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Gift of the Magus

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Severus tugged his scarf higher and shoved his hands into the pockets of his heavy wool outer robes as he stepped away from the sheltering safety of the pub courtyard and into the bustle of Diagon Alley. It was a cold, dreary afternoon in November, and Severus resented having to leave the safety of his snug, warm little office at the Ministry. But he was feeling queasy again, and he was running low on the necessary ingredients for the potion he'd been making for the past few months to alleviate the nausea, thus a trip to the apothecary was necessary.

The brisk wind made his robes flutter and billow, outlining the curve of his belly as he walked against the wind. Hopefully anyone who saw him would think he had gained weight, and he had, but not intentionally.

Severus Snape was pregnant.

It was a final gift from Albus, although the baby he carried was not fathered by Albus himself. The meddling old bastard had merely been the catalyst, bequeathing Severus an innocuous seeming artifact in his will along with the cryptic message that he regretted the necessity of leaving Severus alone in the world and that he hoped his final gift would provide Severus with the love and companionship he deserved after all the hardships and sacrifices Severus had endured.

Severus hadn't known what to make of it at the time; the artifact Albus left him didn't seem to be anything special, just a primitive statue of a rotund, faceless woman. At first, he was insulted, thinking perhaps Albus meant it as a joke, that the statue of a woman was the closest he would ever get to having a companion - and it wasn't even the right gender! Albus knew damned well Severus preferred men.

Then he grew suspicious and began testing the thing for magical tricks or traps, but while he detected magical residue - powerful magic at that - he couldn't find anything to concern him. It seemed harmless.

As odd as Albus' sense of humor could be, he wasn't malicious, and Severus had placed the little statue in his bedroom, a bittersweet reminder that his mentor, the only father figure he had known and respected, had cared in spite of the burdens he had placed on Severus' shoulders.

The war ended, Severus had a fateful and ill-advised celebration during which he brought someone home and had wild, drunken sex, A few weeks later, the morning sickness set in. Now he was single, pregnant, and battling swollen ankles, bizarre food cravings and mood swings, and he was certain that somewhere, Albus Dumbledore was watching with vast amusement.

Remus breathed deeply of the air of London, air that smelled of dirt and water and humanity and home, blessed home after several months away. He walked toward The Leaky Cauldron in quick strides, eager to see the familiar sights and sounds that he had missed after chasing the remnants of Voldemort's forces across Europe for so long, finally ending up in Albania, where he had the satisfaction of watching the last of the Death Eaters taken into custody by the Ministry of Magic. It was over, finally, fully, and completely, and now Remus was eager to take up his new life, a life that held no threat of war or chaos.

Nor of poverty, not anymore. Being a "war hero" had certain compensations, ones that Remus had accepted gratefully.

The pub was full of cheerful bustle as he entered, and Tom the barkeep called out a greeting, which Remus acknowledged with a friendly wave. He didn't want to stop, however, for idle chitchat. He had business to attend to, business that had by necessity been left unfinished when he had been requested to aide in the clean up efforts. Business that involved one very stubborn, very snarky git who had occupied his thoughts for far too long.

Brushing off other greetings with a cheerful smile, within a few minutes Remus was striding down Diagon Alley, the wind at his back as he headed toward the Ministry of Magic. It hadn't been too hard to find out where Severus was employed these days, not given that Tonks was - thankfully - still Remus' friend after their brief period of dating had resolved into a mutual decision that it wasn't going to work. Remus hadn't been terribly interested from the start, to be honest, and not only because his preference lay more toward men than women. And Tonks had discovered that quiet, withdrawn academic types were much more interesting to chase after than to actually date.

Then, after Voldemort's death, there had been that night... that one incredible, magical, unbelievable night, when Remus had found himself involved as the more-than-willing subject of a drunken seduction by the most unlikely of people. A night that - even blurred by alcohol - burned in Remus' memory, full of passion and pleasure and a union of two people who on the outside seemed so unbelievably different, but who, within their secret selves, were almost the same. One night in Severus Snape's bed, in his arms, and Remus had been lost for all time.

