caligryphy (caligryphy) wrote,
caligryphy
caligryphy

Fic: A Soft Place to Sleep (4/?)

FIC: A Soft Place to Sleep (4/?)
AUTHOR: Calligraphy (Caligryphy@yahoo.com)
RATING: The light edge of Mature. Not graphic yet.
PAIRING: Lupin/Snape.
SUMMARY: Our favorite werewolf gets help in the unlikeliest of places... but is his savior really on his side?
DISCLAIMER: Don't own it, making bits up. Yay!
WARNINGS: AU, half was written pre-HBP, will continue in this vein.

Also posted to Skyehawke.




*****

He sidled over and cleared his throat.

No response.

Remus tried again. "You're at Hogwarts?"

The boy with the long nose and sharp eyes angled his head. It was barely a nod.

"Me, too." Under their feet, the platform rumbled and shook. "I've only been on a train twice before, with my Mum." He laughed. "Aren't you excited?"

The taller boy frowned. "About the train?" he asked softly, still staring at a point in the center of the tracks.

"About school."

"I imagine so," said the tall boy.

"Don't you like school?"

"Go away."

"I'm… oh." He blinked at the other boy. "What did I do?"

"I'm not allowed to speak to your sort." The taller boy finally turned and peered down his nose at Remus. He rolled his eyes. "That means leave. Before my parents return."

"Oh—I'm—oh." Remus shouldered his bag and began wheeling his trunk a ways down the platform. A moment of blind panic passed before he realized the tall boy was not referring to the fact that he was a werewolf, and was probably some snooty rich person who couldn't stand to look at a patched robe.

There were other families waiting with their children. All around was nervous chatter. Remus eventually edged his way near a small group of other boys—not close enough to draw attention away from the one with the sloppy hair and glasses (who seemed to be doing all the talking), but close enough to seem like he belonged somewhere in the throng.

The tall boy stood stiff and straight. After a few moments, a tall man arrived and stood next to him. When the Hogwarts Express arrived, the tall boy didn't so much as turn to wave at his father before he mounted the steps and vanished inside.

"Wicked scars! James, look at this!"

Suddenly the world was filled with the most dazzling smile he'd ever seen.

"Hi! I'm Sirius, this is James, what's your name again? Right, that's Peter—who're you?"

*****

"Lupin. Wake up."

He did, moved more by the awful, familiar smell than anything else. Remus stifled a yawn. He'd never made it to the library, opting instead to stay on the study couch and nap while he digested. He remembered strange snatches of dreams. And one that…

Remus blushed. All that blubbering. Merlin. "That time already, is it?"

Outside, the sun retreated into an orange glow over the horizon. The first of the stars were out. "Don't be so flippant. We are now treading in unfamiliar waters." Severus held out his offering. "This is my best effort. Drink it directly."

The Wolfsbane potion came in a black goblet. As Snape passed it, their fingertips brushed, sending a crackle of sensation up Remus' arm. For a split second, he was twenty-two again, and sitting in one of London's less reputable pubs, accepting a drink from a tall, dark (well, not handsome, but who had room to be choosy) stranger.

Then the smell clocked him in the nose—a stink full of rotting fish and tire fires, a stink worse than the foulest sewer.

"Ugh."

"Drink it, Lupin," Snape snapped. The wizard folded his arms and drummed his toes against the carpet.

He tried to smile. Remus knew he had to stomach the vile concoction—he consciously reminded himself that it would spare him no small amount of pain and misery—but Merlin, would it have been too much to ask to have a little privacy, the chance to frown and cough and hold his nose? "Would you turn around, please?"

"No."

"Oh. …Cheers."

Snape grunted. "It isn't champagne, Lupin. Just drink the bloody potion."

Remus lifted the goblet to his lips. "…Why do you have your wand out?"

"In case something has gone horribly wrong. Drink," he hissed.

