Title: R and D (Research and Development)
Beta-Reader: The brilliant Vaughn
Disclaimer: I own nothing, JKR everything else
Warning/s: possible noncon, if you want the happy ending you'll have to read the sequel….
Summary: For Master and the Wolf Fourth Wave, Challenge #78. Severus' new potion has an unexpected side effect, and Remus' Snark proves to be a Boojum. (busaikko recommends Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark.")
"Severus." Dumbledore looked at me over his reading glasses, the knitting needles in his hands flashing as he absently added a lavender border to an impossibly long woolen stocking. "Care for tea?"
"Don't rouse yourself. I merely wanted to know if you've considered my… proposal. I've no interest in beverages." Dumbledore, I'm sure, swallowed that story about the human body needing eight glasses of water a day. It's a lie; I myself survive well on spite alone. I gave a twisted little smile, glad that I could react in such a civilized way, when certainly the feelings I had might be considered psychotic.
The Headmaster set aside his knitting, letting the needles carry on. The look he gave me was compassionate. I wanted to lash out. "You will have to forgive water sometime, Severus."
"There are squid in my dungeon."
"All that snow. All that rain. Roofs do collapse, Severus. Sewage systems fail. Artesian springs bubble forth from the depths of the earth. Granted, not usually all at once, but that's what makes life so exciting, wouldn't you agree? Though not perhaps as exciting as Giant Squid having lusty tentacle sex right under the library windows."
Breathe in, breathe out. "My laboratory is not a nursery for squid." Squidlets? Squidlings? Squidpoles? Damned little slimy things.
"That does seem to be a matter of dispute. Hagrid seems quite keen on the concept of running an ink farm, considering the length of essays some teachers in this school assign. The school does use a frightful amount of ink…."
I pinch the bridge of my nose. "Fine, let the overgrown lump paddle about in his canoe, milking squid in the stinking ruins of my rooms. In Slytherin House. Sorry, Loch Slytherin. Can't you get Potter to talk to the damned things?"
"I don't know if a Parselmouth has ever attempted to talk to a squid." A Quick-Quotes Quill on the what-not in the corner scratched a memo. "I shall do everything in my power to restore your rooms and House to their accustomed condition by the fall term. In the meantime… I take it you are involved in some delicate research and development. You are more than welcome to set up a secure laboratory in Grimmauld Place."
"You're sending me to the dog house."
Albus gives me a chiding look. I wish he wouldn't bother-my face is incapable of looking chastised, the nearest equivalent is sullen. "You'll have privacy–there's no one in full-time residence. And I understand that Alastor Moody is quite interested in research and will be in and out all summer."
"Only at meetings."
"No students?" He shook his head. "No werewolves?"
"Just research and development." I have heard people say Albus' eyes twinkle, but the adjective I prefer is 'glitter'. They glittered at me like the deep waters in my dungeon, against which I was also helpless.
Setting aside my issues with the Grimmauld house's degenerate provenance, I could see the advantages. Just myself, in the most securely hidden house in all Britain. And a promise of no students or werewolves, and minimal Weasleys. "All right. I'll go. Don't tell anyone where I am."
Dumbledore retrieved the striped stocking from where it had coiled up on the floor with a decidedly floral motif. "Have a good summer, Severus."
It is a closely held secret of Potions masters that the glamorous bottling of glory and stoppering of death are simply the distillate of hundreds and thousands of experiments that, nine-tenths of the time, yield nothing valuable. Oh, it's a delight and a source of pride to brew an elegant Veritaserum, or to casually proffer a smoking goblet of Dreamless Sleep. Far less glamourous is to have attempted an Electrifying Draught and instead replaced all your body hair with statically charged feathers that resisted all magical efforts at removal. By the end of that long night I sincerely envied the Christmas geese–at least they were properly dead before they were plucked. And the hair I regrew took weeks to darken and still looks blue in bright light.
The potions that Dumbledore and Voldemort… encourage… me to develop–those will earn me praise from Dumbledore and a few more days of life, perhaps, from Voldemort. What more could I want? Voldemort wanted potions that replicated the non-lethal Unforgivable Curses. And Dumbledore, of course, wanted those potions subverted, or at least an antidote at hand. (For me, this was what the Muggles call a "win-win situation".) But professionally, creatively, I was in a rut, displeasing both my masters. Some days I despaired of finding The Potion, the one that will prove my abilities beyond a doubt. Merlin knows I'm certainly scraping the bottom of the flask.
My first attempt was to substitute the common vervain and dill inhibitors to create a form of Veritaserum that might act like the Imperius curse, and wouldn't Voldemort have fun with that. Unfortunately, it also turned out to be a powerful aphrodisiac, which I did not realize until Longbottom-Longbottom!-was sent down by Sprout while I was testing the potion, "thinking long and hard about my future, Professor" and "very excited about my breeding program, sir" and on and on about the bloody pistons and stamens and cross-pollination, all the while stroking that damned mimbletonia–watching the boy lovingly squeezing the sap from its boils into a vial for me nearly broke my self-control entirely. What worse kink could there be than to develop a passion for squeezing spots in a school for adolescents? It didn't bear thinking about. Although there was an undeniable satisfaction….
So, that left me with Crucio. An elegant Crucio potion that would neither affect the body nor lead to insanity. Cosmetic pain. I could do that. And I did.
Classes ended. The Express chuffed all my hormonally challenged charges back to their unfortunate families, and for the second time in half a year I packed up my books, my stores, my tools and calibrators. My personal belongings, such that had survived the flood, I left at Hogwarts, pessimistically assuming that should I not be killed for whatever reason this summer, Albus would renew my contract. Clothes–well, I would wear what I had, one need not dress to impress in Grimmauld Place: even the caretaker werewolf (could one say carewolf?) had been shuffled off somewhere on Order business.
When the deluge that drowned Slytherin House came, I was too busy rescuing my students, my research, and my library to save anything besides the nightshirt I had on, which attained a whole new level of griminess by the end of that long wet night. In fact, all of my House and I were 'Slytherins in pajamas' for most of the next day, until charitable donations and packages from students' homes began to arrive. Dumbledore gave me two spare robes; the rest of my new wardrobe I culled from the school's lost and found (which contained a large quantity of Molly Weasley's sweaters. I did not sink that low.)
My preparations for departure were completed after lunch. I hopped myself up to Albus' office, where he fussed about, wasting my time with instructions about keeping the magical protections up and the rooms aired, changing the sheets once a week and where to forward the mail. Did I look like the bloody caretaker?… Damn. How had Albus tricked me into this? He finally let me Floo out, after I extracted a promise that he not pop by for tea and crumpets.
Walking out of the library fireplace, I welcomed the silence, oppressive and malevolent as it was, of the Black house. I harbored no romantic notions that the ghost of dear Sirius Black malingered there, except perhaps in the annoying dog hairs on the sofa and a certain stench in the air. While it was not a house that anyone was fond of, neither comfortable nor cheery, I needed neither comfort nor cheer. I needed a fireplace, a sink, storage space, a worktable, and my own not inconsiderable native talent.
I prowled the upper rooms (not the basement-I had had my fill of damp depressing places) until I found one that fit my purposes. I chucked the former occupant's belongings into a few carrier bags and shoved them in the linen closet. I then moved the bed against the wall and relocated the library table to the center of the room. I resized my cauldrons and lined them up in front of the fireplace, which came equipped with a good quantity of hooks and chains. (I didn't even need to unpack my own.) The room's adjacent bath had a nice deep tub. I filled it right up, set the cooler charm, and submerged some vials of delicate and unstable elements. The wardrobe made a good place for hanging herbs. I set my large souvenir jar of jarvey eyeballs in gelatin atop the bookcase and smiled purely out of self-satisfaction. It looked like home.
I had a few hours to kill before seven, when Moody had said he'd drop by. (The old bastard was fucking someone, it seemed, and had to schedule me in between romantic interludes. At least between his mad passion and his defiance of Dumbledore in setting up a training program for junior Aurors he had tarnished himself enough to seek unlikely allies. Even former Death Eaters.) I had a quantity of the Crucio potion prepared and cooling in the bathtub, but I decided to brew some more, just in case. It was a moderately easy potion, but the ingredient list was long and the preparation tedious. I find potion-making to be like meditation: an excellent way to relieve stress.
I was rather fond of the Crucio potion. The pain the potion induced was quite spectacular. However, as involuntary muscle contractions were not involved, any screaming and writhing was strictly free-style–I'd have to let people in the Order know that they can be creative in their self-expression when tortured by Death Eaters. Voldemort would enjoy a good show, I think. It will work and hold him off, for a few months perhaps. Voldemort will eventually realize the flaw, but he has never held a high opinion of my competence. He's never had a reason to, really.
