well," I said, and turned to the page in my logbook for today's entry, "I was covering my face, you know, with my hand."
He snorted — at least he didn't offer me any trite sentiments about blessings or mercy or grace — and got up to rummage through one of the drawers set into the wall behind him. "Here." He shoved a small clay pot across the table. I caught it quickly, before it struck the ink. "Rub a very small amount of that into the scars. It should help."
"Thank you," I said, and he scowled, sallow cheeks darkening in what looked like anger. I took the cover off the pot and tested a minute amount of the stuff — a bitter-smelling salve — on the back of my hand.
"You don't know who I am, do you?" He was resolutely not looking at me any more, instead focussing on his fungi. "Who I was."
Of course I did. "You were one of Mr Dumbledore's spies in the war — you're part French, aren't you? Though that doesn't matter now."
He looked nakedly startled, and I was hard put to hide my grin under a bland expression.
"You must know who I am as well," I added, and started writing, one slow perfect letter after another on the narrow pencilled line. "My closest friends betrayed one another and ended up dead or in the circular prison on Dartmoor for carrying the marque des ténèbres. We've both undoubtedly been mistrusted over the years, but we are of the King's Royal Order." I reached the end of the line and took a deep breath. I always had a suspicious fear that as soon as the words were written, I would look back to find all the letters out of place and misshapen. "So, do you know our backer then?" I asked, feeling it was time Snape talked. I'd already said more this morning to him than I'd said to anyone yet this voyage, preferring in my own way to keep to myself. "Sir Harry Potter."
Snape's hand clenched convulsively around the button placket of his frock coat. "He is a thorn in my side and the pricking of a conscience I would rather not possess." He inhaled through his nose sharply; his eyes in shadow seemed nearly as black as his hair and his clothes — fairly demonic, as I'm sure he was aware. It was commonly supposed that Voldemort had made a pact with the Devil; it seemed very like Snape to make the same use of the instinctual fear of darkness as Voldemort had. "Sir Harry is discharging his debt to me, as is Captain Malfoy. It's all very convenient. I shall have to dedicate my first books to them, I suppose, but then I will be free of them, and they of me." He had hunched over as he spoke, and consciously straightened, brushing his coat down with flicks of his fingers. "I envy you your freedom."
I nearly gave him a sharp answer, because a ship's officer's freedom was heavily weighted with his responsibilities to king and country and to his men. I could have quoted Snape Lord Nelson on duty.
But I did know what he was talking about. The past threw long shadows.
"The war's been over a while, now," I said, circling around and coming at him from an oblique angle.
He nodded curtly. "For some. I still have a few scenes in the last act to get through, before the curtain falls."
He tipped his head in accord. "I hadn't expected to find it agreeable," he said, again using honesty as a weapon. "I expected it to be equal parts torment and tedium." He waved one hand towards the shelves on the side of the chart room. "Two words which aptly apply to the ship's library, by the way. Not a single book which is not instructive or morally edifying. An impressive feat."
As easily as the conversation had broken into Snape's defences, so he walled himself in again. "The captain is very concerned with the betterment of his crew." I cleaned my pen and blotted the page carefully.
"As well he should be."
"I have two books," I told him, intent with the business of putting the writing materials away. "A novel and some poetry."
He raised his eyebrows to give me a wry look. "You're very certain that I'll borrow them no matter what they are, aren't you."
"My wife left them to me." I tapped the pot of salve. "She'd appreciate your kindness."
He studied me narrow-eyed, and then nodded like an appreciative connoisseur. "That's a perfectly unrefusable offer," he admitted. "How could I say no without insulting your late wife? I shall even have to remark on her excellent literary taste when I return the books. Someday I'll get my revenge by lending you the fantastical stories written by my illustrious French ancestor." He paused, and the added, "I'm sure you have other scars, you might as well keep the salve." His face betrayed nothing, but I had the feeling that he was greatly amused even as he waved me off. "Go and order someone around."
I left with a dizzying feeling of reprieve, as if by some miracle I'd escaped an expected punishment. I delivered him the books (I doubted he'd enjoy the novel any more than I had, though the binding was pretty; but I was rather fond of the poems, myself); he didn't thank me, but he did begin quoting me lurid tracts of stilted prose, adding his own scathing commentary (and this man just happened to be her long-lost brother. . . and her disguised as a boy, good Lord. . . as if anyone ever sickened from a broken heart, I ask you). I enjoyed his vicious humour, though I tried not to show it; I thought that would spoil the game for him. He didn't say a word about the poetry, which was for the best.
For a few weeks, I felt as if we were approaching a kind of friendship. I hadn't had friends in so long that I hadn't realised I missed the companionship, and then two things happened. The first was that we entered the area of the South Seas peppered with islands and atolls, and Snape suddenly came alive, sweeping about the decks in his black woollen cape like a vengeful shadow, making sure that all was prepared for his forays ashore. He needed drying racks and space for samples and specimens, collection boxes, and various instruments for the close observation of plants, soil, climate, and weather. Captain Malfoy started looking paler than usual as Snape made it clear where he felt we should go ashore (every island we encountered) and how long we should stay there (weeks on end; longer if contact was made with native islanders with a good knowledge of plants and medicines). The Captain bore the intensity of Snape's fervour with gritted teeth and strained courtesy (I suspected blackmail of a sort was involved).
The second occurrence might never have happened had Snape stayed in his cabin, but once he emerged it was probably inevitable that he would witness one of the floggings. It was his bad luck — and my own — that the men who were put over the cannon weren't guilty of a heinous crime, like theft or fighting, or of something dangerous like being drunk on duty: it's never an easy thing to see a man beaten, but in the small society of a ship, hundreds of miles from any civilisation and with every man's life dependent on his fellow sailors, discipline and order must be maintained. However, every man sympathises with the crime of indecency: if given the chance, every sailor myself included would be happily indecent every morning, noon, and night — it would certainly be more enjoyable than any of the books in the library. But there wasn't any privacy for rampant masturbation, and there certainly wasn't any mercy for two men caught in the act together (especially not when each and every one of us watching could undoubtedly recall doing the same, and the shame of getting caught, or the guilty relief of not being found trousers-down with your hand on another boy's cock). Snape must have known of the crime, and he judged us by impossible standards, I thought. He watched with his arms wrapping his cloak around him as if chilled, his eyes moving beneath the boatswain's mate bringing the cat down and myself. I saw accusation in his eyes and something like scorn, and later that day he returned both of my books, wrapped neatly in their cloth, with a perfectly polite expression of gratitude and a remark on the excellence of my late wife's literary taste.
