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In Plain Sight

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In Plain Sight

 

Remus was very surprised when Severus spoke to him at the Third Year Anniversary Ministry party. Admittedly, the party had been dreadfully dreary, with endless speeches and worse acoustics. He responded politely and his shock at Severus' polite greeting was compounded when Severus made another comment, seeming to actually wish to converse with Remus. The end result was that the two men left the St Jarlath Hall together engrossed in an argument about whether or not Scrimgeour's house elf had deserved the Order of Merlin she'd received.

By the time Remus realised how strange it was that Severus was talking to him, they'd been meeting daily for three weeks. Six months after that, when they were still meeting, Remus admitted to himself that, while he didn't know anything about Severus' reasons for continuing their meetings, he was enjoying pretending that they were friends now.

* * *

Remus glanced up as Severus dropped into the seat across from his. “I got your Lapsang,” he said, pushing the teapot across the table.

Severus ran a hand over his face and grimaced. “Thanks,” he grunted. Shaking his hair away from his face and visibly tense, he pulled the teapot closer and poured himself a cupful. “I’m sorry I was late,” he said, after taking a sip.

Remus shrugged. “It's no difficulty for me to sit here in the warmth and watch as people struggle with their packages in the rain.” He took a sip of his own tea. “I finished up my holiday shopping today,” he began, trying to find a neutral topic on which Severus might sharpen his wit.

A strange look flitted across Severus' face, and he slid a hand into his pocket. "Are you really nattering on about shopping when you are about to be thrown out onto the street?"

Remus flushed and looked away. Generally Remus tried to keep the conversations away from his personal life. Last week he'd been too distressed over the fact that he was going to lose his flat to stay away from the subject. Also, he’d found Severus’ apparent interest in his troubles incredibly seductive. He barely managed to pull himself back from the brink of complaining about how hard it was proving to find work.

Severus must be upset by the fact that we didn't talk about anything else, Remus thought. “Well,” he said, trying to make his tone brighter than it had been before, “I'm sure something will turn up by the end of the month. Nothing for you to worry about, at any rate.” He sipped his tea, and glanced over at Severus. “How's the Ministry?”

Severus raised an eyebrow. “My job is fine. There are two new assistants in the department, causing the usual destruction and asking the usual cretinous questions. I don't know where Anderssen gets them—the new recruits have been abysmal.” He slid his hand out of his pocket, fingers curled.

Remus smiled, happy to avoid talking about himself. “I'm not sure where Anderssen is getting the new recruits, but this wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that Neville's one of them, would it?” He chuckled. “I saw Harry the other day and he said that Neville's very pleased to have made it into your department. He's been trying for a year.”

“I know.” Severus' voice was very dry. “He's not the worst, however. That honour, however dubious, rests squarely on the shoulders of Henriette Squalmus. I believe I'll have to look at the qualifying exam they used this year and petition the Auror Head to get it changed. She should not be in any department that demands the use of dangerous substances. I caught her trying to hold pieces of wormwood in her mouth—“

“But that's poisonous,” Remus burst out, his mouth falling open. “How can she have got into your department...”

“She said she was just planning on holding it there because she needed it next in the potion and she had to stir with one hand and hold the cauldron with the other, so naturally,” his lips pressed together for a moment, “naturally she just thought of putting it in her mouth.”

Remus' eyes were wide. Then, suddenly, he began to snicker. “Oh. Oh, my. Severus, where does she hold her wand, when she's not thinking about it?”

Severus eyed him, the corners of his lips curving slightly. “However did you guess?” He refilled his tea cup and waved the pot at Remus, inquiringly. At Remus' nod, he poured more into the other cup. “She'll be gone in a week. I've no desire to fill out the parchment work required when she reduces herself to pulp, and I'm sure Anderssen will see my side of the question.”

Remus laughed lightly. “I'm certain you'll prevail.” He shot a mischievous glance over at Severus. “You're a war hero, you know. That has to count for something.”

Severus glared at him. He'd been offered his Order of Merlin at a private ceremony, and Remus knew that Harry had refused to accept his own until Severus was invited to the public investiture. Remus didn't know if Severus knew about Harry's efforts, and since the two men could barely act civilly towards each other when in the same room, Remus wasn't hurrying to bring up the issue. He did, however, enjoy needling Severus about his Order, as for the first month after receiving it, he'd worn it every time he'd left his house.

“I've been thinking about what you mentioned last week,” Severus began, staring down into his teacup. “I believe I may have a solution. A solution for both of us, in fact.” He shifted so that he was sitting slightly sideways at the table, and glanced quickly at Remus.

Remus sighed. “Severus, I—it's really not something you need to worry about. I know I'll find something—“

“Like you had to a year ago?” Severus snapped.

“I did have to move a year ago, but how did you know?”

Severus opened his hand and showed Remus what he'd been holding. Remus looked back and forth from the golden item glinting on Severus' palm to his face.

“Severus? Why are you showing me a key?” Severus flushed slightly. His fingers curled in a little, and his thumb rubbed slowly against the key.

“I have—my house is large enough for...there's room for you to move in, if you like.” He sounded uncertain. Remus stared at him, feeling uncertain himself.

“You want me to...?” He sat back, deeply surprised. “Thank you, Severus, but I'm afraid I can't accept. I know...you've been very polite, this whole time, but really, you don't need to pretend an interest—this is my problem, and it's something I will deal with on my own.”

Severus' hand closed around the key. “Polite? Why do you think I have been meeting with you all this time?” His expression darkened, and Remus stiffened in his chair.

“I wasn't sure; I thought perhaps you wanted some sort of public support from the Order, after... well, after everything, and since I'm the only one of the Order who could reasonably meet with you on a regular basis, I rather thought it was...” he trailed off, dismayed at how his reasons came out sounding thinner when spoken aloud.

Severus' face locked into a harsh sneer. His hand clenched around the key so tightly Remus thought he could almost see it through the narrow bones of Severus' fingers. “You're meeting me out of charity? You think I need anyone's good will to—“

Remus stuttered into speech. “No, no, that's not it at all. I just meant that, well, at the beginning of this I couldn't figure out why you were meeting with me. I know you, Severus, and I know that you don't like me. The only reason I could think of for you to spend time with me was because you needed me for something. And,” he paused, disturbed to find that Severus' face hadn't relaxed at all, but had, in fact, frozen, “and so, knowing our history, I resolved that no matter what you needed, I'd be there to give it to you.”

