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A Devil Haunts Thee

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A Devil Haunts Thee



“IF man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? Why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and controul of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others: for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates…”

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, 1689 (2nd Translation)



Prologue:

For the Mutual Preservation of Their Lives, Liberties and Estates




The headline screamed:

Hermione Granger: Daughter of Fugitive Death Eater, Severus Snape!



Sources in the Department of War Time Investigations at the Ministry of Magic report that in the course of the new mandatory citizen background investigations, information has come to light about Hermione Granger, long-time friend and confidante of He-Who-Saved-Us-All, the Chosen One, Harry Potter.

When the routine Parentage Charm was performed, investigators were horrified to find that Granger is not the Muggle-born witch that she always has claimed to be. 

Instead her father was revealed to be Severus Snape, the Death Eater who reportedly is responsible for the murder of late Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Headmaster and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Albus Dumbledore. 

Snape has never been found, and it is widely assumed that the former Hogwarts professor is alive and hiding, perhaps plotting to resurrect He Who Was Not Named yet again.

War Heroine or Death Eater Spy?



Meanwhile, sources report that the half-blood Granger continues to influence the reclusive Chosen One on a daily basis. 

In fact, it has been suggested that perhaps the Chosen One’s continued absence from wizarding affairs isn’t really due to his well-known modesty, but to being manipulated by those closest to him.

Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour thinks that there is a deeper, more sinister plot afoot.

"The War Time Investigations Department, or WARTI, was created to scour the Ministry of Magic of spies and undesirables, first identified through the trial of convicted Death Eater Lucius Malfoy. 

"Since then, WARTI's efforts have exposed several key Ministry employees as part of an underground effort to undermine the Wizarding World's own elected Ministry. They call themselves the 'New Resurrectionists.' 

“WARTI continues to bring these criminals to justice. But at least one of the most beloved citizens of our world remains vulnerable, denying Ministry protections to which he is so duly entitled. 

"The Ministry will not rest until he, as well as all witches and wizards, are free from the intimidation and destruction caused by groups such as the New Resurrectionists…"

 


Remus Lupin swallowed back bile as he lowered the Daily Prophet with shaking hands. He carefully folded it, but the headline still glared at him. 

This complicated things. He needed to think.

The kitchen at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place was the most comfortable room in the house, but not by much. The walls were rough-hewn; the room was always cold despite the large fireplace and the stove. The smell of boiled cabbage permeated the air, though no cabbage had ever been cooked here to Remus' knowledge. Not a good place for breaking bad news. Because of course, he’d have to talk to Harry first.

A sharp pinch startled him. The post owl pecked him again, waiting for payment. Remus absently dug in his pocket for money, slipped it into the pouch around the owl's neck, and watched as the bird took off with a disgruntled sound.

The stairs creaked, and he looked towards the door. Harry entered the room, rubbing a towel over his damp hair and squinting through his glasses with sleepy concentration. "Any more tea?" He limped over to the cupboard, dropped the towel by the sink and selected a cup. 

Remus replied automatically. “There’s tea in the teapot. It may need warming up.”

Harry must have heard something in his voice, because he turned around with a frown. "Remus?"

He sighed. "Harry, you'd better sit down. There’s something in the paper that you should read. It's not good."

The colour fled from Harry's face and he suddenly looked wide awake. He limped to the table, sat, and pulled the paper towards him, stiffening as he read the headline.

“Those bastards,” he whispered. He glanced up, but Remus couldn't decipher the expression on his face. Harry looked down again, picked up the paper, and began to read.

Remus thought furiously. He had a lot to do, and he needed to keep Harry out of it. 

Harry put the paper down. He looked stunned. “She’ll be devastated. Her parents get the Prophet, too. I need to go over there.” 

Though he’d known that Harry would feel like that, it could complicate things. “There will be media,” Remus warned. The reporters would devour Harry if no one was there to keep them away.

“I’ll deal with ‘em if I have to.” Harry used the table to push himself to his feet, holding tight to its edge until he had gained his balance. "D’you want to come, too?”

Remus nodded. "Once we get there and make sure she’s alright, though, I’ll leave and find Kingsley. There must be more going on here that we don’t know – he might be able to explain things. I might be a while," he added casually. He needed time for what he had to do next.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


Remus left Harry at Ron and Hermione’s flat, well-guarded by Weasleys, and Apparated.

He materialised in a dark, musty sitting room crowded with threadbare furniture and piles of books and dirty teacups. Seeing no one, he quickly made his way to the kitchen and paused at the head of the stairs leading down to the cellar. "I don't have much time; I need to talk to you!"

In the shadows at the bottom of the stairs, a shape moved, light glinting off the shaft of a lowered wand. A voice filled with suspicion asked, "What do you want, Lupin?" 

Remus suddenly felt a hundred years old and looked away. "We have a problem. A big one."

Another movement brought the man into the light. Remus forced himself to look back and meet his lover’s eyes.

Severus Snape glared. "We certainly do. I’m not that little bint’s father."

 

 

Chapter 1:

The Dominion and Controul of Any Other Power

 

 


They weren't allowed to see the Minister of Magic until the next morning. Even though Ron was there with his father and Remus had accompanied Harry, from the beginning of the meeting it was apparent that Scrimgeour was only interested in talking to Harry.

Remus looked around the Minister's office, noting the rich detail of the panelled walls, the thick carpet, the lush plants. A large fireplace dominated one wall, a ram’s head mounted over it, watching them with bright eyes and occasionally shaking its curved horns at them. The polished furniture gleamed with wealth, taste and what Remus would bet was a significant amount of house-elf labour.

Scrimgeour’s hair still had streaks of tawny red and grey, but his beard had faded to white during his tenure as Minister of Magic. Age sat well upon him, making him appear to be more a king than a politician. He sat in his chair as if it were a throne and Harry his supplicant.

Remus wondered what Scrimgeour would do to keep his lavish lifestyle safe.

"I'm sorry, Mr Potter, but it's absolutely out of the question. WARTI must obtain evidence to convince them that Ms Granger does not pose a threat to the public. There have been reports of increased activity in the New Resurrectionist movement and we must be vigilant." Minister Scrimgeour pressed his fingers together in an elegant steeple and leaned forward in a confidential manner. "You in particular could be a target. I do wish that you would allow us to assign Aurors to you, for your own safety."

"Thank you, but the only Aurors I'd possibly allow to protect me would be Hermione and Ron." Harry sat forward, too. "In fact, I'm prepared to take full responsibility for Ms Granger if she's released into my custody. I've spoken with Gringotts and I'm prepared to post a bond for however much the Ministry requires for her release. I also am prepared to ensure her co-operation with the investigation. If Hermione violates her bond, you can arrest me."

Remus looked at Ron, who was sitting next to his father, tense and silent. His face had reddened and paled several times during the short meeting and Arthur seemed to be watching him more than he was watching Scrimgeour. Remus shared Arthur's concern -- Harry had learned to govern his temper during the War, but Ron was still prone to reckless outbursts. It would be disastrous for him to threaten the Minister in his own office, yet they couldn't leave him behind as they pled for Hermione’s release.

"We will not release Ms Granger on any kind of bond, even if it's secured by your name and fortune, I'm afraid. WARTI has determined that she's Severus Snape's daughter -- who knows what she would do if she were free and in your home? What if Snape is behind the New Resurrectionists? Even if she wasn't an assassin herself, he could pressure her into allowing one access to you. No, the potential danger is too great." Scrimgeour sat back in his chair, his face twisted in a grimace that Remus was sure was supposed to convey sympathetic regret. 

Ron suddenly sprang to his feet. 

"You can't do this! She hasn't done anything!" An Auror standing by the door took a step forward, but Arthur Weasley was faster. Rising, he gripped his son's shoulders. 

"Ron, I'm sure that the Minister is doing all that he can to get Hermione released as quickly as possible." Though Arthur's voice was polite, Remus could hear the tension underlying it. "Minister, do you have any idea how long that might take?"

"I'm afraid that I don't, Arthur." His aide placed a sheaf of papers at his right elbow. Scrimgeour glanced at them, and then looked back at Harry. "I'll have to ask you to excuse me, gentlemen. Pressing business, I'm afraid." He didn't bother to stand. 

Remus slowly stood, unobtrusively shielding Harry's struggle to rise from Scrimgeour's view. 

"Thank you for your time, Minister," Harry said calmly once he had gained his feet. He limped to the door. Both Aurors moved away, leaving a clear path for him. Remus had noticed the same behaviour lately while walking through Diagon Alley -- onlookers stepped aside, often with a polite nod to Harry or a look of awe on their faces. Remus knew Harry hated it, but didn’t think anyone other than close friends had noticed. 

Now he suspected that the Minister had noticed, too.

Remus followed Ron and Arthur out the door. He glanced back as it closed behind him and caught a glimpse of Scrimgeour, watching them with narrowed eyes and a satisfied smile on his lips.

"Well, that went about as well as we expected," Arthur said quietly as they walked down the hall. "There's something more going on here, I warrant."

Remus nodded. “Have you talked to Kingsley yet?”

“He’s at WARTI right now. He’ll get to the bottom of it.” 

Remus didn’t reply. After he'd left Snape the night before, he'd also talked to Kingsley. Kingsley hadn't said much, but had implied that it was best not to be on the Minister's bad side -- Azkaban was nearly as full now as it had been during the War. He suspected that even Kingsley Shacklebolt, with his extensive contacts in the Ministry of Magic, would receive little information about this particular situation. 

"Ron, why don't you come back to Grimmauld place with us?" Harry asked. "There's plenty of room."

Ron shook his head and glanced at his father. "No, I'll go back to the Burrow with Dad. But thanks."

"Harry, you and Remus are welcome to come back to the Burrow," Arthur said. "Molly would love to have you stay. Ron and I need to make a quick stop at my office to pick up some papers, but you can go ahead without us."

Remus shook his head as they reached the lifts. "I can't, I'm afraid, but thank you for the invitation."

"I'll have to pass, too." Harry stopped and looked at his best friend. "But I'll see you tomorrow morning, Ron?" 

"Yeah. See you tomorrow, Harry."

Remus stepped into the lift and after a worried look at Ron, Harry followed him. The doors closed. "Atrium," Remus said and they began to descend. 

They were silent until they reached the Atrium. The lift doors opened to chaos.

Dozens of people were crowded around the lift, Quick Quote Quills flocking over parchment notebooks. A chorus of voices shouted for Harry's attention. He looked grim, but stepped forward.

Remus put an arm around Harry and pushed his way through the reporters, blinking as a camera flashed in his face. He caught snatches of questions as they hurried across the lobby and into the Atrium, heading for the nearest departure Floo. Reaching the Floo, Harry grabbed a handful of Floo powder from the powder bin and threw it into the fireplace, shouting "Number Twelve Grimmauld Place!" He stepped into the flames and vanished. 

Remus followed.

Harry was standing to the side of the fireplace when Remus arrived, brushing off Floo ash. He looked up, his face pale and stark against the backdrop of heavy dark furniture and dusty drapes of the sitting room.

"I hate it, Remus. I hate all of it." He walked over to the sofa and sat, running his hands through his hair to comb out the ash that had settled there. "I hate WARTI, I hate Scrimgeour, I hate the reporters, I HATE it that Hermione's in Azkaban, and God knows," he laughed shakily, "I've always hated Snape." 

He leaned back and met Remus' eyes. "I hate that Ron is so scared for Hermione that he's frantic, and that he can't stand to be in their flat alone, and that Scrimgeour is gloating about everything. I hate that I can't seem to do anything for them." His shoulders dropped and he turned away. "What the hell are we going to do now?"

Remus sat in the chair across from Harry. "I think we need to take some time to figure out what's happening here and why.”

"What's happening here is that the Ministry's gone mad!" Harry stood and began pacing, limping back and forth across the carpet. "I don't get it! Most of the Death Eaters are either dead or in Azkaban. The wizarding world should be safer than it's been for years!"

"I think that may be the problem." Harry stopped pacing. Remus spoke slowly, working through the thought. "Think about it. Scrimgeour has only ever known conflict. He was an Auror and then rose up through the ranks to Head Auror before he was elected Minister of Magic. He took the Ministry over at the beginning of one of the greatest wizarding wars ever fought. Now that there’s peace, people will start to notice what he's doing -- or not doing -- for witches and wizards."

Harry frowned. "Are you saying that he's…what? He's creating a war?"

Remus shrugged. "Maybe not a war, but yes, I think that he's creating a conflict. Something that he can fight against, that makes him look strong and capable. He arrested people like Stan Shunpike during the War. Now he's arresting people with a higher profile. Have you noticed which Ministry personnel are disappearing? It's members of the Department of International Co-operation, wizards and witches who work as Muggle liaisons, the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures…."

Harry sat back down. "Why Hermione, though? Why not Kingsley? He's a bigger political threat than Hermione is."

"Actually," Remus chose his words carefully, "there's an even bigger political threat to Scrimgeour than Kingsley."

"But Kingsley's the one who makes the most sense. Who else could it be?" 

"You." He kept his voice calm and matter-of-fact.

"Me?" Harry was visibly shocked. "I don't want to be Minister."

He snorted. "I know that. But I don’t think that Scrimgeour would believe you. He thinks in terms of power, and you’re very powerful.”

Harry shook his head. "I’m not that powerful. And I’m no politician."

"I don’t think you’ll be able to convince him of that."

“But that means --” Harry’s face paled. "He put Hermione in Azkaban because of me."

Remus shook his head. "Scrimgeour put Hermione in Azkaban because he thinks it benefits him politically, not because of you. You're not the problem here. Scrimgeour is."

"That's not going to get Hermione out of Azkaban." Harry chewed his lip in thought and then looked at Remus. "I need to find Snape."

No. He had to keep Harry away from Severus. "I don't know if that will help at all."

"No, I think it will." Harry was gaining confidence. "Snape's not Hermione's father: we know that. If we find Snape and turn him in, we can prove she's not a threat."

He stood up, pulled the chair closer and sat down, leaning forward. "Well, hypothetically, what if it's true?"

Harry shook his head. "It can't be."

"Why not? 

"It would mean that Snape had some kind of a relationship with Hermione's mum. You can't tell me that ever happened."

Remus stayed silent a moment. It really did seem unlikely. He felt a bit guilty about questioning Severus’ statement, but shrugged it off. Best to be prepared for whatever may come up. Severus had been involved in too many Dark rituals for him to be complacent about the possibility. "No, I don't imagine it ever did." He sighed. "It's almost time to have tea. Why don't we eat, and then I'll go talk to Kingsley again. Maybe he'll have heard something new."

Harry nodded. He stood, wincing, then looked at Remus with a weak grin. "Getting old, I guess."

It was hard to see him in so much pain. "Do you have enough potions?" Remus asked quietly. "I can pick some up when I go out."

"That would be great," Harry admitted. "That last one that you got -- the one that I can rub into the scar? -- that one helps a lot." He sighed and pushed up his glasses. "I could probably use some more of the sleeping potion, too. Haven’t slept well the last couple of nights, I’m afraid."

“Understandably.” Remus nodded. "I'll get some more." He put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "We'll get everything straightened out, you know."

"I know." Harry's eyes searched Remus' face, but Remus couldn't tell what he was thinking. "Thanks." He brought his hand up to cover Remus'.

The warm, dry feel of skin on skin made Remus shiver. Harry's eyes widened a moment and then he flushed. He dropped his hand, but Remus was surprised when he nudged him with his shoulder and gave him a small smile.

Remus wasn’t sure what had happened during the simple contact, but it had been nice. He looked at Harry speculatively as he left the room.