I was left with a taste in my mouth like ashes and might not have spoken with Snape again during the voyage if the Captain had not, several weeks later, summoned me to his cabin one morning while the deck, having been holystoned to a clean white, was being swabbed down with vinegar, the sharp clean scent of which filled the air.
"It's your turn," Captain Malfoy said, and I said Sir while trying to think of how to weasel out of what I knew was coming. He gave me a thin-lipped smile to let me know that any complaint of mine would be held against me. "Pick the men you want to take with you, but you are going to escort Mr Snape ashore and make sure that he doesn't come to any harm."
Over the past weeks Snape had found fault with every man sent ashore to assist him. Sergeant Flint was too rough; Moody, the Main Master, too cautious; the Master's Mate Shacklebolt too meticulous. He rejected Royal Marines, midshipmen, and even the assistant surgeon, whose professed passion for fieldwork apparently didn't extend to places with centipedes as long as a man's arm and great hairy spiders. Snape was liberal and vocal with his disparagement; on the occasional times following the flogging incident that he deigned to include me in his dinner-time conversations (always in the most peripheral and insulting way possible), the defects (intellectual and mental) of the crew were all he spoke of. I probably ought to have come to their defence, but there was something in his voice, deep and smooth and perfectly suited to scathing remarks, that I enjoyed; or perhaps it was that I enjoyed knowing that I wasn't singled out for scorn. I had enjoyed watching the crew react in such fear and consternation to one short, bad-tempered man, and now that crow had come home to roost.
"He doesn't like me," I said, trying to smile to show that I was joking.
"He doesn't like anyone." Captain Malfoy leaned forward over his desk like a conspirator. "And no one likes him. He's not a good person, nor a nice one, but he is useful, and occasionally dangerous. He'd make a bad enemy," the Captain went on, leaning his fingers together like a steeple in a way that somehow suggested that the Captain was also not someone to cross, "but you're probably the closest thing he has to a friend. At any rate, he doesn't treat you as if he'd sooner spit on you than talk to you."
I had my strong suspicions that the Captain didn't like me, either. He favoured a certain type: tall, broad-shouldered men of good breeding, with most of their teeth, hair cut in the rakish Roman style, and a British complexion. The only one of those I had was good teeth, and despite what my gran had told me repeatedly, a pleasant smile wasn't the key that opened every door. I had a face that showed my mixed blood as well as my scars, so I did my job well and tried to stand where he didn't have to look at me. Being inconspicuous was one of my best-practiced talents.
"Yes, sir," I said, smartly, and Captain Malfoy waved me out.
November 8, 1830:
8 a.m. Dean Thomas, Colin Creevey, Gregory Goyle, Boys, punished with 12 lashes each.
December 13, 1830:
8 a.m. Mundungus Fletcher, punished with 36 lashes for theft and Drunkenness.
December 22, 1830:
8 a.m. Alasdair Maddox, Joey Jenkins punished with 24 lashes for Drunkenness and Fighting.
February 14, 1831:
8 a.m. Stanley Shunpike, Percival Weasley punished for Uncleanliness & Indecency with 36 lashes each, half this week & half the next.
The island we were sent to was a mountain poking up from the sea, ringed with fine white sand. I'd asked two of the maintop men from my watch to come, and also to keep their mouths shut. Snape gave orders from the moment we left the ship (head there, no, there, you idiots, are you blind as well as dense?), but the day was fair and warm, and it was hard to feel anything but pleasure to once again be on the land. We hauled the boat up past the tide line and unloaded everything Snape needed for his work. He took a quick inventory, made threats to each one of us as to what would happen should anything be dropped, damaged, or lost, and then led us on an uphill course into the forest that had everyone sweating within minutes.
"I thought you would choose healthier men to escort me," Snape said to me, well within earshot of the others. "This work is important."
"Aye," I said, because I knew it would annoy him. His mouth thinned as he looked at me — studied me — and then he turned towards the north.
"There's running water this way," he said. "Likely you'll be wanting to fill those barrels of yours."
"Aye," I said again, and Perkins coughed as if to say, If it's all right for you to antagonise him, can we start, then? "Once you're set up, my men will get supplies for the boat. Water, coconuts, whatever you say is edible."
"The temptation to poison you all is very nearly irresistible," Snape said, eyeing Perkins in a way that made him fall back to walk behind Henries.
I sighed (inwardly) and made a mental note to not bring Perkins the next time. And there was a next time, because amongst all Snape's other complaints to Captain Malfoy on our return (the boat had rocked too much and had been overfull on the return, and yes he understood about tides, but another few hours would have been nice, and while fascine knives were all well and good, didn't we understand how much valuable forest we were destroying with our indiscriminate trail-blazing?) there had been no complaints about me beyond a roll of the eyes, as if imploring Heaven for patience.
We ended up spending two weeks working on the island, one week of which we slept on the beach so that observations of nocturnal activity and daily occurrences could be made. By trial and error I found that Diggory of the carpenter's crew and a seaman who was some relation to him (brother-in-law? brother of his sister-in-law?) by the name of Wagstaffe worked well (that is to say, not grudgingly) with Snape. The Captain was in a good temper, Snape was not as irascible as he might have been (the discovery of many new species, including an amazingly fast-spreading root fungus, had him well pleased with himself), and dinners included fresh fruit and greens.
It was as good as I could reasonably expect my life to be; better, perhaps; so when Snape demanded that I assist him with his record-keeping as well, I hesitated. We were still not quite on speaking terms. I was reluctant to risk any of the progress we'd made back towards friendship (such as it had been). Not that I could say so.
All I really could say was, "It's not work I'm suited for," which earned me an incredulous stare.
"It's no different from your logbooks and charts. Here," Snape said, and thrust a steel pen and paper at me. "Write down everything I say."
