Title: Even the Moon
Beta-Reader: none. sorry. evil of me, but this is just a "testing testing" post to see if I can work LJ
Disclaimer: I own nothing, JKR everything else
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: hard R for a few naughty bits in the last few paragraphs
Genre/s: Angst, Slash
Warning/s: verbal repression
Summary and Author's Note: I started a story which divorced. The humorous beginning I took out and tweaked into the story R&D (Master and the Wolf Fourth Wave, Challenge #78). I realized that the Snape/Lupin pair I had in the remainder were not the same guys but hating to kill all that typing, I tried making a story out of the angsty ending. The plot bunnies here were extrapolating "pity sugar makes it ineffective" and getting in the head of a character whose verbal expression and thoughts are at a terrible angle to each other. This is not beta'd: I'd love concrit.
Nani mo kamo sutete oide
Anata dake tsurete oide
Tsuki sae mo nemuru yoru ni
(Throw it all away and come to me
Bring only yourself and come to me
On the night when even the moon sleeps)
The Boom "Tsuki sae mo nemuru yoru ni"
Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about my relationship with the werewolf. What is howlingly funny to me is how wrong they all are. Most everybody makes the mistake of assuming that because Remus is a pleasant and gentle person to be around he is emotionally vulnerable and in need of protection.
And that because I am not….
Our new Professor Potter even cornered me in the hallway and threatened me with violence if I hurt him. I must confess to missing being able to take points from Gryffindor for his damned cheek.
What they don’t know is that it is his strength that makes me love him best.
When we moved into this house, for example. I brought with me my private library, enough equipment to set up a working laboratory, and the private effects one does tend to collect in a lifetime. He brought a box of pots and dishes and one suitcase. When I remarked that, for 40 years of life, this was very little to show, he replied that with the possessions he had and his own resources he had the means to obtain anything he wanted. (And then, of course, proceeded to read through my books.)
It has always been unspoken between us that our relationship is a day-by-day affair of convenience. During the war that was sensible. Now I sometimes find myself, when out shopping, half-unconsciously looking for the perfect gift, something with the presence and weight to hold him down, to keep him here. With me. Yes, I do know how pathetic that sounds, and I restrain myself admirably. The amusement in his eyes when I have given him things in the past was painful enough. Sometimes I think I should never have given him my heart. I know, that like all my other gifts, he will leave it when he goes.
He is very secretive. I say this, who spied for both sides in the war, who wore the Dark Mark until that day when it burned itself out under my skin (leaving the Large Charred Mark, which faded to the Horrible Scar Mark). I do not know what he does for work. Or perhaps I should say, for money. He made it clear that he would not be supported by me (considering my salary, a good thing). He does something out in the Muggle world somewhere, and every month a new pile of money, lots of pretty Muggle paper, appears in our bank vault. I have asked him point-blank what he does; he gave me a raised-eyebrow look of surprise. “Why ever would that interest you?” I have my pride as well; I do not beg. I suppose I should feel guilty for driving him out of his last paying job in the wizarding world, but he does not blame and I do not apologize. We have both done unforgivable things which we do not acknowledge (we do not acknowledge the past, in principle), and daily we practice an elaborate dance of avoidance.
Remus’ biggest secret is his transformation into the werewolf. The popular theory (and why do people have such curiosity about the details of our lives?) is that I am there to hold his hand (or paw), ease the troubled brow with sweet balm, and generally make a fuss. Some think that he becomes no more than a giant lapdog to curl up at my feet. Well. I wouldn’t know.
He has a room. For most of the month it is spotlessly empty. Once a month he enters: a day later he exits. The room is spelled so that no sound escapes. No werewolf could, either. He made it clear to me that there would be no compromises. He would take no chances with the lives of others. I admit to finding his caution to demonstrate a touching concern for my safety, although it could be purely selfishness on his part. Waking up to find that you have consumed your lover would most likely be traumatic. I make him his potion every month. I like to fancy that he curls up on the floor, in the moonlight, and sleeps. What the truth is, I do not know.