Dinner was a quiet affair that night.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


When Remus returned to Spinner's End, Severus was in a foul mood. Though they were talking in the kitchen, he didn’t offer Remus tea.

He shrugged off Remus' account of the meeting with Scrimgeour and Harry's determination to find him. "Potter doesn't have the sense of a kneazle. I'm safe enough from him. Granger's fate has nothing to do with me."

"Severus!" Remus was astonished. "Even if isn’t your daughter, she was your student!"

"She's an attention-starved little know-it-all more interested in spouting facts than applying knowledge." Snape's face twisted in a malicious sneer. "Stop trying to make me feel guilty, Lupin -- it won't work."

Severus’ callousness shocked Remus. "You bastard," he said.

Severus scowled and stood. "I refuse to talk about it any longer. Do not bring up the subject again.” He gestured towards the door. “You can see yourself out. I have work to do.”

"I don't believe you, Severus." Remus shivered. "A woman you’ve known since she was a child is in Azkaban. You’re being used as the excuse to hold her there. There has to be something that you can do about it.”

Severus whirled. "And tell me what you think I should do! If I were to denounce her, no one would believe me. Worse, I could be captured. If I were, at best I’d go to Azkaban myself. Most likely I’d be Kissed. What would you have me do?"

"Help her," Remus replied, exasperated. “You’ve got resources. Use them.”

He straightened and crossed his arms. "I've helped enough -- it’s someone else's turn, now. Potter's potions are on the table. Take them and leave.” 

Remus didn’t move. He looked at Severus’ expression, trying to gauge whether he meant what he had said.

Now!" Severus roared. "Get out of here!"

Remus shook his head, eyes never leaving Severus’ face. “I think we need to talk some more about this.”

Severus snarled at him, fists clenched. A quick movement and his wand was in his hand and pointed at Remus. "Leave. Now."

Remus shook his head again. This was getting ridiculous. "I know you. You’re not that cold-hearted.”

"You don’t know me!" Severus was shaking now.

He stood up, trying to be patient. “I think I do. I think you’ll help her.” 

Severus threw a Stinging Hex at him. Remus cried out and doubled over, crouched to the floor, arms wrapped around his stomach. He rocked back and forth for a moment until he could catch his breath. He looked up.

Severus looked furious. "What do you want from me? Do you want me to hex you again?" He raised his wand.

“Severus…”

“You’re a fool. I am not a decent man, Lupin.”

Remus hugged himself tighter. What was happening here? For God’s sake, Severus had just hexed him! He hadn’t done that since…well, actually, he’d never done that, to him at least. Just Sirius. Or James.

Why was he fighting this? All Remus wanted was for him to help Hermione get out of Azkaban.

He looked up.

Severus was watching him. "I expect you to take Potter's potions and leave my house."

Maybe he really meant it. The way that Snape was acting now made him question his assumptions. Did he believe that Severus was a good man at heart because he was? Or because Remus wanted him to be? 

"Severus..."

"Get out."

Remus didn't move. "I don't want to just leave."

"And this is all about your needs, is it?" Severus looked away. His voice had gone flat, and he looked as if he'd aged twenty years over the course of the evening. "I've already done what I could. Someone else can deal with things now."

Remus felt a flare of guilt. His needs. He had avoided thinking about Severus’ actions during the War, never even mentioning Albus' death beyond a quiet 'did you have to?' to which Severus had replied 'yes.' But he'd never given a great deal of thought to the extent of Severus’ acceptance of his role. He’d taken it for granted that he’d resisted it, fought it, resented being the traitor. 

He’d always assumed that he’d understood the struggle that Severus faced every day of the War. But he was beginning to think that perhaps he didn’t. Perhaps he didn’t actually know the toll it had taken on the man. The scars that burden of duty and responsibility had left. 

The thought shook him to his core. Maybe Severus was right. Maybe he truly didn’t know him.

Severus had always seemed so self-sufficient. Maybe that was the problem. "You aren't alone."

"No, of course not." Severus walked over to the sink and braced himself on its edge. 

Remus paused, then stood and crossed to Severus. He put an arm around his shoulders. Tension thrummed beneath his loose embrace, but gradually, as Remus stayed silent, Severus relaxed. They stood quietly like that for several minutes. 

He was amazed that Severus accepted a touch that wasn’t sexual. It reinforced his guilt.

Finally, Severus straightened. Remus let his arm slip from Severus’ shoulders to his waist. "Are you all right now?" 

Severus nodded.

"I'm sorry for implying that you’re responsible for Hermione’s situation. For pushing you."

"I'm sure you are."

"Will you forgive me?"

"No.” Severus’ dark eyes burned. “Just shut up and fuck me."

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


Remus stayed the entire night.

Severus wouldn't speak to him the next morning.

 

 

Chapter 2:

Full of Fears and Continual Dangers

 

 


Two nights later was the full moon. 

Remus dragged himself out of bed late the following day and stumbled down to the kitchen. He hated the day after a transformation. When he'd moved into Grimmauld Place, he'd cautioned Harry about the days just before and after the moon. Harry had just shrugged and said, "Let me know if you need anything, otherwise I'll leave you alone." 

Remus made his way to the kitchen and made tea. There was a discarded Prophet on the kitchen table, but he ignored it. He needed some time to think. 

Life had changed since he’d come to live at Grimmauld Place. Especially his relationship with Harry. 

He remembered his reaction to Harry’s touch a few days earlier. He hadn’t really consciously noticed until now, but lately, he'd become fascinated by Harry's profile, in particular his jaw; the line between Harry's chin and throat was no longer defined by the delicate bones of a child's profile, but by the solid, broad jawline of an adult man. 

It was surprisingly easy to imagine him as a lover. The thought brought a flood of lust. Suddenly he wanted nothing other than to drag his teeth from Harry's ear down to his collarbone and bite him, mark him, then mouth his way back up over the vulnerable Adam's apple until he reached Harry's mouth and devoured it, taking Harry for his own...He forced the thought away. 

Harry had changed so much in the time he’d known him. Gone was the thirteen-year-old child that Remus had met on the train; the awkward and angry teen that he rescued from the Dursleys; the rail-thin, grim, yet determined youth of the later days of the War. Some things were the same, though. Harry was still slight and a bit shorter than average, with untidy dark hair, glasses and the fading remains of the lightning bolt scar. 

But now, the War behind him, he had become thoughtful. Remus wouldn’t ever characterize him as easy-going; Harry still lived with an intensity that could occasionally disconcert him. But his passions seemed to be turned inward. Remus wasn’t sure this was a good thing.

Harry was both more self-contained and more vulnerable than he’d been as a child. His limp was never mentioned except obliquely, and they all tried to protect him from public pity. Frankly, it was a miracle he could walk at all. After the final battle, the staff at St Mungo's had privately predicted that he would never walk again. He’d proven them wrong. 

And he was attractive. Very attractive. Remus imagined what he’d look like, lost in the throes of passion, sweaty, hot, hard. 

He shifted in his chair, disturbed by his thoughts. 

Harry walked into the room, avoiding his eyes. He put his elbows on the table and hid his face in his hands. “Is there any tea left?”

Remus frowned and poured a cup for him. He pushed it across the table. "What’s wrong?"

Harry looked up, his face haggard. He silently nodded at the Prophet lying on the table.

Remus picked it up. "'Granger's Husband Arrested as Collaborator,'" he read out loud, his heart sinking. He looked at Harry. "When?"

"Last night." Harry's voice was scratchy, as if he'd been shouting. "Arthur and I went to the Ministry right away, but they told us that Ron was already in Azkaban."

"What evidence did they say they had?"

"None. Except…" Harry took a deep breath, obviously upset. "They said that Hermione told them. Had admitted it under…under…" He closed his eyes and pressed the heels of his palms against them.

Remus was astonished to realise that Harry was crying. He leaned forward and laid a hand on his arm.

Harry dropped his hands. He could hardly speak. "They said that they've been interrogating her for days, that they finally broke her. Oh, God!" He sat back and hugged himself, eyes tightly closed. His face was wet with tears.

Remus felt his anger rise. Scrimgeour. That bastard. All of this, simply for his political benefit. He rose and went around the table, and then knelt by Harry’s chair and hugged him.

Unbalanced, Harry slipped out of his chair and they fell to the floor, Remus breaking Harry's fall. 

Remus clutched Harry's head to his chest while he gently rocked him. 

"Shhh," he comforted desperately. "They're probably lying, Harry. They know she can't tell them anything, because there's nothing to tell. You know Hermione -- she'll keep her head. She's okay, I'm sure of it."

"I know, I know," Harry choked. "Sorry. I'm just being stupid, I know."

"You're not being stupid!" Remus' tone was fierce. He could feel the hard curve of Harry's skull against his breastbone and a warm damp spot where Harry's face pressed into his robes. The weight and the heat of Harry's body against him and the shudders that wracked his body as he tried to control his tears provoked a fierce protectiveness in him.

If he were comforting Sirius right now, he would have pushed him to the floor and taken him, driving the grief from him with his body. 

If this had been Severus, it would be a struggle. Remus would have kissed him until he bit back and they would fuck -- hard and furious -- until Severus had regained his edge.

His earlier musings came back to him. He stiffened and felt his cock stir.

Harry noticed his tension and immediately stiffened as well. He started to push away, bringing a hand up to his eyes.

"No," Remus said, and pulled him back. He began to shake. What he was thinking was so wrong. 

God, he wanted this man. 

"Remus?"

"Just," Remus tried to control his shivering. "Just…wait, Harry. Just, be quiet."

He couldn’t believe he was even contemplating this. Harry needed a friend, not -- 

Harry hesitantly relaxed into Remus' embrace and Remus pulled him closer. Unbelieving, guilt raging, he lowered his face and kissed him. Harry’s eyes closed; his mouth tentatively opened to the kiss.

Arousal washed over Remus. Harry wasn’t fighting him. He felt a flare of possessiveness -- familiar, irrational, overwhelming. The feeling he had experienced with Sirius. With Severus. 

He pushed away his guilt. He wanted that now. With Harry.

He released Harry’s mouth and pulled him closer. He sniffed the back of his neck; Harry made a small sound and moved closer. 

Between Harry’s reaction and the rich sad smell of him, he was lost. Remus nosed into the thick hair, pressed his open mouth to Harry's skin and bit the back of his neck, firmly. 

Harry gasped.

Remus released Harry's neck, only to capture it again in his hand. Threading his fingers into thick hair, he pulled his head back until he was staring directly into Harry’s eyes. They were wide; his pupils dilated until only a small ring of green showed. Remus tilted his head and sniffed along Harry's jawline, intoxicated by the scrape of his two-day stubble against Harry's day-old beard. When Harry moaned, he growled and opened his mouth against Harry's throat, baring his teeth and biting down, but not enough to break the skin or crush the delicate larynx. 

Harry froze in place. Remus felt his Adam's apple slide up and down as he swallowed; he released it and continued to investigate Harry's scent. Harry hesitantly tipped his head as directed. He didn't struggle when Remus pulled his robes off his shoulders, pinned his arms to his sides with the material, lowered him slowly onto his back, and crouched over him. He watched as Remus scented across his chest, and barely reacted when Remus pushed his nose into his armpit and licked, other than to moan again, his voice catching on a sob.

Remus continued down Harry's body, smelling and occasionally licking him, pulling his robes away to expose more skin as he progressed. Finally, he reached his trousers. He unbuttoned them and laid them open. "Lift up," he commanded and Harry lifted his hips. Pulling trousers and pants carefully down, mindful of the half-hard state of Harry’s cock, he left them bunched around his thighs.

Now he could see most of the long horrible scar that disfigured Harry’s body, twisting down from under his left armpit to disappear into the crease between his leg and the right side of his groin. Remus knew that the scar ended behind Harry’s right knee, the big muscle at the back of his thigh missing where the curse had sliced to the bone, destroying flesh and tendons instantly. 

Though the scar on Harry’s forehead had gradually faded after the War, this scar remained red and shiny. Remus traced it with his hand, the difference between the moist warmth of healthy skin and the dry stretched heat of the scar apparent under his palm.

His hand brushed Harry’s erection. His cock was now an angry, painful looking red, precome leaking from the slit, head fully emerged from the foreskin. Remus ignored it to smell further down, pressing his nose against his testicle sac and breathing in deeply. Harry's cock twitched. Remus lifted his head, met Harry's eyes, and held them as he slipped his mouth over the head of it, pressing Harry's hips into the floor with his hands.

Harry came with a strangled cry. Remus swallowed around the slim cock, drinking him down while he listened to Harry's helpless groans. When the prick was soft, Remus allowed it to slip from his mouth, glistening with saliva. He crawled back up Harry's body and captured his mouth in a furious, biting kiss.

Harry met him, mouth opened and tongue searching desperately for his own taste in Remus' mouth. Remus feasted on Harry's mouth mercilessly, finally releasing it in order to allow Harry to gasp for air. He stared down into Harry's eyes, watching him pant, then slowly sat up, straddling Harry's body.

"Remus?"

Harry's whisper broke the spell.

Remus looked down at Harry, flushed, mouth puffed and red, the clear imprint of a bite on his throat, staring up at him with apprehension and trust plainly warring across his face.

Reality crashed down on him. What the hell had he just done?

He rubbed a hand across his mouth and looked down the length of Harry's body, dazed. "Fuck," he whispered. He crawled off Harry, who began to sit up and try to untangle himself from his clothing. Remus stood up and backed away, shaking his head. “I didn’t mean to --”

He had to get away. Where to go? 

An image of Severus, of his home at Spinner’s End, formed in his head. Yes. It wouldn’t be pretty, but it would be safe, he would have time to think about how to handle this.

Harry looked up, robes half off. Remus looked down and their eyes locked together. Harry’s eyes widened and he reached out to him. “Wait!”

Remus bolted. He reached the sitting room and stopped. 

He heard Harry shout something after him just before he Disapparated.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


Remus was astonished to find himself in one piece when he reached Spinner's End. He had Apparated automatically, without coherent thought; by all rights, he should have been splinched. 

No one was in the sitting room, so he stumbled through the house to the top of the stairs and started down. Before he got halfway, a spell flashed through the darkness and he couldn’t move. His stiff body tumbled down the rest of the stairs. He landed on his stomach and stared at the dirt under his face.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Lupin!"

Suddenly he was free to move. He climbed to his knees, shaking, and looked up at Severus.

"I made Harry have sex with me." Rape. The word was rape. It sounded as obscene as the act. 

Severus straightened and stepped back. "Did you say that you forced Potter to have sex with you?"

"Yes." Remus slumped against the bottom step.

Severus stared at him. "I didn't think that you'd have it in you, Lupin."

"Stop it!" Remus was torn between hitting Severus and raiding his potions stores for enough aconite to kill a werewolf. "What am I going to do?"

"Some damn fool self-sacrificial gesture, I would suppose."

"That's not helping. Severus…oh God, what am I going to do?"

"I don't know. I personally have never raped someone before." Looking disgusted, he said, "And I doubt you did, either. Stand up, you fool."

Remus slowly shook his head, still in shock. Severus snarled and grabbed his arm, pulling him to his feet. "Upstairs!"

Remus stumbled up the stairs and into the kitchen, Severus on his heels. He looked up.

Harry stood in the opposite doorway.

Remus fell against the kitchen table as Severus pushed past him and shouted, “Incarcerous!"

Thick white ropes bound Harry's arms to his sides before he could draw his wand. He stumbled, off-balance. Severus stepped forward and roughly propelled Harry into a chair at the table. He then turned and glared at Remus. "Sit!"