My examination to get into the Royal Navy had consisted of writing from dictation (several Bible verses and a passage about hardwoods), and five minutes of skipping rope. Then, of course, my hand was too stiff to write neatly, but I already had a letter from Mr Dumbledore that made the exam only a formality.
I was far more nervous writing for Snape, especially as he used a great many Latin words and botanical terms. The language of botany was fairly scandalous and largely about sex, it seemed, but I thought I managed well.
Snape stopped talking after five pages, read over what I'd written, and made me stretch out my cramping (and inkstained) fingers.
"You have studied natural history?" he asked me. "Botany? Any discipline besides navigation or strategy or star gazing or, ah, discipline?"
I shook my head. "No. I never really thought about it before."
He put the pages away in one of his bags. "I thought as much. Your ignorance shows."
"I'm better with numbers and calculations," I said, whether in apology or defence I wasn't really certain.
"Well, I will give you a minute to recover from the mental trauma of Latin," he said dryly, and took out a pencil and a fresh sheet of paper. He set to work sketching one of the native plants I'd written about, and I rather shamelessly watched over his shoulder. He had a trick to his drawing that made the plant somehow both lifelike and stylised; I could imagine future naturalists identifying the plant's broad leaves and woody stalk from an illustration in Snape's book.
I was so lost in my observations that I missed what Snape said to me when he spoke at last. He jabbed me with the pencil and glared. "The pen," Snape said, thrusting his hand towards me in blind impatience.
"You might ask nicely," I suggested, but I hurried to get the pen and the ink ready. I was rather pleased that I had mastered Snape's steel pen; this time I didn't stain my fingers too badly with the dark ink he mixed. I handed him the pen carefully, mindful of the ink, and sat back to watch him put it sure to the paper and bring the pencil sketch to life. The leaf on the page was detailed down to the fine hairs on the reverse. When the wind disturbed the plant, Snape didn't even pause, but somehow conveyed that subtle motion.
"Ink," Snape said shortly, returning the pen, which I took unthinking. I blinked, trying to shake off the intensity of concentration. "Are you sleeping there?" He twisted around to glare at me. "Do I bore you, Lupin?"
He and I were of an age; perhaps I ought to have been insulted that he spoke to me like a schoolmaster to a student. But he brought out the Devil in me. I gave him a sharp smile along with the recharged pen.
"It's fascinating." His face clouded with impatient query. "I thought plants were simple things, just roots, stems, and leaves. Good for eating, or not. But each of them has a name and a family and a purpose." I cocked my head, self-mocking, fairly sure that that hadn't sounded intelligent. Not that he had high expectations of me that could be lowered.
He snorted and made no reply until the ink was exhausted again. "I thought," he said, turning to clean the pen nib carefully and then recharging it himself, "ships were simple things. Wooden boxes, rope, and cloth. The both of us are getting an education."
I laughed; I couldn't help myself. It was my first taste of Snape's sense of humour since the floggings. He watched me laugh with a closed, wary expression, and then twitched the corner of his mouth up in what might have been a smile before turning back to his work.
"Sharpen the pencils if you've naught else to do," he said, his tone suggesting the latter was a flaw of character. "Take one of the softer ones and make me a fair copy of — " he stretched one thin finger towards an evil-looking weed with fleshy leaves — "that."
I was good at drawing charts; I could make very passable facsimiles of most kinds of sailing ships; when I was thirteen I received six lashes with the boys' pussy for an unfortunate incident involving alcohol and the likenesses of several officers. None of this indicated any aptitude for art. I made an attempt anyway. When I was done, Snape took the sketch, scowled at it, and tucked it into his book.
The next time we went ashore on one of the islands, he asked me to render three more weeds, a flower, and a tree with fruit.
He had nothing but bitter words about the tree. I hadn't thought it done well myself.
After that, he mainly confined me to weeds, ferns, and the occasional fungus. Occasionally I produced something decent enough to be inked; once he let me ink one of my own sketches, but I didn't have the proper lightness of hand. It came out dreadfully. Snape almost seemed to recognise how disappointing this was, because he didn't mention how I'd ruined one of his sheets of paper and wasted the ink. He snorted, gave me look that was either devilish or mischievous (it was hard to tell the difference), and deftly folded the paper into a little toy boat. (I discovered later that it even floated on water, but then I took it out and dried it: it was a clever little thing, and I didn't want it falling to pieces.)
On one small, lush island he found the oddest plant I've ever seen, with red and yellow leaves and fine hairs reaching out. The hairs were covered with a clear sticky liquid. "Look," Snape said, and picked up an ant from the dirt. He dropped it onto the hairs, which promptly rose to capture the insect. We watched it struggle and weaken; Snape made a pleased noise when it finally stilled. "It's a hunter," he said with satisfaction. "A plant that devours prey."
After a while I realised that my hand had settled companionably on his shoulder as I leant in to watch. Snape himself had a rather predatory manner that discouraged casual contact. Until then I had never touched him as I would a friend, and I would not have been surprised to have my touch rebuffed. But he stood there watching the drama of death as if he didn't even notice the familiarity.
Perhaps, then, I was not taking a liberty. Perhaps Snape did consider us friends, or our times together as close an analogue to friendship as he possessed. Perhaps I was forgiven. I tightened my hand, slightly, testing, and then let go and stepped back. Snape eyed me, a considering look, and then snapped his fingers impatiently.
He made a sharp gesture between me and the plant. "Draw it," he said. "And not like a schoolboy again, draw it so that anyone who looks will know how dangerous it is."
"To ants," I muttered, taking up pen and paper and sitting down crosslegged to get a better look at the thing.
"To ants, indeed," he said. "Idiot."
Wee or Vee (Spondias dulcis). A tall Tree with white bark and bearing fruit which is Orange or Yellow in colour and edible. Liquid from the stem is used to strengthen a woman from the Rigours of childbirth and also to abate the Haemorrhage; liquid from the bark helps with fish Poisoning and troubles of the Bowels, or also if applied to the Eyes prevents Clouding or inflammation. For treatment of fever, the Inner Bark may be used, and a tea of the Leaves in Otaheite is given to those with inflammations of the Mouth or Throat.
(A Botanical History of the South Sea Islands. Severus Snape, Basilisk Press, London, 1834.)