Remus smiled and shook his head. No, he thought, twenty-two was ages ago, and never again to return. He swallowed back the urge to retch, held his breath against the vile bouquet, and drained every last drop. He doubled over, gasping and clutching his stomach, fighting the urge to claw the horrid taste out of his mouth, and gratefully released the empty goblet to Snape.

"…Lupin? Lupin. …Are you well?"

Wetness pooled at the corners of his eyes. He looked up at Snape, and wondered if the man had been born wearing that frown. "Fine. Great potion," he said. "Lovely." He squeezed his eyes shut.

"If you've held it down after an hour and a half, I will feed you."

"Feed me." He couldn't see the moon out of the window, but Remus could feel it hovering, tugging at his worn-out body. Severus stood above him, a solid pillar of black glaring down at—certainly not an equal. Not a wizard, not even a person. The werewolf. Remus tried to be grateful. The potion was worth it. Snape's more-or-less goodwill was worth it. "That's okay," he choked out. "You can just leave a bowl of kibble by the door."

Silence.

The heavy weight in his stomach wasn't the potion. "Severus—"

"The dining room does an excellent steak. Though, for some unfathomable reason, it confuses well with medium. I suppose nothing is perfect." Snape's toes tapped against the floor in an arc. "Would you prefer to remain here, or wait upstairs?"

He wanted to ask why Snape was being so nice. "Why don't you wear shoes?"

The tapping ceased. "Surely it doesn't offend your delicate sensibilities, that I go shoeless in my own home?"

Remus shrugged one shoulder. His robe slipped a bit. Snape's eyes darted to the movement, then back. "Just seems odd. Full robes and no shoes."

"It's not often, these days, I'm forced to run to the Forbidden Forest at a moment's notice to rescue straying students."

"Then why the rest of the uniform?"

"My robes are charmed against spillage. Unlike those of us who've been lazing about all day, some of us have been working."

The werewolf felt a jab of anger—and then he watched the corner of Snape's mouth turn up.

Remus blinked. Severus Snape was teasing him. "What if you spill something on your feet?"

"Don't be stupid. Is there anything you require?"

He wiped his eyes. "Glass of water would be nice. Water is still all right, isn't it?"

"Yes, I'll just—" Snape's gaze dropped the edge of the desk nearby, where there now stood a small tray bearing a glass of water—and a vase holding a single yellow tulip.

Remus arched a brow. "How did you manage—"

"I would consider that overkill, thank you!" Snape snapped at a point some six feet above his head.

The werewolf wasn't particularly surprised by his host's sudden outburst. Perhaps he was in shock, Remus thought, and lifted the glass from the tray. Someone is kidnapped and held, there's bound to be some sort of deeper trauma. He should be screaming and falling apart, shouldn't he?

Maybe he was in shock. Maybe he was barely holding together and didn't know it.

Lupin reached deep inside himself… and came out with only the desire that everything stop being so difficult all the time.

Nothing new there.

"Who are you talking to?"

"As I said, the house is helpful. To a fault. Have a care what you say aloud. It tends to be rather literal. And overzealous," Snape announced.

Somewhere in the house, a door slammed.

"I heard that," Snape said.

"Is it sentient?" Remus asked. He'd only ever read of houses that had minds of their own. They were very rare—most houses that seemed to be 'alive' were simply overrun by poltergeists or other magical creatures.

"As a house-elf."

He took a sip. The water was crisp and perfectly chilled. "What's its name?"

"Name?"

"Yes. Doesn't it have a name?"

"It's a house, Lupin."

"But what do you call it?"

Severus' eyes narrowed. "House."

"Well. If Viselkith Manor and Thworpe Hall have names—"

"You don't want to get cozy with the house, Lupin."

"Calling something by its proper name isn't cozy. It's courtesy." He drained the glass and set it on the desk.

Severus sniffed. "Point taken." He turned on his heel. "I will return to fetch y—to bring you to dinner."