The ingredients went into the cauldrons, I set the timers, and my work was almost done. I set about designing a schedule of tests to identify possible interactions with common spells and potions. I hoped Moody and I could manage two fifteen-minute doses each on a good day. The sand on the last timer ran down, and I poured the potion carefully into 15-minute vials, putting all but one into the bath. The last one I tested myself, setting my timer. The next few minutes were… unpleasant, but I unpacked my suitcase and tidied up, and more or less resisted the urge to roll around on the floor whimpering. The pain was easier to bear with each trial, or perhaps I was simply getting used to it. I would have to test for tolerance, I decided. At exactly fifteen minutes, the wave of agony receded. I had just enough time for a quick shower, and then went downstairs to receive my guest.
Moody turned up with a kind of vindictive cheerfulness and a trunkload of cursed objects one of his pimply junior Aurors had bought in some Muggle shop called 'eBay'. We were up to our elbows in de-jinxing spells when the fireplace flared up and Remus Lupin stepped into the library, oversized Muggle suitcases in each hand. He was bloody and muddy and pale, and wore a dreadful furry hat that looked as if it had crawled up there to die. He gave us a bright smile and, dropping the luggage, limped over to the table.
"Severus! Mad-Eye! Well, this is a home-coming." He took out his wand and removed the outermost layer of grime from his person. "Looks like you're having fun. Can I help?"
"Go away, Lupin." I batted his hand away from what was most likely a rabid Jaw of Punishment. "Do that again and I'll let you lose your fingers."
Mad-Eye dragged his magical eye away from its inspection of Lupin's trunks. "Here on business?" he asked nonchalantly, which on him sounded like a trap being set.
"Well, business and business, if you know what I mean. Running like mad to get away from the one, and looking to do a little product testing for the other while I'm hiding out."
Moody's eye wandered up to the ceiling and his face flushed. "Product testing?" Yes, Moody was looking embarrassed and… excited. Not his reaction to my proposal (granted, most people don't look forward to half an hour of Crucio. Still….)
"You know I appreciate the great effort you've put into my research, Mad-Eye."
"Not that much of an effort, Lupin."
"No, you are a rather remarkable old goat. Any other magically replaced bits I should know about?"
"The things you shouldn't know about would fill a book-right, Snape?"
I did not want them to know I am curious–what was their conversation, after all, but a circle drawn that excluded me? "Your mutual perversities do not intrigue me. I should like to finish this tonight, however, so I can get some sleep."
"Well, I'll just settle in, then." Lupin grabbed up his bags and strolled out into the hall as if it were his home. The injuries he came with seemed to be mostly healed already–the werewolf metabolism took good care of its host.
I forgot that it also gave him a fearsome appetite. Moody and I had barely begun stripping a pair of red dancing shoes when Lupin sidled into the room, looking vaguely guilty and carrying a platter heaped with bread, cheese, ham, and sliced green tomatoes.
"There weren't any dinner things downstairs, so I thought you might like to join me. I'm afraid all I can make are sandwiches." He shoved over a stack of cursed grimoires and put the platter down. "I don't suppose those cups can be drunk out of? Better not risk it, eh?" He wandered out and reappeared a minute later with a six-pack of Muggle beer. "Charlie always leaves cases of this stuff in the pantry. It's not bad."
"It's weak as a baby, that's what it is." Moody untangled the last spells from the shoes, dropped them back in the trunk (which he bolted with iron), stuffed two tomato, ham, and cheese sandwiches into his pocket, and lit the fire. "I'll see you in the morning, Snape. Let me know if you have nightmares or an urge to cross-dress–it might be that Amityville Barbie."
Lupin pulled a brown-paper wrapped parcel out of a suitcase and handed it to Moody, who stashed it away. "Speaking of babes, give my love to yours, eh?"
"Do I look like your bloody owl?" Moody threw a fistful of Floo powder into the fire and barked, "Home." He disappeared, and Remus put the fire out immediately.
"It's a bit warm for that, isn't it?" He dropped down on the sofa and charmed the cap off his bottle, transfiguring it into a small airplane that zoomed across the room. "I took the north room on the third floor,if that's all right with you."
"Moving in, are you?"
He raised an eyebrow. "When I'm in England, I do stay here. By the by, you haven't seen my toothbrush or pajamas, have you? I only ask because it seems my usual room has been turned into your lab."
"Didn't see your name on the door."
"No. Well. It's summer here anyway, I can sleep naked."
"Where have you been that it wasn't summer?"
He took a long pull from the bottle, and for some reason I notice that the beer is exactly the color of his eyes. No, I would not think about the color of the werewolf's eyes, or even of him sleeping naked, or of the way those eyes shone with a feral intelligence that suggested a passion hidden beneath his calm mask. Definitely not thinking about these things, I made myself a sandwich.
"Fascinating." He smirked at me. "Most people put the cheese between the bread. Trust you to do it the other way around."
"I like it this way." Slytherin Rule no. 411: never admit to mistakes.
"Arse-backwards? I'll remember that."
Somewhere I had lost control of the conversation. "So what brings you here?"
Lupin waved his wand and muttered, "Meishiwasi." A small black card flew out of his pocket and into my hand. I read it and smirked.
"Head researcher for Weasley's Winks and Wanks? Congratulations on becoming a professional deviant, Lupin. What do you do–work out the kinks in sex spells?"
He gave me a wide-eyed earnest look. "No, no, I have to put the kinks in. That's much harder."
"And how did this sad state of affairs come about?"
"Fred and George were great admirers of some of the work I did at school. They took me on free-lance, developing new spells and… applications. Albus, I believe, pestered them to take me on full-time. I wanted a job that didn't feel like charity."
"No pity fucks for you, Lupin? So they gave you the dirtiest job they had?"
Remus smiled distantly. "When they asked what position I preferred… I oughtn't to have told them quite so honestly, perhaps." He handed me a handkerchief politely, and I wiped the beer off the front of my robes. "I prefer swallowing myself, Severus, not quite so messy."
"So, ah." Horrible mental images suddenly battered my consciousness. "Moody. You and… he's not… is he?"
Remus laughed. "Don't look so horrified. If I got half as much sex as he gets, in half as many positions–and situations–I'd go down on my knees to offer up thanks. He manages to test more products for me than three regular subjects. And he does it all for free."
"Sacrifices for posterity."
"He is constantly vigilant." Remus made a lewd face.
I snort. "So who's Moody doing his research with?"
He gives me a look of offended propriety. As if I will ever believe him capable of being the proper gentleman! "I can't tell you that. It'd be a violation of trust."
"Of course you can tell me-who am I likely to gossip with? Man or woman?"
"Severus! It's confidential!" But if there's anything that the werewolf hates it's not doing what his friends want. Now–does he consider me a friend enough to do what he always did with Potter and Black? Next to antagonizing the werewolf, playing mindgames with him is my second favorite sport.
"Someone I know?"
"Yes… in a sense…." It's working–he's hooked now, knowing it's wrong but not wanting to deny me, to risk angering me. And I think that he knows that I know. But I am not inclined to be merciful. So… who would make Lupin squirm in that way?
"A student?" I can tell by his wince that I'm right, or close enough. "But of age, I assume, since you approve."
"I didn't say I approve-"
"Ah, but you gave your approval for the research, did you not?" I lean back and steeple my fingers, and Lupin gives a sharp laugh.
"The game is afoot, is it, Severus?" He pushes himself up, hardly swaying. Can werewolves get drunk? "I'll see you in the morning." He looked down at me, considering his words. "I enjoyed talking with you."
"If you're going to be staying here, you might as well be useful. Be in the lab by eight and you can take notes."
He widens his eyes in mock pleasure. "Can I really?" Then he sighed, and his face looked merely tired. "Right. I'll see you then. Good night, Severus."
By nature I am not a morning person. I find it hard to allow others to sleep in when I must be awake; with Moody, this is not a problem. He Apparated in shortly after dawn, and we took a whirlwind tour of Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley, collecting all the supplies I could foresee myself needing over the summer in Grimmauld Place. Moody was able to give me a good deal of practical advice regarding pain, and we finalized the plan for the tests to be administered. He kept me company over a No. 1 cauldron of black coffee with tales from the Aurors' army he had pulled together-Dumbledore has yet to forgive him completely for spiriting away so many promising students of age (although most of the ones who left were troublemakers-it has made my life much easier).
When Lupin had not appeared in the lab by eight, I was more than a little annoyed. I waved my wand and created a Knock-Up, and sent it bounding up the stairs. Moody chuckled from behind the "Quibbler".
"You're a cruel man, Mr. Snape." Moody's magical eye rolled upwards. "When I send a Knock-Up," he said conversationally, "I find that gentle taps on the shoulder usually work." He winced and shut his good eye. "Yours is more like a Bludger." We heard a muffled shout from above, the sounds of glass and china breaking, and a horrible wet squelch. "Ah–he's got his wand now, this should be good, he's forcing it into the wardrobe-" Plaster and dust ghosted down from the ceiling and the house wobbled a bit with the explosion. "Not subtle, are you, Snape?"
"He's awake, isn't he?" Moody didn't need to answer: we both heard the soft tread on the stairs that went past the lab door and down again. "Where's the prat going?"
"Laundry." Moody's eye rolled over and focused on me. A minute later Remus appeared, in a clean robe that was too long for him, looking both grim and apologetic–a feat of the facial muscles possible only because all of his expressions were apologetic. I'm sure he looks repentant even when he comes, not that I am going to think about that.
