Title: Every Burning Kiss We Give
Summary: Remus really ought to have gone to the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers' Annual Conference (and Ball) with Severus….
Disclaimer: JKR owns everything, I own nothing
Beta: schemingreader who laughed in all the right places, bless her soul!
Genre: established relationship, humour
Warnings: arson, violence, show tunes (again)
Notes: In the R&D series. This story can stand alone, but you might want to know that Remus has severe magically-induced vision problems and Severus is raising chupacabras for fun and profit. Also: story went AU prior to HBP because I am lazy.
With respect to Dorothy L. "The first thing a principle does… is kill someone" Sayers, Pearl Buck, Ray Bradbury, et al.
|The Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers would like to extend to you this invitation toThe Annual Potions Conference
3:00-4:00 Opening Events and Mingling
The house was on fire. A cloud of red-lit smoke billowed up into the cold twilight sky. From the emergency Apparation site that the Aurors had established, the scale of the disaster was not readily apparent. Severus brought the first group of Aurors forward as far as possible, and then began the slow and painfully tedious process of stripping the protective spells from his property.
Severus tossed the card that he'd just read on the table and flipped open the volume of abstracts that had been included in the package from the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers.
"Why is 'mingling' on the programme? Do they think if it's not written no one will do it?" Remus asked, stretching as he leant back, rolling his shoulders so that they cracked alarmingly.
"This is the annual convention of Potions Masters from around the world. Brilliant people. Dedicated to saving lives, altering reality, and making the world a bit more dangerous place to live in. People like myself."
Remus rocked his chair on the back two legs, eyes narrowing. "So–all around the world, right now, these brilliant people are now practicing mingling so that they can pass as normal human beings?"
"Remedial Mingling 101. Idle Chatter with Idiots. Mingle Like You Mean It."
"Care to practice a little mingling right now, Professor?"
"I'll have you know that I am a very socialized specimen of Potions Master. You should meet the pure researchers."
"I met your friend Ellis."
"He didn't know that you were a lycanthrope at the time."
"Well, he figured it out when I vomited all over him. Tell him again that 'I've a lovely antidote for what you just took' is a lousy pick up line."
Severus sorted the conference materials neatly into three piles. "They sent this for you," he said, and dropped a badge into Remus' outstretched hand.
Remus turned it over in his hands. It was bright yellow–one of the few colours he saw well. He hated yellow. "What does it say? 'Remus Lupin, Werewolf'?"
"'Research Subject', followed by Snape in parentheses."
Remus stared. "That's a conversation starter. I'd mingle bloody well with that on."
"There's a note for you, too." Remus raised an eyebrow. "'Mr Lupin is requested not to shave or urinate within 6 hours of the conference, nor to ejaculate within 72 hours. Reading material for stimulation will be provided.'"
"It really says that?"
"Someone on the committee needs Remedial Social Skills," Severus said, vastly amused (mostly because it wasn't his faux pas).
"You tell them that the only way they'll get any ejaculate from me is to scrape it out your–mph!" Severus stopped him firmly with a kiss. Some mental images were too terrible to contemplate; and knowing his colleagues, they wouldn't mind stooping that low to obtain a rare and valuable ingredient.
"So–keen on going?"
Remus shook his head. "Would you be offended if I said no? I'd love to see you get your award, but I've already heard your acceptance speech, masterpiece of spiteful vitriol that it is. Do promise that you will not eat or drink anything after speaking."
"Really, Lupin, it is a professional conference. You don't think anyone would succeed in poisoning me there, do you? I'm cleverer than that."
"Don't blame me if you end up in the infirmary."
"What will you do?"
"Lie on the sofa and pine for you." Severus snorted. "I've actually got a lot of work to catch up on."
"I noticed you left a box of oddments in the hall."
"Don't look down your nose at me, Mr Growing Dope back of the greenhouse. It's that Squib-B-Gone scam that Yaxley started up when he got out of prison. The technology of it is fascinating–he's actually managed to make wands that function like Muggle remotes. Apparently, Umbridge's job training scheme gave him ideas. He's making money hand over fist by convincing Squibs that they can do magic, when it's really being channelled in from the witches and wizards he's employed."
"Stay away from Yaxley." Severus supposed that he had to feel grateful for laws against the summary execution of undesirables–at the very least, they kept him alive–but he thought that the world would be vastly improved with certain people dead. There was no real point in sending some people to prison if they were just going to get out again. He wondered if Yaxley knew that it had been his testimony that sent him to Azkaban.
"Yaxley," Remus said dismissively. "The threats you've been getting from the Chupacabra Liberation Front are more ominous. Look out for activists throwing vials of blood." Remus stretched again: in a different world he would have been a cat person. "But I'm sure you'll have a good time. You can dance with Hermione Granger."
"She deserves at least one good spin around the dance floor, for all the demands you made of her."
"One is not meant to be kind to a research assistant."
"But one ought to express proper gratitude, especially while receiving rewards for said research."
"Here we must agree to disagree. You won't destroy anything while I'm away?"
"You're not worried, are you?" Remus pulled Severus close. "That's so cute."
"I am not cute."
At the border where the property became unplottable, the totality of the fire was evident. So were the details: windows smashed, roof curling, smouldering ash raining down on the hydrangeas. Severus had to shut his eyes on more than one occasion to keep from being hypnotized by the inferno. If anyone noticed, at least they had the courtesy not to mention it.
Remus bounced a little on the bed. "Are you all packed? Speech, socks, antidotes? Have we got some time?"
"Time for what?" Severus straightened his collar in front of the mirror, watching the reflection of Remus behind him.
"Come here, and we'll see what there's time for. And take off your clothes," he added. Remus was wearing his cycling club t-shirt (blind drunk and in charge of a bicycle, to which Remus had carefully added a comma); he crossed his arms and pulled it over his head in one swift movement and dropped it on the nightstand.
Severus paused: he had thought he might drink tea and review his speech, but as he watched Remus' trousers and underwear join his shirt he decided that Remus' plan was more… adventurous. He re-hung his dress robes on the back of the door and crossed to the bed. Remus manhandled him expertly out of his shirt and trousers and spread Severus out on the bed like a meal. He treated him like dinner as well, his greedy mouth working its way from a sampling of Severus' mouth to taste his nipples, then descending to consume his cock with enthusiasm.
Severus allowed himself to relax into Remus' practiced attentions. Really, all the man needed for encouragement was a bit of uncontrollable groaning and a hand in his hair. No work at all for Severus. He let his eyes slide shut, tangled another hand in Remus' hair, and felt the familiar wet warmth of Remus' fingers pressing into him. Oh yes, this was good. But he tugged Remus' head up before it got to be too good. Remus looked up, raising an eyebrow in question.
