* * *
"I'll be back from work in a few hours," Remus said, shrugging into his coat. "Do you need anything while I'm out?"
Severus shuffled past him into the lounge, carrying a big mug of tea with a plate of biscuits precariously balanced on top in one hand, the Prophet folded under one arm, and two books clenched in the other hand. "Do I look it?"
Remus laughed at his tart tone and followed him into the lounge, leaning over him to kiss his cheek. "Be back soon. Don't have too much fun without me."
Severus waited until he heard the snap of the door lock before he let himself press on the spot where Remus' lips had been. Shaking his head at his own foolishness, he pulled the larger of his books onto his lap and picked up the tea. He was sure there was a way to modify the Ministry's Wolfsbane formulation; this book had been referenced by Belby, so he'd start here.
He'd been working with the Ministry since the War ended. At first they'd just trusted him to brew, but finally he was allowed to begin to make changes. He couldn't wait until he could present Remus with a potion which would make the transformation painless.
Outside, unseen, a shadow passed over the sky.
Later, he looked up at the dark windows, and stood, stretching his back. He'd been sitting for hours. He gathered up his plate and mug. In the kitchen, he dropped them on top of the growing pile of dishes and turned to rummage in the ice box. Maybe the curry's still good. He pried the top off the glass container, then recoiled. Ah, no. He pressed the lid down and shoved the container back onto the shelf. Maybe the... no, that's gone green. "Oh sod it," he said.
He stepped to the door in the corner of the kitchen and pressed his wand to the lock. "Dimitti," he muttered; the lock melted away to reveal a heavy silver knob with a delicate chain wrapped round it several times. This he stroked with the fingers of his left hand and whispered, "avoinna minulle". The chain tightened, then slipped apart and dangled from the knob.
He glowered at the door for a moment, then pulled it open, revealing steep stairs leading down to a dark space. There were strange rustling sounds below; Snape's fingers clenched his wand as he heard a short snap. "You," he said sharply, "cur. Come here."
Lupin crawled up the stairs, barely bipedal, even though the full moon was weeks away. His clothes were filthy, but Snape expected no better from an animal.
Snape stepped back but Lupin remained on the top step, not coming into the house. His eyes were fixed on Snape's.
"Fetch more meat," Snape commanded, and Lupin surged forward, through the room, down the hall and out the front door, leaving a curl of fur and the scent of moldy earth on the air.
Just after the door slammed behind him, the clouds shifted in shadow.
Upstairs, Severus slipped into a small, dimly lit room. There was a small low couch against one wall and an old wooden crib against another. The light was coming from a small ceramic castle sitting on a bureau next to the crib. When Remus and Teddy moved in, they hadn't much of anything, so Severus had spent several dusty hours digging in the clobber his mam had shoved into the attic space.
Remus looked up from the couch and smiled across the room as Severus brought him the bottle of baby formula he'd gone downstairs to make. Severus settled down next to Remus and watched as Teddy grabbed for the bottle. He glanced up at Remus then back down at Teddy, who was now sucking industriously, his eyes flickering from blue to yellow to green, hair following a heartbeat later.
"He's growing fast," Severus said.
Remus chuckled. "He'll be at Hogwarts before you know it," he replied and Severus saw a sequence of events – Teddy walking, his face behind a birthday cake, his first day of school, the day he got his Hogwarts letter; Severus felt such a strong jolt of pleasure he nearly gasped.
On Remus' lap, Teddy'd finished his meal. He slumped sideways against his father's chest and looked up at Severus. He yawned, suddenly, making Severus yawn in response. Remus laughed, then yawned. "Okay," he said, "time for bed." He stood up, settling Teddy against his chest as he stepped across to the crib. "Shall I meet you in our bed?" he asked, glancing over his shoulder at Severus.
Severus felt himself heat up slightly. He still wasn't used to the casual way Remus assumed they'd sleep together. He nodded and left the room, stopping first into the bathroom to cast a strong tooth cleaning spell, then ending up in his bedroom. He stripped quickly, draping his shirt and trousers over the back of the rickety chair he was using as a night stand.
Remus slid into bed next to him almost half an hour later, bringing a rush of cold air with him. He grinned, the light from the streetlights flashing on his teeth and bringing reflections up in his eyes. As he leaned forward, his warm breath sending shivers down Severus' spine, the street lamps flickered in shadow.
Severus' alarm shrilled. He groaned, groping around until he found the small button on the ugly Muggle device. The air in the bedroom was freezing and he wished for the wand he'd abandoned when he'd fled the Shack.
Downstairs he waited for the water to boil in the old kettle, sleepily tucking the lunch he'd prepared the night before into a cloth bag. When the tea was ready, he poured it into the thermos and slid the meal into his satchel.
He hadn't put any thought into his escape; when he woke up, barely alive, he just ran. He'd made it halfway through the Forbidden Forest that first night, spending a miserable, half-dead night in a cave littered with old bones and signs of years-old human habitation. Within a week he'd made it back to his house, but he didn't feel safe there – too many people knew where he'd grown up.
That had been three years ago and most of the time he didn't miss much. To his surprise, what he missed most wasn't the magic. What he missed was a person, someone he'd dismissed the entire time they'd known each other.
He'd catch a glimpse of a slender man with silvering brown hair and try to see more, but it was never him, never the right face.
Who'd have thought that, of all the things and people he could miss from the Wizarding World, he most mourned the loss of a chance to get to know Remus Lupin better.
As he walked down the street, anonymous in the Muggle crowd, he wondered if he'd ever have anything he wanted.
Unnoticed, the sky flickered with shadows.
Severus locked his shop door behind himself and smiled as he dropped the keys in his pocket. Four years after the War and everything in his life was different. A bright voice hailed him from across the street wishing him a good weekend.
He nodded and waved back, then walked briskly to Sainsbury. He had a celebratory dinner to cook.
At home, he put the champagne in the fridge and got the lamb shanks started. Half an hour later, he was just wiping his hands after putting the shanks in the oven when he heard the sound of the front door.
"Hey love!" Remus' voice was tired but happy. "I brought home... oh." Severus smirked as Remus rounded the corner into the kitchen, carrying a bag from Tesco's. "You got dinner."
Severus chuckled. "You just got promoted, what did you expect?" He lifted the paper bag from Remus' arms and leaned in for a kiss. "Mmm, you smell like ink."
Remus laughed. "Of course I do. The presses broke - " He raised his eyebrows at Severus' muttered "As usual." and continued. "The presses broke, but we got them running again. I only got a little ink on myself this time." He pointed at his left shoe; his black trainer was slightly green.
Severus sighed. "Go change. I've champagne chilling and I might, if you're very very good, serve it after dinner with the chocolate torte I bought."
Remus brightened! "Torte? Is it one of the M&S ones?"
Severus crossed his arms and tried to look stern. "You'll never find out if you don't get those filthy clothes off."
Remus turned and trotted out of the kitchen. As his footsteps echoed up the stairs, Severus looked around his kitchen; he didn't need to do anything in here for the next half hour or longer. With a contented smile, he followed his lover.
He could think of much better use for this time than sitting around downstairs.