“Your endless martyring of yourself for other people, Lupin, is the ugliest part of you. It's been three years since the war ended, and five years since that worthless cur Black died,” Severus snarled, “and you're still here, sacrificing yourself on some misguided, unwanted altar of being The Last One.” His hand opened, dropping the key onto the table. “Well, you're not the last one, you're not the only one, and if you can not learn to move on with your life, you might as well not be living it. You sit there, doing nothing with your life, with your skills, while around you the world has moved on. I have moved on.” He stood, his robes swirling around his ankles. “Your life will continue to be the empty shell it is until you learn to let the past go.”

Remus stared after him as he stormed out of the cafe. He couldn't quite believe that Severus Snape, of all people, had just delivered a speech about letting go of the past and moving on. He'd be tempted to believe it was someone polyjuiced to be Severus except that he'd known about what they'd discussed at previous meetings. Wondering what had made Severus make the offer, he picked up the key and stared at it, rubbing his thumb over it as he'd seen Severus do. It was still slightly warm from Severus' hand and he felt his chest clench slightly.

He'd have loved to share a house with Severus if he thought he could do it without revealing his feelings. Far from feeling neutral about the other man he was, more and more emotionally dependent on the semblance of friendship he provided. For the first time ever, Severus was showing him something other than loathing and anger, but he was afraid that more frequent exposure to someone he'd been attracted to for years would make his own feelings impossible to suppress. Better to have Severus angry at him for a short time than to thoroughly repulse him by revealing his sexual attraction. Severus might have got over the old history, but there’d been no evidence that he was gay, or that he was interested in Remus as anything but a casual friend.

With a sigh, he slipped the key into his pocket, took a last sip of his tea, and followed the same path Severus had out into the cold, rainy November afternoon.

* * *

Three days later, Remus stood outside a large coffee house, trying to remember why he'd chosen to do this. Taking a deep breath and standing as straight as he could, he stepped inside.

Two and a half hours after that, he stumbled out, clutching a paper cup filled with coffee in one hand and a black half-apron in the other. He walked, slightly dazed, to the street corner, then stopped and looked up at the dark afternoon sky. “I have a job,” he whispered. Sure, it's a Muggle job, but I think I'll be able to get the days off I need. Why didn't I do this before?

He came back the next morning, ready to be trained on the different coffee machines and the register. It wasn't the first time he'd worked as a clerk, but he'd learned that every system was different. Better to just learn from the bottom up. After working with him for several hours, Sam, the man who'd been training him, told him to take a break. Remus went to the back to check the schedule. With a sinking heart, he saw that he had been scheduled to work on Sunday, the day he and Severus usually met. Scanning down the rest of the month's schedule, he saw that he was scheduled for every Sunday.

“Well,” he muttered, “it didn't sound like he wanted to meet me any more anyway.” He tried to not think about how much he wanted to see Severus himself. With a stretch and a groan, he turned to see Sam peeking around the corner.

“Ready to sit around and drink a cuppa?” His voice was bright, and Remus wondered if he'd overheard. Deciding it didn't matter if Sam knew he was gay, Remus cheerfully followed Sam back to the front of the store and happily picked up the latte that had just been made.

“Ahhhhh,” sighed Rahini, a pretty girl who was working her way through uni, “coffee truly is a god.”

Remus laughed lightly, remembering all-nighters he and the rest of the Marauders had pulled. It didn't seem like it had been more than twenty years since then.

With a deep drink of his own coffee, he agreed, “Better than many gods, it is. It grants warmth, clearer thinking and extra energy. What else could any self-respecting wiz-person ask for?” He took another deep swig, hoping no one had noticed his slip. Rahini and Sam appeared to be arguing over which of them could eat the last lemon biscuit, so Remus let himself relax.

A week later, he wasn't relaxed at all. His landlady was still unwilling for him to stay in the flat he'd been renting off of Knockturn, and he had no idea where he could go. At the moment, he had two days left to find someplace and since he worked both days, he didn't know how he was going to find anything.

Someone came into the shop as he stood lost in contemplation at the counter, and he stood up, an automatic smile on his lips. “May I help you?” he asked. To his surprise, the customer was Harry, who was smiling back at him, rather bemusedly.

“I tracked you down,” he said. “You're working here?” He looked around and then back at Remus. “You could have just come to me, you know, if you needed money.”

Remus sighed. “Harry, I can't... wait. I'll take a break.” He turned and leaned around the door into the back. “Sam!” he called. “Sam, I need to take my break now. Can you cover?” He heard a muffled noise, and then Sam came down the hall, tying on his apron.

Remus pulled his own apron off and tossed it onto the table in the back, then joined Harry. Harry, who'd been working as an investigator for the Department of Mysteries for the past year, was mercifully smart enough to hold his questions until they were seated at a table near the front with a tall cup of steaming coffee in front of each of them.

“So,” Harry said, wrapping his hands around his mug. “You're working here. Any reason you didn't come to me?”

Remus took a quick sip from his drink and shot a grateful look over to Sam, who'd put in a extra shot of espresso. Remus was sure he'd need it. Taking another sip, he turned back to Harry. “Harry, I won't take money from you. I know you want to help me, but I need to have a job. This isn't the best job I've ever had, but it's not so bad.”

“Remus, you...” Harry pulled himself up. His finger tightened around his mug, then released. “All right, then. Do you need anything?” His smile was rueful, and Remus felt a jolt as he was reminded of Lily. Idly, he reached up and fidgeted with the gold chain around his neck he'd strung Severus' key on.

“Actually,” Remus began, knowing that if Harry was going to try, he had to meet him halfway, “I've lost my flat. I have to “

“Again?” Harry looked furious.

Remus grinned. It was good to know that, no matter how much he looked like Lily sometimes, there was a lot of James in the boy. “So, I was wondering if I could stay at Grimmauld. I don't know if you and Ginny are there...”

Harry waved a hand. “Well, it's about time. I've been trying to get you to move in for two years, Remus.” His brows drew together. “Why the sudden change, though?” He shifted in his chair, resting his chin on his hand.

Remus stared down into his mug. “I don't want to stay at Grimmauld long, Harry. I just... I don't have anywhere else to go right now. My landlady's decided to refurbish the whole building, and so she's said I have to find someplace else.”

Harry's face darkened. “You know that she's not going to—“

“I know, Harry, but forcing her to keep me there would make things worse.” Remus ran a hand through his hair. “I just have to find a place I can stay for now. I'll work on finding someplace of my own again as soon as I can.” He drained his mug and stood. “I've got to get back. My last day in my flat's Friday. I'll swing by and drop off my things in the morning, all right?”