Which is why I stand here, now, before his door, with trepidation. I know he may be most unforgiving of a breach of his privacy. Would it be enough to make him take his suitcase and move on? I don’t know that, either. But he has never been in his room for longer than 18 hours (my sense of time being accurate to the second) and it is now midnight of the second evening.
Over the years I have had much time to study the defenses he built to keep the wolf in. (And he was a good DADA teacher: of course he knows full well how to hold a Dark creature.) The spells are similar to those we maintained around Hogwarts. Anti-Apparition spells prevent entry. Yet portkeys may be used, I think, and I take out the unregistered one I keep prepared. There is a lurch and a spin and I am in the dark.
“Lumos,” I say. In the thin yellow wand-light, I see him lying on the floor, which is sticky and dark with blood. I don’t have his finely developed sense of smell, but it makes my nose twitch anyway. I have a fair idea of how much blood a person can lose and still live. This is cutting it close. I can feel his pulse; he is breathing. His admirably inhuman metabolism at work. I open the door, easier than the tedious undoing of the room’s wards, and send for the St. Mungo’s Emergency Apparation Unit. I cast the spells to make the room warm and clean (after 15 years of teaching elementary potions, cleaning up disasters is now second nature. First nature, of course, being the urge to knock thick heads together.)
I have some experience as a healer (elementary potions again) but this is beyond me. He appears to have tried to gut himself, his chest cavity a mass of ragged claw marks. His arms have been gnawed down to the bone in places. Even unconscious, his face is twisted in agony. I stroke his hair while I wait. It seems ages before they come, though the clock in my head tells me that it is barely 3 minutes. They show up all efficiency and take him out of my hands. They give me the coordinates and are gone.
In the hospital I have the dubious honor of representing Remus at the receiving desk. The helpful girl there gives me the forms to fill out and asks me what my relationship is to him: relative? colleague? I am not ashamed of what we are, but I protect my privacy too, largely centered on keeping my profession of teaching children. Dumbledore has always maintained a solid ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. But I am asked, so I lean across the desk and tell her, with the glare I reserve especially for my NEWT-level students.
“He is my lover.”
She looks down and speaks to the forms on her desk. It seems ‘friends’ are not allowed in as visitors. I keep my hand on the quill steady and keep writing. It is easier than thinking. And if I think I will do something that will get me forcibly removed from the hospital. So: name, address, prior medical conditions, insurance, family history. Height and weight. I write and wait. I am on the fourth page (history of lycanthropy) when Dumbledore appears.
The front of his robe is buttoned wrong: I can see his pajamas underneath. He is, mercifully, unaccompanied by Potter. He hugs me, briefly, and releases me when I do not respond. I never do; but he will insist on the contact anyway; that is why I sent for him tonight. That perhaps I have a right to assume that he is the other person who can love me.
I have not seen Remus now for an hour. As I hand over the forms and explain to Dumbledore it becomes harder to ignore the passing of time. Dumbledore disappears into the office, and I try to avoid looking around at all the other people in their various stages of waiting, pacing, or slumping hopelessly on the hard benches. Dumbledore reappears and steers me to the stairs. Apparently I ought to have said Remus was my test subject; researchers will certainly be allowed access. I’ve no idea how the world came to be run by fools.
Remus is not dead. Two healers still work over him, but the gaping ruin of his chest now has a nice medical order to it. More scars to add to his collection. His arms are swathed in bandages. The blood has been washed off his face and hands. One of the healers, a thin fellow with dark shadows under his eyes, breaks away to talk to me.
There is not much to tell him that is not on Form 4. I promise him a sample of the Wolfsbane potion. Remus takes a potion stronger than average. He avoids asking the glaring questions, but I won’t make it easier for him. I make him ask.
Why had Remus lain on that floor, fighting exsanguination, in pain, for nearly a day?
I explain about our arrangement, about his need for privacy.