"I want to come with you in me."
Remus grinned. "As you wish." He fumbled for his wand and cast the necessary spells. He entered Severus with one hard, slow push, not stopping until he could go no further. Remus bowed his head, breathing carefully, the muscles in his arms and stomach and–yes–arse taut with need.
Severus loved Remus' face during sex, particularly the present look, which said: I am desperately thinking of something unsexy because I am about to lose control. Severus shifted, moving his hips and bearing down, loving the look which said that the desperately unsexy thoughts were not enough and Remus was losing control.
Remus made a growling noise in the back of his throat and opened his eyes, which were darkened with desire. He pulled back and then he was fucking Severus hard, so that Severus had to brace his hands against the headboard. Remus shifted his hips until he found the angle that made Severus cry out, and he smiled in a very lupine way as Severus came, back arching off the mattress with a shout. Severus raised his hips and spoke in a low voice, all the wicked things that Remus loved to hear. What he looked like, hair sweat-damp and arms trembling, nipples as hard and slick as cherry stones. The expression on Remus' face as he came, jaw clenched and eyes narrowed almost as if in pain, that was another of Severus' favourites. Remus bent down to kiss him, tasting of salt and come.
"I'm afraid there's no time for you to take a shower before you go."
"With you around, that's probably a good thing. I'd miss the Ball entirely." Severus reached for his wand; Remus grabbed his hand.
"Not planning on cleaning everything up, are you?" he asked. "I would find it strangely satisfying if you went off with werewolf come dripping down your legs."
"It would give me a way to earn some pocket money."
Remus shuddered and made a grab for his wand. "Right."
"Not scourgify! Not scourg–ow, damn it!"
Severus suspected that at least half the Aurors who'd survived the war were trampling his floral borders in the dark. He could feel the heat from the fire where he stood, half-listening to the miniature Valkyrie who was in charge of hostage negotiations.
The ground shook suddenly, and the northern side of the house exploded outwards in a multi-coloured fireball that lit the sky like the sun. His laboratory had gone.
Severus could see clearly that in the heart of the smoke hung a mocking green skull and serpent.
The Auror gaped for a moment and then summoned a Patronus (a poodle, of all things), sending it scampering back to the Ministry with orders for the Magical Environmental Agency to get their lazy arses over here, now. Severus wondered briefly if they could still fine him if he'd lost everything.
The portkey brought Severus to a corner of a very crowded lobby. A pall of coppery-tasting smoke hung over everything. Severus was pulled out of the way for an incoming team of short wizards in batik robes. Simultaneously, he saw Hermione Granger striding towards him and–
Severus spun on his heel and flinched backwards, a manoeuvre that earned him a staggering clap on the back instead of a crushing embrace.
"If you think I am touching that hand you are sadly mistaken." Severus stepped back so that he didn't have to glare straight up into the beaming face.
"Is this little lady your main squeeze?"
"No," Severus said, the mere thought making his skin crawl. "She's a former student, an apprentice, and fervent campaigner for elf determination. Miss Granger, Ellis Okoye, Potions Master for the Nairobi Consortium."
"Someone said you were bringing a right hot bit of stuff. Back in school we always thought he'd hexed his dick off, you know," Ellis said, throwing one hairy arm around Hermione. "I never saw any action on that front." Hermione laughed, but turned it into a cough hidden behind her hand.
"Just hurt him if he bothers you, Miss Granger. You've met my 'bit of stuff'–you poisoned him the last time you visited."
"The werewolf? I thought it was one of those sex-for-ingredients deals." Severus felt a twinge, and he shifted surreptitiously. Ellis grinned, showing wide white rows of teeth in his coffee-dark face. "So–shirt-lifter, are you?"
"Bent, folded, and spindled."
"Hah! So–do you fancy me? He never could take his eyes off me," Ellis boomed down at Hermione.
"I'm reading," Severus said. The front of Ellis' robes were spangled with defaced special-interest group badges. The Prohibit the Dark Arts Society's PDA badge had a 'phile' appended; an 'er-up' was added to the one from People for the Ethical Production of Potions.
Ellis raised an eyebrow. "Want one? A sweet little old witch outside gave me this–" A square button reading 'Keep Beasts in their Place' appeared in his hand. Ellis waved his wand over the badge and it started flashing, 'in the Ministry.' He shrugged. "Not much to work with, with that one. I wouldn't be surprised if the rabble outside turned to bloodshed. Too many conflicting principles."
"I'm sure that's the intention," Severus murmured. "I'm glad Lupin didn't come. He has trouble seeing the point of these protests."
"There isn't one," Ellis said. "Sound and fury signifying nothing."
Hermione looked from one man to the other. She's going to say something naïve and idealistic, Severus thought, and braced himself.
"I'm surprised that Remus isn't more actively involved," Hermione said. "It's a crucial time socially and politically–I really think that wonderful things could be accomplished if more people were aware of the real issues at hand. Remus could be quite influential."
"As a cripple, a monster, or a pervert?" Severus snapped; he never could get the hang of Hermione. "Is it not enough that he's the highest-level cripple or monster to work for the British Ministry for Magic since the Wizengamot Charter reforms of 1852?"
"But not the highest-level pervert?" Ellis said, patting Severus on the shoulder. Hermione snorted and bit her lip; Severus removed a pink badge that now read 'My boyfriend is an animal in bed!'
"I really," Severus said, putting the badge in his pocket to give to Remus later, "have no idea why you don't get on with Remus. You've the same ghastly sense of humour."
Ellis shrugged. "He's just jealous because I had you first."
Before Severus could extricate himself from that horrific innuendo (Hermione looked scandalised), something large–a rock, perhaps, or a body–slammed against one of the lobby windows. It shattered; fortunately, it had been enchanted not to fall to pieces, so the shards hung there until one of the guards cast reparo.
"Are the goblins out there as well?" Severus asked.
"Not yet, not as far as I know." Ellis turned his back on the doors and ushered Hermione towards the Bagshot Ballroom. "They're probably trying to locate some wands for the party."
"It's really not funny," Hermione said. "The entire wizarding economy's in the hands of people who're not allowed to become wizards. I read an excellent book by Oswald Beamish–"
Ellis held the door for her. "Here's some advice, gratis," he said. "Read the essays by Brodrig the Boss-eyed. I'll be glad to discuss them with you. Later. And in the meantime–" he gestured at the rainbow of robes that formed the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers–"relax, and enjoy dancing on the volcano."