Severus, however, hadn't felt the same.

The memory of the morning after rankled, but Remus wasn't going to let that daunt him. Severus might have tossed him out summarily on his ear, but Remus was, in his own quiet way, just as stubborn as the infamous Potions Master. Or he was in matters that were important to him, and in this case, it was quite important to him. Hopefully time and distance had softened Severus' attitude. And, if not, it was up to Remus to try to hasten the process.

A particularly strong gust of wind whipped around the buildings, but that didn't phase Remus. Not when a black-clad figure suddenly seemed to appear before him as though summoned up by his wishful thoughts. Severus, tall, pale, leaning into the wind, robes blown back and clinging his thin body like a second skin. Remus' eyes hungrily drank in the sight, raking over Severus' form and glittering amber with desire. But then Remus stopped, heart thudding in his ears as he noticed something... odd. Something out of place, something unmistakable and yet totally preposterous, holding him paralyzed for a long moment.

Then he was moving, almost without thinking, rushing with lycanthrope speed to take Severus' arm in a firm grip. No doubt Severus would hex him, but Remus didn't care.

"Severus? When... what..." His voice trailed off, but his gaze went to Severus' abdomen, before he raised his head once more and searched Severus' eyes, his own full of questions he didn't even know how to voice.

Oh, hell. Severus wasn't at all pleased to find himself accosted by Lupin, not when he had spent the past five months trying to put their night together out of his mind. Never mind that it had been the most incredible sex of his entire life. Never mind that it had given him a greater sense of absolution and healing than even being publicly declared innocent of treason. Never mind that it had given him a stronger sense of connection to someone than he had ever felt before. He had made an utter fool of himself when he had seduced Remus Lupin, and he refused to be such a fool again. Especially since he'd seen neither hide nor hair of Lupin since the morning after, confirming Lupin's disinterest in him.

Lupin's gaze had fixed on his abdomen, but with any luck, Lupin would think nothing of it, only that Severus had been enjoying the fruits of a comfortable life. Male pregnancy was an oddity, even in the Wizarding world, limited to very rare documented cases, most of which were grounded in legend rather than reality. Unfortunately, with his background in the Dark Arts, Lupin was as likely to know about those cases as Severus was. Damn it. He could only hope pregnancy wasn't the first thing to spring to Lupin's mind at the sight of him.

"Oh, it's you." He mustered his coldest, most disdainful sneer. "What do you want?"

Remus was brought up short and back to reality by the frigid tone of Severus' voice. It acted like a bucket of water thrown over Remus' head, reminding him forcefully of the way Severus had kicked him out of his house the morning after he had seduced Remus and taken him to heaven. But unlike that morning, Remus was prepared for the rejection, and he faced Severus, keeping his expression neutral.

Not speaking, Remus leaned closer to Severus, inhaling deeply of his scent and letting it flow over his senses. His logic told him that it was unlikely that Severus' physical condition could be.... well, what it looked like. But as Remus analyzed how Severus smelled, his instincts told him it was true. Severus was pregnant.

"What do I want?" Remus asked, facing Severus with a straight spine and a direct, implacable gaze that defied Severus to lie to him. "I want to know if I'm the father."

Bugger! Severus gnashed his teeth, silently damning Lupin and Albus and that fertility statue that had got him in this predicament in the first place. He hadn't counted on Lupin being able to detect the truth by scent, but he supposed the shift in his hormones had caused changes discernible by a keen lupine nose. So much for trying to keep his condition a secret.

A denial was poised on his tongue; he was a skilled liar, able to tell bald-faced lies while gazing straight into someone's eyes thanks to long years of practice. But the words wouldn't come, and as he looked down at Lupin, he knew he had hesitated too long. A quick denial would have been plausible, perhaps thrown Lupin off-guard long enough for Severus to get away, but he had waited too long, and he wondered why he hadn't snapped out a retort straight away. Perhaps, he thought, part of him wanted Lupin to know the truth. That thought only angered him more, but whether it was aimed at Lupin or himself, he wasn't certain.