"My clothes exploded. I'm borrowing a robe–hope you don't mind if it's yours." He stood at an angle, pointedly not looking at me but keeping me in his peripheral vision. One of his eyes was blackened and the skin around it split, but even as I watched the contusion was fading.
Moody waved one hand dismissively. "You'll know it's mine if you feel a burning, constricting sensation in your throat and strong genital itching."
Remus looked alarmed. "Not yet."
"Then it's probably a Weasley one. Check for hairs–they shed worse than cats." Remus snickered. Obviously this was another private joke.
I stared pointedly at the clock. "Shall we get started–you've wasted a good quarter of an hour as it is."
Remus chewed and swallowed whatever retort had been on the tip of his tongue. "Coffee, please, Alastor." He took the cup with both hands and perched gingerly on the wobbly stool. "No chance of breakfast?"
"It's more… aesthetically pleasing… to take the potion on an empty stomach." I set one vial in front of Moody and one in front of myself, and hand the quill and parchment to Remus. "Take notes."
"You don't want to test my reaction to that stuff?"
I nearly laughed. "With your metabolism, I doubt the effects would last long enough to test. Besides, it's a moot point–if the Dark Lord is going to torture any werewolves, he's going to be torturing you. I can take notes then."
I had to wonder if Miss Granger had gotten to Remus with some horrible Muggle bestseller-'Confound Your Enemies with Implacable Calm and Lose 5 Kilos!'-but it was certainly not as much fun to dig at him as it normally was. He didn't even put on his nobly-suffering-oppression face, or his slight smile of sainthood. He simply looked as if it were beneath him to care. As if I were beneath him. Damn it, I wanted to get under his skin. I wanted to make him snarl and remember which one of us was the beast.
Remus muttered to the quill and it stood expectantly on the parchment. He sipped his coffee and nodded once, sharply. "Let's begin then, date and time please-" (the quill moved across the parchment)-"Subject names: Severus Snape, Alastor Moody, age; height; weight; sexual orientation; last known address; Quidditch team supported; medical conditions; annual income; blood pressure and pulse; allergies; last good book read. Am I missing anything?"
Moody peered over at the parchment. "Here now, boy, I'm not that old, put down 45. And I'll have you know I'm completely cured now." He read on and snickered. "Is he really?"
"The quill does not lie." They both looked at me thoughtfully. Remus' face being an open book, I caught the moment his thoughts turned to self-preservation. He continued, "Subjects will consume one vial each of the potion, effects to be recorded. Bottoms up."
The potion tasted like nothing going down. It was only when it settled in the stomach that the body got that sensation of something gone terribly wrong (hence the tactical advantage of an empty stomach.) It hit like a drop of ink in a glass of water; for a few seconds it retained its own bright presence, and then in the blink of an eye it stained my entire brain with red-hot blinding pain, finger-chewing, tongue-biting agony, merciless and relentless torment. Crucio in a bottle.
Moody and I were old hands at pain. More importantly, we both hated losing control. So we sat opposite each other at the table, if not precisely smiling at each other at least attempting the proper expression of "doesn't bother me, bothers you more, doesn't it?" The trick was to remember that, unlike the true Curse, there were no physical effects; therefore, all movements could be made naturally. It hurt either way, of course, but there was no need to move stiffly or scream. One could put up one's feet and look suave, although that is not the preferred method for dealing with Voldemort.
Remus stretched and nursed his cup of coffee. When it became obvious that the potion had worked (perhaps he gauged this by the cold sweat that broke out on my forehead), Remus stood the quill up from where it had fallen in boredom and started asking his questions.
"For posterity, gentlemen, describe the effects. Alastor?"
"Dead ringer for Crucio, except for not twitching and foaming at the mouth. I want a few litres of this for my students."
"I'm sure Severus will be glad to arrange that for you. The effects, Severus?"
"Hurts like a motherfucker." Not what I meant to say, and Remus smirks, but the quill puts it down anyway. "There is some distortion to mental function but nothing insurmountable. It is much easier to maintain Occulomency."
Remus then put us through the first series of tests (walking a straight line, reciting from memory, doing sums, balancing on one leg, casting simple spells, warding off hexes), checked our pulse rates and body temperature, and took a little too much pleasure taking blood samples and sticking on plasters. At exactly fifteen minutes from the start the potion wore off. I could tell by looking at Moody's face when the pain receded; seconds later a similar expression of relief must have passed over my face.
Remus despelled the quill and smiled brightly at us. "Well, that was a pleasant start to the day. Anyone up for an omelet?"
Moody begged off; in retrospect, he must have had some foreknowledge of Remus' cooking, because the omelet was god-awful. Eggs are not meant to be eaten either undercooked or burnt, and he managed both, with crunchy mushrooms and ketchup. (Although I suppose, for Remus, it's more natural to eat the eggs raw from the henhouse.) I banged off to my lab, leaving him to his own perverted devices.
Speaking of which, Moody had taken another parcel off with him, hadn't he? I occasionally did business with Fred and George. (Hating to bin any flawed potions I developed, I occasionally sold them. I especially enjoyed punishing students for the use of certain Weasley creations I brought into the world.) It seemed a little ungrateful that they'd never asked me to participate in their research and development. Did they just assume I was so pathetically solitary that I wouldn't be able to carry it out? Probably. It certainly seemed to be true that even Alastor Moody had something I didn't. I caught my reflection in the side of a cauldron (a bit warped, but that's par for the course). Well, Severus, I thought (giving myself mental dressings-down being a habit of mine, it keeps me in practice for my students), suck it up because it's not going to change, is it? Who would want to be with you? Any lump in my throat was simply Remus' omelet, come back to haunt me.
I lost myself in my work, and when I came out of my fugue it was afternoon. Moody would be back at teatime, and I resolved to scare up Remus so as not to suffer another delay. Once out of the lab it was only too easy to find him, even without the advantage of Moody's eye. He was being very vocal.
I banged the bathroom door open and poked the wireless with my wand until it gave an apologetic burp and stopped its squawking. Remus peered around the shower curtain, but kept on singing. His hoarse voice was definitely not suited to carrying a tune.
"I get the picture, Lupin. Yes, love changes bloody everything, stop howling about it."
"I like that song, Severus."
"How you can be so– so effervescent without even the advantage of Lightheaded Lollies is beyond me…. Merlin! I don't want to see that, put your clothes on, you hairy beast. No–don't shake–damn it, Lupin. And stop humming. What are you humming?"
He tapped the mirror with his wand and it cleared–ostentatiously to shave, but I saw his eyes flick devilishly to me.
"I-don't know how to loooove him…." The damp towel that hung off his hipbones shifted precariously as he leaned in to shave. (In the middle of the afternoon, lazy bastard–or do werewolves need to shave more often due to, well, being wolves? Not that I know many well-shaven wolves.)
"At least shut your gob when you're shaving, you'll do yourself harm."
He raised his eyes in challenge in the mirror. "What to do, how to mooove him…"
"Yes, yes, yes, you've been had by so many men before, you just don't bloody know what to do, so you whip them all soundly and send them to bed."
He snorted. "Those aren't the lyrics, Severus. I shall have to take you out to karaoke."
"I'll burn in hell before I go anywhere with you."
He wiped the straight razor casually on his towel and set it down on the shelf. "Are you queuing for the shower, by any chance? Don't mind me, go ahead."
"No! It's the middle of the day."
"You could use it, you look all fagged out. And you still want to give it a go again this afternoon?"
"Why do you think I came looking for you?"
He gave me a look that spoke volumes (fortunately, in a language I don't read), turning and leaning one hip against the sink. "You wanted to get more personal than beating me with a Knock-Up?" There was a surge in the ambient magic, hardly enough for a warning, and then with a clap of thunder it was raining in the bathroom. Absolutely pissing it down. Remus laughed and held out his arms, his head going back in pleasure, before making a hasty grab for his towel as it became overwhelmed by gravity.
"I've wondered what you looked like wet." He was incandescently amused. I could have slapped him. "That's what you get for ogling me in the shower." He looked up at me from under lashes dripping with water and smiled.
"Think I'm funny, do you?"
He took two steps forward and pushed the wet hair back from my face. "I think you're dead sexy." He leaned forward and kissed me gently. "Wet or dry." He kissed me again. "But wet is a good look on you." I can feel the warmth of his body, the rub of my nipples against his through my cold wet clothes. I have no point of reference to deal with this. I am terribly and astoundingly aroused and my mind is screaming for blood to wash the feelings away. Remus took a step back, his expression wistful. "I'll just go get dressed and ready, then." He opened the door, was leaving–
"Aren't you going to do something about-" I waved my hand in the rain-"this?"
The look he gave me was of genuine surprise. "It's not mine, Severus. As you like to remind me, I am a werewolf. Losing control can mean death." He shut the door gently behind him. Damn. I can feel myself blushing as I Finite the bloody Incantatem and Banish the water down the drain. The last thing I want is a second adolescence, the first was bad enough, so why did my emotions set off a literal storm? Damn and blast.