Harry grinned up at him. “How about I come by when you get off today and collect you and your things? There's no need to stay where you are when you have a home already.” He looked so pleased with himself that Remus didn't know how to tell him that he cherished the time he spent by himself. You just don't want to admit that you wish you could call Anywhere-Severus-Is “home”.

With a deep breath and a minimally forced smile, he agreed.

***

Remus winced as he fell half a foot into a snow bank. He'd not been paying enough attention to his Apparition and had materialised off the ground. He grimaced as he stepped out of the drift and shook off his shoes. It had been years since he'd made a mistake like that. He was lucky he hadn't splinched.

Turning, he saw the great bulk of Hogwarts looming just beyond the Forest. He checked his watch, pleased to see that he had several hours yet before he had to be at the Shack. He'd have time to browse through the shops in Hogsmeade, maybe even enough time to get a pint or two at the Three Broomsticks.

In Hogsmeade the thin sunlight caught on icicles dangling from house eaves making them shimmer like diamonds. Remus smiled, happy to be away from Grimmauld, even if it was for his change, even if it was only for a day or two. The house was dreadful. He couldn't figure out why Harry and Ginny seemed to be so happy in it. They were re-furbishing it, true, but the whole house felt dank to Remus, even the parts which were newly painted and cleaned.

After spending some time in Honeydukes, he wandered over to the bookshop. Harry had cleaned out the library at Grimmauld, giving any book that he thought looked like it might be dangerous to either the Ministry or to Hogwarts. Unfortunately for Remus, this meant that all the available books in the house were about the history of Quidditch or the various methods of renovation, Muggle and magical. He hoped to find something more interesting to bring back; he'd keep it in his room and read it there.

While wandering through the aisles, idly running his fingers along the spines of the books, he heard someone arguing with the clerk. The voice sounded familiar, so he moved closer.

It was Severus. He had a stack of books on the counter and one in his hands. Remus stepped back quickly, hoping Severus hadn't seen him.

“I specifically requested that you find and purchase for me the most recent version of the Compendium of Dark Creatures,” Severus snapped, “and yet, when I arrive, after your owl said you had everything I ordered, I find that you have only the last version.” He slammed the book closed and threw it to the counter. “I refuse to pay for that, and be assured, I will be informing the owner of your incompetence.”

To Remus' amusement, the girl behind the counter didn't seem upset by Severus' temper. She calmly slid the book to the side and began writing up a slip for the ones remaining in the stack. “Will these be all, then?” she asked.

Severus turned, glancing out of the window. “Have you got anything new in on werewolves?”

She looked up at him at that. “Sir, I've told you three times that there haven't been any new books or texts on werewolves written in the past two years. You already have the ones published most recently.” She shoved the sales slip at him. “Stop asking for new books.”

Severus snarled and dropped a handful of Galleons on the counter, snapping something in response, but Remus stumbled backwards, suddenly angry. Severus was looking for books on werewolves? What information could Severus want that wasn't in the last book Remus knew what was in that book as he'd been one of the people involved in the final stages of the research. It had the most complete descriptions and scrupulous detail of any of the books available. Severus had to know that he was an expert; why hadn’t he come to him with his questions?

Before Remus could gather his composure, Severus stormed out of the shop, his parcel clutched under his arm.

“Sir? Sir, you can come out now,” the clerk called, amusement in her voice. He looked over, to see her smiling at him. “I know he's loud, but really, he's not....” Her voice trailed off as she recognised him. “Oh. Mr Lupin. I'm so sorry I didn't—were you looking for anything in particular?” She glanced away, out the window, and Remus found himself wondering what she'd been about to say about Severus.

“No,” he said, clenching his fists inside his pockets. “No, thanks. I'll just... I have an appointment.” He rushed out of the shop, confused by the sudden knowing look that flashed across the clerk's face.

Giving up on Hogsmeade, he spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the Forest, admiring the way the snow and ice drifted through the trees. He saw something moving, and turned his steps towards it. He enjoyed seeing the creatures who lived in the Forest, and thought he might be able to spot something he could talk about with Hagrid. To his dismay, he saw that it was Severus again; this time wrestling with the thick branches of a spiky bush that appeared to be trying to escape.

A puff of laughter escaped him at the image Severus presented. His cloak was thrown down on the ground and he stood there in Muggle trousers and a heavy jersey. The bush had wrapped several branches around his ankles and one was trying to work its way past his defences to coil about his waist. At the sound of his laughter, Severus swung around.

Remus, still chuckling slightly, moved forward. “You're in a right pickle,” he said, struggling to keep all of his emotions except amusement from his voice. “Let me help you.” He raised his wand and cast a Freezing Charm, just as Severus shouted, “No!”.

The charm froze the bush, but Remus could see that this left Severus just as trapped as he'd been before. He grimaced and hurried closer. “I'll get you out of that. Hang on a tick.” Reaching Severus, he dropped to his knees and began untwining the tendrils around Severus' ankles. Severus made a short noise, making Remus glance up curiously. “Everything all right up there?”

For one moment, Severus looked open, some emotion on his face that Remus couldn't quite place. Then his usual expression of disdain slammed down and he glared. “No, everything is not all right. I don't understand how you could be so idiotic as to believe that things could be, in any way, all right.” Remus bent his head and continued working at the prickly and stiff branches, knowing that Severus would continue his tirade. “I've been working on this plant for months now, the fruit has to be harvested now and you come along and ruin it. I'll have to work twice as hard on the...”

Remus glanced up again at the odd way Severus trailed off. “I froze only the branches on you, Severus. There's no need to be so upset.” Severus flushed slightly and lifted his chin.

It took almost an hour to get all the thorns out of Severus' clothes; Remus had to make sure that every prickle and thorn was removed, or else he'd continue to suffer the effects of the Moon's Ice Bush. By the time he was finished, Severus was shaking slightly.

Remus stood up. “Your lips are blue,” he said, reaching out unconsciously and stroking his thumb across Severus' mouth. Severus shivered violently. “You're freezing,” Remus continued. He thought quickly, torn between going back the Shack and bringing Severus to Poppy. “Come with me and I'll help.” He snatched up Severus' cloak and handed it to him, trying not to show how much he wanted to be closer to Severus. Pulling in a deep breath, he watched as Severus clumsily buttoned the cloak and pulled his muffler around his neck.

Severus stood still as Remus glanced quickly around the clearing, his eyes following Remus' face. For one moment, they stood, eyes locked. Then Severus' eyes fell away and he tried to pull back. “I am not in need of your help,” he said, his voice low.

Remus stroked his hands up and down along his own arms, curbing his desire to touch the other man. Shivering himself, he dropped his hands and moved away. “Please, Severus,” he said. “You're too cold to Apparate and I've a place where you can get warm.”