Remus pulled out another chair and sat down, watching Severus carefully.

"Snape." Harry's voice was filled with hatred and he struggled with his bonds. "You fucking bastard! You're mine!"

Severus rolled his eyes and looked at Remus. "You idiot. What on Earth made you break Fidelius for him?"

"Fidelius?" Harry looked stunned and stopped struggling.

"Harry, I can ex--"

"Don't even say it!" Harry snapped, and Remus fell silent. "You knew. You fucking knew all along where Snape was."

Remus rubbed his hand over his face and looked at him. "Yes."

"Interesting how patterns of betrayal flow through generations of Potters, isn't it?" Snape loomed over them both, a nasty smile on his face.

Remus stood up with clenched fists at the same time as Harry paled. 

"Betrayals?" Harry asked weakly.

"No, Harry, no betrayals." Remus turned back to Severus. "I didn't betray you, either, Severus, at least not deliberately. I couldn't think where to go. I just needed to get away. Then I thought of coming here." He looked at Harry. "How did you get here?"

"It was in your head…I accidentally Legilimized you. So I tagged you with a tracking spell," Harry said. He looked sick. "I can't believe it. I've been living with you all along…"

Accidently Legilimized! You’re a menace, Potter…!”

"A tracking spell?" Remus asked over Severus’ tirade, which abruptly stopped. "You Apparated blind using a tracking spell?"

"I did it during the War," Harry said blankly. "That's how I got into Voldemort's chambers. I tagged Pettigrew with a tracking spell, then waited until he stopped."

"Albus save us." Severus pulled out a chair and sat heavily. "Did no one tell you that Apparating blind is a sure way to kill yourself? What if you had materialised inside a wall? What if Pettigrew had been sleeping in some rancid rathole?"

"What do you care?" Harry snapped back. "You killed Dumbledore; I doubt that you'd have lifted a finger to save my life!"

"I lifted more than a finger, boy!" Severus spat. "Do you honestly think that you would have succeeded in destroying the Dark Lord's Horcruxes without me?"

"What do you mean? You didn't help at all! Remus found a potion formula in Sirius' library and brewed it…"

"I didn't, Harry." Remus sat down again, his elbows on the table and rubbing his fingers against his forehead. "Severus discovered it. He was the one who made the potion." He dropped his hands and looked up.

"But…" Harry's face went blank again. "All the potions. The ones you've been giving me." He looked at Remus with narrowed eyes. "You got them from him, didn't you?" He turned his head to glare at Severus, pulling at his bonds. "You've been poisoning me all along, haven't you, you bastard! That's why my leg won't heal…!"

"You imbecile." Severus stood up abruptly. "This is useless. Obliviate the idiot, Lupin, and take him home."

"Don't you dare." Harry glared at Remus before turning back to Severus. "Answer me, Snape! You're the one who's keeping me from walking right!"

"Harry!" Remus stood up and slammed his palms on the table, making both Harry and Severus jump. Ignoring Severus, he glared at Harry, who met his eyes defiantly. "He's the one who's giving you the ability to walk! The healers at St Mungo's had given up on you, but Severus didn't! You owe him!" He shook his head and stopped shouting. "You're not a boy any longer, you know things get complicated. Severus can be a bastard, yes, but he’s on our side. Give him a chance."

He looked helplessly at Severus, who watched with glittering eyes as Harry struggled to control his anger. 

Finally, Harry said, "Fine. One chance."

"You owe me, Potter." 

Remus glanced between the two men glaring at each other. "Harry can help you, Severus." When both men looked at him, he continued. "And Harry, Severus is right. You do owe him." Severus snorted, but Remus ignored him. "Albus made me Severus' Secret Keeper before he died. He knew that Severus would need protection. You can give him that protection."

Severus sneered. "Like he protected Granger and Weasley?"

"Fuck you!!" Harry struggled furiously. “You’re the one who put Hermione in Azkaban in the first place!”

Remus could see blood beginning to stain the white ropes. "Harry, stop it!" When Harry stopped struggling, Remus walked over and crouched by his chair. "I know that you don't have any reason to trust me after everything that's happened tonight, but I'm going to ask you to, anyway. Harry, do you trust me?"

Harry stared at Remus, searching his face. He finally sighed. "Yes. I trust you."

Desperately Remus looked up Severus. "Will you trust him? If Harry gives you his word, will you trust him?"

Severus looked down at him, his face twisted in anger. "You're enabling this Potter just like you enabled his father and Black -- whatever he wants to do, you turn a blind eye to. If he betrays me, I know which one of us you’ll go to." 

"I won't betray you," Harry said grimly. "I've given my word to Remus."

"You know nothing of pledges or betrayal!" Severus blazed. "It's not simply a matter of keeping your mouth shut, it demands action! If you pledge to protect me, then by God you're going to protect me, if it takes all of your money and your friends and your vaunted name to do it!”

"I've given my word," Harry repeated. "I'll protect you."

"So easy to make promises," Severus sneered. "If I agree, my life depends on you keeping them. According to the papers, all you do is hide away from people. You're just another ghost haunting Black's mausoleum. You don't have enough substance to protect yourself, let alone someone else."

Harry didn't speak, he simply looked at Severus. Remus waited.

"Fine!" Severus’ face was contorted with anger. "I expect you to prove it, Potter."

"If I don't, I doubt you'd be around long enough to do anything about it," Harry retorted. "As it happens, though, I'll keep my word. Unless you hurt someone I love." His eyes narrowed. "Then all bets are off, and you're fair game."

Severus stared at him a moment, then drew his wand and aimed it at Harry. The white bonds fell to the floor and Harry slumped into Remus' arms. Severus whirled and left the room.

Remus held Harry until his arms stopped shaking, then stood. Harry rubbed his arms and looked up. "Are you coming home?"

Remus shook his head. "Not right away. I need to talk to him."

Harry nodded once, and his eyes darted to the door through which Severus had disappeared. "Are the two of you…?"

"Yes." Harry looked away and a muscle leapt in his jaw. "Harry, we've been together --"

"No! You don't…" Harry turned back, and Remus was shocked by the grief in his eyes. "You don't have to say anything. It's okay." He stood up awkwardly. "I'll just head back. See you later."

"Harry…" Remus felt helpless.

Harry smiled, a bit crookedly, but Remus could see it was genuine. "It's okay, really. I'll see you back at Grimmauld Place." He straightened and Disapparated.

Remus sighed and then went into the sitting room. Severus stood by the window, looking out. Remus could see that night had fallen. It felt like days since he'd left his bedroom in Grimmauld Place, but in reality, only a couple of hours had passed.

"He's gone?"

Remus looked at Severus’ rigid back. "Yes. He went back to Grimmauld Place. He'll keep his word, you know."

"Yes, I'm sure you prefer to think so," Severus said absently. "However, you're not the one who'll have to face the Dementors if you're wrong."

"He'll keep your secret safe."

"If he doesn't, it will hardly affect you anyway." Remus could see that Severus was trembling, his voice was so low that he strained to hear it. "You'll have Potter to take care of. So long as there's something in your life to make you feel useful, you'll crawl along, happily picking up crumbs of other people's lives and pretending they're your own."

Remus walked over to him and yanked him around. "Don't you think that's hypocritical, Severus? You won't stand trial, you won't reach out to a potential ally like Kingsley, you won't testify against any of the Death Eaters captured, you just want to hide here and have nothing to do with the world, and I'm the one who makes that possible for you! You and Harry aren't so different, are you?" 

"That's right, throw my dependence in my face," Severus raged back. 

"You're not dependent on me! You can live your life out of hiding, you just don't want to do it." 

"You need me to be this dependent! You love the power you hold over me, and now you want me to give Potter the same power." 

Remus pushed Severus backward. "You're mad, Severus. Nobody wants to have power over you. You just have a habit of getting yourself into unpleasant positions, then resenting the hell out of everyone else who tries to help you. I'm sick of it." And suddenly, Remus was. Sick of Severus, sick of being a Secret Keeper, sick of loving someone so patently unable to love him back. "I'm leaving," he said abruptly.

"Because you know I’m right," Severus sneered. 

Remus was disturbed to find that part of him thought that Severus might be right. He shook his head in disgust, rejecting the thought, and Disapparated. 

He materialised in Grimmauld Place's front hall. Restless, angry and upset about his treatment of Harry, Remus realised that he needed time to think. He still had to talk to Harry about the rape, but he couldn't face the conversation with Severus’ accusations still echoing in his head.

He took his outside robe off the coat rack, put it on, pulled open the front door and nearly tripped over a bundle of clothes draped over the front steps. Regaining his balance, he knelt down to see what it was. He tugged at it.

The cloth slipped out of his hand as Harry's white face was revealed, streaked with blood.

 

 

Chapter 3:

No Strict Observers of Equity and Justice

 

 


Remus couldn't breathe. Slowly, he touched Harry's throat.

A steady pulse beat beneath his fingers.

He gently gathered him into his arms and Apparated to St Mungo's.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


The ward hummed with activity beyond the curtained recess containing Harry's bed. 

Harry was awake and propped against his pillows, bandages around his wrists and arms as well as covering his eyes. When Remus had arrived and demanded immediate help, the first Healer to respond had glanced at Remus with anger and disgust; Remus was sure that she had recognised the abrasions on Harry's wrists and arms as bondage wounds and blamed him for inflicting them. Right now, he didn’t care.

"Do you remember anything? Did you see anyone?"

Kingsley Shacklebolt looked grim. Remus refused to allow anyone else near Harry -- even Arthur and Molly were waiting in the visitor's lounge. He wasn’t going to take any chances, not until they’d figured out what had happened. He tried not to admit to himself that he'd be better off if Molly's sharp eyes didn't take in Harry's condition. 

Meanwhile Kingsley was sitting by Harry's bed, trying to ascertain just exactly what had happened.

Harry shook his head. "I remember a man -- he didn't look like anyone I know. Then just a bright flash of light. I don't remember anything after that." He felt the bandages covering his eyes again. "When did they say I could take these things off?"

"When your eyes have healed," Remus replied yet again. "Maybe tomorrow." Harry had already asked the same question half a dozen times in the past few minutes. Remus wasn't sure if it indicated that he had suffered some memory damage or if he just hoped for a different answer each time he’d asked. The Healer had said that Harry must have fallen and struck his head on a step when he was blinded. "I think it may be best if you take the sleeping draught the Healer left for you, and get some rest." He shuddered to think of everything that had happened to Harry today.

Kingsley grunted. "Anything else that you can remember, Harry? A smell, a sound, a voice…?"

"Sorry." Harry turned his head towards Kingsley's voice, his face apologetic. "I really wish I could."

Kingsley sighed and stood. "I’ll do the investigation at Grimmauld Place myself. Nobody else is left who can do it except Mad-Eye, and I want this official. But frankly, there's only one person who could possibly have attacked Harry."

"You mean Snape," Harry murmured.

"Yes." Kingsley glanced at Remus, eyes narrowed, but Remus met his look with a speculative one of his own, careful not to reveal too much. Kingsley seemed satisfied, and continued. "When Albus died, the Fidelius was still in effect. Without Albus to tell them, no one outside of the remaining Order members should know how to get there. There's few enough of us left.” This time the glance was sympathetic, and Remus dropped his eyes.

"And no one other than Snape could possibly want to hurt me," Harry finished for him. "I'll be careful. Kingsley," Harry bit his lip. "Do you know anything? About…"

Kingsley looked uncomfortable. "Ron and Hermione aren't in any physical danger, Harry." 

"What's happening to them?" Harry swallowed hard, his face pale.

"They’ve both been subjected to Veritaserum. There aren't any secrets about the Horcruxes any more -- Scrimgeour knows all about them."

"That's not all, is it?" Harry's voice was calm, but his body was tense.

"No," Kingsley reluctantly replied. "I'm afraid…well, I don't think that there are any secrets left…"

"About us. Ron and Hermione and me." Harry nodded. "I thought that might come out."

Remus sat at the edge of the bed and put his hand on the blankets covering Harry's knee before realising that Harry probably wouldn’t appreciate his touch. He moved his hand to the bed, trying to make the motion casual and unthreatening. 

Harry said quietly, "They were careful not to make me feel like an outsider -- they included me, too. But it was really them all along. They just let me in for a time. I suppose that the Aurors heard all about it."

"I've made sure that all of the transcripts from those sessions are handled by people I trust," Kingsley said. "They'll be well-lost if anyone goes looking for them."

Harry nodded. "Thanks."

Kingsley sighed. "I'm sorry, Harry. We'll get all of this straightened out soon, I promise. Meanwhile, I'll set something up -- a safe house, perhaps -- that we can move you to when you get out of hospital." He glanced at Remus. "I'll talk to you both soon." He left.

Remus turned to Harry. "How are you doing?"

"Other than the eyes and a headache, I feel fine," Harry said, shrugging.

"Harry, I’m so sor--"

"No!" Harry snapped in a low voice. "Don't apologise. The only thing that I'm upset about is Snape."

"But I raped you." Remus could barely force the words past his lips.

"No you didn't." Harry lay back on his pillows and turned his head away. "It was consensual. I could have stopped you. I didn't. I…wanted it, okay? I didn't know that you and…oh, fuck." He caught his breath. "Look, let's not talk about it."

"Not here," Remus agreed. "But we still need to talk."

Harry shrugged awkwardly against the pillow, and then changed the subject. "I know it wasn't Snape -- the man who attacked me, I mean. He's too much of a…" he paused and appeared to reconsider his words. Remus suspected that he knew what word Harry was censoring. "I mean, it wouldn't benefit him in any way. Unless…"

"What?"

"Well…what if he's part of the New Resurrectionists? Somebody has to be leading them, and he's about the only Death Eater left."

"Severus isn't a Death Eater," Remus automatically said. "Anyway, like I said before, I don’t think there’s any such group as the New Resurrectionists."

Harry ignored the second statement. "He was, though." 

"Not during your lifetime, Harry." Remus stood up, angry, but realised that he couldn't go very far and leave Harry unprotected. "I'm getting some tea," he said abruptly. "Do you want any?" Harry shook his head, so he cast a Monitoring Charm over the bed and left. He'd know if someone approached Harry while he was gone.

By the time he got back, Harry's mulishness seemed to have dissipated. 

"It's me," he said when he noticed Harry had turned his head towards his footsteps.

"Remus, I'm sorry. Please." Harry pulled his knees to his chest and hugged himself. "I just don't trust him. I'm sorry, but I just can't."

Remus looked at Harry, huddled and tense, eyes hidden but all of his emotions still written across his face. Remus sighed and sat down.

"I'm sorry, too. You've been through a lot today. Why don't you take that sleeping draught now, get some sleep?" 

Harry relaxed a little, his face thoughtful. "Do you think I could just leave instead?"

"Leave St Mungo's?" Remus frowned and sipped his tea.

"Yeah. I'm fine, I just can't see right now. I can sit at home in the dark just as well as I can sit in the dark here." Harry's attempt at a joke fell flat, but it was apparent that he was unhappy with the thought of staying in the ward any longer. He let go of his knees and felt for the edge of the bed, then shifted over and sat facing Remus. "Really. That way you don't have to drink tea until you float away. I know you're trying to stay awake so you can watch out for me."

"That transparent, am I?" Remus smiled, then sobered. "Grimmauld Place isn't safe, and Kingsley hasn't arranged a safe place for you to go to, yet. It's just another day."