I can’t prove that self-injury hasn’t occurred recently. He heals fast. And some damage doesn’t scar.
Perhaps the potion has worn off early before and he just never told me.
We go over it all once, twice, and then a third time. My sloppy research method disappoints. False pretenses, I think, but I have no desire to be thrown out of the room.
The sun is coming up.
Dumbledore is talking; I watch his mouth move, but the words escape me. He waves his wand and the dreadful chintz sofa from his office appears. He makes me lie down and tucks a blanket around me. I want to tell him that there is no way I will sleep, but my eyes are already closing.
I snap awake. Despite the curtains being pulled the room is bright and cheery, albeit in an institutional way. On the bed Remus is shifting. As a Legilimens I can sometimes feel his mind, although I would never violate it. He is there now, at the edge of my consciousness. I sit up, creaking. I am too old to sleep comfortably on a short, overstuffed sofa—what was Dumbledore thinking?
“Remus?” I touch his hair. Brown has lost to silver. He sometimes threatens to change it back, and I always reply that he is more than welcome, as a middle-aged man, to make a pathetic and laughable grasp for lost youth. Silver looks… good on him. Look at Dumbledore. Would he be so well-respected if he’d kept his hair its original Weasley red?
After a minute or so Remus opens his eyes, squinting against the light. I imagine it is the painkiller potion that has dilated his pupils.
“Severus?” He speaks with hardly enough breath to make a whisper.
“You’re in the hospital. There was an accident.”
He makes an effort to focus on me. A survey: head, 2 arms, 2 legs….
“No, you idiot, you attacked yourself.”
I kneel down on the floor so we are at eye level. I don’t want to intimidate him, and I have made an art of menacing intimidation too long not to menace unconsciously when looking down on someone. I don’t know where I can touch without hurting, so I go back to stroking his hair. “You lost a lot of blood. And you’re going to have some new scars. The healers are going to make you lie there for a while, until you’re better.”
“Severus.” He looks up at the ceiling. “Monster in me, Severus. I want it out.” He lets out a breath that might be a sigh and his eyes close. I rest my forehead against his shoulder, feeling his warmth and the hardness of bone. The monster is woven into these bones and this flesh, Remus, and only your death will set it free. I’d rather have the monster.
He is alive and conscious, and I have classes that must be taught, students who must be prepared for OWLs and NEWTs, Quidditch games to referee. I am sure it would be petty to mention that other staff get at least a full week off for honeymoons or to see their babies being born. Dumbledore lets me move back into the dungeon, although I spend most nights at the hospital, returning in time for the first classes. Of the staff, no-one knows what to say so they say nothing. The students are unnerved that my temper is never curbed; it will be good for them. Life is not easy, and there’s no sense pretending otherwise.
Two weeks pass. I arrive at the hospital hungry and late after extra-long Quidditch practice for the important game on Saturday. He is gone, checked out, and I must waste time talking to his healer, who thinks it is dangerous for him to undergo the transformation this month outside of the hospital. I agree; we discussed it, Remus and I had an understanding, and now I have nothing. I escape and go home, for the first time in days. Everything is horribly dusty. He is not there. His suitcase is, but that is no comfort at all. I always thought he would take nothing. Next I check the dungeon. No.
I go and wait for Dumbledore to finish a meeting with the House heads, avoiding the chintz sofa. When I am finally admitted to his office, after receiving odd glances from Sinistra and Potter, Dumbledore’s expectant look is the last straw. So. Remus hasn’t told him, either. I have to put my head down on his desk to get myself under control. Dumbledore at least has the good sense not to touch me. I would have gone into hysterics. He instead rattles around, making tea. When I finally look up he is busy crocheting a lace border around a red silk handkerchief. Or perhaps it is a thong.
“Remus is gone.”
He sets his crochet aside. “Gone, Severus?”
“He left the hospital. He is not at home, or at Hogwarts. I do not know—“ I have to stop and force my voice under control—“I do not know where he is.”
