January 9th, 1995
It was late when Severus returned to his quarters, far later than he’d hoped for on a day he’d had an excuse not to partake in yet another nightcap with Tournament officials and foreign colleagues.
The book still lay where he had left it. He’d have given so much for its arrival during breakfast this morning to have been a hallucination.
The only good thing about all the commotion this accursed term was that Severus turning thirty-five had utterly disappeared into the background. Even Albus and Minerva had done no more than offer him quiet congratulations. Suffering through a few hours at Malfoy Manor when his left arm had been twinging since summer shouldn’t have felt like a respite, especially with the talk inevitably slouching through the Mark sighting during the Quidditch Cup, the Triwizard Tournament and Hagrid’s parentage in turn. (It had.)
Everyone at this blasted school was wasting his time. The students by being incompetents, Albus, Minerva and even Flitwick by roping him into all kinds of inter-school cooperation schemes, Potter by considering himself invincible, Karakoff with his insistent attempts to put them both into more danger than they were already in, Moody with his antagonism towards Severus’ Slytherins, and absent, fired, not faculty as of last June Lupin…
It was the height of insults, this faded first edition of Die wahre Natur des Riesen. What point did Lupin think he was making? The man couldn’t have been so deluded as not to expect Severus to recognize the hand that had scribbled the odd translation in the margins.
Anyone with half a brain would have already known everything there was to know about Hagrid. It had been there for anyone with eyes to see. Regardless of what Severus thought of him as a wizard or ‘teacher’, the man’s parentage was decidedly different from being a werewolf and keeping it secret. Despite what he’d told Lucius earlier today, Severus did, if grudgingly, respect the former groundskeeper’s expertise.
He didn’t rightly know what Lupin thought he was doing – being ‘helpful’? Defending Hagrid? Putting himself on some sort of imagined moral high ground and insinuating that Severus should have done something?
He froze as he noticed he’d been about to rub his arm. He absolutely could not afford to do that, even in private.
When he’d first seen what the book was and who it was from, he’d been tempted to burn it just on principle. The impulse was still there, but it had since occurred to him that he didn’t especially want to find out what spell Lupin – thick as thieves with Black once again – had woven into the fabric for that eventuality.
Lupin had little use for rubbish literature. If the gift had been supposed to be humorous, he would have attached a note that said so. This meant that what lay on Severus’ desk was the most comprehensive and factual text on the nature of giants that Lupin had come across during his travels.
Puzzling out Lupin’s motivations made his stomach churn. His arm hurt, and it was especially hard to ignore it today when his thirty-fifth birthday might well be his last.
He couldn’t afford distractions. He needed something to distract himself before he went mad.
Severus shed his robe, grabbed the book, climbed into bed and read.