Severus jerked his head down in a nod and Remus tried to suppress a jolt of pleasure. He'd missed Severus, and he wasn’t sure they’d have a chance to talk again soon. He also wanted to try to find out why Severus was studying werewolves and why he hadn't asked Remus for help.

Closing his hand on Severus' arm and picking up the bag Severus had placed near his cloak, Remus Apparated them to the Shack.

He'd been transforming in the Shack for almost a year now, and had fixed it up so that it was, for the day or so he had to be there, a pleasant place. It had taken endless hours of work, but he'd had little to do for the years after the war ended. He'd fixed the walls, filling in the cracks and making it weather-proof. The stairs and inner walls had been refinished and painted; he'd even installed a small magical kitchen, with a sink and a box with a Perpetual Chilling Charm.

They Apparated into the living room, Remus immediately casting Incendio into the fireplace. He looked back to see Severus turning in place, staring around the room. Remus dropped his bag on the small sofa facing the fireplace.

“Is this where you're living now?” His voice was icy.

Remus shook his head, then, realising that Severus wasn't looking at him, said, “No. No, I'm not staying here. Too many bad memories. I've just, well,” he glanced around, taking in, for the first time, how empty it still really was. “I've just made it nice enough to not have to transform in ugliness.” He sighed. “My life has been ugly enough.”

Severus spun around and stared at him. “Where are we?” His hands clenched on the edges of his cloak; Remus was surprised to see his knuckles were white.

“We're in the Shack,” Remus replied, as mildly as he could.

Severus reared back, his eyes flashing. “The...” He looked around again, his eyes growing wilder.

Remus sighed again. “Sit down, Severus. I'll get us some tea.” He left the room, upset with himself for bringing Severus to the Shack instead of just to Poppy. He'd managed to make one place for just himself, where the memories ghosting through the rooms were only ones he'd created, ones he'd chosen. All this was now destroyed. The living room would forever be coloured by Severus' dismay at being there, his unwillingness to remain anywhere near Remus.

Once back in the living room, with a full tray floating in front of him, and carrying the small chair from the kitchen, Remus settled down and poured out two cups of tea. Severus was huddled in the corner of the sofa, his cloak pulled tightly around himself. He reached out a hand to take the teacup, his face blank. They sipped their tea in silence, the fire's crackles and pops sounding loudly in the room.

Finally, Remus leaned forward, piling several sandwiches onto a plate and handing them to Severus. His shirt gaped a little, and he saw that Severus' eyes were locked on his neck. Flushing with embarrassment at the scarring that he knew showed, Remus tugged at his collar.

“I'm afraid,” Remus said slowly, “that I overheard a bit of what you were saying in the book shop. What are you looking for about werewolves?” He hoped his anger at not being asked didn't sound in his voice.

Severus froze, tense, a sandwich halfway to his mouth. “I was... there appear to be things in older books that aren't referenced in the newer texts and I was—“ He broke off abruptly and flushed.

Remus shrugged. “I helped with the research on that last one, the one you refused to buy. Everything in there is up to date and accurate. What is it you're trying to reference?”

There was a pause as Severus took a vicious bite of his sandwich and chewed. Remus, startled at the ferocity Severus was displaying, found himself unwilling to press the question. He took a bite of his own sandwich, then stilled. Swallowing thickly, he muttered, “I have to go. I'll—“ he flicked a glance at Severus' face, turned away, “I'll see you, er, tomorrow.” Leaving his tea and food, he walked quickly through the door.

Down the hall, he'd set up a room just for the transformation. There was a grated fireplace, spelled to light as soon as he entered the room, soft carpets on the floor and a largish daybed against one wall. Turning to close the door behind himself, he was startled to see Severus following close behind.

“You don't want to see this,” he blurted, trying to control the stab of fear he felt at the chance that Severus might see him as the wolf again. Please. All it will do is remind you of what I've done, what a monster I really am, inside. “Don't ...”

Severus paused, his eyes strangely hot. “I have to watch. I have to be able to ...” He sucked in a deep breath, his hands curling into fists. “I want to see if it's what I remember.” He looked away as he said it. Remus wondered what it was exactly that he was remembering.

Slowly, Remus backed into the room, watching Severus take in the way he'd filled it. “I have to... I put my clothes outside the room, on the table there.” He stepped around Severus, who'd come barely far enough into the room to be inside it, and began stripping off as quickly as he could. Once he was naked, he shut the door.

Shivering with conflicting emotions, Remus moved closer to the fire. He could feel moon rising nearing, and he wanted to be in the warmth when he changed, but he ... he was unwilling to expose himself to Severus' view. At last he convinced himself that surely Severus had seen worse things than a slightly underfed, scarred werewolf, and he dashed to the carpeted area in front of the fireplace just in time.

He never remembered the change itself, and, even with the Wolfsbane's sedating qualities, remembered very little of the time he spent in wolf's form. However, as he woke up slowly, warm and comfortable, the first thing he remembered was the look of horror filling Severus' face as he watched Remus fall to the ground when the change hit him.

He groaned and tried to roll over, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him.

“Are you in pain?” Severus leaned forward, his eyes showing something that Remus tried to pretend was concern.

“No,” he said quickly, then, as he took stock of himself and realised that he didn't actually hurt anywhere, he repeated it, his tone amazed. “No, I'm not in any pain at all. That's so... wait.” He rolled his head to look at Severus. “What did you give me?”

Severus pulled his hand back and lifted his head slightly. “I gave you... the wolf... a mild pain relief potion I designed to mitigate the damage the change does to your, I mean, to werewolf joints.” He paused, his eyes fastened on his fingers twisting the edge of the duvet on the daybed. “I could provide it to you, if you ...” Abruptly he stood.

“Severus,” Remus said, struggling to sit up. “Severus, what is it?”

Remus watched as Severus' hands fisted and his chin rose. “If you are not living here, then where are you staying?”

Completely confused now, Remus replied, “At Grimmauld. Harry and Ginny are fixing it up and there's room for me there.”

“You hate it at Grimmauld Place,” Severus said, his voice flat.

“I know, but there's no where else for me right now.” Remus flushed slightly, thinking of the key he was wearing, even now, around his neck.