"I hate it here." Harry waved a hand around vaguely. "Even when I can't see them, I can feel people looking at me. I just want to go home. Isn't there anywhere else we could go? Do you think the Headmistress would mind if we stayed at Hogwarts for a few days? No, wait, that won't work." He sighed. "If someone's after me, I don't want to lead them to the school."

Remus noted the 'we' that Harry used and felt a bit better. "We could always hide out in the Shrieking Shack."

Harry grinned at the joke. "I hear it's haunted," he replied. He looked thoughtful again. "Actually, there's one place that we could go where nobody could find us."

"Where might that be? America?"

Harry snorted. "No!" He bit his lip. "But you won't like it."

"Christ." Remus finally understood. "I can't take you back there. He'd kill us both."

"Look, we wouldn't even have to see each other. You could put me in some upstairs room or something, and tell him he can't go in there."

"Tell Severus Snape that he can't go into a room in his own home?" Remus asked. "I don't think so." He shook his head. "It won't work."

"Would you bring him to Grimmauld Place if he were the one in danger?"

"Probably," Remus admitted. "But it's not the same thing and you know it. It won't work."

Harry sat for a moment in thought. "What would happen if we went back to tell him that he's being framed for my attempted murder?"

Remus burst out laughing.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


To Remus’ surprise, it worked. An hour later, he, Harry and Severus were gathered in the sitting room at Spinner's End, Harry's glasses in the pocket of his robe and Hedwig's cage hanging from his hand.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


"There are no New Resurrectionists. I would know if there were. Scrimgeour's fabricated it."

Harry snorted, turning his head towards Severus’ voice. "Fine. Both you and Remus seem to think that. It still doesn't matter. We've got to prove it one way or the other, whether it's real or not."

"You're right. But it's difficult to prove a negative." Remus leaned back on the sagging sofa. "Especially if there's been such a lot of publicity about it."

Severus shook his head. "More than simply difficult. Impossible. We can't. The gullible populace will believe it even if we exterminated every Death Eater or suspected Death Eater in Britain and presented their heads on silver platters. Scrimgeour's done too thorough a job of building up the myth for it to be torn down now."

"Fine. We can just give up now. Then the next time you pop out for potions ingredients you can let the Aurors carry you off to Azkaban for attempting to murder me."

"If I wanted to murder you, Potter, I wouldn't have stopped at a mere attempt…"

"Wait a second," Remus interrupted. "You just said 'a mere attempt.' What if that's what it was -- a mere attempt?"

"Why would that make any difference?" Harry rubbed at his bandaged eyes again.

"Well, if the person wasn't really trying to kill you, it broadens our field of suspects by quite a bit. Since everyone thinks that the attack was meant to leave you dead, the only logical person it could be would be Severus. None of the other Order members would ever kill you."

Severus smirked. Harry frowned as well as he could around his bandages.

Remus leaned forward. "But if the person didn't want to kill Harry, just get him out of the way for a while and make it look like the New Resurrectionists were after him, then it could be…well, any of us. Especially if Scrimgeour is applying pressure on him. Or her."

"Like staying out of Azkaban." Harry sat up straighter in the threadbare green armchair. "That doesn't leave many people, though. And I don’t understand why Scrimgeour wouldn’t just want me dead and out of the way."

"Too many people would ask questions if you died and Scrimgeour couldn’t pin it on a specific person,” Remus mused. “You’re right, it doesn't leave many people who know about Grimmauld Place. But everyone who’s left would go to Azkaban before they’d hurt you seriously, much less kill you." 

Severus glanced at him and then began to list the surviving Order members in a cold voice. "Granger and Weasley are in Azkaban. There are the three remaining Weasleys…" 

Remus remembered how Molly had kept repeating, 'parents are supposed to die before their children' when standing by the graves holding what had remained of Charlie, Ginny, Fleur, Fred and George. They’d never found Percy.

"…Longbottom, Shacklebolt, Moody, Fletcher and Minerva. And us." He looked speculatively at Remus. "Interesting that you haven't been arrested yet, Lupin, since unlike Granger and Weasley, you're actually living with Potter. Even more so when you consider that you were the one to," he paused in a nasty manner, "find Potter."

"Remus didn't hurt me!"

"Don't discount him just because he's your tame wolf…"

He stared up at the cracked and sagging ceiling and listened to the other two men argue for a few moments. When the exchange became vitriolic, he sighed. "You can suspect me if you want to, Severus."

The other two men fell silent.

"Of course, I would have had to attack Harry immediately as I arrived at Grimmauld Place, since I was with you up until that moment." He looked at Harry and was reminded that he was temporarily blind. "Harry, do you have any idea how long you might have been lying there?"

"I Apparated to the alley just next to Number Twelve. I was attacked before I even got in the house. I'd barely started up the steps before I saw the flash of the spell."

"And I stayed and talked to you for what? Five minutes?" Severus gave a small nod. "So Harry was lying there at least a couple of minutes before I arrived, maybe as long as five minutes or so."

"You wouldn't do it anyway, Remus." Harry turned his head away. "But just in case we still have to convince Snape, I can definitely say that it wasn't you I saw." He hung his head. "I still don't see why I'm so important."

Severus scowled. "Potter, though you don't deserve it, you've fooled the pathetic idiots that inhabit the wizarding world into thinking that you're the greatest wizard since Merlin. Your popularity, however misguided, is overwhelming. If you wanted to be Minister of Magic, the position would be handed to you with a gold crown and a sceptre. That makes you Scrimgeour's worst nightmare. You're a political liability. Scrimgeour needs to either control you or to defame you. I suspect that after the War, he approached you to take some public position in his cabinet?"

Harry sighed. "He wanted me to be the Deputy Minister of Good Will."

Severus wrinkled his nose in distaste. "What a ridiculous title. I'm sure you declined it gracefully."

Harry snorted, reluctantly. "I told him that he could appoint me to any position that he wanted, but that I'd never join his government."

Severus looked smug. "What a surprise. If I might continue?"

Remus remained silent when Harry nodded.

"You have made it blatantly apparent that you will have nothing whatsoever to do with the current administration, so controlling you hasn't worked. I invite you to hazard a guess as to which method he is currently employing."

"But Scrimgeour knows that I don't want his position. I don't want any position at the Ministry. I just want to be left alone to live a normal life." Harry shook his head. "None of this is even necessary!"

"You pathetic fool. You will never have a 'normal' life. The sooner you get that into your thick skull, the sooner the rest of us can live in peace."

Remus stood up. "That's enough!" He stepped between them. "Harry, I think Severus is right about Scrimgeour. I know that you don't want to hear that," he said more loudly, to forestall Harry's obvious protest, "but until you do, how are we going to be able to realistically assess the situation and find a way to clear Hermione's and Ron's names?"

Harry leaned forward. "If he's so smart, how does he explain what happened with Hermione. Unless --" A look of horror crossed his face. 

Severus threw a black warning look at Remus, and replied. "Potter, even you're not stupid enough to believe that I'm Granger's father! Think, you imbecile! Granger is well known to be the intelligence behind any of your actions. Take her out, and you've lost your single greatest resource -- her brains."

"She seems to have an uncanny way of cutting to the bone of any conspiracy," Remus mused. "Harry, have you asked if she's allowed visitors?"

"Yeah. She isn't." Harry slumped, running his fingers through his hair. "Do you believe him?"

"Yes, I do."

"Right then." Harry took a deep breath. "What do we do now?"

"First, let's try to figure out whether the attack was meant to kill Harry."

“What fun," Severus muttered. Remus shot him an annoyed look. 

"Let's start with the spell that hit Harry. Do either of you know a spell that temporarily blinds a person, but otherwise doesn't harm them?"

Severus stood and walked to the fireplace. He leaned on the mantle. "I don't know of one myself, but I remember seeing something similar during the War. It was used by the Aurors to temporarily disable an opponent until they could be restrained and transported." 

"So, if Aurors used it, that would mean that Kingsley or Mad-Eye would probably know it," Harry said slowly. 

"Or could have taught it to another Order member at some point." Severus crossed his arms. "That doesn't narrow down our pool of suspects." The guttering lamp on the mantle spilled shadows across his face, masking his expression.

Remus suddenly realised just how late it was, and looked at Harry. The lines on his face were deep with fatigue, though he was hiding it well. "I think, to be safe, we should find out where all of the Order members were when Harry was attacked. I'll work on that."

"Isn't there anything that we could do about Scrimgeour in the meantime?" Harry was obviously frustrated.

Surprisingly, Severus agreed. "I think that we should put some obstacle in his path." He stepped away from the mantle and looked at Remus. "You'll need time to talk to everyone. I suspect that your days of freedom are numbered."

Harry looked alarmed, but Remus agreed. "I think so, too. What can we do to slow Scrimgeour down?"

"Where is he most vulnerable?" 

"Public opinion." Harry looked excited. "I bet that a Prophet reporter would love to talk to…well, to me." He sounded sheepish, but doggedly continued. "I could talk about my attack, and add some stuff about questionable evidence in Ron and Hermione's arrests."

"That would suffice." Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. "Unless we act quickly, Scrimgeour holds all of the cards -- if he isolates Potter, he can either discredit him or blackmail him to some end. Or, of course, simply kill him without witnesses."

"Thanks so much," Harry said. "Tell you what -- I'll tell them that there's no way that Hermione could be your daughter, because she's done so many things to benefit the wizarding world."

"Particularly from Azkaban," Severus observed quietly.

"Perhaps I should just lead them here," retorted Harry.

"Fidelius doesn't work that way, idiot boy. Besides, I will not go to Azkaban for you, Granger, Lupin, or any other fool who puts himself into Scrimgeour's path."

Before the dispute escalated, Remus stepped in. "It's late. We've all had a long day, and I think we could use some rest. I'll sleep on the sofa. I can take you up to the spare bedroom if you like, Harry."

Severus raised an eyebrow at Remus and looked amused. "How…noble," he murmured.

Harry stood. "That would be great, Remus. I guess I'm pretty tired, now that I think of it." Remus went to Harry and put an arm around his waist. 

Severus watched, impassive, while he led Harry up the stairs.

After an awkward stop at the toilet, Remus helped Harry into bed and gave him a dose of the Sleeping Draught. Hedwig trilled a sleepy greeting.

Already falling asleep, Harry whispered, "Remus?"

Outside the bedroom door, Remus heard the soft creak of a floorboard. He bent to hear what Harry had to say.

Soft, warm lips pressed to his cheek, lingering for a moment. "Thank you," Harry breathed across his skin. Then he lay down and nestled into his pillow.

Remus straightened and glanced over his shoulder.

Severus stood in the doorway, face mostly in shadow, but body tense. They stared at each other.

Harry made a small sound, and Remus looked back at him. His breathing evened out, and Remus knew he had fallen asleep.

When he turned to the door again, Severus was gone.

Frustrated, Remus gathered a spare blanket and pillow from the hall cupboard and went back downstairs. He blew out the lamps in the sitting room, stripped to his pants and socks and lay down on the sofa, pulling the blanket over his shoulders.

Remus thought about what Severus had said earlier. Why hadn't he been arrested yet? He assumed that he would be, if only to leave Harry without any close friends to help him. Could they use that to their advantage?

A plan forming in his head, he decided to visit Kingsley in the morning. But he wouldn't say anything to Severus or Harry. For now.

He fell asleep to the memory of Harry's lips on his cheek and Severus' silhouette outlined in the doorway, watching.

 

 

Chapter 4:

Exposed to the Invasion of Others

 

 


Remus shut the front door with his foot, hands full of carrier bags of food, and headed for the kitchen.

He and Harry had left early in the morning, their first stop being the Daily Prophet’s office. He’d sent Harry back to Spinner’s End after Rita Skeeter had sucked every detail out of them for an exclusive interview describing Harry’s attack and the lack of evidence for recent arrests. 

Then he’d gone to talk to Kingsley. 

Kingsley had been resistant to his idea, but had reluctantly agreed when Remus had pointed out that they had very few other options -- at least, no options that wouldn't endanger Harry. Or Severus, though Kingsley wouldn't know that.

He paused when he heard voices through the kitchen doorway. Both curious and apprehensive, he put down the carrier bags and paused outside, listening.

"…again, Potter, you've acted before thinking." 

"I know." Harry's voice sounded resigned, or defeated. Remus frowned; even though Harry had said yesterday's incident was consensual, Remus was still worried that it hadn't been. But it sounded like something was bothering Harry.

"Put these on your eyes first. Now hold them there." 

"Ow! Not so tight -- I see lights behind my eyelids when you pull it like that." 

Remus smiled. Harry must have taken the bandages off his eyes prematurely. He went back to pick up the carrier bags again and then froze when Severus spoke, his voice low and cruel.

"You're jealous, aren't you, Potter? A schoolboy crush, perhaps? Or maybe it appeals to your foolhardy side to bed a werewolf." 

Remus was suddenly furious. He entered the kitchen.

Neither man noticed him. Harry was sitting in a chair, Snape behind him, tying off the bandage and crouched close to his ear. 

Harry's voice was steady. "I suppose I am. But then, I'm capable of loving him, aren't I?" 

"You little --!" Severus whirled and straightened when he saw Remus. He sneered, his face ugly with anger. "Well, well, Lupin. Eavesdropping by the door, I see. Did you like what you heard? The Golden Boy loves you."

"Remus?" Harry looked panicked.

He was going to strangle Severus. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Helping Potter with his bandages. Why? Are you afraid that I might be…seducing him?" Severus’ voice was loaded with innuendo and bitterness. 

Remus rarely hated anyone, but at the moment, he hated Severus.

Harry stood, leaning against the table. "He was --"

Remus ignored him. "Christ, Severus! If you've got an issue with me, then deal with me! Leave Harry out of it!"

"You'd like that, wouldn't you? Keep us in our separate boxes, take us out whenever you want to! Well, I’m not going to play that little game." Severus’ face was red and twisted. "A nice little Gryffindor love triangle, with you as the centre. I was part of one once, and I'll be damned if I'm part of one again! I wash my hands of this -- may you both have the misery of each other’s company!" He stormed out of the room.

"Dammit! Severus," Remus called after him. The sound of a door slamming was his only answer.

"Sorry."

Remus turned to Harry, frustrated by his apology. "It's not your fault. It's mine. This was a bad idea from the beginning, but I didn't stop it." He crossed the room and put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "I'm sorry."

Harry gave him a half-smile. "You'd better go and talk to him."

Remus shook his head. "No, he needs some time to cool down. I'll go in a little while. Why don't you sit back down and I'll make us some tea." 

“I really don’t want any, thanks.” Harry looked uncomfortable. “I’ll just go back upstairs for a few hours until the potion’s done working and I can see again.” He felt for the edge of the table to get his bearings.

“Harry. We need to talk. Sit down and I’ll make us some tea.” He slid a chair over to Harry.

Sighing, Harry sat, pulling the chair closer to the table. 

Remus prepared the tea in silence. After he poured for each of them, he watched as Harry used both hands to bring his teacup to his mouth and sip.

Harry set his cup on the table. “You heard what I said, didn’t you?”

“Harry…I care for you, really.” Harry swallowed and turned his head away from Remus.

“You don’t have to say any more, it’s okay. I understand.” Remus had to strain to hear him.

“No, I don’t think that you do,” Remus said. “It’s even hard for me to understand. Severus and I…well, it’s complicated.”

“Do you love him?”

“I don’t know. Yes. Maybe. Sometimes I hate him. It’s just…oh, Christ.” Remus put his teacup down and sat back in his chair, running his hand through his hair. “Look, it’s just…I need him. He’s all I have left.” He dropped his hand. “Everyone else is gone.”