Resting both hands protectively on the rounded curve of his belly, he gave a terse nod. "Yes, you are."

There had never been any doubt about that; he hadn't been with anyone for years before Lupin, and he hadn't been with anyone since. There was no other candidate for his child's paternity, much as he might wish it was not so.

Remus drew in a quick breath of surprise. He wasn't certain if it came more from Severus' acknowledgment of his paternity, or from the sudden, overwhelming thought that he was going to be a father. Then it struck him, full in the face.

He was going to be a father. Severus was pregnant with his baby.

The wolf rose up, fierce, strong, protective, and absolutely gleeful at the thought. Remus' eyes flashed, and he had to withhold the impulse to sweep Severus into his arms and kiss him senseless. A baby. Their baby.

"Good," Remus said, looping an arm through Severus' in such a way that Severus couldn't throw him off. "Well, I guess it works out that I got that settlement from the Ministry, isn't it? Since I'll have a child and a spouse to support."

With an indignant squawk, Severus tried - and failed - to tug his arm free, shock and panic flaring up as Lupin's words sank in. "Spouse? What the hell are you talking about? This is my baby and my responsibility! I don't expect you to support me - I don't want you to support me. I have a job, and I'm perfectly capable of taking care of my child. I don't need you. You've done quite enough already!"

"It seems I have done quite a bit, which why it is my business," Remus said firmly. "And I know you have more than enough intelligence to realize that it takes two to make a child, which makes it our baby and our responsibility."

Another gust of wind tugged at them, and Remus sighed, pulling Severus out of the middle of the street, suddenly aware that they were having far too intimate of a conversation out in public. Remus had rarely cared about what people thought before, but he found that the thought of their child made him more cognizant of what public opinion might be. Severus, he was certain, was more than willing to tell everyone to go hang; for the sake of their child, however, Remus wanted to keep things private, rather than risk them having an argument in the middle of Diagon Alley for all to hear.

The lee of a building offered both quiet and a shelter from the wind, and Remus drew a breath, steeling himself for the argument he felt certain was in store. Pleading, he knew, wouldn't work on Severus, nor would logical words. Severus would just argue or sneer or threaten to hurl hexes until Remus was gone. That was what had happened before, the morning after the incredible night that had apparently resulted in this miracle they were being given. And Remus wasn't going to let it happen, not ever again.

"You are not kicking me out this time, Severus," Remus said firmly, his voice and gaze brooking no argument. "I am not leaving you alone. I will hound you and harass you and drive you mad until you admit that I have a right and a place with you and our baby. It doesn't matter what you threaten to do, I'm staying."

Stunned into silence, Severus boggled as Lupin dragged him out of the street, away from prying eyes and the sting of the chilly wind, but he rallied, pride and determination spurring him as he drew himself up to his full height and peered down his nose at Lupin. The last thing he wanted was to be trapped in a relationship out of obligation; that wouldn't be good for the child.

Or for Severus.

He suspected the attraction he had harbored for Lupin - the attraction that had incited him to lure Lupin into his bed in the first place - would too easily bloom into something more, something that would end up wringing his heart until it was an empty husk as he faced day after day with a "spouse" who didn't care about him and was with him only out of duty to their child.

"I won't deny you access to the baby," he said at last, recognizing the implacable look in Lupin's eyes. He could fight, but now that Lupin knew about the child, Lupin wasn't going to give up and go away. Severus would have to make some kind of concession, or else Lupin would do exactly as he threatened, and Severus valued his peace too much to endure Lupin harassing him day and night.

"You fathered it, and I acknowledge your right to be a part of its life," he continued, folding his arms and glaring down at Lupin, a stubborn frown forming between his dark brows. "But that doesn't mean you have a right to be part of mine. You may be the father of my child, but you are not my spouse."