I cast drying spells on my clothes and hair and gave myself a good glare in the mirror. I look wild about the eyes and ragged. "What's sexy about that?"
My reflection gives me the once-over. "Well, I think you're a bit of all right."
"You probably said the same thing to Sirius buggering Black."
"He knew better than to talk to mirrors, love. Now brush your hair out and you'll feel worlds better. There. Give us a smile. All right then, don't."
The second Crucio test was more of the same. We tested interactions with common potions, and Remus proved himself handy with a bucket on more than one occasion. It was draining, and I was not surprised when Moody dashed off before Remus could mention which cuisine he intended to mutilate for dinner. If I hadn't felt so wrung out I'd have cooked something myself.
"Severus–I'm going to grab some take-out for dinner. What do you prefer, Thai or fish and chips?"
Brief pause for prayers of thanksgiving. "Thai. Definitely."
He was halfway out the door before I remembered. "Remus-I like it spicy."
The grin he gave me was ear-to-ear. "I will remember that, love." It was full minutes later, when I had the lab tidied up and potions put away for the night, that it sank into my head that he may have taken me wrong.
When Remus called me down to the kitchen he had already gotten supper on the table (the first decent meal so far), he had about twenty of those white cardboard take-out boxes open in a line down the center of the table.
"Are we expecting company?"
He shrugged. "I just asked for one of everything." He handed me a plate and chopsticks. "That way you'd be sure of getting something you liked."
"I'm touched, Remus." And so was he, apparently… in the head. Then again, he did have an appetite, I thought, as he filled his plate enthusiastically.
"I miss this about London, you know. You can get anything you want here."
"The Muggle world doesn't bother you, does it? You're… comfortable, putting on those clothes and going shopping. Talking to people. You're not afraid you'll give yourself away." Like I was, every time I went out, afraid that there was a joke everyone understood except me. Well. I felt that way in the Wizarding world, too. But at least I was able to hex people for laughing at me.
Remus swallowed. "My dad was a Muggle. I grew up as a Muggle. I went to the local primary school before Hogwarts. It's easier for me to be accepted in Muggle society. They don't know what I am."
"How can you hide that you're a werewolf?"
He leaned his head back and narrowed his eyes. "I've used all kinds of lies. Getting medical treatment is always good, or seeing my parole officer, even worshipping the Moon Goddess with Druids, which got me off work on religious grounds, but I had to grow my hair long and wear crystals and gauze and talk about auras, so it wore thin after a while."
"Remus Trelawney, eh? I want to see pictures." And pass them around to Remus' friends and acquaintances.
He snorted. "In your dreams, Snape." Then he cocked his head for a second. "Wait a sec." He tapped his head with his wand for a second, as if he were Disillusioning himself, but instead of disappearing he shimmered and–
"Don't piss yourself laughing, Severus. Shut up. Please. Breathe, or you'll pass out. Steady on. It's pretty dreadful, isn't it?"
I had to close my eyes for a full minute to get myself under control. "Make it go away." I raised my eyelids a fraction, and the horror that was New-Age Druid Remus Lupin was gone. The Remus Lupin I knew and, well, knew was finishing off the kang keow wan straight from the box. "That was worse than the wolf."
His eyes crinkled. "That may be one of the nicest things you've ever said to me. I'm glad to know there's something worse than the wolf."
We finished eating in silence, reducing the feast to three half-empty boxes.
Remus chucked the dishes into a pan of soapy water, set them to washing themselves, and put the rubbish away. He didn't return to his seat, however. He stopped right behind me, out of my sight.
"What are you up to, Lupin?"
His hands settled on my shoulders, which reflexively hunched almost up to my ears. "Seeing if I can reduce some of the tension your potion seems to have induced. Get your hand off your wand and pretend you enjoy it. Most people do, you know." One hand brushed my hair aside while the other applied pressure to the base of my neck. Lupin's hands were dry and radiated warmth. It felt good. I hated for him to be right.
"Are you in the habit of molesting people regularly? In human form, that is." Part of my brain (the part that was screaming) was aware that we had somehow progressed into a kind of flirtation. And I was not pushing Remus away, or hexing him black and blue. It was dizzying.
He chuckled. "Only you. Look, this'd be easier if you'd slip off your robe. It bunches in all the wrong places…. Severus! You are not the man I thought you were. Explain that Chudley Cannons t-shirt and those jeans."
"As you know, Lupin, all my former clothes are currently inhabited by squid. Until I can go shopping–and I hate shopping–I am wearing what the school could provide. In this case, some of Oliver Wood's Mugglewear that he left behind in the Quidditch locker room."
"You're wearing Oliver Wood's clothes? You devil, you. I hope you didn't wash them." Madame Hooch actually cleansed them (and fixed the sizes) before she gave them to me. But I will never tell Lupin how disappointed I was. Never never never.
"Are you trying to set a record for low-mindedness, or are you just naturally coarse?"
"You bring it out in me."
"That hurts, Lupin."
The pressure on my shoulder blades eases. "Sorry–I'm learning how you need to be touched. Don't hunch up like that again. I have a certificate in this, you know."
"Massage therapy." One hand disappears from my back and reappears to slap a wallet down on the table. "It's in there somewhere. Indulge your vulgar curiosity and ignore what I'm doing."
Remus' wallet ought by rights to have fallen to bits years ago–it is cracked and splitting and discoloured. And it holds quite an impressive collection of clobber, obviously using some kind of reducing spell. "It's pathetic for a grown man to keep his OWL results in his wallet. Grow up. Move on. Good lord-you did get a T in Potions!"
"Of course I did. I'm colour-blind, the smells overwhelm me, and I'm allergic to anything silver, including teaspoons and cauldrons. Don't you remember what I did to the poor examiner? The stink, the blood, the boils, howling like a monkey for hours… it's lucky he didn't end up in St. Mungos."
"I didn't know you're colour-blind." Although, with all that I've read on lycanthropes in the past few years, I ought to have guessed. It might explain his wardrobe, but it didn't excuse it.
"It's why I love you, Severus–all I need to know is black and white. Although I think you've done something to your hair. I can't tell blue from purple, but I notice it's not black anymore."
"I don't want to talk about it, Lupin." I flip through more of Lupin's life. "Why do you have licenses for bartending, flower arrangement, and–hah!–dog grooming?"
"Holding down jobs in the Muggle world is how I put money in that wallet. Look down a sec so I can get at the base of your skull. Perfect. Hasn't the poly cert turned up yet?"
"Considering you've kept every bit of paper that's crossed your path for the past 20 years–you've got a bloody dog license here–is that for you or the pure-breed?"
"Look, isn't that it, the blue paper there?"
I fished it out and unfolded it. "Manchester West Public Polytechnic? And it's not even your real name on it." I flipped back and looked at some of the other certificates. "You made these yourself, you flea-bitten mutt."
"Yes, but I'm finished with your back now, so–mischief managed!" The papers folded themselves up neatly and the wallet snapped shut. (In retrospect, this is when I really ought to have realized several things about Remus Lupin, all indicating I should have gotten away fast.) "Accio wallet." Remus tucked it back in his pocket. His hands brushed lightly over my shoulders, as if shooing away dust. "Feel better?"
Yes, it bloody felt marvelous; I'd never felt this light in my life. The thought that his warm and talented hands were going to stop moving over my skin was painful. I could think of other places his hands might go…. I was losing my mind. To a werewolf.
"Mm." I tried to sound disinterested, but judging from Remus' smug expression, I don't think it worked.
"Off to bed with you, then. See you at eight."
I woke up with an unfamiliar feeling of well being–and with bright sunlight streaming across the bed. I am a disciplined person: I have not woken up past six for 20 or so years. But a glance at the clock on the wall showed it to be nearly nine. I fumed as I dressed. No Knock-up had appeared, so either Moody and Lupin hadn't woken either (unlikely), had forgotten entirely (possible), or were smirking to themselves at my decadence and feeling superior (probable). I stalked out of my room and listened. The kitchen. I hoped Moody was eating a hearty breakfast. We were going to work on double doses today.
My footsteps must have been loud enough to alert both of them, but Moody and Lupin still twitched apart from each other as I crossed the kitchen threshold. Lupin looked the way he did after transformation, grey and sickly, but he gave me a wide smile. Moody merely looked paranoid, his eye sweeping the corridor behind me before returning to watch the fireplace.
"Morning, Severus." Lupin pushed himself up with a bit too much effort and went to chip me out some coffee. "Here–it's been on the stove a few hours, but there's still some kick in it."
The liquid was… viscous. I set it down carefully on the table. "Decided to do some research without me this morning?" They both looked a little too guilty–I hadn't meant it; it was just spite, but apparently it was true. I raised an eyebrow. "Well, well. I don't see any suspicious parcels today–was it a practicum?"
"We had a few things to talk about," Remus said with forced ease. "Not my research–Moody's run into a bit of a snag–"
"Debilitating disease? Jealous husband?"
Moody rolled his eyes at me. The magical one did a full spin. "Cute, Snape," he growled. "It's a bit worse than that."