The day of the catastrophe started like any other. An uncharted island had been spotted, and Snape was impatient to be the first to study its plants. Captain Malfoy was eager to get rid of Snape, and we left in the boat shortly after breakfast: Snape, myself, Diggory, and Wagstaffe. I'd had middle watch and was doing my best to sleep as we were rowed over, despite the bright sunshine and Snape's mutterings about sloth and laxness of habit. I knew that once we were on shore there would be hours of walking and observation and writing and drawing. If there was fresh water, barrels would have to be filled; if coconuts or other fruit or edible plants, we would have the job of collecting as much as we could bring back.
A day like any other.
Snape had a passion to see the far side of the island, and there was a ridge of nearly barren rock that made a decent path in that direction. There had indeed been coconuts as well as clean running water, and with Diggory and Wagstaffe thus occupied with the hard, heavy labour, I shouldered the usual load of Snape's boxes and bags and set off after him.
We found a spectacular lagoon with steep sides covered thickly with orange-flowering vines. Snape would not be content until he had seen the root structure of the vines and measured one of the longest (seventeen paces). I was not that taken with the vines, but did find an interesting growth on the trunk of a tree. We spent several hours shouting back and forth at each other about our discoveries, until well past noon, when a stiff wind began building from the south; that was to say, back where we had left Diggory and Wagstaffe, and where the Leviosa was anchored.
By the time we made it back to the beach the sun had been shrouded by the low black clouds that had been driven by the wind, and Wagstaffe and Diggory were fair frantic to be in the boat and heading back towards the ship. Rowing was near impossible in the surf, and the boat was heavy. We tried to observe the Leviosa as the men prepared for the storm; I didn't know what Snape felt, but Diggory and Wagstaffe and I were pulled by the compulsion to answer the all-hands and defend the ship from the storm.
The very moment we were past the breakers and soaked already with seawater, the heavens broke open and lashed us with a rain so wind-driven that it fell perfectly horizontal and stung on the skin like needles. I could barely see the shore: the palm trees were being thrashed low by the storm, their fronds shredding in the gale. One of the oars was ripped loose, and the boat was flung back into the surf as if my a hand with evil intent. I leaned over and put my face right up to Snape's ear and shouted for him to get down and stay low. He stayed hunched over, holding his cloak over his head; I shoved him down hard with my hand, tied a tow-line as tightly as I could to the bow, and then followed Diggory and Wagstaffe over the side.
We had to fight to get our feet under us. The storm threw the waves high and hard at the shore, and sucked the water back with a force that made our feet slip on the bottom sand. I took hold of the rope, being younger than Wagstaffe and stronger than Diggory, and hauled hard forward, whilst they each took a side of the boat and tried to hold her from being tipped over. The ocean was dark and pulled thickly at me like treacle; I had to walk bent over like the trees, my head low between my shoulders and every wave filling my mouth and nose with salt.
Diggory later said he called a warning, but I didn't hear it, I just felt the rope tug hard in my hands and then go slack. I fell forward and came up half-turned, which is probably what save me from having my head taken off when the waves threw the boat over me. I felt it strike my shoulder and then I was trying desperately not to breathe water while finding which way was up.
I got it wrong three times, reaching towards the surface and finding nothing but sand. The last time my lungs were screaming, and I half-thought I was a child again, trying to outrun the dogs and being thrown down and devoured. Sailors will tell you that drowning's a peaceful way to die, like falling asleep, and perhaps it is at the end. But until the final hopelessness sets in, it's a miserable business, a purely animal desperation for air.
I remember the very instant I got my feet under me and my head up and that first choking, painful breath. No drug could be as exhilarating.
I felt as if I'd been dragged miles along the sand, but I had surfaced barely an arm's length beyond Diggory. He grabbed at me and we together threw ourselves into shoving the boat hard at the shore. To this day I think we were simply lucky: the wave that caught the boat and threw it at the shore might just as easily have dashed over her. But no sailor will argue with good luck, and Diggory and I staggered after the boat, grabbing it and pulling it up the beach even as Snape tumbled out onto the sand and joined us.
We had the boat up to the tree-line by using the strength of sheer terror. It was the only shelter we had, so Diggory and I tossed out all the supplies and pulled the boat over upside down. At the moment before we let go, I had my arms high over my head, and at first I thought I had been struck by lightening, so maddeningly bright the pain was. My grip failed, and the last thing I remember before dropping into dark unconsciousness was relief that I hadn't dropped the boat on poor Diggory's head and made of his wife a widow.
From that night of the storm I was insensible until well after noon of the next day. While I slept poor Diggory had the job of salvaging what supplies hadn't been washed away, making a shelter, and seeing to Snape's demands — and I have no doubt that Snape was especially demanding. He had the miserable job of tending to myself and Wagstaff, although he was an apothecary and not a surgeon, and had no medicines or tools to speak of in any case. Wagstaff had been thought drowned, but his body had washed up half a mile down the beach, still breathing though he had a dent in his head and a cruelly broken leg. He slept deeply and without stirring; I on the other hand was haunted by nightmares, and memories, and nightmarish memories.
When we'd been back aboard ship, Snape and I had had the frustrating job of repairing the wear and damage to his various cases for instruments and specimens in preparation for the next day's work. For some reason the conversation had turned to me, and after a few guarded and awkward responses (for I never talk about myself if possible), Snape sat back on the bench and blew out his breath in frustration. I've never known anyone so afraid of the future as you are, Lupin. It's as if you've persuaded yourself that it doesn't exist. Not even in your career — you don't seem at all inclined to make captain.
I had been as determined not to be drawn into disagreement as he was to argue. You try getting promoted in peacetime.
You have no dreams, no goals, no inner compass pointing north, no ambition. And I find that depth of cowardice fascinating. How can you live with yourself? I'd set my jaw to hold back any reply, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of knowing he'd made me angry. What do you want out of life besides the animal needs of food and a place to sleep? He had reached over and pressed one thin finger hard against my shoulder. In my dream, his touch bloomed and grew like the pain of a brand. Everyone wants something, Lupin.