They wouldn't let him get close to the house. The barn and the greenhouse had been 'secured'–and what a stupid word that was. All his plants and animals seemed to have been released in some perverse do-gooding attempt. He really hoped the chupas had got their fangs into their liberator on their way to Belgium. Bloody idiot bus boy.
The Aurors were waiting for the house to collapse; they said no one could have survived inside. Severus pulled his robes tight against the chill at his back and the heat on his face. In his pocket the weight of the watch bumped his chest. Fool, he thought, grabbing the Black girl and pulling her over. In the glow of his burning house they leaned forward together. The long hand pointed to In the kitchen. The short hand simply read, Can't last much longer.
Remus read and wrote until his fingers went numb. He checked the clock–when Severus was gone, his sense of time was gone as well–and was glad to see that it was time for tea. He pulled on his shoes and went downstairs. Severus had left a tray on the table, which on inspection turned out to be bread and cheese and what would be a pot of tea when hot water was added. Remus did so, humming a little under his breath, and took the tea tray outside.
He sat down in Severus' chair and put his feet up on the porch railing, with the tray propped on his stomach. The late afternoon sun was warm on his skin, but the wind had a cool bite that reminded him that it was time to take the woollens out of the closet.
He ate and considered that it was nothing short of miraculous that such things were part of his life. Closets. Woollens. Tea trays. Severus. After many long years of losing at the lottery of life, Remus Lupin's day had finally come, and he meant to enjoy it with every molecule of his being. He wrapped his hands around his mug and inhaled. Severus had put him off tea bags entirely. He thought he might have had more of an interest in Potions had his studies begun with the proper brewing of tea. Slughorn's insistence on the flashy and the exotic had failed to captivate him the way one well-brewed pot of tea on the table did.
He took another deep breath of the steam, warm and spicy and almost floral, and then sipped slowly, making it last. It tasted of exotic, sunny places–India, perhaps, or Sri Lanka–places he'd never see. That didn't bother him. He'd had his fill of exotic locales. The tea tasted of home, of a place where the whistle of the kettle was a siren call to companionship. Remus smiled to himself. Too clichéd to ever be spoken, he thought. Did I fall in love with the man or his tea?
It was time to do the chores, he supposed, and went inside to wash up. He pulled on his jacket, lined against the cutting wind. It amused him to be in charge. Right now, he imagined, Severus would be wondering what was going wrong (and there certainly had been Incidents in the past, but nothing fatal or irreparable). He headed down the hill, whistling, and worked his way through the greenhouse, feeding or watering or draining or covering Severus' precious stock of Potions plants and creatures. Severus' friend Ellis had been very impressed: apparently it was rare for a Potions supplier to be so self-reliant. "I hate being beholden," Severus had snapped.
He had never once made Remus feel beholden to him. It would have been easy; it would have been the easiest way to drive Remus away. But Severus refused to see that he had that power. "How the hell would I know if your clothes can go in the wardrobe?" he had said irritably; "If they don't fit, there are drawers." Severus never said my house but always ours; Remus avoided the issue by calling it home. It was amazing; it was breathtaking; it was as invisible as the gravity that held the ground beneath his feet, and as mysterious. Sometimes Remus wondered whether Severus could truly be so blind as not to realise the tremendous power he could have wielded.
Remus chalked his notes on the board by the greenhouse door and walked through the gardens to the barn. He climbed over the paddock fence and opened the barn door. The chupacabras disdained Remus' lycanthropic blood, but once they had overcome their original aversion they had become quite friendly.
"Hullo, A, hullo, B," he said as the adults butted their heads against his knees. He reached down and scratched between their ears affectionately. "Where're O and AB?" He clicked his tongue and was answered by chirrups. "Dinnertime," he said, and nudged all four of them inside. One insistent nose butted against his pocket, looking for bread crusts or dead rats. "Later," Remus promised.
He filled the trough with fresh blood (Severus had a deal with an organic slaughterhouse) and put out a generous amount of Number 4 experimental chupacabra feed. While they were eating, he swept out the sleeping stalls and spread fresh straw. Chupas, they had discovered, were ridiculously fastidious. They used their front paws for grooming, and were the first beasts to master the uses of soap and handkerchiefs. They conversed in musical trills, and Remus had had modest success in teaching them words. He abandoned the effort, though, when they started calling him "Rrrris" and Severus, "Fffffud."
The door creaked open behind Remus. Had he been better acquainted with the Muggle cinema, he'd have known that the etiquette in this situation is to call "Who's there?" and turn around. Not having that advantage, and knowing that the grounds were supposed to be (were, damn it) enchanted to keep intruders out, he fell back on his war experience.
He dove for the shelter of the stall, wand out, and threw a succession of three Stunning spells in the direction of the doorway. There was a muffled but very proper curse ("Bother!"), and then his body snapped to rigidity as the Petrificus hit. His head hit the wall hard, and he was helpless to keep from sliding down. His head next hit the ground hard, and he saw stars. Then he heard a Stunning spell and consciousness fled.
The feast was elf-service; Severus imagined, with all the new unions and regulations, that it had cost a pretty penny. There would be–he looked at his menu–no fewer than seven courses, followed by dessert and coffee. He leant back in his chair and watched the room through hooded eyes. The soup was celery; he hated celery. He was waiting for the salmon. While he waited he thought; dark thoughts in the midst of merry company.
One hand strayed, in a habit that he found impossible to break, to check that his pocket watch was still heavy in his inner breast pocket. He would restrain himself, he thought firmly. Remus would dislike being checked up on; or worse, he would find it endearing. He would dislike himself for checking up on Remus. He sighed and opened the watch under the table: in the yard, the long hand said. Thinking about you, read the tiny script that the short hand pointed to. Severus tried very hard not to smile.
Ellis turned from his assault on Hermione's thesis and nudged Severus with his elbow.
"You're away with the fairies, Sev. Wouldn't hurt to be sociable." He tapped Severus' glass with his wand and it refilled with champagne.
Severus watched the guards standing by the doors. "It doesn't bother you, does it? All that fuss outside. It's quite serious, despite the fun-fair atmosphere. If any of the potions-making regulations that have been proposed pass, Potions will be a thing of the past. Just another vestigial Dark Art."
Ellis shrugged. "Inevitable, really. Kids here think meat is just Summoned from thin air into the frying pan. Never see cows or chickens, much less cut their throats. It's different back home. Death is a part of daily life–we don't forget it. Sure, bats and frogs and occasionally infants are used making potions, but it's a serious business. I hear most of the eye-of-newt trade in the U.K. today is for the production of joke wands. Explain that to the newts."