“I understand.” Harry turned his head back towards Remus. “Really. It’s okay, I’ll be fine.”

“You’ll find someone --”

“No!” Harry looked fierce. “Don’t. Just…don’t. I’ve heard it all before, haven’t I?” His voice was bitter. “I’m not like that. I can’t just meet someone and fall for them. I need someone who knows me. Someone who knew me before I started killing.”

“You didn’t kill Voldemort. Severus told me. He said he cast the Killing Curse. You just weakened him by destroying the Horcruxes.”

Harry looked disappointed -- in him? Why? 

“Thanks for talking to me, Remus. I…I think I’ll just go upstairs for a while.” He stood, ready to leave.

“Harry -- wait.” Remus clasped Harry’s arm to keep him from leaving. “Something’s wrong. I don’t want to let you down, but I need to know what you’re thinking in order to understand.”

“Nothing. Really, Remus…” 

“It’s not nothing. Please.” He released Harry and waited.

Harry rubbed his arm and was silent. Remus stood silently, determined to outwait Harry’s reluctance.

Finally, Harry spoke.

“We didn’t share Hermione.”

“What?” He was confused. What did that have to do with Harry being upset about him and Severus?

“She was my sister -- that’s how I thought of her. How I’ve always thought of her. My friend, too, but mostly an older, bossy, caring sister.” Harry smiled, but the smile faded quickly. “But Ron -- he was mine.” 

Remus was still lost, but now that he’d started talking, Harry seemed committed to explaining himself. “He was the first person I ever had, all of my own. But I didn’t, really. She had him, but for a long time I didn’t take them that seriously. I thought that when I needed him, he’d be there. Be mine. You know, like he always had been. But he wasn’t. He couldn’t -- I think he tried, really tried, but I could see it -- not physical repulsion or anything, just…he thought of me as a brother. It didn’t work for him unless she was there, too, but she was my sister…so,” Harry took a deep breath, “…So, he became my friend. Just my friend.”

Oh God. Harry.

He leaned towards Remus, his voice shaking. “So don’t tell me that I don’t understand. I know what it means when there’s nobody left. They knew me, he knew me, before I killed someone. You didn’t know me until later -- the first time I killed, I was eleven, and you didn’t know me until I was thirteen. But he did. I just…I thought he was mine, but he wasn’t. It wouldn’t work.”

“Harry.” Remus could barely talk. Fuck, he’d thought that Harry was disappointed in him because he loved Severus, but he was disappointed in Remus for something entirely different, something that Remus had never even considered. “I meant what I said -- you have so much to offer someone. Don’t let your past get in the way of your future. You aren’t a killer. Not then and not now.”

Harry turned blindly towards him, visibly controlling himself. “Remus, what the fuck do you think a Horcrux is? It’s a piece of a soul, the essence of a life. Snape may have killed Voldemort at the end, but only because I’d already killed him a bunch of times. And he’s not the only one.” Harry stood up. “You’re probably the closest thing that I have right now to someone who knows me, but you don’t, do you?” His voice grew softer, sadder. “I thought you knew me well enough, and that’s all I really want. But I think I was wrong. I don’t think you know me well at all. Sorry for the misunderstanding,” he added, and started feeling his way to the door.

Remus listened to Harry make his slow progress across the sitting room and up the stairs and tried to understand what had just happened.

An hour later, he still wasn’t sure. But he thought he finally understood why, even if Harry hadn’t had much choice, he still considered yesterday’s incident a consensual act. And it bothered him a lot.

Harry was willing to give anything to be loved. But Remus wasn’t enough. So stupid, really -- he’d been trying to let Harry down gently. Instead, Harry had let him down. He’d sounded final.

Not that it should matter. He wasn’t in love with Harry, after all. He loved Severus.

Remus felt empty.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


Some time later, Remus was startled by an owl flying into the kitchen. He untied the day’s Prophet from the owl’s leg and reached into his pocket for money. 

Knuts secured in its payment pouch, the owl flew away. Remus looked down at the front page, only to realise that evening had come without him being aware of the passing of time. The kitchen was dark, the paper unreadable. He looked at it for a moment, then, sick of the thought of more bad news, threw it on the table. Lighting a candle, he made his way upstairs.

Both bedroom doors were closed. Remus paused outside Harry’s room; hearing nothing, he decided to leave Harry alone for a while.

He knocked on Severus’ door.

“Go away.”

“Severus, let me in.”

The door flew open. Severus stood in the doorway, unyielding, arms crossed. They stared at each other.

Something in Severus’ eyes -- anger, certainly, but defeat as well -- cut through Remus’ annoyance. “May I come in?”

Severus stepped back and Remus followed him into the room. Severus crossed to the cracked and drafty window, leaned against the casing and looked out into the darkness. Remus walked over to him and laid a hand on his shoulder, but when Severus stiffened, he dropped it with a sigh.

“I’m sorry.”

“I’ve heard it before.”

“Yes. You have.” Remus went to the bed and sat down heavily. “I’m never going to be able to live up to your standards.”

Severus looked at him. “What I find more disturbing is that you don’t live up to your own.”

“I can’t…please don’t be cryptic. Could you, for once, just tell me what you want instead of making me try to guess?”

Severus glared. “Obviously your actions aren’t to blame, it’s my inability to tell you what I need,” he said sarcastically. “How idiotic of me not to have seen that before. Probably because the person to blame is always the most blind to his culpability. Would you like an apology, Lupin?”

Remus locked eyes with him for a moment before looking down. “You’re right. I didn’t mean to blame you.”

“Of course you did. Do me the courtesy of telling me the truth.”

“I care for him, Severus. He’s…” belatedly, Remus realised that he had no right to tell Severus what he and Harry had talked about. 

Luckily, Severus didn’t seem to want to listen to his reasons. “You said the same thing about Black.”

“He needed me. Now Harry needs me.” Remus realised that this was an inadequate response, but Severus said nothing. “I need to be needed. I’m not independent by nature, not like you. I need other people in my life.”

“You’re a fool.” Severus glared and looked out the window again. “I meant what I said. I won’t do it.”

“Harry’s different,” Remus said. “He’s become isolated, even more so now that his friends have been arrested. He’s had a miserable life so far. He deserves more.”

Severus turned to face Remus. “And I’ve had a miserable life, and you’ve had a miserable life, and Albus had a miserable death. We all deserve more. Potter’s not special. Nor are you, nor am I. You and Potter had a chance at integration, at becoming a part of the greater wizarding world, but that chance has passed. The situation will get much worse, and I hold little hope that it will get better in the future. Fucking around, while enjoyable in the short term, will not solve the problem. Potter won’t thank you for your pity.”

Remus nodded and looked at the floor. He could feel Severus’ eyes studying him.

“You’ll be arrested next, you know. You’re the last one standing between Scrimgeour and Potter.”

“He wants you, too,” Remus said to the floor. “He’s been trying to manipulate Harry into finding you.”

“Of course he does. While I’m free, I’m beyond his control. I could prove dangerous to him, either by publicly exposing the lies behind the New Resurrectionist movement, or privately through blackmail. He has a healthy respect for my abilities.” Severus smiled to himself, and it wasn’t pleasant.

“I talked to Kingsley today. He’s trying to find out what’s going on, but he says that several of his Aurors are being evasive. He thinks that Scrimgeour is buying them off.” Remus scratched the back of his neck. “I’m worried that Scrimgeour will target him before he gets to the bottom of this, but Kingsley says that Scrimgeour is still leery of pushing him too far, since the majority of Aurors are loyal to him. There’d be an outcry from them if Kingsley were put in Azkaban.”

“A little Ministry chess game.” Severus walked over to the bed and sat down next to Remus. “Better them than me. I’m finished with that kind of playacting.”

Remus looked up. “You’re experienced, though. Think of what we could accomplish if you just deigned to…”

“Deigned?” Severus abruptly stood up. “As if I have some choice!” He paced in the small space, brushing Remus’ feet with his robes every time he turned. “If I ‘deign’ to help, it will be my death warrant.”

Remus sighed and reached out a hand to stop Severus’ pacing. Grabbing a handful of his robe, he pulled it sharply, making him stumble. Remus caught him.

“Get your hands off me,” Severus spat, his lip curled in disgust. He tried to escape, but Remus held him tightly. 

“I don’t want to fight.”

Severus snarled a warning. 

Remus insisted. “Really, Severus. I don’t want to fight. I just want…” he buried his face in Severus’ robes. “I want you. I need you.” He didn’t know if Severus had heard his muffled words, but the other man relaxed slightly.

Remus rubbed his face against the stiff cloth at Severus’ crotch, feeling the soft bulge of his cock stir and begin to harden. He inhaled his scent and looked up, meeting Severus’ eyes looking down at him. There was no indication that he was going to break away, though he still looked dangerous, his eyes glinting with malice. Remus decided to risk it, running his hands up his long legs and cupping his arse with his hands, pulling him closer. Remus buried his face in Severus’ crotch again, stropping his eyes, his nose, his chin, his throat against his hardening erection.

Abruptly, Severus grabbed Remus by the hair and pulled him tight while thrusting his groin into his face. His hardened cock battered against Remus’ nose as he began to move, bringing tears to Remus’ eyes and a hiss of breath from between Severus’ clenched teeth. Remus angled his face to protect his nose and mouthed the cloth-covered cock, lightly biting it and eliciting another intake of breath. 

The smell of Severus’ arousal became stronger. An answering wave of arousal swept through Remus.

God, he wanted him, wanted him hard and fast and hurting. 

Biting harder, he used Severus’ instinctive withdrawal to pull away enough to bring his hands up to unbutton his robes and trousers with swift, practised motions. He roughly pulled his cock out of his pants and fisted it. Severus gave a small cry and stumbled forward, catching and bracing himself on Remus’ shoulders as Remus opened his mouth and sucked him in.

He began to rub his own cock as he sucked Severus’ prick. Delicious scents floated up from Severus’ body, exciting him further as he gripped the base of his cock, hard, and rubbed the head against the inside of his cheek and along the ridge of his teeth. Severus shuddered and moaned deep in his chest, his movements jerky as he struggled between pain and pleasure. He thrust hard, and Remus felt the head of his cock hit the back of his throat. He swallowed.

“Fuck. Lupin. No…” Severus’ words seemed to signal his distress, and Remus released the hard prick, a long line of spittle and precome curving gently between it and his mouth for an instant before it broke under its own weight. Severus’ knees gave, and Remus pulled and rolled him as he collapsed, pushing him onto his back across the bed, legs hanging off the side. Swiftly tugging off Severus’ shoes, trousers and pants, he spread his robes wide upon the bed and knelt on the floor between his legs, squeezing his cock hard and diving back down to take it into his mouth. Severus jumped at the sudden suction and then began to thrust.

He stopped rubbing his crotch through his trousers and unbuttoned them one-handed, pulling his cock out from his pants. Setting a rough rhythm, he pulled his cock in time to Severus’ thrusts, glorying in the knowledge that they’d both be bruised and sore after, loving the raw power and lust that were sweeping them both forward.

And then Severus started to talk.

“Lupin, imagine Potter watching us, watching you as you suck me…ah,” he cried out as Remus pulled hard on his cock, excited by his words. “Watching you suck me, bruise me, leave your teeth marks on me…”

Remus moaned and pulled back, darting forward to bite the tender skin high inside Severus’ thigh, revelling in his pained outcry and then laving his tongue over the coarse black hair covering it. He looked up; Severus’ face was turned away from him. But his writhing body clearly indicated his need. Remus nipped along the reddened flesh, leaving even more teeth marks.

“Yess…” hissed Severus. “Just like that. Potter’s watching you, watching us and wanting, wanting to be here under your hands, under your teeth, in your mouth…” and Remus sucked Severus back in, scraping his teeth along the sensitive underside of his cock as he fisted himself harder. “Oh, God, yes, fuck, like that, but Potter is tender and sweet and hard for you, so fucking hard and you know that his arsehole is begging, aching for your fingers and your cock, his mouth hungry for my cock as I pound down his throat…” With a cry, Severus erupted into Remus’ mouth, pulse after pulse of come spurting until it overflowed from Remus’ lips and dripped down his chin.

Then Remus came hard, crying out around the mouthful of cock he refused to release, even as Severus tried to squirm away from the overstimulation of his sensitive flesh. Holding Severus’ cock tight, he grasped his own cock with a punishing grip and rubbed it against the coarse hair of Severus’ leg, roughly teasing out burst after burst of come. Bright spots floated before his eyes and he finally collapsed, releasing Severus’ prick, his face pressed into the other man’s leg, panting hot against his skin. Severus stretched out on the bed above him.

Then, in the panting silence, Remus heard the quiet click of the bedroom door as it closed.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


Severus lay on the bed and watched him with glittering eyes as Remus shakily stood and put his cock back into his pants, buttoning his trousers closed. He looked down at him.

“You knew he was there.”

Severus said nothing, made no movement of his head to agree or disagree, but a flash of his black eyes was all Remus needed.

“You bastard,” he whispered. Snape sat up as Remus walked out the door, but he didn’t call out after him.

Downstairs, the glow of a soft light from the kitchen led Remus to Harry.

Harry was seated at the table, flushed and heavy-lidded; the bandages that had been covering his eyes were gone. He didn’t look up when Remus entered the room, but Remus could see his body tense.

“I didn’t know you were there.”

The flush deepened. “I know. It was Snape.” Harry stared at the table, not meeting his eyes.

“He had no right to do that to you. To us.”

Harry turned then, reluctant eyes meeting Remus’ despite his evident discomfort. “I…it wasn’t,” he seemed at a loss for words. Remus waited. “I didn’t feel like he was doing anything to me,” he finally said. “Like he was hurting me or anything.”

Remus frowned and sat down. “Harry, he was taunting you, and using you to taunt me, even if I didn’t know it at the time.”

Harry shook his head. “It wasn’t like that. You didn’t see --” The flush began to recede and a strange expression crossed Harry’s face, at once older and…hungry. “It was good,” he said simply. “I didn’t mind. In fact, I enjoyed it.”

Remus was horrified. “Harry! He -- it was malicious, what he did. You deserve better, deserve more. Deserve to be treated with respect, with love --”

Tilting his head, Harry looked at Remus speculatively. “It wasn’t malicious. It was…” the flush rose again but faded immediately, “…it was hot. Remus,” he waved a hand in the air. “I’ve got people who respect me. I’ve got people who treat me with love. What I don’t have is an equal, someone who takes and gives without it being personal. Snape did that, gave me that. I couldn’t see you, but I could see what you were doing to him, how you made him feel, and I could hear you and it was hot. Really hot. I got off on it, I came, it was good. In fact,” and a wicked smile twisted his lips, “I really wouldn’t mind doing it again sometime. Or something like it, anyway.”

“If I’d known you were there…” Remus stood up and pushed his chair away. 

It was wrong. He’d hurt Severus once already by making the wrong choice; he had no right to do it again. And Harry…Harry. A man, no longer a boy, but a man damaged by a life no one should have had to endure – could he in all good conscience take advantage of Harry’s desperate vulnerability? He imagined that he could hear the voices of James, Sirius, Lily, raised in anger, sharp with censure, soft with pleading, telling, shaming, begging him not to damage Harry further.

Yet…so sweet. Severus knew him well. Harry would taste so sweet…Remus looked at his reflection in the dark kitchen window, and hated what he saw.

He turned around and looked at Harry.

“I don’t know if I could do that,” he said.