Severus appeared to be struggling with something, but after a long moment, his nostrils flared and he said, in an frozen tone, “My offer still stands. There is room in my house, there's a place for you to transform in the basement, large enough for you to bring everything from here, and,” he glanced quickly at Remus, “I can support you with the money I make at the Ministry. I know those idiots in Diagon are still blocking you from—“

Remus went completely still. “I have a job,” he said, his mind still caught by wonder at Severus' repeated offer. “I don't need to be supported.” Severus' face darkened, confusing Remus even more. He shifted, trying straighten the duvet over his legs. Severus reached out but then pulled back sharply, his face smoothing into the careful expression Remus had learned meant he was about to lie.

“Well, that is good, then,” Severus said, crossing his arms and smirking slightly. “When can you move in?”

Remus laced his fingers together and tried to contain his dismay. He didn't want to refuse Severus outright, but he knew that there was no way he'd be able to live with him, see him every day and not expose himself and his feelings. He couldn't understand why Severus was making the offer; he could only think that there must be something for Severus in it, even though he, Remus, couldn't see it.

“I don't know,” he started, “I'm not sure that...” Without thinking, he put his hand to his neck and wrapped his fingers around the key. He glanced up to see Severus' eyes sharpen. His own eyes widened at the realisation that he hadn't taken the key off. Severus must have seen that he was wearing it. God, how to explain this... what can I say that will ... “Ah.” He plucked at the key, sliding his hands around to the chain's clasp and popping it open. “Here. I ... I forgot I still had this. I guess I should give it back.” He held it out, his hand shaking slightly.

Severus refused to take it. “You'll need it, won't you?” His voice was light and amused, belying the odd heat in his eyes. “Otherwise, how will you get into the house?”

“Severus,” choked Remus, “I can't. I'm sorry, but I just ... I can't.”

Still Severus made no move to take the key, so he let his hand drop to his side, the key glinting in the firelight. “Oh, I heard you when you said that,” Severus replied, “but you have yet to tell me where you think will be better. Surely you can't really mean for me to believe that you're happier in Grimmauld, where Black was immured.” If Remus hadn't been watching him so closely, he might have missed the slight flinch Severus gave at saying Sirius' name. “Is living with Potter and his bride-to-be what you long for of an evening, when you get home, tired from, what was it you said you're doing now?”

Remus chuckled, surprised at himself. “I didn't say, Severus. It's not much of a job, but it's one I got on my own merits. Let's just leave it at that.” He leaned back against the headboard of the daybed and let his fingers curl around the key. “All right. I give in. I'll come live with you, although I still don't understand why you want me to.” He didn't miss the flare of triumph in Severus' face and shivered.

* * *

Explaining to Harry where he was going proved the hardest part about moving. He put it off for three days, but when Severus flooed him in Grimmauld's library and demanded why he was taking so long, Remus finally belted up and approached Harry in the back garden.

Oddly enough, once he started the explanation, Harry didn't seem to be angry. Remus had braced himself for a temper tantrum to rival those of Harry's youth, but all the boy did was look up from the Everblooming Crocus and nod. “You'll be moving today, then?” he asked, his voice mild. He smiled a bit at Remus' confusion and turned back to the plants. “I, er, I knew you wouldn't be staying long. You said so yourself.”

Remus had to be satisfied with that, although he did feel like there was something important he was missing.

* * *

Remus gasped at the sight of the large tree filling the corner of the sitting room. He'd seen Severus' house before, had helped search it during the last, frantic, days of the war, and had never thought to see it filled with the crisp green of needles and sharp smell of pine. Slowly he turned around and took in the changes Severus had made to the house.

It was cleaner, for one thing, but that was to be expected. The Aurors had left it pretty much a shambles, and even the few cleaning and clearing spells Remus had managed to get off before he was sent back to Greyback hadn't done much. The bookshelves still reached the ceiling, but somehow the room didn't appear dark, as it had before.

There was a small sofa in front of the fire, with a table between it and a comfortable looking chair that was newer than the rest of the furniture. There were even packages already under the tree, and Remus resolved to take out the things he'd got for Severus before all this had happened and put them with the others. Remus finished his turn to see Severus himself standing in a door that had to lead to the kitchen, judging from the smell of roast lamb and peas.

The two men regarded each other soberly for a moment. Then Remus took a step towards the kitchen. “That smells lovely,” he said, smiling.

Severus nodded. “We, ah, eat in here." He stood back and gestured for Remus to follow him. “I thought we'd eat, then work anything else out.”

* * *

He settled in quickly, and found that Apparating to and from work to Spinners End was easier, somehow, than taking Muggle transportation had been. They ate dinner together every night, and Remus was pleased to see that they managed to achieve their old camaraderie and friendship. If, every so often, he'd find himself wishing he could reach across the table and touch Severus, or wanting to sit next to Severus on the sofa instead of in the chair Severus had shown him on the first day, then that was just something he'd have to work on.

These were small things, he told himself. He was managing to keep from showing his feelings, and that was what counted.

Severus was a much friendlier housemate than he'd been expecting; often he would bring things home from the Ministry that he thought would amuse or interest Remus. He didn't seem to have the respect for personal space he'd had when they were teaching at Hogwarts, either.

One day, he brought home an ancient book about Dark Creatures and leaned over the back of Remus' chair, and therefore over Remus, to show him interesting parts. His hair slipped forward, stroking against Remus' cheek, its cool strands silky on his skin, making him shiver. Remus found himself distracted, unable to comment intelligently on the creatures and objects the book displayed, until Severus turned a page and he saw that the entire next chapter was on Werewolves.

He stiffened in the chair. “Severus, what—“

Severus turned his head, still so close to Remus that he could feel the vibrations of the other man's chest in his shoulder. “I thought you'd be amused. It's pretty silly stuff, this. Some of it even the Muggles of the time knew was false. This business here, for example,” he flipped pages to get to the section he wanted and Remus wondered at how well he knew the book. “It says here that werewolves mate for life, like wolves do.”

“They don't,” Remus muttered, hoping to get off the subject of mating while he still had any dignity left. All he could smell was Severus, the smoky spicy scent of him in the air; all he could feel was Severus' warmth near him. His fingers gripped the arms of the chair so hard he thought they might tear right through the fabric.

“Mmm,” hummed Severus, directly in his ear, “wolves don't? That's interesting. I thought they did. Or did you mean werewolves?” He reached forward again, to turn a page, displaying a woodcut of a man shifting under a full moon; the change was depicted as smooth and seamless. It never feels like that. I wonder if that's what it looks like.

“That's what convinced me most of the book is tripe, actually,” Severus said calmly. “It's nothing like that.”

Remus bit his lip and tried to turn to look at Severus without having to bring his face any closer. He didn't think he could stand to be this close without kissing the man, and he didn't want to lose this friendship. “I...” he began and then froze as Severus slid closer still and pressed his lips to Remus'. After a shocked moment, Remus moaned and tried to reach around to pull Severus in.