For the longest time I wanted to be dead. I had given him a false polite smile, as if we were discussing the weather, and then returned my gaze to the ripped netting that was proving a challenge to mend — whether because of age or because of my distraction, I didn't know. But I always found it within myself to get through one more day, and then another, and after a while I realised years had gone by. Everyone I'd ever loved was dead or lost to me, and I had — have — no idea why I'm still here.
Well, Severus had said, copying my dinner-table bland tone, I killed everyone I ever loved, one way or another.
At least you have penance to keep you going, and even though I had meant to be cruel I regretted it when I saw his hands clench.
I keep thinking there's something in you worth finding, he had replied finally, measured words spoken with sharp scorn, but perhaps I'm simply blinded by your pretty face. Maybe there's nothing to you, after all.
That had made me look up, making sure that the scarred side of my face was to the light. I'd never been accused of being pretty: it didn't sit well.
What I want — I had started, and then realised that that wasn't the starting point at all. I hadn't ever considered the question. Hadn't dared, maybe. But this expedition feels like waking up to me. I want to know — all those mysteries of yours, the routes seeds travel and the uses of different herbs and roots. What can be eaten and what's poison. I'm looking at the world again. I had shifted restlessly, feeling stupid, like a schoolboy called before the Headmaster. Do you know, I wanted to draw you an illustration that showed the essence of the plant as well as just the form, so that you'd be impressed. Not even a big plant, I added, because otherwise it sounded like hubris as well as stupidity, a weed, or a fern, maybe.
Severus had smiled: on any other face, a smile was a sign of pleasure; on him, it was bemusedly menacing. Men have spent lifetimes trying to capture even a part of the divine essence of life with paint or clay or stone. You're a fool if you thought you could succeed, but that you tried — well. Now that I know that, I shall be merciless with you.
I hadn't been sure whether that meant he was flattered or enraged. I expect my wariness showed on my face because he had reached out again, this time to trace his fingers lightly over the scar that ran the length of my cheekbone.
It's not that the scars are pretty, Lupin, or that you'd be pretty despite them. It's more that this is the skin your soul owns, and if the one is attractive then so is the other. He pulled his hand back and picked up his book, half-turning away, clearly done with the conversation. But I could still feel his touch on my skin, and after a minute he had looked up again and said, You should try drawing yourself.
In my dreams I was trying to draw myself. At first the lines fell off the page and tangled around my legs like vines; and then when I finally had a near likeness I would try to make one final correction only to have the whole picture warp into something monstrous; and finally, when I had the picture in hand, I showed it to one after another of my dead friends — my wife — my parents — and each protested that they didn't recognise the man I'd drawn. And in my despair and panic I turned to the looking-glass and saw that I didn't have a face.
I was feverish and raving that second day, and was fed a small amount of boiled fruit and nasty medicinal tea. Snape later said that I slept fitfully, calling out to the dead and giving orders in long-done battles of the last war. He said I cried out and fought him; I had no reason to doubt what he said.
I woke hungry at dawn on the third day. Snape had resorted to a treatment of wild disparagement alternating with harsh, threatening promises. The latest that woke me was a vow that if he did not make it back to British soil, he would personally — and with great enjoyment — haunt me to the far ends of the Earth.
It made me smile; it was so very him.
He twisted to look better at me, and then got up from where he had been seated by the fire, next to where Wagstaffe and Diggory lay asleep. "You would find that funny." He checked me for fever and looked at my eyes and tongue and pinched my arm (for what reason besides inflicting pain I didn't know). Done with his examination, he glared at me balefully, and then crossed his arms and stared out at the western horizon.
"I just enjoy hearing you talk." His eyes flicked back to me, in surprise or curiosity. "You have a very pleasant voice, I think."
He sighed. "I know. I have observed you, observation being my occupation, and not something I seem to be able to turn off." His fingers tapped arrhythmically on his knees. "I can't seem to help observing you."
I nearly said that as it was just the two of us, the other two sleeping scandalously late, he had no choice but to watch me or watch the ocean; that would have settled the matter neatly, by annoying him into silence. But my reawakened curiosity, like Pandora's, seemed by nature to work against me.
"I'm glad," I said, thinking I knew what he meant, and his face suffused in answer. I was weak and my head felt waterlogged, but I was disinclined to sleep any more. "What would you do, if we were in England now?"
"Drink beer." I didn't appreciate the tease; my frustration must have shown, because he actually laughed. "Drink good English beer by the bucketful, bathe, eat food fresh from the garden. Change my clothes. Have my hair cut and these horrible whiskers shaved off. Sleep in a real bed. Take you to bed, of course, but you knew that. Teach you how to draw in colours." He shook his shoulders loose. "But we are not in England, and Mr Diggory worked himself to exhaustion yesterday trying to put a mast on the boat, so I think I ought to make breakfast. Tea and coconut again, I fear."
"I'll help," I said. He watched me struggle to sit up (my arm was strapped across my chest, which made it awkward), and then exhaled sharply to let me know he was feeling put-upon.
He helped me to dress and told me I'd cracked my collarbone and was a fool for not staying still, and then set me to boiling water in a kettle fashioned from three coconut shells hollowed out. "And don't fall in the fire," he cautioned me, with the sort of look that implied I would injure myself just to make his life harder.
Diggory roused at the smell of food, and we spent the meal talking about the island's geography, resources, and — naturally — flora. After the meal was done, Diggory and I settled in with coconutfuls of vile tea sweetened with crushed leaves, while Snape dribbled a more powerful healing draught down Wagstaff's throat.
"So what now?" Diggory said, sounding hopeful that I'd be able to come up with a plan off the top of my head a few minutes after waking up.
"The Captain will come back for us," I said. Diggory looked disappointed. "If he is able — if the Leviosa is able. And if not. . . ." I would have shrugged, except it would have hurt like the Devil, so I cocked my head to the side to indicate that I wasn't worried one way or another. "We can fit the boat and make our way to Levuka. If Inglefield managed with a blanket, we can manage with your cloak — " I nodded to Snape — "and these very useful coconuts."
"And Wagstaffe?" Diggory asked.