"–so we've taken the house off the Floo network for a few hours, and dropped hints that we've fled the country, though I expect that'll be useless in the end."
"Does Dumbledore know you're illegally tampering with the Floo?"
"What he doesn't find out won't hurt you." Moody sucked on his coffee. "It's your potion that buggered us, after all." Well, what a disturbing mental image that was.
Remus looked–what else?–apologetic. "We thought, since you haven't tried it on a female subject, that if we could find one it would be useful data."
"You gave the Crucio potion to your girlfriend." Please, I would like to know, someone enlighten me: what possible appeal does Alastor Moody have that I don't?
Moody shrugged. "She's familiar enough with the original curse, believe me. It seemed reasonable."
"But it all went a bit wahoonie-shaped." Remus was chewing absently on his coffee grounds.
"It's what the damn stuff does." Moody glared at me. "She had to call her mum."
"Oh-ho. Do not blame your lover's quarrels on me. Any idiot who tests torture potions on his lover deserves death by mother in spades." Both Lupin and Moody wince at this. "While we're playing true confessions, Lupin, you're looking a little under the weather this morning. How light were your fingers when you were getting a dose for Lolita?" He flushed, but took the empty vials from his pocket silently. "Three for you, one for her?" He nodded. "Did it occur to either of you daft buggers that what you were doing was wrong? Well, I ought to have expected it from you, Lupin, but not Moody." I sighed: Remus had gone completely chalk white. He looked as if he were about to cry. "I don't suppose you even bothered to take notes."
Moody looked from Remus to me, and back again. "Of course we did."
I held out my hand, and he dropped in two rolls of parchment. I didn't want the data. It was like finding a lost kitten and getting stuck having to bathe, feed, and de-worm the damn thing. I glanced at the first roll. No name on it, of course. "She's only 18? And you're not 45 by any stretch, Moody. Couldn't you have settled for her mum?" I let the parchment roll itself up and set it aside. I especially didn't want to think about Remus and those three vials. I might have mistaken my feelings for protectiveness, except what would be the point? His own body ripped itself to pieces once a month; how could you protect a person like that? It was just that he could look so fragile sometimes…. I glanced up and found his eyes on me, amused. Mocking.
I unrolled it and read. "One dose every half an hour. But the duration was shorter?"
Remus nodded. "And variable-seven minutes, then four, then thirteen."
"How do you know how it compares to Crucio?"
"Moody gave me a refresher course before we started. I think we Silenced the library well enough–didn't give you nightmares, did you?"
"I always have nightmares." Except for this morning, when I apparently slept through Remus experiencing the worst pain that can be inflicted upon a living soul. Funny old world we live in.
"I had forgotten how similar Crucio is to transformation. The potion is a very good facsimile. But you were right–it doesn't work well on werewolves."
"Of course I was right. I am often right. I'm just not nice about it."
"I don't expect you to sugar-coat things for me, Severus."
"I'm certainly not going to start now." I sighed and sat down. "Well, the morning isn't quite a dead loss, but I think we'd better hold off testing until the afternoon. Pass the Weetabix, will you?"
It was one of those days when nothing could go right. Moody buggered off to see his girlfriend. Remus got an urgent owl and rushed out of the house in the middle of tidying up the breakfast things. Probably some sex spell gone terribly wrong, or some magical sex toy stuck up an orifice and refusing to come out. Perhaps he was modeling the latest line of leather corsets for their catalog. Did the Weasleys make him perform house calls? I was amusing myself thinking these thoughts (if satisfaction was guaranteed, did Remus have to bring off disgruntled customers?) when another owl came from Moody (the Floo, apparently, was still down–I wondered where Remus had picked up that questionable skill). Moody was very sorry, but he had gone into hiding until things blew over. He warned me to be careful. Drama queens, the lot of them. I had the only sane head in the house, and I'd be glad when everyone did clear off for good. How I had put up with these interruptions so far baffled me.
I reminded myself that I had conducted my research professionally and alone up until now. I skipped lunch and set out my testing schedule, my automatic quill (unlike Remus, I can afford to buy a decent one complete with spell-checker and hex-finder) and parchment, and at precisely one o'clock I swallowed two vials, one after another. The question was: did this act as one 30-minute dose, or did it double the effect over 15 minutes?
After ten minutes, I was forced to consider the possibility of a third option, that a double dose behaved in new and unexpected ways. The pain continued to build steadily, and I found myself pacing the room, hunched over, and reciting potion formulas to keep my mind focused.
After 20 minutes I was ready to concede that solo testing may have been an error in judgment. My vision was blurring and I was wracked with dry heaves every time the pain ratcheted up. Breathing was like swallowing fire. I could feel my hair and nails growing, and it was not pleasant.
After 30 minutes I was forced to stop the quill from taking notes, as I found myself only capable of making squeaky involuntary noises. It hurt to move, but it hurt more to stop.
After 40 minutes, I believe I passed out. The last thing I remember was the illusion of staring deeply into my own eyes, which were dark like a tunnel from which no light returned.
Consciousness came wandering back slowly, having met up with dizziness and dislocation and arranged for a threesome. I was lying down and warm, and someone was patting my chest in rhythm with words that made no sense–'bathing machines' and 'whiskers', 'thimbles' and 'railway shares'. I opened my eyes to see Remus Lupin looking down at me with an indefinable expression.
"That was entertaining, Severus."
"How long?" I said, my voice whittled down to a croak.
"Since I found you and laid your twitching self out on the library sofa? All of Jabberwocky and into the Hunt-about 20 minutes. Don't worry, I've been taking notes, I always was a terrible swot and I'm sure this'll be on the exam. Your own notes seemed a bit spotty. 'Screamed. Whimpered. Screamed some more.'" He put down the book he'd been reading to me and brushed the hair back from my face. I realized then that my head was cushioned on his lap (and a bony lap it was, too), and that rightfully I ought to have been hexing him for taking liberties… and impertinence… and breathing the same air… but I couldn't muster the energy or the will. I blamed it on the after-effects of the potion. Remus took my pulse and set my hand down gently. "No more today, all right? You must be knackered and I don't think I could stand any more excitement."
"No." I swung my legs off the sofa and sat up. I felt like an egg–beaten and scrambled–and my body missed Lupin's warmth like a hunger. But he had already hopped up and was rattling dishes on the other side of the room.
"Let's have some lunch." He returned with a tray bearing a pitcher and glasses, and the ubiquitous bread and cheese.
"You need to learn how to cook, Lupin."
He looked surprised. "Do you want me to make something for you?"
"I'd rather you didn't. But I'll do dinner. Cheese sarnies are getting old."
He finished his first sandwich and built a second. "I've been living off CalorieMate bikkies for the past few weeks."
"Ah. In the place where it is not summer."
"Yes." He brushed crumbs from his shirt back onto the tray. "In the place where it is not summer, the wizard on the go always packs cases of CalorieMate in both fruit and cheese flavours. It might ruin my palate for good, do you think?"
"The least of your problems."
He poured me a tall glass of iced lemon tea. "Here's to CalorieMate, then." He tapped his glass against mine and drank deeply. "You scared the hell out of me. I came home and you were on the floor." His eyes are nearly as dark as his tea. I wondered, absurdly, if chameleon-like they were always the colour of what he is drinking. I will buy him melon sodas, I thought, and acerola juice. "I have to leave tomorrow. Now I'll be worried that you'll do something stupid when you're all alone."
"Oh, thank you, Lupin. You don't see me clucking over you like a dragon with one egg. That's because I recognize that the nature of our jobs is intrinsically dangerous. Think of what would happen if I didn't have anything to give the Dark Lord at the end of vacation."
"I hate to think of you going to him. Being in the same room as Voldemort."
"As long as I keep my head I get to keep my head. That's why I'm working on this. I'm not a masochist."
"A survivalist, perhaps?"
"Exactly. And what are you?"
He gave me a twisted smile. "I am an opportunist, Severus. And this may be my last opportunity." He picked a slice of bread apart absently, and I wanted to snatch it out of his hands. "I am of course prepared–I knew this request would come. I have written a will and quit my job. If all goes well I might be allowed back in Britain after the war. Hopefully not to Azkaban, that would be a let-down." He shrugged.
"So why are you hanging around Grimmaud Place? Surely there are places you'd rather be?" The Burrow, Hogwarts, Honeyduke's.
"I am where I want to me. I am with whom I want to be."
"Maudlin does not become you."
He finished his tea. "I wish I could be who you wanted," he said quietly–or perhaps he didn't (my head was still spinning widdershins). He stood in one fluid movement and cleared away the tray. "I have to go out again, but I'll be back for supper. Will you promise me not to do any more testing today?"
"I'd sooner swallow a hedgehog."
He grinned. "Were you serious about cooking dinner, or shall I buy more take-out?"
"Save your money. I'm a good cook. Better than you, at any rate."
"Doesn't take much." He leaned over and kissed the middle of my forehead. "See you later then."