Hermione set her spoon down loudly. It disappeared along with her soup bowl, to be replaced by the white radish and salmon salad. Remus was adamant about not wanting a house elf, but there were advantages. Elf-service meals were one. Severus imagined that even Hermione might not mind, so long as they hired a union member with elf-esteem and didn't perpetuate any elf abuse.
"That's why it's even more important to bring the art of Potions into the twentieth century. Look at the great strides that have been made to evolve modern magic from its origins in the Dark Arts. Practically everything can be done these days with just a swish and a flick. There's no need for blood, straw dolls, chicken's feet, teeth, or any of those trappings."
Severus took a bite of the salad. Excellent. He wondered if it would be worthwhile for him to plant daikon. It had no use, as far as he knew, in Potions, but he was rather fond of it. Perhaps Remus could persuade his mad commune-dwelling friends to cultivate it.
"Modern magic uses wands," Ellis dismissed. "The core of the wand becomes the symbolic magical component. What would the equivalent be in Potions-making?"
"But potions can be made ethically, with a little creativity," Hermione argued, her skin darkening further as she became upset. Severus sipped his champagne and smirked. "And legislation banning certain ingredients and procedures would force progress to be made. It's only a matter of time–"
"No opinion, Sev?" Ellis asked, half-turning in his chair. "Does she know what goes into the Wolfsbane Potion?"
Severus set his glass down on the table firmly. "I doubt it. But rest assured, Miss Granger, that three key ingredients are on the proposed list of substances to be banned. I am trying to make the potion over ethically. And every month, Lupin suffers through my botched attempts. If it can't be done, Wolfsbane will be useless. And where will the werewolves go then?"
Ellis clapped Severus on the shoulder. "They'll be knocking on your door, my friend, after your stockpile."
"What stockpile?" Severus said blandly, as platters of bread and cheese appeared. He tuned out Hermione's impassioned campaigning and Ellis' blatant attempts to shock her and watched the room. A long time ago he had envisioned himself as one of the key figures in this society. He still yearned for recognition and approval, but he wasn't driven to it. He was content, insofar as he could be, to be a spoke in the wheel. Certainly, he still had his ambitions, but these days most of them were… personal.
He settled his fork on the plate and turned his head to watch one of the guards wind her way through the tables. Heading his way. I know her, he thought suddenly: despite the dull guard's uniform and the brown hair, it was still that Black girl.
"Severus," she said, drawing near and bending down so that her voice would not carry.
"Nymphadora," he returned. Her eyes were brown as well, but did not flinch from his gaze.
"I want you to come with me. Quietly," she added, with a glance around the table. Hermione opened her mouth as if to say something, but Tonks shook her head sharply.
"You could arrest me after my speech, you know," Severus said, and her mouth twitched–not a smile. More like pain.
"I'm not arresting you," she murmured. "We can talk outside."
Severus folded his napkin and pushed his chair back. He paused, and then handed the scroll of his speech to Hermione. Then he stood and followed Tonks out through the great wooden doors. Outside there were more Aurors. Something's wrong, Severus thought, and he tried to catch the thread of the conversations around him. Everything was a blur, and then he heard the name.
"Yaxley?" he asked Tonks, tempted to grab her and shake answers out. She sighed and shook her head, her hair rippling and falling back in the rich auburn that she favoured these days.
One of the Aurors looked up and caught her eye; she put one hand on Severus' elbow and steered him over. The Auror introduced herself as Wallace Gbala as she sat him down.
"Yaxley is being investigated for the Squib-B-Gone scam. I've nothing to do with that. He's got no reason to bother with me."
Tonks examined her fingernails. "You put him in prison."
"He put himself in prison," Severus snapped back. "I merely stated a few facts."
"Yaxley," Wallace cut in, "apparently thinks you got off light. For a traitor."
Severus shrugged. "He can join the queue. Light for a traitor, heavy for a hero, it all amounts to not bloody much. I'll avoid Yaxley should he come calling, but I really must go and present my speech now."
"We just arrested Stan Shunpike–again–for one of his mad animal-liberation attempts. The story he tells is that Yaxley brought him to your house," Tonks said distantly. "He was attempting to bring four chupacabra into Belgium."
Severus realised that he had stood only when Wallace's firm pull on his sleeve made him sit back down. "Are you telling me that Yaxley is there now?"
"We need you to stay calm, Mr Snape," Wallace said in the kind of voice that law enforcers are trained to speak in, in the erroneous belief that it is reassuring.
"What are you going to do?" he asked; that something would be done he had no doubt. There were too many Aurors here.
"They–we need your help," Tonks said, resting one hip on the table and looking at Severus with eyes that were now sea-foam green. "We need to get onto your property–you've made it rather hard. We want to get Yaxley and as many of his followers as we can, to take them by surprise."
"And rescue Lupin," Severus said.
"I'm sure Mr Lupin will be fine," Wallace said in her tone of soothing lies. Severus decided that he hated her, which would make their dealings so much easier. He leant back and crossed his hands over his stomach.
"He will be fine," Severus said, smiling–Tonks cringed–"because if he is not, I will make sure that you suffer such debilitating agony that you will beg for death."
And then he allowed them to Apparate him home and gave them the assistance they needed.
The Aga was red hot. The window glass was blown out and glittered on the lawn like fallen stars. A searing chemical pall brought tears to everyone downwind. There were three people in the kitchen, barely visible through the flames. One curled up on the floor, two standing, hands extended upwards. Hover charms, Severus thought clinically, to hold the crushing weight of the ceiling up. But the fire had snaked its coils around them. Yaxley's anti-apparation enchantments must have been two-way. The smoke was blinding: Severus couldn't tell through the spyglass which one was Remus.
Remus was woken by his own rapid wheezing. He hadn't known it was possible to have a panic attack while sleeping, but apparently it was. He tried to distract himself from bound hands bound legs can't breathe by running his hands over the chair (kitchen, he thought, and shifted slightly to see if it rocked. It did. His chair, then) and scraping his bare toes over the floor (warm old wood, soft with years and years of rag-scrubbing). He oriented himself by finding the heat of the Aga. Reasonably certain that he was alone in the kitchen, he opened his eyes just barely. His glasses were gone, and night must have fallen. The room was pitch black; he thought that that was odd, but it worked to his advantage. He lifted his head slightly, looking at the door.
"I'm sorry, dear, about the ropes."
Remus half-turned, or tried to, placing the voice painfully. "Arabella?" he said, although it came out more as a cough. There was a shuffle, and then the rim of a glass was pressed to his mouth.
"It's just water," she said, but he was already drinking greedily before the thought that it might be poison or potion crossed his mind, and then he thought, fuck it, and drained the glass. His lungs were behaving normally now, which was a mercy, because his head had started to ache, alternating between horrible throbbing and sharp stabbing.