Snape leaned forward. I saw Diggory scowl; he obviously didnÅft think much of having a passenger involved in our plans. "He needs the ship's surgeon, or rather the surgeon's instruments and drugs. If he were awake, I'd suggest you take his leg off before the infection kills him. But with him being in a stupor, I'm afraid that any surgery at all would kill him. This is the same tea that brought Mr Lupin around — "
"It was foul," I said.
"It worked," Snape retorted. "As evidenced by your fever having dissipated and your appetite and energy returning. Whereas Wagstaffe grows weaker."
Diggory looked at me. "You think he'd survive a trip to Levuka?"
I didn't say what I thought, which was to hope selfishly that Wagstaffe died before we needed to make that decision. I hoped he died without waking at all: that would be a mercy. "We'll pray for the Leviosa to return and plan to sail from here at the end of a week," I said, making it clear from my tone that I wouldn't accept arguments. "Whether he lives or not is out of our hands. I'll want to see what you've done with the boat, and we'll have to fashion the sail. We'll need food and water and a chart for navigation." I softened my voice. "At least Wagstaff's peaceful."
"Aye," Diggory said, and looked hard at me. "I saw bad enough in the war. He's not screaming. Once heard a man scream for three days straight, with all his insides hanging out."
The thought made me feel ill and dizzy, and I must have looked it, because Snape made me lie down in the sun and close my eyes. I could hear Snape and Diggory arguing, and the cries of the birds that hunted along the shoreline. There were so many things I needed to do, I thought; and while trying to persuade myself that I really ought to get up, the warm brilliance of the sun put me right back to sleep.
Polo (Solanum viride). An ovate-leaved shrub which seems common to many Islands in the South Seas. The flowers are yellowish white, and the fruit round red berries. The leaves are valuable to many peoples, the liquid of them if pressed given to women in Childbirth to Ease them, or a tea of the leaves used to relieve the swelling from various Worms and parasites, or in Otaheite the leaves cut or crushed and applied to Wounds which have festered, Tumours, Boils, Various Swellings & also to the Eyes.
(A Botanical History of the South Sea Islands. Severus Snape, Basilisk Press, London, 1834)
Well My Dearest Narcissa —
I have not written in so long that surely you must have Worried, for which I am Sorry. We have had the most Unusual few months and I scarce know how to Recount what Befell us.
We entered the South Seas without Incident, Illness, or Trouble save the Irascible Nature of Mr Snape (you might have warned me). For two months everything was Sunshine and Coconuts. A Simple life and far different to that to which we are Accustomed: the very few native peoples we met were prone to Tattoos & other Vices unless the Missionaries had established outposts of Piety and Civilisation (we did encounter in one small settlement by the name of St Peter's the most beautiful Pianoforte in a hut with a palm-frond Roof, played with Greatest Skill by the Wife of our host). You my Dear would have been Miserable but for a man of Military constitution as myself nothing is more Comforting than a pleasant unvarying Routine with, as I said, Coconuts.
However: the ocean is Unpredictable, and off an island which we Named (it not having been Discovered yet) Kings Island for our Lord High Admiral King, we Encountered the most unholy savage Cyclone, that came upon us so Suddenly and with no Warning that it was all we could do to Keep from being swept into the Raging Sea, though my Braver Men did their best to catch the goats & chickens & boys as they were carried off. We did indeed lose one of the Goats, as well as Many of the Sails which were stripped from the Masts, and the Foremast was broke in Two, and poor Mr Quirrel met a terrible end whilst caught Aloft with the spanker on the gaff.
We battled hard for a day & through the Night, amongst conditions Inhuman and Foul, and just before Dawn for an Hour together with the rain fell Innumerable Lizards Tortoises & Frogs, which had it been Wartime would have been taken as an Omen, but we instead took them as Lunch in a Stew, the Storm having lifted. We were most busy with Repairs, but were also most eager to discover what had happened to Mr Snape who had been Ashore with Lieutenant Lupin and two of my seamen. We were no longer in sight of the Island & the tumult having been so Fearsome we thought their lives Lost, I ordered us to set a course for Port Jackson but first to find land, lay Anchor, and Set the Ship to Rights.
We found a suitable Island which we named Salvation (except later to find that Someone Else had Discovered it First) and when the Ship was repaired and laid in with Many Coconuts & fresh Water & Such, and we were to depart the Very next Day — imagine our Surprise and Consternation, Dearest Light of my Heart, when we were Hailed by our lost Lieutenant Lupin, who Despite Injury had pegged up Snape's ghastly black Cloak (and a Good Riddance to the Unfashionable rag) as a sail like Captain Inglefield and his Blanket and had been on his way to Levuka, which evidenced Courage if not Good Sense. Lupin had with him Mr Snape and the seaman Diggory & the Other man suffering of his Head and Died the next day & was buried. Their boat was quite Lively, which goes to prove that a diet of Oysters & Coconuts is Vitalising to the Humours. I recommend it Heartily to you and Draco our Son.
We arrived in Botany Bay four days ago, Bedraggled but Stalwart. I am sure we looked a Rough lot: the ship's surgeon had his hands Full with the Injured, and we were all Exhausted and in need of a Bath. We shall be returning to England as soon as the ship has replaced its Stores & Victuals and the sailmaker's work is done, which should be within the next several Weeks, but I am sending this letter on with the HMS Patronus that sails Tomorrow, to let you Know, Love, that I am Well and Healthy, though I shall be in sore need of Proper Clothing &c when I am home.
Monday, January 30th, 1832. High thin clouds and a strong fair southerly wind.
Departed at last for home.
Tuesday, April 10th, 1832. Squall blowing in from the east with hard rain.
Crossed the Equator.
Wednesday, May 16th, 1832. The same rain, with strong westerly winds at dawn.
Arrived Portsmouth Harbour amidst great cheering & good spirits of the crew.
Snape did not look at all surprised when I showed up on his doorstep two weeks after we disembarked from our voyage. He looked at me, from hat to boots and back again with a quick flick of his eyes, said "Lupin" as if my name were a proscribed word, and pulled the door open as if daring me to enter.
"Snape," I said back, just to rile him, and felt warm inside when he shut the door behind me hard enough that it banged. "I happened to be passing through." Which was possibly a lie: I had come here directly, purposefully, even; but I did not expect to be made welcome. I had no hope for hospitality. I imagined that I would be walking the three miles back to the inn and the stagecoach stop when he turned me out, and I'd never return again.