Dumbledore picks up his tea, warming his hands on the cup. He looks his age tonight. I wonder how many crises have paraded past him in this room over the years. “I am glad that you and Remus are happy together. It is about time, for both of you.” He sighs, drinks, sets the cup down. “But I think… if you will allow me a Granger moment… he has defined himself for most of his life by the denial and control of his compulsions, both human and wolf. I am not sure even he knows where to make that distinction. If he now thinks he cannot control the transformation, he may feel the need to sacrifice much to regain what he has lost. In short, he is being a Gryffindor idiot. I can find out where he has gone, but if I betray his confidence to you he will trust neither of us. Will you wait for him to contact you? Or have you a message?”
I study the tips of my boots. “No. No message.” Amazing, really, that five minutes in Dumbledore’s office can reduce me to a sulking adolescent all over again.
The days line up and pass by; one month, then another, then exams are upon us and summer vacation stretches, vast and empty. Remus’ third transformation since he injured himself so badly. I make the Wolfsbane potion each time and have it delivered to Dumbledore. I keep busy: I say yes to any request, even chaperoning dance parties, and have been able to collapse into sleep each night, sometimes even making it as far as the bed, and rise before the dawn, and repeat the pattern the next day.
Tonight I walk back up the hill from the cottage I still think of as Hagrid’s, despite the fact that Harry has lived there long enough to father 2 children. Luna is a very restful woman: where others are solicitously nervous around me, she carries on as always, as if she sees another world through her pale eyes. It feels good to relax, although I have trouble thinking of former students as friends or confidants, and I imagine that it is hard, and awkward, for them to imagine their teachers having human lives. My mind always slips away from the idea of Dumbledore in a passionate embrace; I can see that Harry feels the same about me (and doubly so, considering how close he is to Remus). But with the release of tension I have lost the impetus to ignore my exhaustion. My feet are not steady on the hill. I find that I cannot recall the names of the students who will be meeting me before breakfast to review for their NEWTs, much less prepare my materials. I give up; I will wake an hour earlier instead. I drop my robes on the floor and fall into bed. There is something odd about the headboard. It takes me a minute of staring to realize that there is an owl perched there. I drag myself up again, and take the message tied to its leg.
I light the nightstand candles and unroll the parchment there on the bed. It is not a long letter; it does not say anything by way of explanation. Instead he just gives a time and apparition co-ordinates. Come to me, he writes. No part of me even considers ignoring the summons. When I wake the next morning, the owl is gone, and my face is lined from sleeping on Remus’ letter. I scare my students in new and different ways with the manic energy that courses through me. I tell Dumbledore I am going; he does me the courtesy of not asking who will teach the last week of my classes. I don’t really care. I pack my bag, carefully, for I do not know where I am going, nor for how long. I put on Muggle clothes, for Remus says that he is living as a Muggle. And I wait. Remus knows I hate Apparating blind: it was a tool and technique of Voldemort. But when the time comes I fix on him in my mind and take the step of faith.
“Hello, Severus.” The look Remus gives me is critical. Personal appearance has always been a non-issue with me, so long as I am upright and dressed. One would think that Remus, who spent years wearing near-rags, would be lenient. But as he looks at me in the odd and exposing Muggle clothes, he seems to be quietly amused.
“You look like a starving poet,” he says finally. One hand pulls the waist of my jeans out, revealing a sizeable gap. “If you want to complete the ensemble, I could get you some string to hold these up.”
Somehow, I suspect that it would be damning to reveal that I needed to charm the jeans to keep them from slipping over my hips. Remus’ hand moves to my waist, and I know that this silence is where I should make some response; but I can’t talk; the words are literally not there. I know that Remus is aware, to some degree, of my frustration. What it says to him, my silence, I don’t know. What he imagines in the privacy of his head has always been a rich source of terror for me.
I raise one hand to touch the side of his face: it is an apology and as close as I ever come to a prayer. How can this be me, I wonder, that reaching out for comfort comes easier than words? But I know the answer: words that are not weapons are a threat. I lean in to kiss him.