He heard her take the glass over to the sink and set it on the drainboard, and then shuffle back over to the table. He heard the scrape of the chair across the floorboards, dragged close by. She sat with a rush of displaced air, and then something wet and cold was pressed right on top of the pain.
"Fuck," he said, twisting away.
"I'm trying to help," she said, stiffly.
"Untie me." He had twisted his wrists against the restraints until he'd rubbed the skin raw. "It makes me claustrophobic, can't you understand that?"
"I'm sorry." The damp cloth was back, gentler this time. "Mr Yaxley wanted to talk to you. He said you would cause trouble."
The fierce drumming in Remus' head increased. "Yaxley's a con artist and a Death Eater."
Remus felt the sigh, hot against his ear. "And maybe I'm nothing more to him than my two galleons a month subscription fee, but I don't really care. Never been more than Arabella Squib to anyone before, except perhaps Albus, and he used our friendship to make me spend sixteen years of my life in Little Whinging being the resident cat lady. Being pushed over by teenaged boys and sneered at by girls in size ten dresses instead of by wizards and witches. All I ever wanted was to be the same as everyone else. To be free. To walk down the road with my head held high. That's what Yaxley offers me, the same as he offers Stan the chance to get out of the prison he's still in, by helping the poor helpless animals, you know."
"Nothing here is harmless," Remus said, thinking and not thinking very hard, simultaneously. "And Squib-B-Gone is a scam that takes advantage of people without magic. The wands don't work."
Something blunt and cool poked him in the neck, where he couldn't twist away. "Shall we test that, love?"
Remus shut his eyes. "Go ahead. I should warn you that as the spells that Yaxley's wands produce are all cast at a remote location, you may not get what you ask for. You might ask for a Tickling Charm and get the Jelly-Legs Jinx. The company calls it a bug, but it's just simple human error. You've probably started to have suspicions already that something's not right. And if Yaxley himself has taken control of your wand, then you will certainly be able to cast Unforgivables. Care to try?"
There was a long pause, and then the wand tip was removed.
"Have I been incredibly foolish?" Arabella asked Remus briskly, just as she might ask if she could use discount coupons on two-for-one sale items.
"You were hopeful," Remus said. "We eat our bread, we hope for a better world. I know," he added softly, "I know what it is like to not be free. I'll be glad to talk about it, when this is all over."
Arabella sighed, and then Remus felt the tug of her fingers on the ropes around his hands. As soon as he was free he stood, rubbing his wrists. They felt wrong. Well. As wrong as everything else.
"Is it night time?" he asked, finding the junk drawer next to the Aga and rummaging for–there, bless Tae Sasayama's owl-order sushi–an unused pair of disposable chopsticks.
"Those are dreadful for the environment, you know," Arabella said. "It's only half past six. I was admiring your kitchen, how sunny it is. Can I help you?"
"Fur," Remus said. "I need all the fur you can get off my trousers." He rolled the chupacabra sheddings tightly between his fingers and started working it into the chopsticks. Bamboo, he thought with only the slightest twinges of hysterical laughter, with a core of chupacabra fur. Ollivander would have my balls. He took the last bit of fuzz from Arabella and threaded it in. "Virgavivus."
"Is it that easy?" Arabella said, and Remus could hear the suppressed envy in her words.
"No," he said, dizzy from the expenditure of his own magic. "It's not much better than the toys people make for their children. But it will do. Let's go."
Which was when they discovered that not only was there an Anti-Disapparation Jinx on the house but also that the doors were Unopenable and windows were Unbreakable. The Floo was down, and Remus' cell phone had been stepped on (but he couldn't be sure that that hadn't been Severus, who was never one to appreciate the subtleties of Muggle communication).
They were back in the kitchen, considering Plan B, when the back door opened.
Arabella squeaked, and Remus heard her fall heavily to the ground. He straightened, holding his wand lightly along the back of his arm like a Muggle conjurer. Nothing up this sleeve, he thought wryly.
"You can't trust women," Yaxley said, his voice mock-sorrowful and leaking amusement. "Emotional, flighty things. Need to be kept in line. Just like werewolves and other beasts."
"Fancy yourself an alpha, Yaxley?"
"You ought to be grateful to me," Yaxley said, with a light hint of reproach. "I did heal your scars."
"Did you?" Remus reached up and rubbed his throat. The smooth skin under his fingers felt unnatural.
"I took off all the spells you were under as well. I learnt a great deal from the one we will not name," Yaxley said; a statement of fact, not a boast. "It can't have been easy seeing those marks every time you looked in the mirror. Ugly things, silver burns."
"Did you erase your own Mark, Yaxley?" Remus asked, and then fervently wished the words unsaid. Done is done. He set his jaw and waited impassively. Yaxley was not a fool, and Remus had just given him a gift better than Christmas. It was summer. It was entirely reasonable that Yaxley's forearm was in plain sight. Finally, Yaxley made a noise of contentment, having confirmed his suspicions.
"I'd wondered why you chose to stay with Snape. But I imagine you weren't much in demand in your condition. The war, I suppose?"
"If I said yes, would you be sympathetic?"
Yaxley laughed; he had a beautiful musical laugh, Remus thought. "I didn't get where I am by sympathy. And if you think my tender feelings extend to the half-blood werewolf catamite of the man who put me in prison, I assure you you're wrong."
"I did think it was too much to hope for," Remus said, and Yaxley laughed again. Really, for a former Death Eater, ex-prisoner, and criminal, he was very jolly.
"So you're here for a grudge? That seems… short-sighted."
"I'm borrowing all Snape's papers. I know a fellow who can use them. Particularly the Wolfsbane–once it's illegal to brew, we're going to make a killing." He paused. "I will give you the chance to assist him with his work. It only seems fair."
"If I refuse?"
Yaxley sighed. "Then I'll have to kill you. You weren't supposed to be here, you know, The Squib will of course be left here–the Aurors do love having a criminal to apprehend."
"If I went with you–what would happen to Se- Snape?"
"Nothing–nothing! I'm not a murderer, boy. I'm rather afraid the house is already on fire, which is a pity, but he'll get over the loss. I don't know which would bother him more, finding your bones in the ashes or knowing you preferred to leave with me, so I've no druthers. Either way."
"But you would leave Arabella here."
"She should have been put down at thirteen, the way they were in the old days. She's cheated fate out of sixty years–think of it that way."