Remus was quiet as we made supper (by we, I mean that I occasionally gave him a simple job to do–simple being relative: the man couldn't even peel a potato). When I shooed him away during the actual cooking (I was not sure that he knew how to use a stove properly), he disappeared into the cellars and emerged triumphant with two grimy bottles of expensive white wine.
"Look! I'd forgotten–I transfigured these to keep them away from Sirius. They've been down there disguised as rotting rats and dead spiders."
"Thank you for turning my stomach."
He set out two teacups and started extracting a cork.
"There are proper wine goblets in this house, Lupin. The Blacks must have been entertaining, at one point. Here."
He took a step back. "Set yours on the table and I'll fill it up, but I'm fine with a teacup."
It's only after I have mentally cursed him for being a stubborn git that I realize the goblets are silver. Well. I do not apologize. But. "Is it that bad, silver?"
He popped the cork, looking satisfied. "It itches like the devil. Prolonged exposure burns. The advantage to the teacup is that it holds half as much as your goblet. Once we get into the drinking games I'll be able to get you really drunk."
"Is that our agenda?" I set the plates on the table and Lupin sat down, eager as ever. Quite the gourmand, he is.
"Cheers, Severus." We clunk our mismatched vessels and drink. Excellent wine for a dead rat. And for a dead dog. I was glad that Sirius hadn't been able to waste it on his bender.
The meal passed quickly and companionably. I found it too easy to forget that Lupin has a brain under his graying mop of hair. His view of our wizard's war was darker than that of most of the Order, believing that the entire social fabric of our world was unraveling-had already unraveled-and that if the Death Eater agenda was carried out it would lead to the extermination of all non-human sentients.
"We have been given a vision of a future that includes us in the mainstream, as equals to humans. Abandon that? Go back to persecution and enslavement? Humans would live just fine under Voldemort-not happily perhaps, and with a certain attrition rate, but-we have our lives at stake."
"Does Albus know you're harboring these delusions?"
He snorted. "Albus has been forced to realize that being inhuman gives me certain… advantages. He always liked to think of me as just a boy with an unfortunate disease. Now? I'm his tool. And a shiny, sharp one at that."
"I always thought he'd lock you in a library somewhere, put your brain to work. Not this… flitting about. Not using you as a pawn."
"Well, Severus, we can't all be knights."
It was my turn to express derision. "I am hardly-"
"You are exactly. You move precisely according to your own rules, not in a straight line but definitely following your principles. I am a pawn because I have no principles. I take orders. Off you go into the mountains, Lupin, they say, and off I go, faster than you can say chupacabra." His words are starting to slur-yes, apparently werewolves can get drunk. I didn't know how to respond–accept the complement graciously or throw it back in his face? Speak in kind, refute his bitterness? So I fell back on habit: the habit being, when in doubt, insult the werewolf. But I had to admit my heart wasn't in it. Disturbing.
"Hazardous, the life of an itinerant sex-toy salesman."
"It is indeed." He looked down into his teacup broodingly, then held it out to me unsteadily. "Top me off, would you?"
"I thought you were trying to get me drunk."
"How about I get drunk and you top me anyway?"
I do it just to shut his dirty mouth up. "If you're as oversexed as you keep suggestively suggesting, why do you need to make other people do your research?"
Lupin laughed. "There simply aren't enough gay werewolves to make it profitable. Client base of one in the UK, I think. I am unique."
"Thank god for that."
"You don't scare me. Your snark is worse than your bite!"
"How would you know, Lupin?"
He shut his eyes for a second, and then quoted from memory. "I engage with the Snark, every night after dark, in a dreamy delirious fight: I serve it with greens–" (here he gestured with a string bean)–"in those shadowy scenes, and I use it for striking a light." And he ate the bean with pornographic relish.
"Etymologically–" (I felt smug satisfaction at being able to say that in my normal drawl, quite unlike Lupin's slurring speech)–"the two snarks are unrelated."
"Snark me, Snape." He looked at me through narrowed eyes, although the tension around his mouth was undoubtedly repressed laughter.
"In your dreams, Lupin."
"Have you always been this perverted or is it a result of proximity to Weasleys?"
"You know Molly'd never hesitate to Scourgify her kids in a second if they were this rude."
I had been wondering whether Lupin was trying to get me drunk and in bed; now I wondered if he was trying to drink himself the courage to try. I wouldn't make it easy on him. But the idea was not… reprehensible. Unfortunately, the gods have a twisted sense of humour, and the Devil's name, once spoken, summons.
Molly Weasley appeared in the fireplace and Remus jumped up out of his chair, looking as if Voldemort had turned up for tea in suspenders and a bra. Molly was a human Howler, red from head to toe and loud from the second she appeared.
"Remus Lupin, what have you done to my daughter?" She threw a familiar brown parcel at his feet, where it lay, vibrating frantically and bouncing.
Remus backed up against the table. "Evening, Molly. Did I miss the start of our conversation?"
"You sick- twisted- bastard. I will rip your head off your shoulders and use it as a Bludger, and I'll feed your worthless body to Buckbeak!" She had stalked up to Remus, so that he had to lean back to avoid bumping noses, and she punctuated her words with sharp jabs of her wand. The spots she poked smoked.
"Molly. Ginny is a legal adult. She can Apparate. She can choose to fight Voldemort. And she can certainly choose her own lover." His calm manner, unfortunately, was not contagious. In fact, he might as well have stuck his wand in naphtha and said Incendio. Yellow and red sparks flashed out of Molly's wand, and Remus hurriedly batted out the smoldering fires in his hair and clothes.
"She is a little girl. You–what kind of a perverted teacher are you?"
Remus' jaw set and he straightened as far as he was able. "I'm no kind of teacher at all. Ask Professor Snape, here. Your boys currently employ me, Molly, to conduct research, and yes, Ginny was helping, but." He ran one hand through his hair, combing it back in frustration. Burnt hanks of hair fell around him. "Of all the things Moody teaches her, as a parent I can't see why you object to a good orgasm over learning to kill!" Molly's hand flashed out, and the force of the blow snapped Remus' head to the side. "Or maybe you'd rather it were a pimply 17-year-old instead of someone your own age?" He was in full lecture mode, ignoring the blood that dripped from his mouth. "Do you think people your age shouldn't have sex?"
"Not with my baby girl!"
Three things happened in the next instant. Molly raised her wand and hissed, "Imperio!" Moody had trained her as well, and she performed an excellent Unforgivable. Remus' face froze, wiped blank. It was impossible to tell what Molly was forcing on him, or how well he was resisting. Almost simultaneously, a cloud of soot heralded the arrival of Arthur Weasley, similarly red and distraught, and the twins, looking as if they expected Filch to string them up by their nose hair (perhaps preferable to dealing with Molly, actually). And I was off the sidelines and into the game now. I had been propelled to my feet by adrenaline at the sound of the curse, wand in my hand and my classroom persona assumed. I spoke just slightly above a whisper, but the words stilled the room.
"Release him, Molly. You have no right."
Arthur's eyes darted between Molly and myself, his eyes widening when he realized what Molly had done. Fred and George moved forward as a unit and pulled her back, away from Remus, who–of course–did not move at all until Molly muttered a grudging Finite. Then he sagged back with that sick and wounded look that Imperio causes.
"Mum–this is embarrassing. We told you–"
"If you're looking for a scapegoat, woman, what's wrong with us?"
"Exactly! Blame George!"
"Boys." After nearly seven years of acquaintance, they filled in the blanks nicely by themselves–"Shut up and shove off."
"Now that everyone's acting like six-year-olds, let's play show and tell, shall we? You–when did you last get laid?" I waved my wand in the direction of the nearest twin.
George blinked. "Monday?"
"No, it was Tuesday, you git."
I pointed to Fred. "You?"
"Last week sometime. I was at this club–" I cut him off with a twitch of the hand.
"And you, Molly? Your libido is rather famous, after all. This morning? Last night?"
"None of your business!" I keep my wand at the ready and lowered my voice still further.
"Everyone knows that sweet William wasn't a honeymoon gift. How far along were you at graduation, Molly? Four months, was it?" Oh, dear-Maths must not have been a good subject with Fred and George. They looked Bludgered. I look pointedly at them. "The troublemaker genes in your lot aren't Arthur's. Did you ever even sleep in the dorm seventh year? And considering Arthur graduated what-two years? three?-before you, I think it is our business. Do you want Ginny to learn from your mistakes? Or do you want to deny her what you had?"
"Snape." Arthur was white around the lips. "You go too far."
"I haven't had sex in seventeen years! And in case you haven't noticed, the world is ending and I may never have sex again! So let Ginny get what happiness she can while she still can and everyone who's been laid in the past year can Get. Out. Of. This. House." I glared at Remus.
"1984," he said helpfully. "June."
"Right. Clear off, the lot of you. Go forth and fornicate. Remus and I are going to continue to get drunk. Here–" I threw back the bag Molly had brought, and it humped violently in her arms. "Your sons make them, they ought to be good. Have fun."
I poured myself a gobletful of wine, concentrating on making my hands steady. I drank but didn't taste it at all as the kitchen suddenly de-Weasleyed in a flash of coloured flame. I set the goblet on the table and then allowed my hands to shake with reaction. I risked a glance at Remus.