The glare passed over Remus; he was not going to be swayed. "I want to be your spouse, Severus. You are in this condition because of me, and I want to take care of you, to be there for you." The words were nothing but the utter truth; after all, Remus hadn't wanted to leave, and he had been determined to get back into Severus' life before he knew about the child. Silently Remus thanked the fates for this, not just for the precious gift of a child, but for the perfect opportunity to be with Severus, to show Severus how much Remus cared for him.

Severus wavered, his own desires making him weak and vulnerable to Lupin's persuasiveness; it hadn't been easy for him, and he knew it would only become more difficult as his pregnancy advanced. His pragmatism warned him that single parenthood would be much harder, especially since he still had no idea how he would manage once his "maternity leave" at the Ministry was up. He had no family and no friends who would be willing to look after the child, and while his salary was sufficient to support his little family, it wouldn't cover the cost of a nanny.

Not to mention, there was a tiny part of him that wanted to believe Lupin. It wanted to believe that Lupin might care about more than just the baby, that Lupin might care about him, but he scorned that thought, knowing it was a foolish one. Lupin didn't care about him, and Lupin's offer was made out of obligation, not affection.

"Absolutely not," he said, stiffening his spine and his resolve. "I don't need you, Lupin, and I will not take you as my spouse."

Remus expected an argument, so he was prepared. He could see that Severus wasn't quite as implacable as he had been, and there was still a weapon in Remus' arsenal.

Leaning closer, Remus gave a soft growl. "No? Was the sex that awful, then?" he asked, letting his breath ghost over Severus' ear. "Personally, I thought it was the most incredible thing I had ever experienced in my life. There are benefits beyond just the practical to being wedded, Severus... you'll have me there to rub your back and feet, to fetch and carry for you when you need it. And... other things, too. Anything you can imagine, I can indulge."

Severus' throat went dry, and he repressed a shudder at the hot whisper of breath against his ear. His breath hitched softly when Lupin echoed his own thoughts about the quality of the sex, memories of their night rising up in his traitorous mind. He hadn't been so drunk that he didn't remember the feel of Lupin's hands caressing his bare skin, Lupin's teeth fastening on his throat, Lupin's weight pressing him into the mattress. The alcohol had decreased his inhibitions, making him vulnerable, and he had surrendered to Lupin completely. So completely that it made his skin prickle with embarrassment at the mere thought.

It was tempting, so very tempting to accept Lupin's offer and let him do... those things. He hadn't known what it was to be taken care of since he was a child; he had taken care of himself from a young age, having no one he could turn to for comfort or care. He had grown accustomed to fending for himself, and he could scarcely imagine what it would be like not to have to shoulder every burden alone any longer.

But he tipped his chin up with pride, remembering that Lupin was only offering out of duty, and Severus Snape was no one's charity case, no matter if there was fabulous sex involved.

"No," he said firmly. "I don't need your help, and I don't want it. I told you I would let you be a part of the child's life. That will have to suffice. Now kindly let me be about my business."

The nausea that had been plaguing him was growing stronger, likely exacerbated by the stressful encounter, and he rubbed his stomach absently in a futile attempt to soothe it; he would have to buy something for the nausea - inadequate swill as it would likely be - as well as the necessary ingredients so he could brew something this evening when he went home.

"No," Remus said, giving Severus' arm a warning squeeze. Apparently emotion wouldn't sway Severus; no doubt he would say he didn't want to be cared for, so Remus pushed on, hoping to steamroller Severus, catch him off-guard. "Besides, you have to think of what is best for the baby, Severus. You seem to be acknowledging that I won't be a miserable father, if you're willing to let me have a part of the child's life. But you have to think beyond that, too. I'm a werewolf; what if something were to happen to you? They would take the child, put it in foster care and never let me near it again."

Remus paused, swallowing painfully before continuing. "But if you were my legal spouse, bound to me, and I to you, they couldn't do that. I know the law, Severus. The Ministry appreciates what I did in the war, and what I have been doing since then. But public opinion hasn't changed concerning lycanthropes. Unless we have a legal bond between us, the law will say I have no rights to our child. Please, Severus. It's the right thing to do. Then I can take care of you and the baby, no matter what happens."