"I suppose you want dinner," Snape said, and crossed his arms. "Set your bag down. I'm not running an inn, you know," he added.
"I'm useful to have around," I said, looking the room over while Snape studied me. The walls needed a good limewashing, and the floor looked badly swept. There was a bookcase in the corner with a desk to one side under the window: both were the only clean and well-kept things in the room. The cottage didn't seem to fit Snape, somehow, but I told myself I was being uncharitable. So the house and grounds were unkempt; he had been at sea.
I had no house to go to, myself.
"Are you any use in the kitchen?" Snape asked abruptly, and I didn't quite hide my wince in time. "No, then. You can chop the wood, I suppose, and bring the water in, or if you're feeling delicate after your travel you could try to amuse me with anecdotes."
"You despise amusing anecdotes," I said. Snape gave me a thin smile. "Besides, I think you were there for my most thrilling exploits. Show me to your axe and buckets."
He looked discomfited, fleetingly, and then turned on his heel and passed through the door to the side of the fireplace. It led to a wide room that was both kitchen and bedroom and workroom, hung about with bunches of herbs and flowers and such. There was a cauldron boiling over the fire, which backed the front room's, and bread dough rising on the hearth. The smell of whatever he was cooking was enough to make my stomach rumble, and I took the axe he handed me and went out the kitchen door into the jungle of his garden to keep from embarrassing myself with my hunger.
I hadn't realised how the chill had settled into me during the coach ride, but as I worked I shed first my coat, then my waistcoat, and then rolled my shirtsleeves up and undid my buttons. The air was crisp and clean, and the lowering sun lit everything in rose and gold. When the ache in my shoulder became a pained resistance, I added the wood I'd cut to the woodpile, wiped my face off with my handkerchief, and asked Snape if I could put a kettle on for a bath. He was just removing the bread from the oven and made a short, sharp gesture and a help yourself.
He was just as terse over the meal, ladling out the stew with what looked like annoyance but accepting my compliments with evident self-satisfaction. We talked about the plants he grew, for the most part, and when the dinner things had been cleared away he brought out a basin for the bath and added thyme (for sore muscles, he said) and lavender (apparently the Romans swore by it).
"I'll leave you to it," he said, taking the chamber candlestick from the table with him into the front room. I could hear him moving about: the scrape of the chair at the desk, the weight of a book being set down. I wondered if he were listening to the sound of the water as I washed. I felt as if I were taking part in some ritual instead of just rinsing off dust and sweat, and I lingered until the last of the water in the kettle had cooled. Finally done, I pulled on my shirt and went to toss the water outside the door, aiming for the greenery.
I shut the door and dropped the bolt across, and when I turned around Snape was standing there, stiff at his full height, with his chin up and his eyes in shadow.
"We are in England, after all," I said, and he stared at me as if trying to read my mind.
"It's like falling," Snape said, very softly; neither of us moved. "I am sorry for that."
"I've fallen before. I'm still alive, and I'm not sorry at all." Which was the truth, so simple and so enormous. "I don't know how to do this."
Snape took a step forward, and then another, reaching out to touch my collar gingerly before moving to trace a line up my throat to my jaw. "It can't really be all that different, can it?" His voice was low and deep with amusement, which in the end was what gave me the impetus to go through with it. If he could still laugh at me and mock me, well then, I could pull him in by wrapping my hands in the fabric of his shirt, and kiss him.
It was a small enough kiss at the start, just the most cursory survey of his mouth, but then he pushed me back against the wall and tangled his hands in my hair. Suddenly we were both open-mouthed against each other, exploring tongues and teeth. And Snape was wrong, it was different; the act might have been the same, but there was no way not to realise that Snape was flat-chested and wiry strong and clean-shaven but not smooth. I found it — perversely, perhaps — a comfort. Snape used his strength to hold me, and when I pushed against him he pushed right back. Not much mistaking him for a maidenly flower of virtue.
"It's not really romantic if you smirk at me while we're kissing." Snape ducked his head and bit me, his teeth sliding over my jawbone.
"Ow," I said, and started pulling his shirt out of his trousers; though I did a bad job of it, as he used one hand to hold my head still and the point of his tongue to trace the scars that ran, nearly parallel, up across my cheek, the longest parting my eyebrow. No one ever mentioned the scars, much less touched them. My wife had been a good woman, and I think she'd half convinced herself that she didn't see them, but that in its own way had been just as hard to bear as the looks of curiosity and disgust. "You shouldn't," I told him, and as I had his shirt halfway untucked, I put my hand on his bared stomach.
He said something entirely unprintable and kissed me again, this time making it clear that he was laying claim to me, to my mouth, to this passion between us (and surely he could feel the reaction of my body to his: I was fully erect and barely able to stop from rutting against him. I felt absurdly exposed, wearing only my shirt, but I wasn't about to stop kissing him to call attention to my undress). He kissed as if desperate with hunger but still forcing himself to savour every moment: each brush of his tongue against mine, each shift of his mouth, the scrape of teeth and the heat of our breaths joining.
I felt dizzy, and I was glad for the wall behind me, anchoring me. I hadn't been touched like this in so long. Snape's hands were on me, one curled possessively over my shoulder, the other sliding slowly down, trailing over my ribs and then settling against the hollow arch beneath, mirroring the press of my own hand. I found it hard to catch my breath and impossible to keep from making noises. I pulled at Snape's shirt, trying to get it off to even things out a bit, but he'd done up his buttons all the way to the top and I was far beyond the ability to deal with buttons. I had to make do with clutching at his waist with both hands, now, and then running my hands down his back (too much like the heroine of my wife's book, I thought, but I wanted to learn his skin in the way that he was learning mine).
Then Snape pulled my shirt up by the hem, holding it with one hand and wrapping the other warm around my cock, leaving me shocked and shaking and lustful and entirely within his power. I broke the kiss and opened my eyes (when had they shut?), expecting a sardonic look, but he looked like someone going into battle, fear and the need to run held back by will alone.