He had slid down the wall to the floor, his head in his arms on his knees, his shoulders shaking. I thought for one horrified moment that he was crying, and I touched his shoulder tentatively. He looked up at me and I realized, no, he was laughing, so hard that tears were running down his face.
"Molly's face!" he wheezed. "Fred, George… counting!" He pulled me down to his level and threw one arm across my shoulders conspiratorially. "Oh, Severus, we are in so much trouble!"
I am not by nature amused easily, but for the second time in as many days laughter overwhelmed me. I could blame it on the alcohol, or a reaction to stress, but mostly I blamed it on the werewolf. He was having a most unsettling effect on my personality. I found myself doubled over, my stomach muscles protesting the hilarity. I don't know how long we laughed together, but I had finally gotten myself under control when Remus said, his hoarse voice cracking, "Cancel our Christmas sweaters!"
"We'll probably get matching knitted nooses." And we were off again.
When we recovered the next time we were panting heavily and wrapped in each other's arms. Remus pulled the bottom of his shirt up and scrubbed at his face, and then thoughtfully did mine as well. He was still grinning madly, and I put a finger over his mouth when he opened it.
"No more. I'm in pain as it is."
His hand went unerringly to my stomach and rubbed lazy circles. "You're beautiful when you laugh." If I'd never been called sexy before, I'd certainly never been called beautiful. Nor have I ever wanted to hear it. So why did my heart skip sideways at his soft words? Perhaps it was simply the distraction of his hand still circling on my stomach. He leaned forward and bumped his forehead against mine, looking me in the eyes the way children do to see the illusion of two eyes merging into one. "Yes, you've a lovely glower too, in that frisson-of-danger way. I'm afraid it's been directed my way long enough that it's losing its power, though. May I kiss you, Severus?"
"Nothing stopped you before."
He smiled. "Ah, but those were stolen kisses and could be written off as cheekiness. Right now–" his voice dropped–"here with you in my arms, I think kissing you'd jump from cheekiness to foreplay pretty fast. So if that's not what you want, well–we could drink cocoa. Or whatever."
"I don't have much experience… with sex."
"Well," Remus said, "I will be glad to assist you in any research you care to conduct. I myself would like an in-depth study of your mouth."
He leaned forward and pressed his mouth to mine, gently, then traced my lips with the tip of his tongue, opening and then diving into my mouth. His tongue explored my teeth, my palate, my tongue, and I found myself returning the kiss with similar enthusiasm. When we broke for air, he smiled.
"Funny–you don't taste sarcastic."
He shook his head. "Not bitter, either. You taste–" he leaned in to kiss me again. "Perfect."
"That was my first kiss. Where I kissed back." Damn. I didn't mean to say that. "I don't want to do it wrong." There it was, all my insecurity handed over in a gift-wrapped package. Remus' hand moved to the small of my back. Pity? "I don't want your pity."
"Pity is not the operative emotion here, Severus. It's pretty much one hundred percent undiluted lust. I love the way you kiss. I plan on collecting more data, but–perhaps we should move off the kitchen floor? I have a bed."
"Mine's on the first floor."
He pushed himself up using the wall and pulled me up. We were both rather unsteady, all things considered. With every step on the stairs I expected him to change his mind, to say it was a joke–Sirius Black would rise from the dead just to laugh. At least then I could kill him personally. But Remus took me in his arms and kissed me again on the threshold of the door before propelling me bodily towards the bed, removing my robe as we went.
"I have to warn you, Severus, that I find sex to be an innately hilarious act. I enjoy it, but it's not sacred. I get far too many people wanting mystic communion with a Creature of the Dark. I don't go there."
"Good." Remus is sitting behind me, reaching around me to pull off my shirt. "Most–"all–"of my sexual experience was for, ah, sex magic."
Remus' hands stilled. "What's that like?"
"It's all very… choreographed. The, ah, positions. Who can do what to whom. Runes painted in blood. People watch."
"That sounds excruciating."
"Some people find it a turn on." I didn't. Unfortunately, that had never been a problem.
"Probably the same kind of people who want to mate with a werewolf for life."
I tried and failed to stifle a snort. "Probably."
"I thought sex magic was het. And for virgins."
"It's the penetrative aspect that carries the power. The violation."
"Merlin. How did you stand it?"
"Lie back and think of God and England?"
"Prat." He leaned forward and brushed the hair up from my neck with one hand as his mouth came down.
"So what happened in June of 1984?"
He paused in gnawing at my collarbone. "Quidditch Cup. Gryffindor. Bit of a celebration. Staunch supporters of the team."
"Quidditch is a turn-on for you?"
"It is a metaphor. For life. For sex." His mouth was doing interesting things to my neck, and his hands were stroking my nipples. "Seeking, chasing, keeping. And beating, of course. I'll explain it to you as we go along." He pulled me backwards onto the bed and looked down into my face. "Do I scare you?"
"Only your rather odd tendency to intellectualize sports when you have me half-naked in bed."
He smiled, and tension ran out of him. "I don't want to scare you." He kissed me again, and I found myself gasping air from his lungs as he stroked me through my shorts. "These have got to go. I always did wonder what you had on under your robes. It's been one surprise after another."
"It's summer." My shorts disappeared over the edge of the bed. "I'm not sure this is fair."
Remus grinned down at me. "What, that you're starkers and I'm not?"
I gave him a classroom glare (guaranteed to make first years cry). "Remove those garments, Mr. Lupin, or I will dock you points."
He boggled a bit. "Good lord, that's frighteningly arousing. But–I have no desire for detention tonight, so." He stripped efficiently and bent to lick first one nipple, then the other. His tongue slid further down, traversing a particularly ticklish part of my stomach, circling my navel, and then tracing a path from the base of my cock up, before taking me in his mouth. My world narrowed to just that warm pleasure, and my body reacted out of my control, my hips thrusting up and a strangled sound coming from my mouth. I could feel Remus smile around my cock, as he sucked and his tongue prowled. My breath caught in my throat, and he flicked his eyes to my face. The glance made me feel like prey in the hands of a predator, and it sent such a rush of feeling that I groaned, though I bit my lip in time to keep some of it back.
"Good god, Remus!" I tugged at his hair. "I don't want to come yet."
He released me and looked up with a lecherous grin. "What do you want to do, then?"
"I want to make love with you."
Remus kissed me, and I tasted myself on his tongue and in his mouth-perhaps one of the most sensual experiences of my life. When he spoke, his voice was hoarser than usual. "Do you want to play Chaser or Keeper? I'm easy either way."
Damned useful sports metaphors. "Oh, Chaser, definitely."
He grinned. "That figures. But I have to warn you–I'm a lousy Keeper. The Quaffle always gets by me."
"Hang on." He somehow rolled himself under me, and I somehow ended up on top, staring down at him, my hands on either side of his head. "Your spells or mine?"
"I think you have the advantage of experience."
He snorted, then narrowed his eyes in concentration as he spoke a rapid string of charms. His breathing grew ragged. "Right, then. Enough damned wandless magic." He reached down and guided me to his opening. I pushed, just enough to enter him, and oh gods, it was good.
"Tell me if I hurt you."
Remus glared at me through narrowed eyes and I felt a tingle of building magic. "Accio," he whispered, and I was pulled in tight, buried deep within him.
"That is the idea, Severus," he said, his breath catching as I pulled back and thrust hard.
"You're arse at Keeper."
"Told you." Lupin braced his feet and raised his hips to meet my thrusts. I shifted, and he cried out, his back arching.
I smirked down at him. "I think we've found the golden snitch."
His fingernails dug into my back, his breathing erratic. "Another 150 to Slytherin. If you do that again."
I did not count, exactly, but Gryffindor was losing by several thousand points when Remus came, shouting my name, his head thrown back and his feet scrabbling for purchase. He wrapped his legs around my hips as I continued to move in him, and I was so close, balancing for an immeasurably long second between frustration and release; and then I was exploding into Remus, my head falling forward as great long shudders ran through me, shaking from head to toe. This was the Electrifying Draught, I thought dizzily, this was what I had been looking for.
I kissed Remus, tasting his sweat and mine, tangling my fingers in his hair and tracing the lines of his face. I could see myself reflected in his eyes. There was the wonder of it all: I was in him, and he in me. I liked to think that he had the same revelation. When the kiss broke, reluctantly, he smiled up at me lazily.
"I love you like mad. Does that scare you?"
All the cautious little voices in my head were drowned out by his words. "No."
His smile broadened. "I could use a shower. Care to join me this time?"
And I did.
We ended up returning to Remus' room, neither feeling inclined to sleep. He obligingly indulged my curiosity in the contents of his suitcases, and we conducted some impromptu research, which led to yet another shower. Hunger reared its head around then, and we went downstairs to the library for what Remus called midnight tea (cheese and bread with digestive biscuits and milk). I sat on the sofa and he curled up at my feet with his head on my knee.
"I'm sure two men nearly 40 aren't supposed to do this."