"Wait—where are you going?"

"To take a nap. Remus. I was roused rather early." His robes flapped as he moved across the study. "Don't feed him—it could react," Snape thundered at the house. As he went into the hall, the door slammed hard behind him.

"He called me Remus," the werewolf noted. Something like warmth pooled in his stomach, tamping down the nausea.

It would be a very nice thing, to have a friend again. Even an almost-friend. Even Snape.

Wait.

Courtesy—point taken—proper name—"Oh, Merlin—Severus! That wasn't what I meant!" But if his host was still about in the hall, Snape didn't show himself again. Remus frowned.

Out of the corner of his eye, the tulip in the vase began to open, its petals stretching further than they should—and then the tulip opened into a sunflower, the petals shrinking, the center darkening to brown.

He smiled—just a bit—and pulled the quilt close. At least the house liked him.

"What's your name?" he asked.

*****

Severus Snape had very warm hands. They might've been kept under heating charms.

"Thank you," Remus said. The dizziness had abated somewhat, but not so much that he was steady on his feet.

"I've told you—your thanks are not necessary."

"Even so. Thank you." Snape held his elbow long enough for Remus to be seated.

The dining room, filled to capacity, would've been a sight indeed. Stars twinkled outside the long windows. The chandelier glittered with crystal. A full compliment of place-settings, wizards and witches in their finest—it was a bit sad to think about. Severus Snape wasn't the sort for parties, not even small ones. The year Remus taught at Hogwarts, he never even blew out the candles on his staff room birthday cake.

Snape sank stiffly into his chair.

He probably didn't even use the dining room, Remus thought. After another moment, he knew Snape didn't—simply from the way he picked up his napkin and seemed at a loss. "You look… rested."

"I couldn't sleep," said Snape. "I've taken the liberty of ordering your meal."

"Not liver and onions, I hope." Remus lifted the cover from his serving tray the moment it appeared.

It wasn't liver and onions.

"It can be sent back, if it is not to your liking."

"…No, I…" He blinked. "Filet mignon?"

"Oh, is it?" Severus murmured, ducking his head and tucking right in.

"Yes. It is. And asparagus."

"Again, if you don't like it, send it back."

"No—it—it looks excellent." Remus picked up his knife and fork. The silence weighed. "What are we having for dessert," he chuckled, "gold bouillon?"

His attempt to lighten the mood missed the mark. "Cheesecake," said Snape, dissecting his meat.

"…I only meant… I mean. Strange turn for the scholarship boys, don't you think? …If anyone had said to me—you and Severus Snape are going to be sitting around eating filet mignon together—fifteen years ago, I'd have said—not a chance."

"Yes. We should be dead."

Remus gaped. The fact that he himself had thought it did nothing to lessen the shock of hearing the words from Snape. "…Well," he said.

Conversation ground to a halt.

He tried the filet mignon.

And moaned.

Snape's knife slipped and squealed across the surface of his plate. He cleared his throat. "Is there a problem?"

"Severus," Remus exclaimed between mouthfuls, "this is the best piece of beef I've ever eaten." He took another bite. "This may be the best *thing* I've ever eaten."

"Wait for dessert," said Severus. This time he looked up, and gave Remus a small nod.

Though the rest of the meal was quiet, Remus could feel that some rough edge between them had worn away.

Dessert was cheesecake. *Chocolate* cheesecake. "Amazing."

The corner of Severus' mouth turned up.

*****

"Tongue."

"Ith ith ong te beh ah ite-air."

"Didn't catch a word of that." Snape collected his sample and went over to the table.

Remus scraped his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "This is going to be a nightmare. Well. I guess you could say I've been through the nightmare part. I hardly even feel ill any more."

"That's not you, that's potion."