Severus froze, shock and fury at war within him. Damn it! He hadn't even thought about what might happen to the child if he died, which wasn't out of the realm of the possible even though he was still young by Wizarding standards and in good health. He could have an accident or become ill; he couldn't count on remaining in good health, not when it came to the welfare of his child.

He curved his arms around his stomach protectively at the mere thought of his child being taken away and put in some orphanage, or worse, in a foster home where it would be tormented because of its parentage. As much as he loathed admitting it, Lupin was right. Unless he wanted his child to suffer in the event of his death, he needed to establish legal ties to Lupin, and there was no better or stronger means of doing so than through marriage.

"All right," he whispered hoarsely, blood draining from his face and bile rising in his throat as he agreed to take on another set of shackles out of obligation and duty. That seemed to be the theme of his life, he thought mirthlessly: forming bonds with men who only wanted him for what he could provide them. "I'll do it. For the sake of the baby."

Remus relaxed slightly as Severus gave in, but the way Severus reacted caused him no small twinge of guilt. Still, it was for the best, and Remus had to hold firm. Everything he spoke was the truth, after all; and losing Severus or their child was unacceptable as far as Remus was concerned.

"You won't regret it, Severus, I promise," he said, voice gentle. "And I mean to take care of you. Not just for the sake of the baby, but because you deserve it."

Severus' face was pale, and Remus decided that enough was enough for now. "You don't look well. Shall I Apparate you home? Or would it be better to take the Floo?"

"No." Severus drew the tattered remains of his pride around himself and tried to move away from Lupin, determined to fulfill the errand he had set out on to begin with, a small way of getting his life back under his control again after finding himself thrown for such an unexpected loop. "I'm fine. I need to go to the apothecary and then get back to work."

He paused and then added, "Marriage was your idea, so you can damned well make all the arrangements. Keep it simple. I don't want fuss or attention brought to this... union."

The snark was back in full force, and Remus didn't know whether to sigh in resignation or push Severus back against the wall and kiss him until Severus realized that Remus meant every word he said. But it was obvious Severus wasn't feeling well, and so Remus merely nodded. He had gotten the concession he needed out of Severus; for now, it would have to be enough.

"All right, then," he said, smiling at Severus. With a final squeeze he released Severus' arm. "I will make the arrangements, then I will come to your house to tell you about them this evening. Simple it will be, as you request." What Remus did not say was that he had no intention of it being a quick, emotionless affair, either. This would be, he knew, his one and only marriage, and he had realized for months that he had been falling in love with Severus.

An imp of humor rose in Remus, thinking that it usually was the groom, not the pregnant "bride", who had to be forced into a shotgun wedding. Be that as it may, Remus would do right by Severus. Severus deserved better than a few hurried words in an office somewhere, then off home as though it had never happened. Whether Severus realized it or not.


Remus stood on the steps of the Ministry, waiting with patience in the chilly air for Severus to arrive. It was their wedding day, and Remus found that even with the circumstances being as they were, he looked forward to it with a sense of excitement. He and Severus, starting a life together, with a child they had made between them. Remus had never thought he would have the opportunity to have a family, a real family the way that other people did; the thought that it was happening, left him unable to begrudge the circumstances.

The wind blew, swift and hard, whipping Remus' new robes about his legs but not penetrating the thick fabric. The dark blue garments were the best that Remus had ever owned, and he didn't mind the expense. He didn't want Severus to look at him and see the past, a shabby werewolf living in poverty who couldn't aspire beyond second best in anything, not even his own wedding. No, Remus wanted Severus to look at him and see the future; a bright, hopeful future, one that they could build together. A new life, free of the burdens of the past.