The angle was difficult, and the kiss broke apart too soon. Remus panted for a moment, dazed at the rush of desire and heat that filled him, then shot to his feet. “I’m, I’m sorry, Severus, I didn’t mean, I mean…” He hunched slightly, trying to hide his arousal from Severus, completely confused by the kiss and by the fact that Severus had started it.

Severus stood facing him, arms crossed. His expression was sceptical. “You didn’t mean what, exactly, Remus? Are you saying you’re not interested in me?”

Remus felt his eyes widen. “Ah, no. I mean that’s not what I’m saying.” He groaned and wished his erection would subside. It didn’t seem to have got the message yet, that it wasn’t needed right now. “I just, well, I didn’t think—“

Suddenly he felt a hand stroking over his cheek; he jumped, his eyes snapping to Severus’. “You’re thinking too much,” Severus whispered, stepping forward and kissing him again. This time the kiss was explosive; Severus’ tongue plunged into Remus’ mouth making him ache for Severus to fill the same way. Severus’ hands were roaming all over Remus’ body, plucking at his nipples through his shirt, stroking, then scratching Remus’ back, cupping his arse, curling around his hip bones. “Mmmm,” Severus murmured against Remus’ neck. “We’ve got to get you fed up; you’re nothing but bones.” After another long moment, in which he systematically wore down any resistance Remus had by nibbling along his collarbone, he muttered, “Delicious.” His nimble fingers undid the buttons on Remus’ shirt, exposing his chest.

Remus moaned, completely taken over by the urgency of his need. He’d wanted this, dreamed about this, wanked to thoughts of this for so long that it seemed more like a dream to him than like it was actually happening. He wrapped his arms around Severus, pulling him closer, trying to find places to kiss, to suck, to return the sensations Severus was giving him. He tried to slide his hands inside Severus’ robes, tugging at buttons that resisted his attempts at release.

Severus pulled back. “Ah, no. Let me do this. You just,” he stroked a hand over the curve of Remus’ shoulder, “you just stand there. I want to—“ Remus reached for him, confused, but still enraptured by the sudden offer of everything he’d wanted for so long.

Severus stepped back into Remus’ arms, fastening his mouth first to Remus’ lips, plundering them, coaxing more sensation from them than Remus had known they could give. Then, carefully, he turned them around and pushed Remus down into the chair. Remus shook his head, trying to think of what was wrong, why this wasn’t the way he’d imagined things would be. Severus slanted a smile at him, and Remus sucked in a breath, sharply coherent for one flashing moment, aware that the smile didn’t quite look aroused as much as it did predatory, but then Severus fell to his knees and buried his face in Remus’ crotch and Remus lost the ability to think entirely.

Remus gave himself up to the joy and the heat he felt as Severus opened his trousers. His mouth was tight around Remus’ cock, his fingers stroked his balls and then in one smooth movement, the soft protected skin behind them. Remus arched up, the wet, tight sensations pulling everything from him; it felt as if he were liquefying and melting out into Severus’ mouth. He fell back in the chair, blinking dazedly. Vaguely, he heard a wet sound, but it was all he could do to breathe.

After another moment, he smiled and leaned forward, reaching out. “Severus,” he said, “that was…” He trailed off, feeling as if he’d been plunged into ice. Severus wasn’t even looking at him, but was inspecting a vial half filled with a milky fluid. “What are you doing?”

Severus looked back up at Remus, his expression shifting quickly from secretive to guilty before settling on bland. “I just needed this for something—“ he started, but Remus surged up from the chair, interrupting him.

For one long moment, he stood, still unsteady on his feet. Doing up his trousers, trying to hide the crushing sense of betrayal and devastation he could feel poised over him like knives, he closed his eyes and asked, “Why didn’t you just ask me, if that’s all you wanted? I’d have been more than happy to give you …” he sucked in a deep breath, feeling his chest hitch, then plunged on, “I’d have given you anything you needed.”

With that, he Disapparated.

He crash landed at the Apparation point he used for work. He shivered from the emotional roller-coaster of the past half hour, and also from the sudden cold on the streets. For one moment, he thought about going into the shop but shook his head and Disapparated again, this time landing cleanly at the Apparation point nearest Grimmauld.

Harry opened the door before he’d even got up the steps. “Remus! What’s wrong?” Harry pulled him inside, then glanced at the empty street. “Where’s Snape? He let you out like this?”

“Severus doesn’t care where I go,” Remus said bitterly. “I’m sorry to drop in on you and Ginny like this, but I really—“

“Hey,” Harry said, shrugging his shoulders, “you’ve always got a home with us, you know that.”

Down the hall, Ginny called, “Harry? Is that Remus? What’s wrong? Is Snape with him?”

Remus threw his hands in the air. “Why does everyone think Severus would be anywhere near me?” There was a moment of ringing silence, then he said, his voice low and tight, “Can I have the same room? I’m exhausted.”

Harry nodded, his face stiff. “’Course, Remus. I think it’s still even set up.” He turned to look at Ginny then glanced back. “You’ll let us know when you’re up, right? Ginny makes a mean Welsh rabbit.”

Remus scrubbed at his face. “Sure, Harry. I’ll talk later. I’m sorry to drop in so late…”

“No, no it’s not a problem.” Harry grabbed his cloak. “It turns out I had an errand to run, anyway.”

As Remus turned to go up the stairs, he overheard Ginny say, “—not going to kill him, are you?” Harry’s response was too low for him to catch

The next few days were miserable for Remus. He managed to concoct a story about his and Severus’ incompatibility as housemates that didn’t include kisses, books about werewolves or his own shattered heart. He wasn’t sure how the story went over; Harry looked a little too calm, and for a moment, Remus found himself missing the open, impetuous boy Harry had been in his third year.

He worked a shift at the coffee shop, and had to pretend to be happy for the customers, while hiding how upset he was inside. Then, he had to go back to the Shack, after everything, and get ready to transform.

He sat next to the fire in the seat Severus had taken, cursing his own inability to stand up for himself. He had thought that he’d learned how, after two wars and several miserable experiences with people who thought he was available for relationships. Giving up on the book he was pretending to read, he stripped quickly and locked himself in his room, even though it was much too early for the moon to rise.

After an hour, he found himself wishing for the oblivion of the change. He curled up on the daybed and tried to fall asleep. Maybe this time he could sleep through the change.

It didn’t work, just like every other time he had tried it.