"Still." He sat back against the pillows, refusing to let his good mood be dampened. Full, warm, safe—at some point it had to end, of course—but if a few more days went by where he wasn't quite feeling 'well' enough to be turned out… He smiled at his own foolishness. Snape wasn't likely to humor him. "It's going to be tough after this one. Losing everything isn't new. That's happened before. Many times, actually. But it's one thing to knock in to a new town when you're a young man—then you've got all sorts of believable stories. When you're our age, everyone immediately assumes you've been in prison."

"I have been in prison."

His stomach lurched. "I mean—I just meant that—it's fairly damning—when it comes to a job search."

"Job search?"

"The worst part," he rattled on, arranging the blankets just so under his arms. "It's work schedules that always give me away. That, and well-meaning neighbors."

Severus' chair creaked. "Did Black leave you nothing?"

Remus could hear the scowl in Snape's voice. "Two thousand galleons."

"His holdings. Where did they—"

"Harry."

A snort. "As if Potter needs them."

"I'm glad he got them. I didn't want them."

"You might've sold them."

"I couldn't do that. Could you sell Hodges?" Remus asked.

"What?"

"Your house. Its name is Hodges."

Severus turned to look at him. "How do you know what its name is?"

"I asked. It's Hodges. Could you sell it?"

He went back to his vials and glass plates. "I don't need to."

"But if you had to, you wouldn't. Am I right?"

"If I had to, I would. But I would do my utmost to find an alternative. You've got too much energy, Lupin. This is the last time you sleep all day."

"Sorry. I guess I feel like talking to someone. …It's been a while." Remus studied the sharp movements of Snape's fingers. It was very likely the man wanted him to shut up. "No. If I'd been given Grimmauld Price, then I'd have to stay there. I'd be shackled to it. There are pris—cages—and then there are cages. And then there's Hodges," he said brightly. Under his back, the pillows fluffed. "Thank you, Hodges."

"I'm telling you. Don't encourage it."

"Nothing wrong with being nice to your home, Severus."

"Replace 'home' with 'house elf'. Do you begin to see the danger?"

Remus thought. "Should I?"

"Yes."

"I'm always polite to house elves."

"You're polite to everyone." Snape shook his head. "Terrible fault."

"Well," he bristled. "We can't all rely on brilliance alone."

Severus didn't respond. He bent over the table, hooking his ankles behind the front legs of the chair. While the tops of his feet were white as the carpet, his soles were a leathery pink-brown. His long toes were curled in, their tips resting against the floor.

Remus imagined Severus balancing on his toes like a ballet dancer. Could Snape dance? Aside from a forced turn around the Hogwarts floor with Minerva, of course. It was difficult to imagine Severus in a wizarding club, even the more conservative kind. "Severus, do you dance—"

"We've made progress, you'll be relieved to know."

"Oh." Was he relieved? Not especially—but then, he wasn't particularly worried, at the moment. Maybe he'd feel up to mustering some relief tomorrow. "Well done. Thank you."

"Your gratitude is unnecessary. For the eight-thousandth time," Snape snapped. His wand clattered against the table.

Remus watched with some concern as Severus raked fingers through his greasy hair. "…What's so unforgivable about a thank you?"

"It is undeserved."

"You saved my life."

Severus laughed—it wasn't so much a laugh, really, as a bark. He rubbed his eyes. "I need to sleep. If you require anything—water, tea—the house, I'm sure, will supply you. Felicity?"

The painting stirred. She'd been dozing in the grass. "What?"

"Keep an eye out."

"Oh, fine," she muttered, and sank back down.

Snape whirled. "I don't have to remind you that the simplest of foods may cause a severe reaction—"

"I promise not to make any midnight excursions to the dining room. Scout's honor," Remus added, when his host seemed dubious.

Snape paused, then nodded. "See that you don't. I'll check on you again in a few hours. Good evening, Lupin."

"Good night, Severus," he returned. "Sleep well."

"Not likely," mumbled Snape as he exited into the hall, pulling the door shut behind him.