There were new robes for Severus as well, in deep, jewel-toned green with silvery buttons. The colors were ones that Remus was certain Severus would like, given what Remus had seen Severus wear at Hogwarts, and Remus had chosen them to honor Severus, to show him that Remus would care for him. Hopefully Severus wouldn't decide to throw them back in Remus' face.

If Severus even showed up at all.

Severus approached the Ministry with trepidation, every step taking him closer to the place where his life would be joined with Lupin's. He had never expected to marry, resigning himself to a life of bachelorhood and single parenthood, and suddenly all his preconceptions about his life had been turned upside down. He was about to be married, and he would be sharing the load of parenthood with someone else.

Albus' final wish had indeed come true in a way: he wasn't going to be alone in the world, and he would have companionship. With any luck, the child would love him, but Lupin... Well, that was a different matter.

He hadn't slept all night, his mind reeling with too much activity to let him sleep. Instead, he had paced the floors for a couple of hours before finally deciding to do something useful, and he cleared out some space in his wardrobe and dresser for Lupin. It was an unfortunate necessity that Lupin would have to share his bedroom since he had already converted the one and only guest room in his small house into a nursery.

He had considered not showing up, of course. He could have fled the city - fled the country, for that matter. But Lupin's point about the child's fate if something should happen to Severus stayed him. As little as he wanted this marriage, he wasn't selfish enough to risk his child's welfare for his own comfort. He would find a way to manage; he always had.

Grim-faced, he joined Lupin on the steps, a cursory glance showing him that Lupin had dressed up for the occasion, and he smoothed his palms over his plain black work robes, refusing to feel embarrassed because he hadn't worn anything nicer for this sham of a wedding.

"Let's get this over with," he said, his tone implying he was about to be sent to his execution.

Remus couldn't help the breath of relief he drew when he saw Severus approaching. Severus hadn't gone back on his word, and the marriage would take place. Everything else beyond that, Remus knew that he could handle. It would take time, and patience, and care, but Remus had all three of those at his disposal. He could be patient, and hopefully it would win Severus in the end.

"Hello, Severus," he said quietly, taking Severus' arm and leading him up the stairs with tender concern. He opened the door of the building for Severus, escorting him and out of the wind. The marble halls were empty; Remus had been able to set the time of the wedding for past the normal workday for most Wizards, in deference to Severus' feelings.

Amber eyes were bright, and Remus' cheeks were pink with cold. "I'm glad you're here. Everything is ready for the marriage; everything, that is, except you." With that, Remus reached into his pocket, removing and unshrinking the robes he had bought for Severus and extending them with a smile. "I thought... well, a new start, you know. You deserve something nice for our wedding day. Something to show you that I think this day is special. That you are special."

Severus glanced around furtively as they walked inside, glad not many people were about. He had worked as usual - or tried to, at any rate. He hadn't succeeded in getting much done, and he had finally given up and left early, hiding amid the stacks in Flourish & Blotts for the rest of the afternoon, trying to find books with useful information on married life. He would be damned, however, if he did as one book suggested and greeted Lupin at the door wearing nothing but strategically placed dragon scales to spice up their sex life.

Heat bloomed in his cheeks when Lupin presented him with the new robes, and he glanced down, uncertain how to respond to the gift. He wasn't accustomed to receiving gifts, and he had certainly never been called "special". Considering the occasion, he knew he probably shouldn't sneer and fling the robes back in Lupin's face although it was his first impulse. Lupin was trying to cozen him with gifts and sweet words, perhaps in an effort to make it less of an ordeal for both of them, and while he wasn't fooled for a moment, he decided not to argue or make a scene.

Instead, he accepted the robes with a terse nod and went off to find a place to change. The robes fit well, and he grudgingly admitted that Lupin had done well in choosing the color. If he wasn't wearing black, he preferred green and silver to show that he was still very much the proud Slytherin. He shrank his black robes and tucked them away in his pocket, and then he smoothed the front of his new robes, caressing the bump beneath them that was the cause of this entire mess.