Dismay, frustration, and anger washed across Harry’s face, but he nodded abruptly. “Fine. Then don’t.” He pushed himself to his feet. “By the way,” he said bitterly, “ just so you don’t think I’m some kind of a pervert who spies on other people having sex, you might want to take a look at the fucking Prophet. I went up to talk to you about it. They didn’t bother to print my interview.” He limped out of the room.

Remus looked down at the paper on the table. Its headline silently screamed at him and his blood ran cold.

“Is Harry Potter the New Dark Lord?!”

Below, in smaller type it read “Arthur Weasley Arrested; Hunt Begins for Werewolf Remus Lupin.”

 

 

Chapter 5:

Why Will He Part With His Freedom?

 

 


Laugher burst from Severus’ lips as he read the Prophet article. It grated on Remus’ nerves. Breakfast was not going well.

Not well at all.

“’If so many of his companions are suspected New Resurrectionists, how can Potter remain unaware of it? The answer is: he can't,’” Severus read mockingly. “’Is Harry Potter the New Dark Lord?’” Severus lowered the paper and looked at Harry. “Perhaps, if the only talent needed to be a Dark Lord involved chasing balls whilst riding the shaft of a fast broom. Oh, but you can’t do that anymore, can you, Potter? Leg can’t take it?"

Harry flushed but didn’t reply, dipping his toast into his egg and taking a bite.

“Actually, I suspect they’d be even more terrified to learn that their new Dark Lord was…what do the Muggles call them? A peeping tom?”

Harry choked on his tea and Remus growled. “Enough, Severus.”

“Just imagine,” Severus continued regardless. “A couple, innocently fucking each other’s brains out, only to look up and find the Dark Lord pulling on his cock and staring at them. Sends shivers down one’s spine, don’t you think?”

Before Remus could say anything, Harry put down his cup and leaned towards Severus. “Shivers…Oh, you must mean rivers. Like the rivers of come you shot while you fantasised about my…mouth, wasn’t it? While Remus had my arse? Oh, my mistake,” he sneered. “My hungry arsehole.”

“You little --”

“Come off it, Snape.” Harry’s voice was cold. “You loved it. I saw it in your face. Teasing me, controlling Remus --”

Remus couldn’t take it any longer. “Stop it!” Both men looked at him. “Don’t either of you dare use me to get at the other!” He stormed out of the room.

This had to stop. It had to stop now. Before he started to hate both of them.

Grimly, Remus Apparated to Kingsley’s home.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


“Everything’s in place.”

Remus had never been more relieved to hear those words. “So what, now we just wait?”

“I doubt that it will take long,” Kingsley replied. “Scrimgeour’s ordered all Aurors to arrest you on sight.”

“And then they’ll take me to Azkaban.”

“Or directly to Interrogation.” Kingsley looked grim. “He wants any information that he can get about Harry.”

“Is there any way that you can keep them from learning anything from me?” This was the weak part of the plan. 

Kingsley shook his head. “I’ve been assigned to oversee operations at Azkaban indefinitely, and Outhard’s been promoted to Interrogation.”

“He’s the one you’ve been worried about.” 

“Mmhm.” Kingsley seemed lost in thought. “If Outhard’s men get you before mine, they may take you directly to Interrogation. So far, none of the other Order members have been taken there immediately, though. All of them spent time in Azkaban first. I’ll know as soon as you’re arrested, of course, but I’ll only be able to get to you once you’re brought to the prison.”

“Then let’s hope that they do what they’ve been doing all along.” Remus wasn’t sure if they could force him to break Fidelius under Veritaserum, but he didn’t want to find out. He’d meant to ask Severus but had forgotten about it after their row. “Everything’s set up at his office?”

Kingsley nodded. “I had Richards ‘accidentally’ escort Arthur to Scrimgeour’s office when he was supposed to take him directly to Interrogation. Both Arthur and Richards were able to place their surveillance devices. We’ve already monitored and documented several incriminating meetings that have taken place since then.” He looked worried. “They’ve really focused on the fact that you’re a werewolf. That worries me -- several of the Aurors lost friends or family members to Greyback’s pack during the War. Whatever you do, don’t struggle or try to escape. I think they’d keep you alive long enough to be interrogated, but cooperation is your best safeguard. Don’t give them any excuse to kill you outright. I don’t think we could get to you in time – the Auror Corps’ internal Ministry Apparition wards are only set for Outhard and his men now, so we’ll need to come in from the public Apparition points.”

Remus took a deep breath. “Right. Well then, I’d better get going.”

“I don’t like this,” Kingsley said bluntly. “We’ve got plenty on him already.”

“But we don’t know how he found Grimmauld Place. Until we find out it’ll be vulnerable, and so will Harry.”

Kingsley stared at him, then shook his head and offered his hand. “Good luck.” 

Remus smiled grimly. “Happy hunting.”

They shook hands.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


Remus heard voices when he arrived at Spinner’s End. He followed them to the kitchen.

"I’ll do it. You just keep your end of the bargain."

Harry’s voice was grim. Remus stopped to listen.

Severus’ response was bitter. “I’ll keep my end of the bargain. You just make sure that you don’t mess things up in the meantime.”

“What, like you did?” There was silence for a moment, and Remus imagined the two men glaring at one another. “I know what happened, you know. The Headmaster didn’t destroy the ring Horcrux. You did. But you screwed up, didn’t you? He had to save you and took the curse for you.”

Remus was stunned. There was a long silence, long enough that Remus wondered if one of them had cast Silencio, or a wordless curse on the other. Finally, he heard a muffled thump and the sound of a chair scraping against the floor.

“Yes.” Severus’ admission was so quiet that Remus barely heard it. “How did you…?”

Harry’s response was also quiet. “In the cave, when he was…distracted. I needed to know how badly he was injured, and I…well, I Legilimized him. I wasn’t thinking, it just happened. And I saw it. Later, I thought…”

There was silence, then Severus’ hoarse voice. “Yes, Potter? Do tell me what exactly you thought.”

“I thought that was why you killed him. Because you didn’t want anyone to find out that you’d messed up. That he was dying because of your mistake.”

Another silence, longer this time. Remus didn’t dare to break it. He waited.

“It wasn’t just you, you know.” The grim note was back in Harry’s voice. “I did it, too.”

“I know. We’re both fools.” Another pause. “Remus is --”

“I know. He’s why.”

“Yes.”

"Fuck it. If it's the best I can get, I'll take it." Harry sounded angry, almost vengeful.

Remus heard the chair scrape again, a grunt, muffled gasps. Suddenly afraid of what was happening, he stepped through the doorway.

He’d expected to see a silent, deadly struggle. 

Instead, he saw Harry, straddling Severus’ lap, holding his head in both of his hands and grinding against him, kissing him desperately.

And Severus was responding just as fervently. One arm was crooked around Harry’s neck, pulling him closer as he rubbed his crotch with the heel of his palm, eliciting a long moan. Remus watched, mesmerised, horrified, aroused, as Harry’s thrusts drove the chair along the floor, little by little, scrape by scrape. 

Severus snarled and caught Harry’s bottom lip between his teeth, pulling back as he cried out in pain. He released it, and Harry dove back down to capture his mouth, straining to push himself harder against him. His precipitate move knocked the chair over, and both men fell to the floor, Severus twisting to land on top of Harry, frotting hard against him. 

Harry’s pain-filled cry shocked Remus to awareness. Fuck. Harry and…and Severus? This wasn’t supposed to happen. This shouldn’t be happening. Harry hated Severus. And Severus…that bastard.

He was furious.

Torn between rage and jealousy, Remus had just enough control to Apparate away before he killed one or both of them. He reappeared in the sitting room at Grimmauld Place.

God damn them both! What the fuck did they think they were doing? Snape’s half-hearted protest was a lie, a sham, he’d never love anyone because he was fucking incapable of it, and Harry, Harry was so fucked up that he took without regard for himself or anyone else. How could he have become mixed up with two such selfish, fucked up men?

Unbidden, an image sprang to mind of the three of them intertwined together, kissing, moaning, fucking and being fucked…

Remus picked up a vase and flung it against the fireplace.

Behind him, he could hear the front door slam in the hallway. Mrs Black’s portrait started screaming.

Biting back his anger as well as he could, he turned to confront whichever man had followed him here.

He found himself face to face with a stranger. Shocked at seeing an unknown person in Grimmauld Place, he froze. Before he could move, the man pointed a wand at him and shouted, “Stupefy!” 

Everything went black.

 

 

vVvVvVv

 

 


The first thing Remus was vaguely aware of was that his head hurt. Badly.

Ennervate, you stubborn werewolf!”

Jolted awake, Remus squinted up. A dark face was looking down at him, concern apparent.

“Kingsley?” Nausea suddenly overtook him, and he twisted helplessly to the side, vomiting copiously.

Dimly, he heard Kingsley cursing, then a muttered “Evanesco.” Gentle hands turned him until he was lying on his back again and a damp cloth was wiped over his face. A glass was thrust into his hand with a curt, “Drink this.”

It was nearly as awful as his Wolfsbane Potion, but Remus choked it down and immediately felt better. He struggled to sit up. “What happened?” Then he froze. 

Severus. 

Harry.

Oh, God. The plan. He had to focus on the plan. He put a hand to his head.

Kingsley watched him grimly. “The bastards gave you aconite – not enough to kill you, but you would have been incapacitated if I hadn’t been here. It took me nearly five minutes to revive you.”

Damn. He needed to forget about Severus and Harry, at least for the time being. Easier said than done, though. Sitting, Remus saw that he was in a cold, dark, windowless cell with mildewed stone walls, moisture running down them like tears, sitting on a rank-smelling cot. An open hole gaped in one corner, the unmistakable smell of human waste rising from it. His nose wrinkled. 

Azkaban. Severus had spent time here once…no. He wouldn’t think about it. About him. “I take it they didn’t bother to take me straight to Interrogation.”

A broad smile split Kingsley’s face. “Luck was with us, my friend. Well, except for the aconite,” he amended. “If you’re ready, it’s time to go to my office and see what happened to you, and see what Scrimgeour’s up to now that he has you.”

Remus nodded and stood, a residual ache in his bones. He’d been poisoned with aconite twice before in his life, and he recognised the stiffness in his joints. His next transformation would be hellish. Maybe Severus could…no.

Putting the thought from his mind, he followed Kingsley out of the cell. 

The two Aurors who had been guarding Remus’ cell fell in behind them as they walked through haunted, silent corridors. Remus couldn’t tell if there were other prisoners in the cells that they passed, but if there were, they made no sound. 

Finally they reached a huge, ironclad door that silently opened in front of them.

Inside was a room dominated by a huge fireplace, large enough to hold a tree trunk, fire blazing high. The flames barely countered the cold of Azkaban, though; frost rimed the walls and ceiling. A massive desk was angled to capture the small circle of heat that the great fireplace created, its front scorched and black. As they passed it, Remus could see his breath.

In the middle of the room was a large, round table covered with parchments, with the largest crystal ball that Remus had ever seen sitting exactly in the middle. The clear glass caught the fire’s bright flames and flipped them upside down, refracting light until it glowed like a miniature sun. Other Aurors surrounded the table in several small clusters, talking quietly but all turning to watch as they entered the room.

Kingsley crossed to the table, Remus and the Aurors following him. “Everything in place?”

Remus recognised the Auror who replied -- Dawlish. An arsehole, but a competent one. “Outhard’s in with Scrimgeour right now.” He turned to the crystal, and Remus realised that within the depths of the firelight captured inside he could see the Minister of Magic’s office.

“…werewolf will be pretty sick. My Aurors should be able to handle him. When do you want me to start the interrogation?” Remus didn’t recognise the man, but he assumed him to be Outhard. 

Scrimgeour’s eyes were narrowed; he looked pleased. “As soon as your men can get Kingsley to release him. It’s unfortunate that he found out about the arrest before we could bring the wolf here, but,” he waved a lazy hand, “we have time.”

“Potter’s isolated now,” Outhard sounded a bit worried. “He’s liable to be dangerous.”

“He’s lame, alone and marked as a new Dark Lord,” Scrimgeour replied. “How dangerous could he be? You’ve got several men, after all. I’m sure that you can out-strategise Potter -- he’s transparent as glass and there’s nobody telling him what to do anymore. It wouldn’t surprise me if he shows up on our doorstep, demanding to have all of his friends released.”

Outhard obediently laughed, but Remus could see that Scrimgeour hadn’t convinced him. Scrimgeour waved him away. “You worry too much. You won’t have any problems. Send Pratchett over to the Black mansion; Potter will likely stop by sooner or later, looking for Lupin.”

Remus’ blood ran cold. He hadn’t warned Harry and Severus.

“Are you all right?” 

Kingsley’s voice seemed to come from far away. “I forgot to tell them,” Remus replied automatically.

“Forgot to tell…them?” Kingsley’s voice was curious.

Remus shook his head. He needed to stay focused. He turned to meet Kingsley’s eyes. “I meant to tell Harry about this,” he said. “But there were too many things going on. I got distracted and forgot. Scrimgeour’s right -- Harry will start looking for me at Grimmauld Place. But,” he frowned, “I still don’t understand how they know about Grimmauld Place.”

Dawlish spoke up. “They’re using a scrap of paper. Something seems to be written on it.”

Kingsley and Remus exchanged glances. “A piece of paper shouldn’t matter,” Kingsley said. “When Grimmauld Place was put under Fidelius, all references to it would have disappeared from any written documentation. That’s part of the charm’s magic.”

“But once Albus died, the Fidelius should have been broken,” Remus said slowly. “Yet…it wasn’t. I never really gave it a thought. But for some reason, the Fidelius held.” 

“Albus transferred the Fidelius to me after his arm was cursed,” Kingsley said. “He was still the original Secret Keeper, so he could still theoretically have lifted the Fidelius, but to my knowledge, Harry was the last one who Albus told. After Severus murdered Albus, I told Dawlish and the others in this room about Grimmauld Place so that if anything happened to me, there would still be some Aurors that I trusted who could continue to work with what remained of the Order. But they can’t tell anyone, and I haven’t told anyone, so I just don’t see --”

“Harry.” Remus spoke softly. “Remember? When we collected Harry from the Dursleys, Albus couldn’t come with us. He sent a note with us -- he’d written the address on it.”

Kingsley nodded thoughtfully. “I remember now. But Moody destroyed it.”

Remus shrugged. “Maybe Albus wrote another one at some point, one that didn’t get destroyed.”

“But how would Scrimgeour have got his hands on it?”

“I was at Hogwarts when Albus was killed.” Remus ruthlessly suppressed the memories of that night: Harry’s pain and anger, Tonks’ wild hope that Remus would be hers, Severus’ seeming betrayal -- he shook his head. “The Minister and a delegation of his Aurors came to the school that night. Minerva met them in Albus’ -- her office. But she was called out for a time to deal with some parents who refused to wait until morning to take their children home. I think it was the Patils…”

“So Scrimgeour would have had time to look through Albus’ office.” Kingsley leaned on the table. “I was still with the Muggle Prime Minister, then.”

Remus nodded. “We could probably talk to the portraits of the former headmasters and headmistresses -- they may remember if Scrimgeour took anything with him from the office.”

Kingsley glanced at one of the Aurors, who nodded and left the room. He looked at Remus. “He would have recognised the address as being related to Sirius. He worked on that file before he transferred it to me when he realised he could make a bid for the position of Minister of Magic. Everyone knew that the Black mansion was in that part of London -- we just didn’t know exactly where, because Albus had already invoked the Fidelius.”