Empty, the bedroom was very quiet.

"…I can't win with that man. Suppose I should just stop trying. What do you think?"

Felicity snored.

On a bare expanse of wall, the shadows shifted and coiled, creating a single question mark.

Remus shrugged at Hodges. "I don't know either. Why do you think it is—and I'm beginning to believe this is a fact—the more you want someone to like you, the less they do? …Not that I don't deserve it, really. …Do you like Severus?"

The question mark lolled to one side, flipped open, and became a smile.

"I do, too. …Mostly." He nestled further into the bed until he was cocooned to his neck. "…So. What is it you do here? You know, to pass the time?"

The usual carafe of water at Remus' beside winked away, replaced by a chessboard. The werewolf yawned. "Only one game. I'm not feeling very clear-headed."

Hodges moved first.

*****

Remus folded his arms around his stomach. He'd been nauseous all day, but no matter how hard he tried to throw up the contents of his stomach, the bile stayed down.

"What's the worst he can do? All right, kick you out of school. But if you go, I'm going. It's not the end of the world, mate. Listen—plenty of blokes never even finish school, and they do fine. It'll be you and me, Moony. Together."

The door across the hall opened, expelled one stone-faced James Potter, and demanded, "Mister Black. Mister Potter—straight to Care of Magical Creatures. No detours."

"You and me, Moony. You and me." Sirius clapped a hand on his shoulder. "All right, there, Jaime?"

James ran his hand through his hair. "You're in for it." He smiled and shook his head.

"I could've told you that," Sirius said. He stood and moved to the door.

"Any last words?"

"Snivellus had it coming," he snorted, and vanished into the office.

Silence. James stood in front of him.

Just go, Remus silently prayed.

"…Remus? …You don't look so good." James fished in his pockets. "I've got—half a roll. Or—chocolate frog," he teased, waving the package in front of Remus' nose, "only slightly melted. …Here, go on, take it. Take it."

James smelled of cologne. It didn't mask the scents of stale fear, adrenaline, and sweat. "I'm not hungry."

"It's chocolate. You like chocolate. …Look. Sirius is Sirius. He is who he is." James dropped the candy in his friend's lap. "You want to punch him in the mouth, do it. He deserves it. He's been a prick. But don't go off all sulky on us. End up like Sniv—like Snape." Jamie sat down beside and nudged him with a shoulder. "You know he thinks the world of you, don't you? He'd never do anything to hurt you. We're the Marauders."

Remus stared at the crushed chocolate in his hands.

James sighed. "I've got to get to class. Peter's taking notes for us. I'll have a talk with Sirius tonight. …See you at dinner?"

"…Sure."

"Okay. Bye."

After the patter of retreating footsteps had died away, Remus tore open the wrapper. The frog's left leg was crushed. Instead of a good jump, it flailed to the floor and lay twitching on the ground between Remus' feet.

*****

He drew in a sharp breath.

It was dark. Wind howled through the trees outside. Someone was breathing in his ear.

Hang on a minute.

Remus turned his head.

Beside him was a mop of greasy hair.

Odd.

Poking through the hair was the tip of an unmistakable nose. Aside from his bare feet, Severus was fully clothed and curled up quite properly on top of the duvet. His breaths were deep and even. His big toe twitched.

Remus stifled a laugh. He was sleeping with Snape.

Now there was a thought that conjured strange images.

He watched as the tall man began to shift, curling further. One bare foot covered the other. Severus shivered.

"Severus?" Remus whispered.

The wizard woke with a start, pulling his wand from his sleeve and tossing his hair out of his eyes. "Wh… oh. Lupin. What?"

"Sorry to wake you," he began.

Snape was already on the move. "Yes, yes, I'll go…" He rolled to the side of the bed.