"Annoying brat," he murmured, caressing the bump affectionately. "Only for you would I do this. You'd damned well better appreciate it." He felt a swift kick against his palm, and a slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth in spite of his anxiety.

Drawing in a deep, steadying breath, he exited the loo and rejoined Lupin, resigned to his fate.

"You look wonderful," Remus said, smiling widely at the sight of Severus, who looked handsome in Remus' eyes. Remus offered his arm, then led Severus toward meeting hall where they were to be married.

Severus had specified simple, but that, to Remus, didn't mean that it couldn't be elegant as well. He had enlisted the aide of a few choice people, and so as he opened the door for Severus, they were greeted by soft candlelight from several freestanding sconces placed down the aisle of the hall. Severus didn't seem the floral type, so Remus had settled for boughs of evergreen and aromatic herbs, which scented the air with lush fragrance. Two banners draped the central table which stood at the end of the room, one for Gryffindor, and one for Slytherin, with intertwined ribbons of scarlet and green laid atop them.

There were few other people in the room, but they all turned to smile at Severus. Filch and Sinistra, Professors Vector and Madams Pince and Hooch, along with Filius Flitwick stood, waiting expectantly for their arrival. Near the table, on the side where Severus would stand, Minerva McGonagall waited, while Madam Pomfrey - who had always been a favorite of Remus' since childhood - waited on Remus' side. Not many people, not by any means, but ones that Severus had known for years and who had forgiven him, perhaps come to respect or like him again - and, Remus hoped fervently - whom he respected in return.

"Shall we, then?" he asked quietly, sliding his hand into Severus' and leading him forward, to where Under Minister Bartleby waited for them, smiling in his own turn. "It will all be over soon, Severus, and then we can begin our new life. Our life together."

Severus froze when he entered the hall and saw not only decorations that could be for no other occasion than the wedding about to occur, but familiar faces as well. Some of his former colleagues were there, people he hadn't seen or spoken to in a long time. They were there for Lupin's sake, no doubt, but even if they didn't forgive him for the things he had done during the war, at least they didn't seem to bear him any ill will now that the truth regarding his absolute loyalty to Albus was a matter of public record.

As Lupin led him down the aisle, he drew himself up proudly, determined not to show any cracks in his armor. He hadn't been expecting an audience, and he was surprised Lupin wanted witnesses to the event, but they were here, and if anyone dared to mock his condition, they would regret it.

He was surprised that Lupin had bothered to make such an effort - inviting guests, buying new robes, putting up decorations. What the devil was Lupin up to? he thought with an annoyed scowl. He'd got what he wanted: Severus had agreed to marry him so he would have legal rights where the child was concerned. There was no need to put on a song and dance, because Severus didn't expect this to be anything more than a marriage of convenience. He had no illusions or expectations, thus Lupin's efforts to make this appear to be something more than what it was were unnecessary.

Still, at least Lupin had the good sense not to decorate with flowers; the evergreen and herbs were far more appropriate, and the room did look nice bathed in candlelight, the air filled with the fresh scent of the greenery. And at least Lupin had represented both their Houses, he thought grudgingly. This wasn't entirely a Gryffindor affair, thank God, and Potter was nowhere in sight. Perhaps Lupin wasn't a complete dunderhead after all.

Lupin's hand warmed his fingers, bloodless and chilled from sheer nerves, and he didn't try to tug his hand free of Lupin's grasp, not wanting to be rude in front of the guests. No need to illustrate to everyone how much of a sham this was, he thought. They were indeed about to begin a new life together, but Severus rather thought it wasn't customary to feel a sense of impending doom at the idea. He lifted his free hand and rested it on his stomach, reminding himself of why he was doing this, and that allowed him to face the officiating minister with some semblance of calm.

Severus' scent spoke of nervousness, clear enough to Remus despite the overriding fragrances of the greenery. He smiled, squeezing Severus' hand, and in a few short moments, they stood before Minister Bartleby, with the onlookers smiling for them. Remus had taken care to inform them of Severus' condition, and no one stared unduly - which was just as well for Remus' continued survival, he was sure.