Remus nodded absently, staring into the crystal ball. It showed Scrimgeour pouring himself a drink and looking around his office proudly. He’d acquired an ornate pentagram carpet at some point, Remus noticed. More blood money, undoubtedly. Pentagram carpets provided powerful protections when skilfully charmed. His cloak hung heavy and rich on his shoulders, and the light of the fire behind him painted his hair and beard with red flames. He looked like a creature of darkness and fire, grimly majestic.

There was a knock at the office door. Scrimgeour frowned and Remus and Kingsley leaned forward to see who the visitor would turn out to be. 

“Come in.”

The door opened. Scrimgeour whirled and dropped his drink, his cloak swinging out like wings. His hand went to his wand. “You!”

“Drop it.” 

Remus felt faint. He knew that voice. 

Kingsley’s eyes widened. “Snape!”

Remus watched in horror as Severus entered the Minister’s office. “I said, drop it, Minister.” He flicked his wrist, and Scrimgeour’s wand flew through the air. “That’s better.”

Scrimgeour’s voice was hoarse. “What are you doing here?”

Remus wanted to know the answer to that question, too. His mouth was dry. Behind him, he could hear Kingsley muttering terse orders to his Aurors, and a flurry of activity as several of them left the room.

“We’ve got him now,” Kingsley said with grim satisfaction.

Fuck. Severus.

Severus was speaking. "You asked me here.”

“I contacted you weeks ago,” Scrimgeour growled through gritted teeth. “You turned me down.”

“And you printed that absurd story about Granger in retaliation,” Severus sneered. “However,” he slowly circled around Scrimgeour’s desk, “I’ve changed my mind. We share a common goal. We both want Potter dead.”

The breath left Remus’ lungs. No. It couldn’t be true. 

But Severus had insisted that he didn’t know him.

“And what makes you think that you can get to Potter more effectively than I can?”

“Because I’ve seduced the fool.” Severus was terse. “I’ve gained his trust. Can you say the same?”

The memory of Harry and Severus entwined on the kitchen floor came to his mind. Oh, God. 

Kingsley whispered, “Snape’s got Harry…”

Remus was numb. This couldn’t be happening. He couldn’t have misread Severus to this extent.

Scrimgeour’s face was twisted with anger. “I don’t need to, do I? I’ve taken everything away from him.”

“Except me.”

Remus shuddered involuntarily. What the hell was Severus up to?

“Except you,” Scrimgeour conceded. “But what’s to stop me from arresting you, too?”

“Or killing me?” Severus mocked. He slashed his wand through the air. “Necto factum nostrum!” 

Scrimgeour cried out as a bright light enveloped them both and then faded.

Severus smiled in a particularly nasty way. “Now, whatever happens to me also happens to you.”

Remus watched, flabbergasted.

“You bastard!” Scrimgeour was livid.

“Yes,” Severus agreed. “But I imagine that you’re much less likely to take overly hasty actions against me now that we both would share the same fate. At least, until I cast the counterspell. But perhaps we should talk about how to achieve our mutual objective.” He sat on the edge of the desk. “None of your pathetic attempts have killed Potter yet, or even seriously damaged him. He’s stubborn. He’s popular. He’s survived negative publicity in the past. And just in case you’ve forgotten,” Severus narrowed his eyes, “he’s killed a Dark Lord. You underestimate the danger he poses if you think it’s only political. The papers have been reporting that I'm trying to make Potter the new Dark Lord. We both know it's not true – I’d sooner kill him and be done. For the right price, perhaps I could arrange for that to happen. But if you want my cooperation, I want something in return."

“Which would be…?”

“Nothing difficult. Money. A Portkey. Time.”

“And if I give you those things?”

“Then I give you Potter,” Severus replied. “Dead, alive, whichever state you prefer.”

Scrimgeour looked thoughtful. “How long?”

“Tonight, if you like.”

“Details,” Scrimgeour demanded.

Severus smiled. “As soon as I have verified a Gringotts transfer for, say, ten million galleons --”

“Ten million! Impossible!”

“A small price to pay for political longevity, I would imagine. Think about it.” Severus watched Scrimgeour for a moment and then added persuasively, “I should think that the Ministry would seize Potter’s property and possessions. They are substantial. Your loss would be minimal.”

Scrimgeour’s face was frighteningly avaricious. “True. Ten million galleons – but that’s the final price. No open hands later. And the bonding curse is lifted before you leave.”

“After. Once I’m safely beyond your reach. I’m willing to pledge an Unbreakable Vow to that effect,” Severus said. “An untraceable Portkey that I can key to any destination I choose. Ten years with no pursuit.”

“And after the ten years?”

“If you can find me, you’re welcome to try to arrest me.”

Scrimgeour snorted in amusement. “You have a deal.”

Severus stood and drew an intricate pattern in the air. A flaming rope appeared. He held out his hand. “Make your pledge.”

Scrimgeour took Severus’ hand. “I will pay you ten million galleons to bring Harry Potter to me, the funds to be disbursed per your instructions. I will provide an untraceable Portkey that only you can key, for any destination that you choose. I pledge not to pursue you for ten years.”

“Clarify the last. Neither you, nor any that you employ, now or at any future date, may pursue me for ten years from the date I deliver Potter to you.”

“I agree.” The flame wrapped around their hands. “Now, your pledge.”

“I pledge to deliver Harry Potter to you before the night is out, and to release the bond holding you once I am safely away and have secured my payment.” Another flaming rope appeared and wrapped around their hands.

“Agreed.” The flames flared and disappeared. Scrimgeour looked eager. “Go. Bring him. I’ll be waiting.”

Severus bowed and left.

“Harry,” he whispered.

“Don’t worry,” Kingsley said. “Dawlish and his Aurors will follow Snape. They’ll keep Harry safe. Then we’ll get them both. Scrimgeour and Snape, all in one night.” 

Remus felt sick.

Suddenly, the doors burst open, and Dawlish and his men strode inside, clearly angry and upset.

“We’ve lost the bastard!”

In the subsequent uproar, Remus stood frozen, next to the roaring fire that had no power to warm him.

 

 

Chapter Six:

Subject to No Body

 

 


The atmosphere in the room was tense. 

Ultimately, Kingsley had decided that they’d have to wait until Snape reappeared before they could move on the Ministry. Meanwhile, Outhard’s office had sent for Remus, for interrogation. Kingsley had put him off for the time being, but they were all aware that time was running out. 

The wait gave Remus too much time to think. 

Now that the seeds of doubt had been planted, they grew with a vengeance. His jealousy seemed insignificant when faced with Severus’ apparent betrayal. He’d known the Slytherin held to his own beliefs and scorned Remus’ values, but he had honestly believed that the man cared for him, at least as much as he was able to care for anyone. 

It hadn’t escaped Remus’ attention that Severus had not approached Scrimgeour until after he must have been aware that Remus had been arrested. Did that mean that Severus felt free of Remus’ influence, so that he was now pursuing his own agenda? Or did it mean that he was so desperate for his own continued safety that he was willing to sacrifice Harry in order to attain it without Remus’ help?

And Harry. Harry, who only wanted to be loved. Harry, who for most of his young life had been used by others, forced into a destiny that he had hated yet borne with patience and a great deal of grace. Who was alone. Isolated. Friendless.

How would Harry survive this latest betrayal? Remus felt sick as he remembered how he had practically ordered him to protect and trust Severus, and how he had defended Severus’ actions last night, even in the face of possible humiliation. Harry’s damnable, heroic honour, once again sacrificed for someone else’s benefit.

Remus looked around the room. Most of the Aurors were organising parchments and making notes, while a few sat in chairs around the table, drinking tea and talking quietly. Remus found his eyes once again pulled to the huge crystal, watching Scrimgeour’s nervous pacing as he awaited Snape’s return.

Scrimgeour suddenly paused and looked towards his office door. 

Sharp Auror eyes noted the change, and Remus found himself surrounded by people, all watching the crystal intently.

Severus walked into Scrimgeour’s office, roughly pushing forward someone covered with a hooded black robe, hands bound in front and walking with an unmistakable limp.

Remus gasped. Harry. Severus really had brought Harry to Scrimgeour.

Kingsley began to issue orders in a low, urgent voice. Aurors broke up into groups and began to leave the room.

Severus grabbed the bound man’s shoulder and pushed him into the chair in front of Scrimgeour’s desk. He yanked the hood back to show Harry’s pale face, a gag covering his mouth.

Harry looked around in evident confusion as Scrimgeour’s face lit up.

“I confirmed deposit of the money,” Severus said bluntly. “Here’s Potter.”

Harry shot a startled look at Severus, then his face twisted in anger and he tried to speak around the gag. Severus ignored him, but Scrimgeour seemed to be amused.

“So, Mr Potter. You don’t look very happy.”

Harry shot a furious glance at Scrimgeour, but turned back to glare at Severus. This time, Severus sneered back. 

“You pathetic fool, Potter. Always trusting the wrong people.”

Harry gripped the edge of Scrimgeour’s desk with his bound hands, hatred written across his face.

“Come on,” Remus whispered. If the Aurors could reach Scrimgeour’s office quickly, Harry might yet come out of this unharmed. 

Severus would have to take his own chances. Still, even now Remus couldn’t bear to think of his capture.

Scrimgeour cast a spell. “Take the gag off. No one will hear him – I soundproofed the door.”

Severus looked at Scrimgeour, disdain written across his face, but motioned with his wand. The gag fell from Harry’s face.

“Snape. You fucking bastard.”

Severus rolled his eyes. “Once again I’m astounded by your command of the baser aspects of the English language,” he said. He looked at Scrimgeour. “Where’s my Portkey?”

“Here.” Scrimgeour handed him an old glove. “All you have to do is to key it to your destination. It will activate immediately.” He walked around Harry, staring at him with eager eyes. “Mr Potter. You are a dangerous man.”

Harry looked at Scrimgeour scornfully. “Only to paranoid idiots with a power complex.”

Kingsley cursed. Catching Remus’ eye, he explained. “Dawlish just reported that the public Apparition points are blocked. They have to go through the employee entrances at the other end of the building.”

Remus looked back at the crystal as Scrimgeour laughed softly. “True enough. Too bad this particular paranoid -- idiot -- is smarter than the last one you faced.” He looked up. “You’re done, Snape. You can leave now.” 

Severus hesitated. 

“Well?”

Severus stared at Harry. “I must admit that I’m reluctant to leave without offering Mr Potter some sort of…farewell.”

Scrimgeour beamed. “Sexual or merely abusive?”

Severus snorted with laughter. “I can get sex anywhere. But Potter at my mercy…I’ve dreamed of what I might do if ever offered the chance.”

“I’ve always wanted a demonstration of an Unforgivable or two,” Scrimgeour murmured. “Bad form doing them myself, having been an Auror.”

Severus raised an eyebrow. “Then I believe that you’ll enjoy this.” He turned to Harry and raised his wand. “Imperio!

Harry’s eyes glazed over and he straightened in the chair.

Remus frowned. What was happening? He knew Harry could resist the Imperius Curse. Had Severus given him something to overcome his resistance?

Scrimgeour smiled. “Make him confess to being the new Dark Lord. That his friends are all criminals.”

Severus raised an eyebrow. “Well, Potter? Tell him that you’re the new Dark Lord. Tell him that your friends are all criminals.”

Harry looked at Scrimgeour. “I killed Voldemort so that I could be Dark Lord. I…” He seemed to be fighting the words. “I…”

A sudden flash of light distracted Remus. “Dawlish has the internal Apparation spells back in place! Let’s go!” Kingsley grabbed Remus’ arm and Apparated them.

Once in the Ministry, Kingsley and the remaining Aurors ran down the hall to the Minister’s office, Remus at their heels. They burst into the room.

Several Aurors surrounded Scrimgeour and were manoeuvring him towards the door, the Minister unmistakably held in a body-binding spell. The rest of the Aurors held their wands aimed at Harry and Severus, who stood at bay in the back of the room, wands out and pointed towards the Aurors.

“Stunning spells only!” Kingsley shouted. “Potter’s under Imperius!”

Remus struggled to break through the ranks of Aurors as spells began to fly. Harry and Severus had erected shielding spells that repelled the Aurors’ magic, ricocheting spells around the room. Remus ducked as two Aurors fell in front of him.

“No!” he shouted. He stood as the spells exhausted themselves, in time to see Harry and Severus vanish in front of him.

“Damn!” Kingsley swore. “Snape had the Portkey!”

 



vVvVvVv

 

 


Remus froze. He had to find them, before Kingsley did. He turned and ran to the door, ignoring Kingsley’s shouts. Running down the hallway, he prayed that the Apparition point was still open.

Luck was with him. A moment later, he was at Spinner’s End.

Severus and Harry were shouting at each other.

“You overacting idiot! You’re lucky that Scrimgeour hasn’t seen many people truly under Imperius. A Death Eater would have known before a word came out of your mouth.”

“Well it’s not like you gave me any warning!” Harry snapped. “What the hell was I supposed to do? He needed to see something. You were the one who wouldn’t leave until the Aurors were there. I could have handled Scrimgeour on my own!”

“If you had ‘handled’ the situation, we would have had pieces of the Minister of Magic hanging from the fixtures and a murder charge levied against you! As is, Lupin here,” he flung an arm towards Remus, who hadn’t realised that Severus had been aware of him, “can ‘rescue’ you and take you back to the Ministry.” He suddenly slumped. Remus could see he was exhausted. “Your name will be cleared, and everything will go back to the way it was.”

Hope rising, Remus realised that the two of them had been working together. Guilt followed in its wake, flooding him. “No. Not the way it was. Severus, for God’s sake, come with us. We can explain everything. You’ll be exonerated.”

Severus looked at Remus, inscrutable. Harry prodded him.

“That’s the plan. Tell him, Snape.”

“My exoneration is important to you, isn’t it?” Severus asked Remus.

“And it’s not important to you? This is your chance, it’s perfect! And don’t tell me that you didn’t plan it that way,” he accused. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me what you were going to do? Do you know what went through my mind when I saw you tell Scrimgeour that you would kill Harry for him?”

“You doubted me?” 

“Of course not!” Remus lied, his eyes dropping. 

Severus stiffened and glared. Damn. He should have known he couldn’t fool him. He sighed. 

“Yes, I doubted you. Can we take it as read that I’m an idiot? I’m sorry,” he added.

Severus looked away, but Remus was relieved to see him relax somewhat.

Harry looked from one to the other. When Severus didn’t speak again, he said, “We knew that you’d be arrested next. If you didn’t know what our plan was, you’d be safe. Even if everything went wrong, you could prove you didn’t know anything. Plus,” he looked at him cautiously, “we figured you were already working with Kingsley. You were gone an awful lot,” he added accusingly.

“And what if Scrimgeour had simply said, ‘kill Potter and bring me his body?’”

“I’m a Potions Master,” Severus said dismissively. “We’d planned for that contingency.”

“Draught of Living Death,” Remus guessed. 

“It wasn’t a risk,” Severus said. “Potter knew what to do.”

“And would have been buried alive if Scrimgeour had killed you, too.”

“Why do you think I subjected myself to another Unbreakable Vow!” Severus roared with fury. “As well as to bind myself to Scrimgeour’s fate, even if it was only for a short time? Potter was safe the entire time!”

Harry limped to a chair and sat down, looking at Severus thoughtfully.

“Secrets. It’s always secrets with you.” Remus pleaded with Severus. “Don’t do it anymore. You have a chance to live your life again, in public, free. Take it, Severus. We could be together.”

The lines in Severus’ face deepened. “I’ve told you. I will not live my life as a pariah.”

“So you live it as a hermit instead. You’re so afraid --” Horrified, Remus stopped speaking, but it was too late.