"I'd really rather not," Remus said, echoing Yaxley's gentlemanly regret. "Rictusempra. Tarantallegra. Incarcerous," he said, and the makeshift wand across his palm burned. "Enervate." He was afraid to try non-verbal spells: it was a very stupid wand, and he was having to compensate for the lack of swishing and flicking as it was. Remus stepped back, putting his back to the cabinets. He could smell the acrid smoke of the house burning, now. He chanted anti-jinxes under his breath–a generally useless endeavour, he knew, but it was comforting. It reminded him of preparing for his exams in school.
Yaxley laughed, crossing the room. "Sad, really. It does help to know where your target is. Crucio."
"Finite incantatem," Remus ground out, concentrating on not snapping his wand in two. "Mobilimensa. Accio. Excito. Mobililamna. Accio." *
"Finite," Yaxley shouted, and there was a clatter of cutlery falling to the floor. "Bloody fucking hell, boy, you could have hurt me. Avada–"
There was a loud, dull clang; a thud; and then a discord of metal on wood.
"What did you hit him with?" Remus asked, sinking to the floor and inching forward. His groping fingers found Yaxley's wand, and he handed it to Arabella.
"Skillet," she said. "His head looks like poor Mr Tipsy when that lorry hit him. Buried him under the gardenias, and they bloomed striped ever after, it was the oddest thing."
Remus' fingers walked cautiously over Yaxley's head. It was suspiciously soft in the back. He wrapped one hand around the man's neck: he was still breathing, his heart was still beating. "Incarcerous," Remus tried. "Did anything happen?"
"Just a bit of orange worsted, like before. Is your magic gone?"
"Give me his wand." This time, the spell resulted in an embarrassment of tangled rope and manacles, and Remus grinned. "Mobiliocorpus. We need to get outside before the fire spreads."
"The ceiling is smoking."
"Gods." Remus pushed himself up. Arabella put an arm around his waist, and he tugged on Yaxley's shoulder. They were at the door; he could hear the fire now, snapping; but the door still wouldn't open. The kitchen was really getting quite warm.
"We're going to die, aren't we?" Arabella said, quite calmly under the circumstances.
Remus cast a flame-freezing charm over the room and dropped Yaxley back onto the floor. "We'll just need to weather the storm, and you'll need to be my eyes."
Remus knew his extinguishing spells, and his water conjuring spells. It wasn't that bad. Arabella was quite useful (and Remus kicked himself mentally until his brain let go of the continuation, for a Squib). Remus thought that they might, somehow, survive, that he might see Severus again, that Arabella might rejoin Mr Doodles, Miss Gussie, and Agents Brownie and Orange in time for supper.
Until the laboratory exploded.
It was like being in Hell, Remus thought. Whatever potions Severus had had produced fumes that ate through Bubble-Head Charms in mere minutes, and the heat from the flames overpowered his Flame-Freezing spells when he was forced to cast others. As the ceiling buckled down, he found himself increasingly concerned with keeping it hovering a good foot or so above his head. There was no rescue coming, he thought. Desperate measures. He held the wand straight up and hoped that it somehow remembered.
The wand bucked as if unleashing a serpent. Arabella swore again ("Lord love a leshy!") as the bolt of green shot through the ceiling and the roof to explode into a swarm of buzzing green sparks. She supposed that from afar the Dark Mark must have looked the way it was described–a skull and a snake–but really, from underneath it was rather pretty, Arabella thought, idly stomping out the flames that danced along Yaxley's robes with her carpet slippers.
* "Move the table–summon. Wake up. Move the knives–summon."
One team of specialists from the Fire Service stood to the side and cast Aguamenti over the house and its surroundings: the fall of water barely affected the inferno. The witches and wizards in the back row cast Flame-Freezing Charms around the three figures in the kitchen and Hover Charms to replace the failing ones on the ceiling. Those in the front cast Mobilicorpus and dragged the three out, one by one, starting with the one prostrate on the floor.
It was not a graceful rescue mission (hovering bodies for some reason always seemed to hit heads, arms, and legs on the doorframe), but it was quick. Severus was glad for that. The roof was already giving way, the frame of the house cocked at an impossible angle, held up by magic so powerful that he felt his hair rise even behind the ten-metre barrier. As soon as the bodies entered the triage area a horn sounded three times, mournfully. Wands were lowered in a complex order, like the conclusion of a dance. The scream of the house tearing apart grew, momentarily, louder than the roar of the consuming flames, and then it collapsed in on itself.
The pillar of dust, ash, and flame that rose up covered the Dark Mark, but Severus had his back to the blaze. He was trying desperately to extricate himself from the annoying man who'd attached himself, remora-like, to his arm and was nattering on about insurance and trials and search orders and the government. The last snapped Severus' attention back, and he fixed glittering eyes on the man, leant in close, and told him exactly what he thought the new Minister for Magic could do with herself, with what, were, and how many times. The man fell back a pace, paling, and Severus stalked away towards the triage area.
Arabella Figg was seated on a collapsible chair drinking something from a steaming mug. Behind her, two Emergency Healing Technicians worked over a floating pallet. Severus took in the bloodstained white hair and the gold-trimmed robes and moved on. There was a portable pavilion near where the herb garden had been. Severus glanced inside.
A pallet hovered inside, and the air was acrid with the smells of burnt hair, burnt fabric, burnt wood, and burnt flesh. There was a pall of potions brewing, of which he supposed he approved, although they would not be as good as his own. One healer was busy casting spells; the other was struggling with the man on the pallet. By the look of things, she was considering strangling him with the bandages that she was attempting to apply to his hands.
The pavilion must have had a Silencing Charm up, for as soon as Severus stepped inside he could hear Remus arguing as he struggled to get away.
"You don't understand," he was saying, in a voice that was mostly choking cough. "Severus' house–I have to–he'll kill me, I need to go…."
Remus surged up, and Severus winced. His hair was nearly entirely singed off, and he was grimy with ash and dirt. Remus stretched out one hand as if in supplication towards Severus' voice, and there was nothing for it but to step forward, bypassing Remus' blistered and charred fingers, and wrap his arms around those familiar, comfortable shoulders.
"I'm sorry," Remus said in the remainder of his voice. "I'm so sorry." And then he horrified Severus beyond comprehension by clinging to him and sobbing. As hysterics went, his were quiet, but the heartbroken desperation with which he clung made Severus cast about for someone to vent his unfamiliar emotions on. He longed to tell Remus to shut the fuck up; perhaps he should. Perhaps Remus had forgotten just whose robes he was destroying with his bodily fluids. But some larger deep-down part of him was responding, and he could have screamed with the frustration. He was too old to learn this; too used to having Remus be the one with the hard words easy on his tongue. He spread his hands wide across Remus' shaking back and started talking. He kept his voice low and after a while it seemed as if Remus were listening, if only because he stopped hyperventilating and quieted in Severus' arms.