The physical memory of him is overwhelming: these teeth, lips, this tongue; this taste and smell; the roughness of stubble and the softness of hair. There is still an awkward distance between us. I wonder if he can sense my fear that I will drive him away with my too-naked need. Or by its denial. Or, really, that he has come to his senses about me and this relationship, whatever that relationship is now.
Whatever it is, I will take what I can get for as long as I can.
He pulls back. “Truly, you must not be eating, Severus. I wouldn’t have thought you could get any skinnier.”
“I’ve been busy.”
“Well, you’re cooking dinner tonight, so no excuses.”
I smile; I can’t help myself. “Is that what I came halfway around the world for, to make you dinner?”
“Among other things.” He gestures around the room with his free hand. “Thought you might like to see how your other half lives.”
“Can’t go native much more than a furnished bachelor flat,” I agree. It is the kind of unfortunate room that results from the partitioning of an old house into four or five bed-sitters. The front bay window faces out onto a wide porch, screened from the road by a fierce hedgerow. Perhaps in former days it was a parlor or dining room: the ceiling is high and the wallpaper a faded floral velvet. Next to the door is an efficiency kitchenette: sink, gas ring, and miniature refrigerator. The furnishings are pure jumble sale. A folding table with two chairs, a chest of drawers faced with orange plastic, and a dingy blue sofa, probably the uncomfortable sort that folds out into a bed made entirely of springs. There are a few books and a laptop computer that I recognize as Remus’. “A bit dismal, don’t you think?”
He shrugs. “It’s not permanent.” He tightens the arm around my waist and leans in for another kiss. Almost immediately his phone rings. He pulls back, his face apologetic, but he is already yanking the phone from his pocket and grabbing pen and paper as he answers. I cross to his bookshelf, but no matter how hard I try to distract myself I can’t help listening to his conversation. I envy him for being able to use a cell phone; the things cannot operate in Hogwarts. I would have liked to hear his voice these past few months.
“Severus.” He rakes a hand through his hair, looking at me with frustration. “I’ve got to go—someone I need to talk to is leaving the country tomorrow.” He is throwing things into a bag as he speaks. “Talk about bad timing.”
“Give me the keys and I’ll do the shopping for dinner. You will be back for dinner?”
Because I know him well I can see the subtle release of tension. “It shouldn’t take more than a few hours. We can walk down to the high street together, I have to get the bus.…” He throws the bag over his shoulder and crosses to me, puts his hands on my cheeks and kisses me very sweetly. He rests his forehead against mine. “I’ve missed you.” He looks as if there is more he wants to say, but he steps back and away, and then we are out the door and down the steps; by the time we reach the sidewalk we are walking companionably with an arms-length of distance between us.
“This is the front door key, this to my room. Here’s 50 dollars, for shopping.” Ah, we are in Canada, then. Nice to know that English will get me by. He gestures down the road with one hand. “Shops are that way. Bank, library.” A bus bound for the university is waiting at the light; Remus heads up the opposite way, half-running to the bus stop. The light changes; the bus turns, stops; he boards and is gone.
I turn down the high street. Far off in the distance mountains rise high and jagged. Here on the plain it is flat, with roads set out like a grid. The town is small: a university town, perhaps a satellite of a larger city.
I put the keys and money into my wallet. I have no idea how much 50 dollars will buy. Perversely, I am warm and amused. The sun is still high—this is, after all, summer in the north—and it is a beautiful day. I have no classes. I go shopping.
I am finishing the shrimp curry and rolling out the chapaati (Remus has no rolling pin, of course, but a tin of soup doubles in a pinch) when there is a knock at the window. The room is Silenced and Remus has fixed the window so that outsiders can’t see in, but he gives me a cheery wave anyhow. I go out to let him in, nodding to the two elderly ladies who sit primly on the sofa in the front hall. I am sure that they play a wicked gossip game.
“How’d the meeting go?”