“So once again, I’m a coward.” Severus’ face twisted with fury. “Who is it that couldn’t tell the Tonks chit that he was already with someone else?”

“It would have exposed your cover,” Remus whispered. “I couldn’t say anything.” 

“You could have safely implied it was Black’s memory that held you. But you chose not to. You chose to allow her continue to believe that she had a chance with you, chose not to take any action to dissuade her from her infatuation, chose to lie with every moment you spent with her, until she found out the truth, and then,” Severus sneered, “you, the honourable Gryffindor, chose not to lie to her. You could have spared her. It wasn’t as if you weren’t lying already.”

“I know.” The familiar guilt ate at Remus. “And she died. Because she wasn’t paying attention. Because she was upset. About me.”

Severus curled his lip in disgust. “And that’s the story of your life. You take no action and people around you end up hurt or dead, Lupin. How many times in your life would you have made a difference in someone else’s if you had only had the courage to speak up?”

Remus shook his head. He’d asked himself the same question many times, vowed to change the next time he found himself in the situation again, hated himself when he once again sat back and said nothing, or said something too late.

Harry had been watching the exchange closely. “Neither of you are cowards,” he said quietly. Both men whirled towards him. He shrugged and looked strangely satisfied. “You’re both pretty fucked up, though.”

“And you’re not?” Severus spat.

Harry grinned. “Of course I am. We’re all three really fucked up. But time’s running out and we need to make a decision now instead of arguing all night. Remus, I assume that you’re going back to talk to Kingsley, right?”

Remus nodded.

“And I probably need to go back so that people can see I’m all right.”

Severus snorted and Remus reluctantly smiled.

“Right. Snape, if you don’t come with us, we’ll need to tell them something.”

“Tell them what you like.”

“Fine. I defeated you and you ran away,” Harry said, ignoring Severus’ glare. “So we’ve got a plan of action now. The only thing we need to decide is how to meet up afterward.”

Remus looked at Severus, who looked tense. “We found out how they got to Grimmauld Place,” he said slowly. “But I don’t know how many people know the secret. This is probably the best place to meet.”

Severus said nothing. Harry looked at him speculatively. “I’m not really worried about where we meet,” he said. “I’m more worried about whether we’ll all be there when the time comes.”

Severus didn’t look at either of them. “I’m worried about that, too,” Remus said softly. “Severus, you’ll be here when we get back, won’t you?”

“And where else would I be?” Though Severus’ words were indignant, the tone of his voice sounded strangely defeated. 

“That’s not a promise,” Harry pointed out bluntly. “I don’t know about Remus, but I’m not going to be satisfied with anything less.”

“That’s an about-face, Potter. Why should you even care?”

“I don’t really know. You’re a bastard. But it’s important to Remus. And you came through for him. I think, maybe, I could learn to trust you.” Harry ran his hand through his hair and pushed up his glasses. “Plus, I’ve said I’m going to protect you. I need to know where you are to do that. So are you going to promise to be here when we get back, or not?”

“Not my problem, is it?”

Harry looked belligerent. “It will be when Remus and I try to track you down. Think of all the publicity that would generate. All the official attention.”

Severus rolled his eyes. “Go. I’ll be here when you return.”

Harry beamed. “Great!” He looked at Remus. “I’m ready to go.”

Remus looked at Severus for a long moment, and then nodded. “Okay. We’ll be back before morning.”

Severus nodded. “I’ll be here,” he repeated wearily.

 



vVvVvVv

 

 


Remus Apparated back to Spinner’s End, exhausted. Harry had left several hours earlier, with a significant look at Remus before he left the room.

Remus had continued to work alongside Kingsley until long after midnight, helping him to prioritise and implement a number of actions designed to set the Ministry right as quickly and smoothly as possible and to head off any public panic when the Prophet would be delivered in the morning. Remus suspected that even with all of their planning there would be a public outcry about Scrimgeour’s arrest. He only hoped that Kingsley could manage to keep control over the situation.

Kingsley had levied corruption charges against all of Scrimgeour's personal staff and political appointees. He had compiled enough evidence showing that people had been sent to Azkaban without cause that the Aurors Division was scrambling to open an investigation into the Department of Wartime Investigations. Until then, all WARTI activities had been suspended. Prisoners’ cases were already under review, Kingsley vowing to release anyone illegally incarcerated as quickly as possible. 

Remus hoped that eventually Kingsley would be able to convince the public that there was no such group as the New Resurrectionists and to revoke the laws passed under WARTI’s directives.

Right now, though, he needed to confront Harry and Severus. 

When he got inside, the house was dark. He cast a Lumos and thought about making some tea, both to wake himself up and to provide a distraction for the upcoming confrontation, but decided that it would be too much work. He climbed the stairs to find Severus and Harry.

The door to Severus’ room was open, light pouring from the room into the dark hall. Remus followed it and started talking before he reached the door. “Kingsley has already released Hermione and Ron. Arthur, too. They want to see Harry --” He paused as he stepped through the door and saw what was happening within.

Severus was packing his possessions. Remus watched as he shrunk a tall stack of books and placed them in his travel chest. Harry was sitting cross-legged on the bed, watching.

“What’s going on?”

Harry looked at him while Severus muttered, “What does it look like I’m doing, you idiot?”

“You’re packing.”

Severus looked up from another stack of books. “Impossible to fool you, isn’t it?” He shrunk them and put them into the trunk, too.

“Why are you packing?”

“Because I’m leaving. Come or stay, it makes no difference to me.” Severus looked around the room. Remus couldn’t see that there was anything else left to pack but the furniture, and Severus seemed to come to the same conclusion, because he closed the trunk and levitated it. He looked at Remus. “Excuse me.”

In shock, Remus stepped aside. Severus walked out of the room and started downstairs, the trunk floating behind him. Movement caught Remus’ eyes, and he looked back into the bedroom to see Harry slide off the bed and pick up a backpack. He slung it over his shoulder and limped towards him.

“Harry?”

Harry looked up and gave Remus an apologetic smile, shrugging. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Bandaged eyes are good for that.” His smile faded. “Look, when Snape started packing, something inside me said ‘yes.’ I can’t be here any more. So I talked to him, and I’m going away with him, at least for a while. You can’t talk me out of it, and I really doubt that you can talk him out of it, either. But…well, you could come along.” 

Remus couldn’t speak. Harry waited a moment, hope slowly fading in his eyes as he watched Remus’ reaction. Finally, his eyes dropped. “I’m going to get Hedwig and go downstairs.” He gently slipped past Remus.

Remus eventually followed. Severus was shrinking more books; it looked like he meant to take his entire library. “Why?”

Severus paused and looked at him. An expression crossed his face that Remus never remembered seeing before. “Why not?”

Remus took a deep breath. “I saw the two of you. Together.” He looked down. “Are you…?” He couldn’t finish his sentence.

Harry looked upset. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, Remus.”

“Oh, for God’s sake.” Severus looked at Remus. “We fucked. If Scrimgeour needed me to take Veritaserum to prove my sincerity, it meant I could honestly say that I’d seduced Potter. If that’s an issue for you, deal with it. I have to,” he said, with a dark look at Harry.

Harry frowned. “As if I don’t?”

Well. He immediately dismissed Severus’ justification -- he’d seen what had happened. It hadn’t been planned. Yet neither of them seemed particularly happy about their actions. Maybe he’d been reading too much into the situation. God knew, neither Harry nor Severus was renowned for impulse control.

But he could remember the passion on their faces, and again saw the disturbing image of the three of them, together in one bed, hands and mouths and cocks…he put it from his mind, though not without a sense of wistfulness, almost loss.

“What if you waited? Left after getting a pardon? I talked to Kingsley about everything. It took some time, but I’ve convinced him to talk to you. He’ll be fair.”

Severus frowned again, the expression disappearing. “No thank you,” he replied curtly, and turned back to his packing. “I’ve got money now. The Ministry won’t be able to take it away from me -- I made sure the financial trail would be untraceable. The Unbreakable Vow that Scrimgeour and I made has given me the opportunity to leave.” He paused and looked speculative. “I would imagine that if I met with Kingsley even just to talk, Scrimgeour might die. Kingsley was his employee at the time, after all, and even an interview might be construed as pursuit by this type of magic.” He smiled grimly.

“Besides, it wouldn’t be fair, would it?” Harry sank into a chair, his face grave. 

“What do you mean, it wouldn’t be fair?” he demanded. He had the feeling that both men were long past any arguments that he’d make, as if they’d heard it from him before and had made up their minds without talking to him.

“Snape and I did the same thing, but while I get parades and stuff, he’d get a trial.” Harry ran his hand through his hair. “I just don’t like it. And I’m tired, Remus. Really tired. I just don’t want to deal with this any longer.”

“Harry…Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said in frustration.

Harry looked at Remus. The expression of disappointment and -- pity? -- that Remus remembered from several days earlier was on his face. “We need to start over. We,” he glanced at Severus, who had frozen in place, his back turned to them, “we both did it, Remus. We killed him. As long as we stay here, that’s all we’ll be. Killers. Nobody will let us forget it, or even if they did, we wouldn’t. Maybe we can be something else, somewhere else.”

“You’re not a killer, Harry. We’ve talked about this before.” An old argument, tied to the days immediately after the last battle, when Harry had gone through a period of despondency. “A killer is someone who does it in cold blood, deliberately, not in the heat of war, when you’re fighting for your life.

Harry shook his head. “I know that.” His face flushed and he swallowed and looked away. “I never told….He begged me, you know. Begged and begged me to stop, but I didn’t. I just kept killing him.” His pain-filled voice cracked.

“Voldemort begged?”

Severus whirled and shouted, “Oh for Christ’s sake, Lupin, he’s not talking about the Dark Lord!”

“But who…?” Remus looked at Severus’ furious face, at Harry’s grief-stricken one, and he suddenly knew. “Albus?” Harry flinched. Remus turned back to Severus in horror.

Severus met his look defiantly, contempt in his eyes. He sneered and turned away, shrinking yet another stack of books and putting them into his trunk. Remus noticed that there weren’t many left; he’d be done soon, too soon. “Can’t we…can’t we just sit down, talk about it? I know it seems…” But he didn’t. He didn’t know.

Severus spared a glance for him. “I’m leaving.” 

What could he do to stop them, to get them to reconsider? “Harry…?”

“He knows, Remus.” Harry turned back towards Remus, his face strangely old. “He’s the only one left who knows what it’s like. It’s either him or nobody at all. And I don’t think I could go on without anybody who understands. Besides,” he idly picked up a book and put it back down, “I don’t want to pretend anymore. With Ron. And Hermione.” He looked up, and Remus knew that he was watching to see how he would react. “I’ll miss you, though. If you stay.”

Remus looked from one to the other of them, Severus swiftly packing his trunk, Harry upset but committed. 

His gaze was arrested by the sight of a worn glove lying on the top of the bookcase. Scrimgeour’s Portkey.

He was losing them. Losing Severus, Severus who was his, who belonged to him, who was all he had left. Anger flared. How dare he leave, and how dare Harry go with him! He’d built a home here, would have tried to make it big enough for all three of them if they’d asked him, but they weren’t even giving him a chance and they were taking everything away from him…

Oh God. Harry and Severus were both leaving him. He felt the loss like a blow to his stomach.

Remus remembered Albus’ gentle, apologetic voice, so many years ago, saying, “You couldn’t have known, my boy. None of us realised fully what Sirius was capable of doing…” 

The same disbelief burned within him now.

Another voice ghosted in his head, a memory of Harry’s words. I know what it means when there’s nobody left.Remus’ heart skipped a beat.

They were truly leaving. But Severus had said ‘Come or stay, it makes no difference…’ And Harry had strongly hinted that he wanted Remus to come with them, too.

Suddenly, he understood. He had to choose.

After all, the difference between all of them was that, so far, he hadn’t killed someone he loved with his own hands, his teeth, his claws. But he was likely to do so. It would take a miracle for him to get through his entire life without doing so, and Remus had learned to never believe in miracles.

But he’d be giving up so much. Giving up on the memories, the good ones, of James and Lily. On helping Harry rebuild Godric’s Hollow. On Hogwarts, remembering when his life was, if not perfect, better than it had been before or since. On someday finding a way to breach the veil and bring Sirius back. 

All ghosts, all fantasies, yet so very important now that he imagined them gone.

He looked at them – Severus, angry and defiant and taking his life back. Harry, broken and grieving, but ready to go on. They weren’t leaving him, he realised, they were leaving their pasts.

And he knew that neither meant to ever come back.

He considered the idea of leaving with them. There wasn’t much that he would need to take. Clothes, some books, a few photographs. His legs felt weak, and he made his way to the armchair – his armchair, where he had sat each evening and read while Severus had written furiously in his potions journals. He slowly sank into it.

Severus looked like he was going to explode; Harry looked devastated. He looked at them and they looked at him and time stopped. He had to decide.

Shaking, he got up again. He walked over to each of them, took each man’s face in his hands and kissed each man’s lips, then stepped back and took a deep breath.

“How does Kathmandu sound?” he asked.

Harry’s face lit up with joy and he launched himself at Remus. Even as warm lips covered his mouth, Remus could see Severus’ black eyes glitter and his lips curl sardonically.

He looked pleased.

 

 

Epilogue:

Absolute Lord of His Own Person

 

 


The moon shone through the high window. Tomorrow night was the full.

Remus took a deep breath. The thin, cold air burned his lungs; at times, it felt like there was no oxygen left in the world. 

Especially after…strenuous activities. He smiled.

A soft snort drew his attention. He lifted his head slightly, the better to see Severus’ face next to his on the pillow. Black eyes studied him and then closed, and Severus relaxed into sleep with a sigh.

The monastery had welcomed Severus’ potion-making skills; several wizards already resided there. Though Severus disdained them, Remus found himself intrigued by the traditions and rituals of the small, remote community. He looked forward to learning more.

Meanwhile, when he transformed he would have high cliffs and snow-bound chasms to keep him safe from human contact. Even with Wolfsbane Potion shackling him, he imagined letting the wolf drive him through the treacherous landscape, running wild with no thought of responsibility or control, under a moon so close to the world that he could touch it if he climbed high enough. A fierce joy swept through him, and he pulled Severus closer in his arms, nestling his head into sharp ribs and breathing in the pungent scents of sweat and sex.

And Harry. 

Remus had never realised the extent of Harry’s fame. After the first few days, Harry had tried to battle his despondency as the small community watched him in awe, but the struggle was too much. One afternoon Remus had come upon him curled up on his bed, dry-eyed and shivering, murmuring, “It’s all the same. No matter where I go, I can’t get away.” 

He had managed to persuade Severus to allow Harry into their bed. He’d actually been surprised by how little effort it had taken.

A warm hand slid over his hip while a slim leg insinuated itself between his. He felt the rough caress of Harry’s hair between his shoulders blades as he curled closer.

These days, Harry never left the suite of rooms they’d been given, except to reluctantly accompany Severus to the potions workshop when bullied to the point of snarling. Lately, though, Remus had noticed a subtle change. Severus said that he’d begun to take some interest in the potions that he worked on, and was ruining ingredients with a bit less frequency than before. 

Privately, Remus was amazed that the two of them seemed to be achieving some sort of tenuous trust. If it was built on anger and sex, well, it was a start, anyway.

He relaxed, courting sleep. His breath hung frozen in the air, but the bed was warm. He had a new world to explore tomorrow night; strangely, he looked forward to this transformation.

As he slipped into sleep, contentment -- a foreign emotion, one barely remembered from childhood -- filled him.

Fragile as it was, for the moment, he felt like he was home.

 

 

Fin