"Or quite so many times." (Discarded somewhere in Remus' room was a luridly coloured box labeled Up All Night. This had featured prominently in our research.) "Or in quite so many ways."
"You're not falling asleep on me, are you?"
Remus glanced slowly up. "I'm happy."
"I'm glad." And I was. "Let's go to bed."
"Tell me a bedtime story."
"Something with a big bad wolf?"
"No–no wolves. No wolves, no morals, no princess, and no happily-ever-after."
"Yet another first in my life." Remus' eyes were still on me. He pleaded very well. Years of experience begging scraps from the table, I'd imagine. I sighed. "Fine. This is the story of the Potions Master, the Potion that Did the Wrong Thing, and the Boy with the Mimbletonia." His eyes widened.
"I don't know this one."
"No-one knows this one. And if I ever find out that it has gone beyond these walls…."
He raised his hand and traced an X over his heart. "Sworn to secrecy."
By the time I got to the part where Longbottom was milking the Stinksap into vials, he was lying doubled up on the floor, laughing so hard that tears were running down his face and his breath came and went in a gasping wheeze. Tormenting him like this could grow into a new hobby of mine.
"Are you quite all right, Lupin?"
In response he grinned up at me, his wet eyes shining and radiant, his hands pressed against his stomach. "God, I love you, Severus. I'll never be able to look Neville in the eyes again. Come and lie here on the floor with me and I'll do unspeakable things to you."
"Again? I think I am far too old to roll about on the floor with a werewolf, thank you."
He moved with unnatural speed, sitting up and scooting forward so that his hands went around my waist. "Come here, decrepit one."
"You're trying to lower me to your level, but I refuse to bite, Lupin."
He looked at me through narrowed eyes, and then pulled me forwards off the couch on top of himself, rolling over so that he sat astride me.
"There–now you're at my level. Don't be shy about biting."
It was another hour or so before we finally did get to sleep.
I woke up to find Remus watching me, a small faraway smile on his face. I have never woken up with someone in my bed before. It was a disturbingly naked feeling, as if in the light suddenly all the events of the night had to be judged. As if what had felt right and good could suddenly be seen to have been foolish. Or misguided.
When Remus noticed me looking, he leaned forward and brushed a kiss across my lips.
"Morning, love." He was dressed and–I looked–packed as well.
"Yes. I'll go down and make breakfast. Come and join me?"
"Don't cook anything. And remember what I said about coffee filters?"
He stroked my hair. "Worrywart. No one can ruin coffee. Not even me."
The light went out behind his smile. "I don't have much time. And I want to talk to you." He slid off the bed and picked up his bags. "See you downstairs."
I followed the smell of burning toast to the kitchen. Remus set my coffee in front of me and sat down across the table. He was behind his wall of reserve again. I sipped Remus's truly dreadful coffee and watch him. He twitched. "You might as well spill the beans, Lupin. What's wrong?" It was harder than usual to maintain my aloof tone, and I felt a growing sense of wrongness far down in my brain, like something important I had forgotten.
He took a small package out of his pocket and set it on the table. "We use these at Weasley's–they're All-Clears. Simply key one to the spell or potion being used and stick it on your skin. When the color has faded from red back to white that indicates the spell has worn off." He waved his wand negligently, and a bright spot of color appeared on the back of my hand. "I Disillusioned it. Sorry." He looked for a second at the patch. "Red, right? So the potion is still in your system. But you're not in any pain. I don't think you even realize the potion is still affecting you. The effect seems to be cumulative as well," he added as an afterthought.
"What are you saying it does?" I felt as if I'd been hit by a Sulking Hex.
"Well, you seem to have noticed the obvious. The pain really is very well done–I was impressed, and I'm rather a connoisseur. But I think, if you had had a more… well-balanced… group of test subjects, the secondary effect would have stood out."
He laid a stack of notes on the table. "Day one–engages in pleasant conversation with known werewolf. Day two–after first session, repressed emotions affect ambient magic; after the second, open to both emotional and physical contact. Day three–skipped morning trial and normal personality began to reappear, but after double dose–and too much wine, I admit–passionate snogging and other intimacies ensued. With known werewolf." His mouth twisted. "That thing's not faded completely to white in the four days I've been checking. I had Alastor Moody crying on my shoulder yesterday morning. After testing the potion myself I certainly could have returned the favor. Do you see why Moody's afraid of the stuff? He thinks giving Voldemort a potion that induces excruciating pain and an intense longing to be comforted was not quite the thing."
"What longing to be comforted? I never–. Oh. Oh, fuck."
Lupin gave me one of his wolfish smiles. "You have hated me for over 20 years. You despise me as a werewolf. You consider me a coward and a liar and didn't flinch from calling me a traitor to be handed over to the dementors a mere 3 years ago. My sexuality enrages you to the point of violence. We are polite to each other because otherwise we'd resort to violence. That's what our relationship has been. Up to a few days ago."
I look at his notes because it's far less painful than looking at him. "Thorough research, Lupin."
He snorted, pushing himself up to pace the room. "I know! I wish I were an ethical person; I really do sometimes." He ran his hands through his hair. "It's a damned good thing I'm leaving Britain for good because you're going to want to flay me alive once it's worn off. You do understand the temptation was too much for me? I'm going into exile. I expect I shan't ever return. And everything I ever wanted I could take–and gods help me, you'd give." He looked at me, his eyes dark. "It makes you needy, Severus, it swings you from horrible pain to a thirst for comfort. It made you need even me, and I so wanted to be needed by you. But the need is an illusion, as much as the pain is. So I do hope you don't give that stuff to Voldemort. It's not safe." His voice ran down, and he repeated hoarsely, "It's not safe."
"Moody figured it out?"
"Alastor Moody may be a paranoid bastard with a list of sexual kinks that frightens even me, but he's not an emotional cripple. He had his suspicions. Ginny confirmed them. I metabolized it faster but yes, even werewolves find themselves flooded with the need for loving comfort."
"Too bad for emotionally crippled Severus Snape, then."
Lupin sat down across from me, his expression pained. "Don't say that about yourself. You aren't incapable of feeling, any more than I'm incapable of seeing. You just never learned to decipher your emotions. You probably couldn't have described 'needy' any better than I can describe 'green.'"
"Well, thanks to the Remus Lupin crash-course in emotional intelligence I feel completely enlightened now."
His hands were knotted on the table, and I got the feeling that he was restraining himself. And gods help me, I wanted him to touch me as much as he did. But never again.
"I've been trying for years now to get you interested and was well pleased with myself to have finally reached the stage where you could greet me civilly… some of the time. It took me 3 days to get you into bed with that potion."
"When did you ever try to get me interested?"
"Invitation to the All-Britain Lycanthropes' Ball?"
"I was busy."
"Tickets to Lord of the Rings?"
"Orlando Bloom… bothers me."
"Me, too–that's the point! I tried to get you to play chess–"
"I'd just win anyway–"
"You must be mad."
"Round the twist."
"–and Murder in the Dark, which I thought might've had some appeal. I brought you rare books–"
"You nicked them from the National Library and I had to pay the fines when I took them back."
"–herbs and bones and toxins and disgusting bodily fluids of unspeakable beasts–"
"Those were rather useful."
"–I sent you a case of beer for your birthday!"
I frowned. "That was you? I thought it was Albus."
"By that point I thought my courtship was getting a little too farcical. I binned the card I'd meant to send with it." He sighed. "The one true thing in all this mess is that I love you, I have loved you for years."
"Funny way to show it, Lupin."
"I admit I had been running out of ideas. Coercion hadn't crossed my mind." He looked at my hand. The All-Clear was fading gradually to pink. "You're sounding more like yourself now."
"Pity, isn't it? Don't look so nervous, you're a wolf, not a rabbit. Fear does not become you."
"No? I find it keeps me alive."
"And is your life so worth living?"
He looked at me, his face open and honest–although the past few days have demonstrated exactly how much deception he can perpetrate from behind that open and honest face. Think of the power I could have had, if I'd possessed such a countenance. Ironic, really.
"No. But I hope my sacrifices makes up for something." And with that he picked up his traveling cases and nodded pleasantly. "Take care of yourself, Severus." And he walked down the hallway and out the door, and was gone before I could collect myself to curse him properly.
I ended up giving Voldemort the Feathering Draught. With a few tweaks it made an adequate form of, well, not quite torture, but elaborate discomfort. The Dark Lord was disappointed in me yet again. You'd really think he'd get over it sometime.
Lupin has gone off the map. Dumbledore called me in and demanded to know what I'd done to the man. Impertinence! There ought to be a way to dock points from the headmaster, especially considering that he has effectively disbanded my House. It seems to have become a permanent squiddery. Why couldn't I have been born into a world where people demanded to know what had been done to me?
Or, what I had done to myself. I still have the Crucio potion, all vialed up and nowhere to go. Was the Severus Snape who took it that much different from the man I am now? From the man I was three months ago? Have I changed myself irrevocably? I rather think I have. But it is always easier to accuse another. When in doubt, blame the werewolf.
Remus, you insufferable twit, wherever you are, you had better make it back alive so I can hex your sweet arse into next week.