"No, I meant—it's warmer under the covers." He paused. "You were shivering." Remus shifted. Severus hadn't yet put his feet on the floor. "I don't mind if you want to sleep up here—"

"I wasn't sleeping, Lupin. …I was resting my eyes." Snape shook his head, presumably at the lame excuse. "I should return to my own rooms. Unless you require some sort of attention?"

"I feel …marginally un-terrible."

"Ah." Severus' feet hit the floor.

"But if you felt like keeping me company, that's all right," he offered. "I wouldn't mind not being alone up here. Your house is very…"

"Cold?"

"I was going to say big. Not that I'd rather a small space, don't misunderstand. But it is very… big."

"Empty." Snape's back was stiff. "It was commissioned by a wizard who thought he'd have a string of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. Not realizing, of course, that the usual way of acquiring a family is to start with a witch."

"Do you miss him?"

"Do you miss the mutt?" Snape fired back.

"…Sirius has been gone a long time," he said carefully.

Strangely, this seemed to be an acceptable answer. Snape nodded and rose long enough to slip under the covers, his rail-thin body hugging the far edge of the bed. "How do you truly feel?"

Remus could almost believe Snape cared, if he closed his eyes. "Bit dizzy. I'll be glad when this is over."

"…Yes. Goodnight, Lupin."

"Goodnight, Severus."

*****

Remus woke. He lurched out of bed and smacked his shoulder into the adjoining wall before falling to his knees and retching over the toilet. His entire stomach seemed to want to heave out of his throat. His eyes watered.

A glass of water appeared. "Rinse."

He did. "Severus?"

One of those obscenely warm hands cradled his chin while a soft, damp flannel cleaned his face. "I'll recalculate the dosage—again."

He was tugged up onto his feet, and fell immediately into a warm embrace. "Thank you," Remus whispered.

"Save thanks for the worthy."

Snape lifted Remus gently and put him to bed.

The rest of the morning was spent in silent, still contemplation of the ceiling. Severus forced him to swallow two potions—the green and the milky blue—and spent the hours hunched over the table, muttering to himself.

"What if you didn't give me the Wolfsbane tonight?" he asked.

"Brilliant idea, Lupin, thank Merlin you're here. Yes, absolutely—we'll let you transform into a raging dark creature, allow you to wreck my home and take another run at killing me—and then, when you are only half-coherent and your veins are burning, let your wolfish self try and claw the poison out of your system. What a perfectly wonderful idea," Snape said brightly, shot him a glare, and returned to his work.

"You don't have to be so sarcastic."

"You don't have to offer your assistance. The best help is to continue resting quietly."

Remus swallowed. "If I don't take the potion tonight, you think I'll claw myself to death?"

"Werewolves have been known to dismember themselves to escape traps." Severus rubbed his eyes. "We do have one other option, Lupin, besides death and the potion."

"What's that?"

"Sedation."

"Sedation won't work."

"In large amounts at intervals, it might. It also might very well kill you."

Remus stared at the patterns on the ceiling. "No easy choice, then."

"I'm afraid not."

"…Severus?" He held very still. "No one's come to see me. …You'd think—I know I'm not well-liked by everyone—"

"Of course you are, Lupin. However—they are not permitted in my home."

He frowned. "But—Severus. If I'm going to die—"

"You are not going to die, Lupin!" A book flew across the room, the pages fluttering. "I've not risked this much and worked so hard to have you die."

"If there might be a chance I was going to—"

"You won't."

"But if there's a chance—"

"There isn't a chance, Lupin. You will live. You may require a period of convalescence, but you will live."

His gaze drifted from the ceiling to the back of Severus' head. His hair was streaked with gray. "Do you know, Severus, one thing I've always admired? Your confidence."

Severus kept working, then suddenly slammed down his quill. "Bloody, buggery, sodding Arithmancy. If I had a time-turner, Lupin, I would travel back to an era when reflecting quotients did not exist."

"Do you need help?" He couldn't stop himself. "I seem to recall scoring higher on that particular OWL."