The healer tried to get Remus to lie back and be transferred to hospital quietly, but Remus ignored her with every fibre of his being. In the end they were sent together, Remus still locked in Severus' arms. In the steady bright lights of the emergency ward Remus was efficiently put into a healing coma and it took half an hour and an ominously large pair of shears to remove Severus' robes from his hands. Looking at those hands made Severus' stomach lurch badly. He walked out, found the restroom just in time to throw up, and washed his face with icy water until he no longer felt the ghosts of flames on his skin.
Remus was kept unconscious for two days to allow his unnatural metabolism to take care of his injuries, and Severus kept busy. He discovered, to his satisfaction, that he was still capable of working around the clock on nothing more than Pepper-Up potions, cans of Red Bull (which Remus swore by), and vindictiveness. He pillaged his stingy hoard of debts owed and at one point found himself corresponding with Harry bloody Potter at half past five in the morning. "The gods are laughing," he told the owl. It ruffled its feathers at him and pecked desultorily at the chocolate he'd given it.
The Weasleys donated clothing; McGonagall contributed a crate of only slightly chipped crockery; Kingsley Shacklebolt offered his tent. Severus moved constantly. He saw the tent erected and put the sundry donations in it. He interfered as much as possible with the Environmental Agency's efforts to determine what he was (had been) capable of producing. He spent one whole afternoon signing forms for all the plants and animals that had been rounded up and getting them resettled in their pens and cages. The chupas had been pathetically glad to see him, and he'd been forced to give them all baths to stop their pitiful bleating for "Rrriss". In his free time, Severus gave newspaper interviews. He haunted the Ministry, dogging the investigation of Yaxley's scheme.
And morning, noon, and night he was at the hospital, ten minutes here and half an hour there. Remus was damned lucky, he thought, to be able to sleep through the aftermath. The healers assured him that Remus' hands were healing just fine. It would take longer for his hair to grow back than his skin, apparently. Severus would pull the visitor's chair up close to the bed and lean his head back, one hand on Remus' shoulder. That was all he needed, really, that and a few moments of stolen sleep.
On the third day, several hours shy of dawn, Severus woke to an insistent tapping on his elbow.
"Remus?" he said.
"Lie down," Remus said, sounding still asleep, but shifting over as best he could. Severus hesitated, but then Remus said, "Sleep," and Severus knew that he was smirking. He shrugged off his robes and slipped under the covers. Remus sighed and settled against him, and that was the last Severus recalled.
When he woke he was alone in the bed in the full glare of sunlight, and his brain, which had taken to hallucinating some time shortly after he'd replaced food with drugs, presented him with a very realistic scenario in which Remus had died whilst he slept. He tried to think around this, knowing rationally just how irrational he was.
All the machinations of his subconscious short-circuited, however, when Remus opened the door from the bathroom and stood there a moment wearing nothing but steam and a towel knotted on his hip. Severus recognised in that pause that Remus was orienting himself to the room. Watching Remus like this, saying nothing, was as addictive and as intrusive as Occulumency. Remus took the four paces over to the bed, limping slightly (bloody incompetent fire fighters and their mobiliocorpus), located the edge of the mattress with one still-raw hand, and sat down, imperilling the towel. The same hand found the pillow and thence Severus' hair. Remus smiled, and Severus' heart cracked straight in two. He must have made some movement or even a noise, because Remus stilled and took on a certain wariness. The hand slid down to the side of Severus' face, his thumb ghosting across Severus' lips.
"Are you awake?" Remus asked softly.
"More or less," Severus said, and covered Remus' hand with his own. "And if you make any ill-considered apologies or explanations I'll walk out that door right now."
"That would be a pity. It's a beautiful morning. You'll feel much better after a shower and something to eat, although I've half a mind to debauch you."
"I'd like to see you try. You're looking pale from the effort of sitting up. Lie down. You couldn't debauch if you tried." Severus tugged the sheet back as Remus slipped in against him. All the pessimistic and downright disturbing medical predictions that he'd been presented with over the past few days faded in the warm, damp radiance that draped itself over him.
"Could too debauch," Remus said into his neck. "Haven't had any good debauchery since–was it yesterday?"
A sigh, hot against his skin. "Not good. And today is…?"
"It ought to be Monday," Severus said, but he felt remarkably well rested; perhaps it was Tuesday already.
"We came and rescued you. No one died. The house fell down. You were hurt." Severus twisted to look down into Remus' eyes. Remus blinked at him. They were strange, chameleon-like eyes, picking up browns and greens and greys from Remus' surroundings. Now, lying in the pool of summer sun, they reminded Severus, as they often did (to the torment of his poetry-hating pragmatic soul), of the ocean.
"Stop staring," Remus said. "It's unnerving."
"How do you feel?"
Remus grimaced. "You're crap at being solicitous, you know. You needn't even try. How do I look?" He ran one hand over his hair self-consciously, then pulled it away, wincing and holding his raw fingers awkwardly.
"Like you've got mange," Severus said. "You should just shave your head and have done with it."
"People would confuse me with Kingsley."
Severus snorted. "Don't insult the man. He's loaned us his tent to stay in."
"Quite a sacrifice. Although being a married man now, he can't have that much time left for the birds."
"Even back in school he always had them eating out of his hand. But I gather his wife is… accepting of his foibles."
"We all have our eccentricities."
"I do not. And you merely have kinks."
"Oho," Remus said, with a look of amused indignation. He apparently wanted to say several things at once and couldn't figure out which to say first, so Severus continued. Carpe diem. Carpe lupus.
"Do not try to tell me that you've not had that come-hither look in your eye since you crawled naked into bed with me."
"I'm wearing a towel," Remus protested. "Ah. I was wearing a towel–where's it got to?"
"You're supposed to be resting and relaxing and recuperating."
"Well, there's no way I'm going to relax like this, now is there?" Remus said reasonably.
"You oughtn't to be using your hands for anything. The skin's still too new."
"I figured that out myself, unfortunately. Which puts me in a predicament."
"Aw," Severus said. "It must be hard to be an alpha wolf and so hard up. I think I'll go get us a pot of tea." He made to get out of bed, and Remus reached up, twisting Severus' arm in his elbow, and jerked him back down. Severus smirked.
"This must hurt you at least as much as it hurts me."
"The alpha wolf really, really wants to make you come screaming."
"Claim me as your mate?"
"Just you wait until I have my hands working properly again."
"And what would you do to me, then?"
Remus' bared teeth were very white in his reddened face. "I'd get you out of those damned clothes. I'd have your naked chest under me and my mouth on your throat."