He woke up slowly, warm and comfortable, under a duvet and several blankets in the bed. For several long minutes he lay there, content to not remember why he shouldn’t feel this way, why he shouldn’t be painless and oddest of all, in the bed without remembering how he got there. Usually he came back to himself on the floor and had to crawl into bed on his own.

He drowsily thought, “Oh, Severus must have given me that pain relief potion agai…” At that, everything that had happened in the past few days cascaded through his mind and he gasped. There was a sound at the side of the bed, and he rolled over, startled. Severus was asleep in a chair at his bedside.

“Severus?” he whispered. “What are you doing here? What do you want from me, now?” He lay back, staring at Severus. He’d removed his over-robes and was in Muggle shirt sleeves and trousers. His sleeves were rolled up, he’d taken his shoes off and he looked exhausted; there were circles under his eyes, his hands were actually dirty and his hair was greasier looking than usual.

Finally, Remus couldn’t stand to wait any more. “Severus,” he called.

Severus snapped awake, his eyes flashing with a moment of something Remus would have called fear in any other person. “Re—Lupin. You’re awake.” He sat up, leaning forward to feel Remus’ forehead. “How do you feel?”

Remus pulled away, unwilling to be touched. Severus’ hand fell away and his face twisted for a moment. There was a moment of silence and Remus sighed.

“Why did you do it, Severus? Why pretend like that? If you needed something from a werewolf, why didn’t you just ask?” He kept his eyes on his fingers, watched them pleat the blanket neatly.

Severus’ voice, when it came, was low. “I—you have a copy of the Compendium of Dark Creatures in the other room.” He rose, looking everywhere but at Remus. “I’m going to leave the room now and get it.”

“Okay,” Remus said, now more confused than ever. He wasn’t really surprised at Severus’ refusal to answer his question, but he couldn’t think of what he’d want in the Compendium, or why he was acting so oddly about going to get it. He watched as Severus reached the door and shot an unreadable glance back at him. He hesitated before crossing the threshold of the room and Remus shook his head. He’d never figure the man out. Never.

Severus stalked back into the room, carrying the book and trailed by a tray with food. “I brought you something to eat,” he snapped. Remus caught a whiff of rare roast beef and fresh bread and smiled up at him.

“Thank you,” he replied, sitting up straighter. “Er, what did you want from the Compendium?”

Severus waved his wand and the tray settled gently over Remus’ lap. “I wanted to ask you about one of the behaviours I saw in older texts and not in this one.” He watched as Remus forked some of the food to his mouth and chewed. “You said you helped with the research on this edition. You are certain that the information in this is correct?”

Remus nodded, mouth full of soft roll. “Entirely,” he said after swallowing.

Severus paled slightly, then set the book down next to Remus. “In the section on werewolf breeding habits, there’s a statement that werewolves can not be bred when they’re in wolf form.”

Remus opened the book and shuffled pages to find the section Severus mentioned. “Why do you want to know about that, Severus?” He glanced up to see Severus’ cheeks lit with hectic colour. “What are you researching at work right now?” He felt a chill at the thought that the Ministry had Severus’ department working on a way to breed werewolves. He’d have thought they’d be working on a way to cure lycanthropy, not extend it.

“This is…this is private research,” Severus gritted out. He crossed his arms and glared.

Remus raised his eyebrows, trying to remain calm and clear-headed. This made less and less sense. Looking down at the book, he chuckled suddenly. “Gods, I had to fight with Meugrim about this chapter. There’s so much bad information out there.” He tapped a page, and grinned. “Here, it says that werewolves mate for life. Remember, you asked about that.” He shook his head and took another bite of meat. After a moment he continued, “I remember one of his older books said something about a Werewolf Mating Bond.” His voice was mocking for a moment. “Most of us are too happy just to find someone who wants to be with us at all. Can you imagine how miserable it would be to be permanently bonded to someone who might not stay with you once they found out…” he glanced up at Severus and trailed off in surprise.

Severus had gone dead white, his eyes wide. “You…there isn’t…” He choked for a minute, then stood and stormed across the room. “How do you feel? Do you feel different with me over here?”

Remus leaned back against the pillows and stared at Severus. Something was shifting in his mind, he could feel an idea growing… “Severus,” he said slowly, trying to keep his voice even, “what have you done?”

“Nothing,” spat Severus. “Clearly, I’ve done nothing.” He whirled and stormed out of the room, and before Remus could struggle out from under the tray and bedding, he heard the sharp crack of Disapparation.

Remus leaned back and thought. He felt clearer, as if he were waking up after a long sleep, or coming up from very deep waters. After a while, he said, “I think a conversation with Harry is long overdue.”

* * *

Harry grimaced at Remus. “He’ll kill me if he finds out I told you, but I guess that’s not important any more, if you already know.”

Remus shrugged, trying to look like he did, in fact, know whatever it was Harry was talking about. He gestured vaguely with his glass and said, “Well, why don’t you just tell me your side of it, then?”

“I was startled at first, you know,” Harry peered into his own glass, then raised a finger to the girl behind the bar. “I mean, it’s not like he’s ever shown any kind of positive interest in you. In any of us.”

Remus nodded, trying to look like he was drinking faster than he was. He knew it wasn’t a good idea to get Harry drunk in order to pry the information out of him, but it was the quickest way—not to mention the method that would cause the fewest questions from Harry.

“So, he came over to my office,” Harry tapped his fingers, as if counting, “it must be almost two years ago now. He led up to asking about you… I don’t know how the man managed as a spy. He asked the most ham handed questions.” Harry smirked into his now-full glass. “What were you doing? Where were you working? He did seem quite upset when he found that you couldn’t get work, I’ll give the bastard that. He spent several months meeting with the Head of the Creature Department. I think he’s started working on another variant of the Wolfsbane for them.”

Remus sat up straighter, now upset with himself for having had any of his drink at all. A new variant on Wolfsbane? Could that have been… then why didn’t he just ask me? He knows that I’m always willing to help with research on that…

But Harry was still tumbling on. “He stopped asking about you after a while,” he glanced at Remus, who looked away quickly, disturbed by the oddly coherent look in Harry’s eyes. “I’d guess that was about the time he started actually seeing you. He didn’t come see me again until you got the job at the café.” He took a healthy swig from his glass, then scowled. “He was furious with me—you know that funny way his lips thin when he’s angry but won’t say it—when I said I didn’t know where you were. That was a Sunday afternoon, actually.” Harry shook his head. “Startled Ginny to see him looming up the walk at us.”

Remus sat, stunned. Severus had been the one to make Harry go looking for him? He must have gone that very first Sunday. He leaned back in his chair, fascinated at the new perspective.