"I matched you in the NEWT. Try again, Lupin."

"You spent hours more than I did revising."

"All right. You're such a talented arithmancist—you run the figures." With a flick of his wand, Severus deposited a stack of notes on Remus' lap.

They were inked in an elegant, swirling hand and carried on for six pages. "This is the potion?"

"It's the adjustment." Severus rose and shut himself in the bathroom.

Remus studied the pages. To his surprise, they began to make sense. He hadn't seen a page of arithmancy figures in years. At the end of page one, he'd sorted which line represented each component and the direction of the adjustments.

By page three, Remus was smiling. The scholarly extent of his usual day was—'Get those boxes of cider on the rack.'

The equations fell apart on page seven. Remus hummed under his breath.

The door opened. "…Enjoying ourselves?"

"We are. Do you have a quill?"

Hodges beat Severus to it. A quill appeared on the bedside table.

"Thank you." Remus bent over the parchment.

The bed sank with the weight of another wizard. "What?"

"Think I've got it. Page six. You didn't carry the two. See? And that ruined the escalation here."

"Oh."

Remus glanced up. "I could fix it, if you like? You would've caught it, I'm sure. It's not so much an error as it is an oversight. I…" He gripped the quill tightly. "I'll fix this." Don't say no, he prayed silently. Because he could do this—he knew how—he could contribute.

Severus nodded.

Remus set to work. "…Do you do this for many potions?"

"Not any more."

"Do you—you still brew. Right?" Flip the nine, divide by the decay ratio…

"I'd given it up."

He paused. "Sorry?"

"I'm barred from commercial work. Probation," he drawled.

"Oh. I didn't know that," Remus said. Next to the elegant script, his own hand looked choppy and common.

"I was going to pursue some avenue of research."

"Really?"

"Only I've discovered I haven't the slightest interest." Severus snorted. His hands rested, palm up, on his knees.

"Then… what have you been doing all this time?"

"Reading. Thinking. Turning down requests for interviews. Taking my class."

Remus drew his knees up a little further, creating a table for the parchment and allowing him a better view of his host. Severus stared down at his hands. "Class?" he asked.

"Are you making progress or not?"

"Yes. I—yes." Minus the value of—"Severus? What's the—what's this? I don't even remember what this symbol does." He scooted forward with the parchment.

"Which one?" Severus leaned close, peering down.

"I had to have forgotten something, I suppose. The squiggle. Right there. What is that?"

"There was too much ink on the quill."

"Oh. Right." He bent over it again, and steadfastly ignored the closeness. Severus' scent was sharp this close to the full moon. His host hadn't been away long enough for a shower or bath, and any cleansing charm would've taken away with it that delicious hint of… well, it wasn't sweat, exactly. That sort of… man-smell. "I can't believe I remember this."

"Like riding a broomstick."

"Yes, exactly." And really—it would've been rude to pull away, while Severus was so close. So he didn't protest when warm fingers brushed back his hair.

"Lupin," Severus began.

It was a silly thing, really, an uncontrollable impulse.

Remus leaned forward and kissed him.

Severus' mouth was soft and parted in surprise. His eyes were open even wider.

Remus pulled away. It was a peck—a friendly peck—it couldn't be mistaken or misinterpreted. He ducked his head and stared at the page. "Sorry. Just—sorry. …I'm a little nervous about tonight," he offered.

The other wizard didn't move for a long moment. "Write a letter. If something should go wrong…"

"I will. Here. Your—here." Remus fumbled with the pages.

Snape took his notes and adjourned to the table.

The silence was a knife in his stomach. "You won't catch anything."

"What?"

"It—I'm not contagious. Only when I'm changed. If you were worried."

"I was not," Snape replied crisply.

"I didn't mean to offend you."

"I am not offended."

"Only I wanted to say thank you."

"You've said it." And with that, Severus gathered his supplies and swooped for the hallway.

*****

Chapter Five.
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