"I need — " I said, taking my shirt off entirely and dropping it, "like this," and I ran my hand over the front of Snape's trousers, using the hard press of my palm to trace the evidence of his arousal. When I thought I had got the lay of him, I curled my fingers around and slid my hand in the pace I used on myself, just this side of rough, but I was working with several layers of fabric between, so I supposed I wouldn't cause him any damage. He shook as if gale-struck and dropped his head to my shoulder with a groan.
"Please," he said, his mouth moving warm against my bare skin, and I wondered how long it had been since anyone had touched him.
"I thought you were seducing me," I said, and twisted my hand as I reached the top of a stroke. I felt a huff of air, something like a laugh, and he mirrored the action and my rhythm with a quick deftness that robbed the breath from my lungs and made me nearly lose my footing.
He had clever hands, I thought wildly, whereas I being button-impaired was very grateful for his fall-fronts, which despite a few detours into pockets and shirt tails eventually allowed me to curl my hand all the way around the bare flesh of him. Snape broke off a disparaging remark with a gasp, and I felt vindicated. His cock was wider around than mine: my thumb didn't meet my fingers until my first stroke reached the head and I swept my thumb over the crown, through the liquid that was already there.
"Lupin," he said, rough with warning, his breath short, and I tugged at his cock and said Remus. "Remus, then, oh God — " He was shaking, and he leaned in close, watching me. "Come for me. Please. I need — I need for you to come — " And I did, pleasure going through me like a cyclone, only the wall keeping me upright; the wall and Snape's mouth on mine and my hand on his cock and my need to undo him as certainly as he had me.
He came with a shout and a stagger, wrapping his arms around me and apparently incapable of doing anything more for the space of several minutes. I occupied myself by undoing his buttons and untying his hair and keeping as much of myself pressed up against his warmth as possible. Eventually he straightened, trying to look dignified despite his clothes being on the verge of falling off, and bit his lip, and said something about washing up and bed.
"That wasn't what I'd planned on doing," he said, still obviously worrying something in his head as he pulled on a dingy nightshirt and settled under the quilts next to me. His housekeeping might be slipshod, but the mattress and bedclothes were fresh and smelled sun-warmed. I turned on my side and put a hand on his stomach. "I was going to take you in my mouth."
If my body wasn't entirely spent, those words would have had me hard all over again. I'd never had that done before: I knew I had a fascination with his mouth, and the thought of him tasting me in the most intimate way was intoxicating.
But then he went on, "I didn't think you'd want to do. . . what you did."
"I don't think you're a whore," I said, stung, and shifted over until I could bite him on the earlobe for thinking me uncaring.
He jabbed me with his elbow. "I would have been happy to give you that, just as I gave you dinner and a bed to sleep in. If you'd let me. . . it would have been enough."
He was guarding now against bites and bumps, but I had the advantage of speed and stealth as I rolled over quickly to pin him to the bed, my hands on either side of his head. "Tomorrow," I said, "I'm going to air this house out and wash your floors. And do laundry, too, I suppose, because I've only one other shirt. I'm going to have you up against the wall and make you come, because that's what I want, that's why I came here, because I knew, I knew that I could be alive, with you. And once you get used to me," I continued, half-wishing I had borrowed one of his shirts, because the patterns his fingers were tracing on my bare skin were making me forget my words, "you'll order me about and yell at me and then you'll kiss me and I'll do whatever you ask."
He spread his hands wide across my back, and then reached up to press one small kiss to the side of my mouth; in the dark, the kiss fell right across the scar.
"You've read too many romances," he said; I could hear him holding back a smile.
"Aye," I answered, and he pushed me off, but we still somehow wound up with arms and legs tangled together, and that is how we woke in the morning, wrapped in each other's warmth.
He woke first, and when I stretched and blinked my eyes open, he said, "Remus," as if he were checking that he still had permission to use my name.
I kissed him, fast and hard, and pulled back to try my luck. "Severus?" I asked, and he snorted, and threw back the covers to the bitter chill, and got up to start the fire. Just as he did every morning after that; just as he did this morning, and just as he will tomorrow. That's how my memories end, no matter what's in the logbooks or the records or the pretty printed volumes on the shelf: all my memories end with the beginning of a new day.
Knotted or Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana).
Sweet Marjoram stands about a foot in height and is recognized by its ruddy stems and sweet-smelling oval Leaves of greyish green. An Aromatic Herb, it can be used to flavour meats & vegetables &c, and together with parsley, thyme, bay, peppercorns, allspice, celery and tarragon makes a Bouquet Garni excellent for Soups and Stews. As a tonic for troubles of the stomach such as Colic or Phlegm in the lungs or aches of the head a tea of Marjoram is effective, and also may be used in the Bath to ease muscle pain and refresh the Skin. Aristotle claimed that to Avert death by Poisoning, a Tortoise would eat Marjoram after ingesting a Snake, but this seems Dubious at best to the Modern Mind. The Greeks said the plant, called oros ganos "joy of the mountain," was sacred to Aphrodite Goddess of Love, and as a symbol of Joy and Happiness not to mention Love was worn by Brides and Grooms….
(A British Apothecary's Book of Herbal Lore. Severus Snape, Basilisk Press, London, 1854.)
Alexander, Caroline. The Bounty: the true story of the mutiny on The Bounty.
Dana, Richard Henry, Jr. Two Years Before the Mast.
Darwin, Charles. The Voyage of The Beagle. (plain text; illustrated HTML version)
Durrell, Gerald. A Practical Guide for the Amateur Naturalist.
Inglefield, John. Capt. Inglefield's narrative, concerning the loss of His Majesty's ship, the Centaur, of seventy-four guns.
Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont. La Belle et la Bête (from Le Magasin des Enfants ou Dialogues entre une sage Gouvernante & plusieurs de ses élèves de la première distinction); English translation: Beauty and the Beast.
McVicar, Jekka. Jekka's Complete Herb Book.
Opie, Iona and Peter. The Classic Fairy Tales.
The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy.
Kissing the Gunner's Daughter: Naval Discipline for Boys.
Lambert, Andrew. Nelson’s Navy: Life in the 18th-century royal navy
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Navy Court Martial, 1807," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 26 November 2006; updated 5 May 2008
Wikipedia: because, yes, I had to look up the history of mattresses and pencils and trousers and such.