Remus sighs. “Like pulling teeth.” He pushes the door open and pauses. “This is my room, isn’t it?”
“You may enjoy squalor. I do not.” I rescue my curry, set it on the table, and begin frying the chapaatis in Remus’ skillet. Remus shuts the door, smiling that smile of his that could mean amusement, or impending attack. “There’s wine in the fridge.” I haven’t made that many changes: two cheap pieces of cloth to cover the table and the unfortunate chest of drawers, candles instead of the dreadful fluorescent strip on the ceiling. I found my music still on Remus’ hard drive, and I have The Boom on.
“Are you sure that J-pop goes with Indian food?… Ah, and a Californian wine.”
“Of course it goes. Or are you so enamored of the Muggle lifestyle that you’d prefer Britney Spears and Chicken McNuggets?” When Remus undertook to educate me in Muggle ways, there was an unfortunate incident involving McNuggets that he would do well to remember.
“Gods forbid.” He rinses out two plastic cups and pours for both of us. “This is nice. I gather you had no problems getting around town.”
I turn the last chapaati over the gas flame so that it puffs. “Your grocery is an atrocity. Like a convenience store with cheap clothing for tourists. But there’s an ethnic market down past the bakery that’s quite reasonable. Mrs. Basu made that chutney herself. She enjoyed being able to speak Bengali. She told me how to find the farmer’s market, and thus, vegetables.” This is perhaps not the time to mention that we will be having zucchini for every meal over the next few days. Providing I am here for the next few days. Chapaatis done, I reheat the dhal. If one must live as a Muggle, three burners on a range should be the minimum.
Remus gives me an odd look from his seat at the table, where he has been uncovering dishes. “Indulge me. I don’t recall that you speak Bengali.”
“Not since my gran died. My father did not approve.” He had lived in fear of being different from his mates. The one time I slipped up and called him “baba” in public instead of “dad” he hexed me down a flight of stairs and refused to let my mother mend the broken bones for 3 days. “My gran taught me to cook. And how to look out for myself.” Most Muggles would have known her for a witch on sight: she’d as soon curse you as look at you. My father killed her years before Voldemort rose to power. If she’d still been alive I might not have needed him.
“Is that why you cook curries as a comfort food? I always thought it was because it was as potion-like as food gets.” He waves a hand at the collection of spices and herbs I have amassed. “At least the way you do it.”
I hadn’t realized I had a comfort food. “I think you’ve got that backwards. The curries came before the potions.” But it was gran who, after I’d mastered the cuisine at age seven, proceeded to teach me how to brew pain, death, and destruction. And I loved every minute of it, loved the challenge of never knowing when the poison would turn up in my supper. Well. Dhal into two bowls. “Voila.” I turn down the music.
Remus waits for me to sit, then raises his cup to me. “Cheers.”
“Cheers.” The horrid clunk of plastic makes me smile. “Your grocery did have a wide selection of alcohol. I assume it’s a local form of entertainment?”
“But by no means the only one. I shall take you out bowling sometime.”
I help myself to rice, curry, raita, and chutney; Remus follows suit. The dishes surely came from some thrift-shop box: while they match, the floral motif is unpleasant. I don’t know why all these little things grate on me so much, except that they add up to Remus making a life in which I play no part. Remove one Potions Master; replace with orange furniture and chipped dishes and plastic wine glasses? Not without a fight.
We eat in silence for a while. I am hungry, ravenous, for the first time in months (admittedly, it is the first time in months that I have sat before anything appetizing). We can be comfortable together, saying nothing, until our plates are clean. I sit back, satiated.
Remus pours more wine for both of us. “That was brilliant.”
“There is no excuse for cooking bad food.” Or for eating off these dishes.
He snorts and leans forward, putting his elbows on the table and resting his chin on his hands. “I am sorry I ran away from you the way I did.”
“You’d have preferred a different way of running away?” We flinch together. Sometimes I honestly have no control over the malicious things that I say. “Sorry.”