"Welcome, friends, on this felicitous occasion," Minister Bartleby said, looking between Severus and Remus with an indulgent smile. "The certificate, if you please?"

Remus nodded, reaching into his robes and producing the special license he had obtained for their marriage. Minister Bartleby looked it over, then nodded in turn at seeing everything was in order. When he spoke again, his voice was solemn, as befitted the seriousness of the ceremony.

"This place in which you are now met has been duly sanctioned according to law for the celebration of marriages," he intoned, not needing to look at his book. "Before you are joined in matrimony I have to remind you of the solemn and binding character of the vows you are about to make. A marriage according to the law of this country is the union of one person with another voluntarily entered into for life for the exclusion of all others."

Turning to look at Remus, Bartleby spoke again. "Repeat after me. I, Remus John Lupin, take you, Severus Snape, to be my lawfully wedded spouse."

Remus took both of Severus' hands in both of his and smiled into Severus' eyes. His voice was sure and steady, as he repeated the words, making them the vow they were intended to be.

"I, Remus John Lupin, take you, Severus Snape, to be my lawfully wedded spouse."

Severus swallowed hard at the official's words, a flare of panic rising within him as it was brought home that he was entering into a lifelong commitment; once this ceremony was over and the papers signed, he would be bound to Lupin for the rest of his life. The thought was terrifying and overwhelming, but he had no choice if he didn't want to risk his child's welfare.

His hands were icy cold in Lupin's, and he wasn't certain his voice would work properly when the official bade him to repeat the vow in his turn. Fortunately, the words came out audibly, if not with such certainty as Lupin's.

"I, Severus Snape, take you, Remus John Lupin, to be my lawfully wedded spouse."

Remus' smile widened, even if Severus' words weren't quite as forceful as he would have preferred. Severus had said them, and that was all that really mattered.

"Have you rings?" Bartleby asked, and Remus blinked, having almost forgotten about them in the wonder of hearing Severus repeat the vows.

"Yes, yes we do," Remus said, looking over at Minerva and flushing slightly. The older witch grinned, then opened her hand to reveal two gleaming bands of platinum. Remus had had them engraved that morning, and he had been relieved that he could have them in time for the ceremony. They were plain, but they gleamed richly in the candlelight. Remus wanted to wear a token, a symbol that would show Severus that Remus was as bound to Severus as Severus was to him. Something that Severus could also wear to remind him that Remus would be there for him, always and forever.

Releasing Severus' left hand, Remus reached past him to Minerva, taking the ring with the smaller circumference. Taller than he Severus might be, but Severus had elegant, slender fingers. Holding Severus' gaze, Remus took Severus' left hand in his left hand, then slid the ring slowly, carefully onto his fourth finger.

No more words were required for the ceremony, but Remus spoke anyway. "I promise to cherish you and care for you and our child forever, Severus. Every time you look at this ring, I want you to remember that."

Lupin's words brought a flush to Severus' cheeks, and it was on the tip of Severus' tongue to snap at Lupin, to tell him to stop putting on a show for the benefit of his friends, but he didn't utter the words. He was too captivated by the sight of the ring on his finger, a sign that he was now bound to Lupin. It wasn't as if he had suitors lined up outside his door, but now even the possibility of choosing his partner was gone. He was bound to Lupin by fate and the whimsy of a meddling old wizard who would be getting a piece of Severus' mind for this if they met in the afterlife.

Well, there was nothing for it now, he thought as he turned and took the second ring from Minerva, trying to avoid eye contact in case he saw dislike, disdain, or worse, pity in her eyes. He didn't say anything as he slid the ring onto Lupin's finger; his mind was blank, no words rising to his lips, and he doubted he would be able to voice them anyway. The rings gleamed in the candlelight, and Severus released a slow, silent sigh as he gazed down at them, feeling an odd sort of peace stealing over him. It was done now, and there was no going back.

For better or for worse, he was married to Remus Lupin.