"One of those wolf things," Severus said, as he pulled his shirt over his head. "Is this delusion of yours the reason you're already naked?"
"I'm naked and sweating from the need to make you submit to my will."
"Hmm," Severus said. "You ought to keep your weight off this leg. Someone banged you into a doorframe." He fingered the bandages wrapped tightly well up Remus' thigh. Still, it wasn't so bad, to have a house collapse on you and escape with only a badly wrenched knee.
"You had better not be folding anything," Remus said. "Now is not the time to be thinking of laundry."
"What ought I to be thinking of?" Severus asked, stretching to set his badly-folded clothes on the bedside table.
"Discipline," Remus said, running one foot up Severus' leg as far as he could reach (which was quite tantalisingly high, actually). "In the best of all possible worlds, I would not be able to keep my hands off you. Or my mouth."
"Or your legs, apparently."
"Or my feet. Or my stomach," Remus said doggedly, although either the way Severus was biting his neck or teasing his nipples made his voice break.
"Or your cock," Severus said, grinding down only to be met by the force of Remus surging up into him.
"Bloody hell," Remus said, trying to touch Severus with hands still half-healed. Severus kissed him into growling silence. Remus manoeuvred so that his legs twined around Severus' and the undamaged inside of his left wrist stroked down the side of Severus' face.
"That's actually rather disturbingly provocative," Severus said, and bit the pale skin covering the veins of his wrist, laving it with his tongue. Remus bent one knee and braced his foot on the mattress to better roll his hips against Severus' cock.
"Tell me," Remus said, his free arm sliding down and across the small of Severus' back. "Tell me what you see."
"Vain kinky bastard." Severus pushed up onto his hands, ducking his head. Remus touched the back of his neck and the fall of his hair along either side of his face. "Sun in your hair, or what's left of it." He curled his fingers into the longish bit that remained at Remus' temple. "Sun in your eyes–you ought to be blinking, you know." Remus lowered his lashes demurely and said something so obscene that Severus had to lick him into silence. "The hair around your nipples has gone grey, did you know that?"
"Can I blame you?"
"You would, wouldn't you?"
"You do realise that my present condition means that it would be quite hard for me to get myself off by myself, if you see what I mean. It's getting to be a pressing problem."
"Pity," Severus said. He shifted his weight onto Remus' undamaged leg and stroked his cock slowly. The look of realisation that dawned on Remus' face was priceless.
"Oh, you bastard," Remus snarled.
"Now, that's a good look for you."
"Enraged sexual frustration?" Severus leant down, and Remus captured his mouth with a vicious kiss, all sharp tongue and sliding teeth, even as Severus moved his hand so that he held their cocks pressed together. He felt Remus' sharp gasp for air and pushed Remus' arching body down into the mattress. One of Remus' arms was wrapped around his head, pulling Severus into a kiss that had melted into desperation. Remus' other hand had wrapped around Severus', but Severus was too close to coming to chastise, now, and whatever pain Remus felt only seemed to fuel the intensity of his movements. Remus was panting into his mouth, and Severus had a moment of smug satisfaction as Remus cried out against him, shaking from head to toe.
"I love watching you come," he said, and Remus' sticky fingers tangled with his own as he began stroking himself efficiently. "You look so… lost." Remus ran his tongue over his lips in lieu of reply, eyes dilated wide and breath still coming in gasps and moans.
"Love you," Remus breathed out, and stroked Severus' face with an expression of such tenderness that Severus became lost with him and came hard, thrusting against the hard solidness of Remus' body with nothing but the rush of blood sounding in his ears.
"Nothing broken, I hope?" Remus was saying, and prodded Severus with a sharp knee. "I can call a nurse."
"The blond one was rather cute," Severus said, and moved with difficulty off Remus' chest. "We need a shower."
There were always so many things that they never spoke of, and Severus wondered sometimes if it was a blessing or a sign of psychological imbalance. But Remus smiled at him with that wicked humour and reached out, trusting. Severus pulled Remus upright and allowed him to explain the possibilities of the en suite bath.
Remus was humming under his breath. Severus gave him the shoulder tap that let him know he was being glowered at. Remus grinned and burst into song; Severus flinched.
"Is it too much to ask to be spared show tunes at this hour of the morning?"
"You like Man of La Mancha."
"I like your CD. But you are no kind of a lady, and neither can you carry a tune."
"Then you sing."
"Not that song."
Remus snorted. "Little bird, little bird, in the cinnamon tree–"
"You are a sick, twisted fuck, you do know that?"
"It's tenderness I cannot bear," Remus quoted with a look of pure calculating wickedness that might have been humour; but then again, might not have been.
"Whore," Severus said. "Stop hogging the mirror. Your looks haven't improved in all the time you've been standing there."
Remus stepped back, but as Severus reached for the razor, he wrapped his arms around Severus' waist and buried his clean-shaven face in the base of Severus' neck.
"I'm shaving, you know."
"I have no fear. If you were going to cut my throat you'd have done it years ago."
"I'm biding my time. As soon as you are no longer useful or amusing–"
"Out on my arse, eh?"
"In a minute," Severus said. "Stop breathing on me. Are you packed?"
"Not yet," Remus said, his hands hot on Severus' stomach. "I don't even know what's mine and what's yours."
Severus grimaced, rinsed the razor, dried it, and set it back in the leather case, which he put in the carrier bag hanging off the bathroom doorknob. It already held their new toothbrushes and toothpaste and the red plastic cup with a horrible cartoon cat that Moody's daughter had solemnly presented to Remus.
"Doesn't make a difference. It's all Weasley charity. Clothes worn through by children half my age."
Remus sighed, and Severus twisted to kiss him before he could say anything obnoxious about their present circumstances.
"Oh, for the gods' sakes stop moping. We've had less. It's a… temporary setback. Pack, and get dressed, and let's go home."
"Home," Remus repeated. "Home, and by no more storms distressed."
"Home that knits the ravelled sleeve of care. Pleasures and palaces and goodbye to the proud world."
Remus grinned. "You need me, Severus, to straighten out your mis-education. Sing me the one about pleasures and palaces, and I'll be ready by the time you're done."
Our true hearts are forever lonely:
A wistfulness is in our thought:
Our lights are like the dawns which only
Seem bright to us and yet are not.Something you see in me I wis not:
Another heart in you I guess:
A stranger's lips—but thine I kiss not,
Erring in all my tenderness.
I sometimes think a mighty lover
Takes every burning kiss we give:
His lights are those which round us hover:
For him alone our lives we live.
Ah, sigh for us whose hearts unseeing
Point all their passionate love in vain
And blinded in the joy of being,
Meet only when pain touches pain