“Anyway,” Harry continued, waving his emptied glass at Remus, “I found you, told the old bat you were doing okay and thought that was the end of it.” He leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. “Then you showed up at my house, looking like you’d been well-fucked and then kicked in the teeth. Snape looked like he’d been shown pictures of his dead puppy, but he wouldn’t tell me what happened. Now here you are, spry and chipper, trying to get me drunk and asking questions about him.” He turned his face, completely sober, to Remus.

“I…you’re not…” Remus blushed and stammered.

To his relief, Harry just smirked at him. “Never try to get an Unspeakable drunk. We’re taught anti-alcohol spells first thing.” He shook his head, smiling wryly. “You two deserve each other. How did we ever win that war, if this is how you spied on the enemy?”

Remus burst out laughing. “We were a little slicker then. We’re out of practice.” He pushed his drink away and leaned forward. “All right, then. I’ll stop pretending. Why don’t you tell me what he was working on, then?”

“He didn’t say.” Harry stared blandly into Remus’ disappointment. After a long moment, he continued. “The old book he left open said something about a Mating Bond, though.”

Remus let his head fall to the table. He bounced it a couple of times for good measure. “God, he must have found a copy of Witherspoon’s Treatise on Werewolves in the Wild. I thought the Hogwarts library was the only place that still had a copy of that trash. Why would he try something like that?”

Harry, shaking his head, said, “I leave that mystery to your capable investigatory skills. I’ve got to get back to Ginny. She’s having someone come in and look at the back stairs—she thinks she wants a lift there.” He stood, clapped Remus on the shoulder companionably and strode out of the pub.

* * *

Remus couldn’t go immediately to Severus’ house and investigate anything. He had to be at work, but he resolved that as soon as he was off, he’d Apparate to Spinner’s End and pry the answers out of Severus, if it actually took a pry bar.

Three hours into his shift, during a quiet period, he and Sam stood together behind the counter, Remus laughing at Sam’s expression. Sam’s girlfriend had brought in a large floral arrangement she’d been given at work, and Sam hated it.

“Why’d she have to bring it here?” he whined theatrically.

Remus, feeling more optimistic than he’d have thought possible just two days before, asked, “Well, would you rather have it at home? Only think how much more cheerful your flat would be with that…” he trailed off, staring at the tall, dark haired man threading his way between the tables to the counter.

Sam stepped closer and whispered in his ear, “Oh, would this be the man you’ve been so upset over?”

“Severus, I, ah, didn’t expect to see you here.” Remus’ smile flickered. Severus was dressed in a Muggle outfit and the sight of his long legs in comfortable looking jeans under a soft jumper made Remus’ pulse speed up. “Can I get you anything?”

Severus was silent for a moment. “I’d like one of whatever you like and a cup of tea. You know what kind I want. Then,” his eyes turned to Sam, who merely raised his eyebrows at him and crossed his arms, “then you will come with me over to that table in the window and I will explain.”

Remus, unable to take his eyes from Severus, called, “A pot of Lapsang, Sam please, and a double latte for me.” Severus nodded, placed several bills on the counter, then moved to the table he’d indicated. Remus, feeling a little dazed, turned to Sam.

Sam still had his arms crossed, and he’d transferred his glare to Remus. “I don’t know that I approve,” he said. “He doesn’t look like he’s very nice, and you’re a nice guy. You should be with someone—“

“He’s … he’s better than nice,” Remus interrupted. “He doesn’t always look it, but underneath that stern exterior lurks a heart of, well,” he leaned forward and whispered in Sam’s ear, “gold. I can’t say we’ll never fight, but if I ever need anything, he’ll be the first one there. He always has been.” He checked to see if Severus had heard. “He’s been through some hard times, we both have, but I think they’re coming to an end now.”

Sam turned to the espresso machine. “If you’re sure. But Remus,” he glanced back, “don’t sell yourself short.”

Remus nodded. He could feel his heart lifting, filling him with hope.

He brought the drinks to the table and set the pot of tea down in front of Severus. “I got your Lapsang,” he said, aware of the uncomfortable way Severus sat. His shoulders were hunched, and he reached for the tea slowly. Remus sat down himself, curling his fingers around his mug.

“I understand if you are angry with me,” Severus began, looking everywhere but at Remus. “Trying to force a bond was … unforgivable.”

Remus raised his eyebrows. This was the closest he’d ever heard Severus come to an outright apology. “I think I—“

Severus raised his hand. “Let me finish.” He sipped quickly at the tea, then looked straight at Remus. “I’ve been…attracted to you for many years. You were always unattainable, first with,” his teeth set, “with Black, and then with that pink haired—“

“Tonks speaks very well of you,” Remus interrupted, amused.

“Yes, well, finally I thought there might be a chance you could learn to…I could make you think of me that way, but you never did. You met with me, week after week and you never once—“ he sucked in a breath, then went on. “I saw you, getting thinner and more trapped by those idiots in the Creatures Division, and you wouldn’t ever turn to me. You spent your time allowing people to take advantage of you, and then you told me that you were…that you thought I was doing the same thing.” He glared at his teapot as if it had withheld important information from him.

“Severus,” Remus jumped in, “you haven’t asked me how I feel about you, you know.”

“And then you stopped coming,” Severus continued, without hearing Remus. “I couldn’t find you—your flat was empty and Potter…” he ground to a halt, staring across the table at Remus, who felt his smile growing wider. “Asked you?” he said, clearly flummoxed.

Remus shook his head. “Yes, you prat. Asked me. It would have saved an awful lot of time, and some pretty expensive ingredients. I’ve read Witherspoon. None of the potions in there work, you know. He was an apothecary’s brother; I think he wrote the book to drive up sales in his brother’s shop.”

Severus blinked at him, then leaned back in his own chair, his face beginning to settle into its usual lines of amused sarcasm. “Well then, how do you feel?”

Remus stared at him for a long moment. He was taking a dreadful risk, saying this first, but he rather thought that Severus trying to make the Bonding potion really had been a declaration. You just needed to be able to speak Severus Snape Potions Language to understand it. He took a deep breath.

“I’m in love with you.” He knew he’d remember the look of joy that lit Severus’ face forever as he reached a hand across the table and laced his fingers into Remus’.

“I—“ began Severus, but Remus found he didn’t need to hear a matching statement. It was enough that Severus had done all the work of finding him. Remus squeezed the hand he was holding.

“You can show me, later tonight,” he said, and felt heat tingle along his skin at the spark in Severus’ eyes.

“I will show you,” Severus purred, low and full of promise, “for the rest of my life.”