He nods. “I needed to find out what was wrong with me, and what it meant for the future.” His look is challenging. “I did not plan on living this long, after all.”
“Nor did I.” Funny to think that we made it through that fire, more or less intact. It was never love that brought us together in the dark days of war. When we had sex it was a reflection of the war, full of the hurt and anger and rage we felt for each other, for everything spiraling down into nightmare; an attempt to grab control in a world that killed friends, burned cities, crippled children, that made us helpless. And now here we sit, opposite each other, we two who have hated each other so well, when others who seemed more worthy of the happily-ever-after lie rotting in their graves. We still cannot talk about the important things with each other. Having reached a truce, having agreed tacitly not to insult and attack each other, we have not yet figured out how to share our thoughts, how to trust. How to breach the walls. I’m sure that to an outsider our conversations must sound like the social equivalent of a baby’s first toddling steps.
“The university here is conducting research on—or rather, with—the local werewolf population.” His eyes are intent on my face. “Research on Wolfsbane. I know you’re aware of their work. Verboten and Faxx.” I am slow on the uptake. Of course—Faxx the Canadian.
“Neither of them is a werewolf. I’m sure you would be able to give… valuable insight.”
“Faxx’s wife is a werewolf.” His smile flickers on, off. “I have been in contact with them for several years. They had been keen to meet me—it seems I am one of the oldest beneficiaries of the potion.”
“There are only three other subjects under continuous study for Wolfsbane potion, and the difference in terms of time treated is negligible.”
His eyebrows climb as he looks at me. “I’m a subject under continuous study?”
“Of course you are. When I publish I shall be famous.”
“What a frightening thought…. I shall do a Lockhart and autograph all your journals.”
He looks indecisive for a moment; or just reluctant to pull the conversation back. “The Wolfsbane… wore off. I couldn’t say when it started, but I noticed that I was injuring myself again. But there is no data. Perhaps that happens, I thought. And then I nearly died. Killed myself. It scared me.”
I make one of those small social-lubricant noises that mean nothing. I certainly cannot bring myself to say something. Remus looks at me sharply.
“Yes, I’m sure it scared you, too.” He sighs. “I contacted Faxx and he said, ‘I think I know what it is, how soon can you get here?’ I was in his office ten minutes later. I honestly didn’t think about what I had done until a few days later when I was signing the lease for this place.” He waves his hand vaguely. “By then I’d been told that testing and treatment would take a few months. I thought, it’s only a few months.”
Only a few months of silence and worry. I decide not to say anything snide. “So what have you and Faxx discovered?”
“The university is a Muggle one, so most of his equipment is, too. It gives a different… perspective. But basically, you know the line, ‘pity sugar makes it useless’. Well, that includes +all+ sugars. Including blood sugar. Faxx calls it lycanthropic diabetes. His wife has it too.”
“It only affects those taking Wolfsbane?”
“Possibly. Or it might just be that we are longer-lived. Most werewolves don’t die of age-related disease, after all.” Most werewolves are dead within ten years of being turned. A fact which Remus never discusses but which must bother him as it does me.
“How long has Faxx been treating his wife?”
Remus smiles. “Four years now. He caught her at a very early stage of the disease.”
“And she is stable?”
“A charming woman. You will have to meet her. They have four children,” he adds as an afterthought. Adopted, of course, unless she gave birth before she was turned. Female werewolves cannot carry a child through the change. And I think Remus is bitter….
“And you are the second werewolf taking Wolfsbane to develop this… complication?”
“Third.” Remus shrugs. “There was a man who died.”
I echo his shrug. “So, assuming you fall somewhere between ‘early stages’ and death, what does this mean for you? Secondary complications?” I try to recall what I know about ordinary diabetes.
“Mostly just watching my blood sugar.”
“You probably shouldn’t be drinking wine, then.”
“Only before the full moon. The wolfsbane works best if I have low blood sugar. Preferably a hypoglycemic coma, it seems.” He pauses. “You’re not telling me that I’m being an idiot.”
“You know you’re an idiot. But it’s perfectly normal human reaction.”
Remus bites back the retort on the tip of his tongue. He knows I resent very strongly the idea that Remus is not human. I reserve judgment on ‘perfect’ and ‘normal’.
“Well, this all seems very optimistic.” I finish my wine.
“As far as having another chronic debilitating disease, one with potential neurological and brain damage, yes, I for one am feeling very optimistic.”
“Don’t limit yourself. Don’t define yourself as the sum of your problems.”
“Is that what you think I’m doing?”
Well, that’s an explosive question. Reading between the lines, yes, you were bitten and clawed by your own mortality, crossed the world hoping for a miracle, and are now stuck in a situation you hate, and will hate for the rest of your life. I should stop talking now, but my words have already left. “I’m not going to love you less, and you can’t make me.” Not what I meant to say, and not exactly sober, but true enough. “I’m glad for every day we have together. I want to know that every day to come will be like that. Together.”
Remus is resting his chin in his hand, his fingers barely covering an amused smirk. “Too much wine, Severus. You just propositioned me.”
Burning bridges give off such a romantic glow. “It’s not a proposition, it’s a proposal.”
Remus stills. He lowers his hands to his lap and looks at me, his face falling into shadow. “Are you serious?”
I shrug. “I love you. I want to make a future with you…. We’ve been living together for 3 years now, don’t act surprised.”
“Why do I want to be with you?” He nods, once, his eyes not leaving my face. “Because of the sum total of who you are. Because you know who I am. Because I love the way your mind works. Because you can make me laugh. Because you are fiercely independent. Because of your eyes—“ Remus’ mouth closes on my words, hungrily.
When he pulls away it is to give me a searching look. “If I said no….”
“No desperate unhappiness, Remus, we would go on. Or not.”
“If I said yes—“
“We would go on. With joy. Make something more.” Remus cannot abide the thought of being caged, tagged, owned. I, whose skin and soul are Marked for life by one whom I called master, understand far too well. Remus is breathing out his fear; in the candlelight, his eyes are wide and vulnerable. His hair shines silver: did I mention that I love the way it curls and catches the light?
His lips brush against mine; not a kiss, but a word: “Yes.”
I feel rather than see the smile. “Saying it once is hard enough, you want I should say it again?”
There is no answer to that. I raise my head and we kiss, deep and long and longing. The table is abandoned; a word from Remus and a flick of his wand and the sofa is replaced by a very comfortable bed (“My one luxury—who could sleep on all those springs?”). Our clothing is rapidly shed: we are well practiced. Remus pushes himself up on his hands over me and looks down with a cat-canary smile.
“To have and to hold, Severus?”
“In sickness and in health, till death do us part.” How could we not know the words? For a while it seemed all we did was attend weddings. Harry and Luna, Neville and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, all those other students whose naturally excited hormonal state coupled with the euphoria at the end of the war led to the present baby boom.
“What about for better or for worse? Richer and poorer?” His mouth is moving on me, familiar with my body in a way that is both terrifying and thrilling.
“That too. Not unfamiliar territory.”
He looks up. “So what are we going to do? Have people round for some ceremony?”
“Right now?” I feel his teeth in a delicate place, and I shiver. “What do you want?”
“I want you. In my bed, in my life, in my hands. And I want our friends… to be happy for us.”
“Ambitious,” I say, and regret it immediately. He knows where I am ticklish (what my students would do with that information, may I live never to find out), and that at a time like this a whisper of a touch can make me lose all rationality. But my knowledge of him is just as complete. I can make him forget that he loathes the animal inside—I can bring the two of them together, the man and the wolf. I can induce howls and growls with my hands and tongue. I can bear the fierceness of being claimed, the hard thrusting within me, and the teeth that clamp down hard. That is my talent, and for the space of orgasm and the breathless softness after, we are not three but one, and the words that fail or hide or lie are unnecessary. He is circled in me; I am circled in him.
It is enough. It will be enough. It will suffice.