For as long as Remus could remember, he'd had a sweet tooth. All children did, he'd been told. But unlike most other children he'd known, Remus hadn't really been able to indulge in his cravings very often.
His mother had to stay with him on the days around each full moon when he was younger and so had trouble keeping a job. His father's income had never been particularly enviable. As a result, taste had tended to lose out to cost and quantity in the Lupin household. Things like chocolate and ice-cream and sugar-filled treats were luxuries that had no place in Remus's childhood.
Remus thought that if he'd been able to eat what he liked back then he might have, to some extent at least, grown out of his fascination for fatty and sugary foods as he matured.
That, unfortunately, had not been the way things turned out.
So it was that Remus often found himself spending hours on end during Hogsmeade trips just loitering about in Honeydukes, staring at the edible creations with a watering mouth. The smell alone was delicious. Though Remus knew he was actively torturing himself, he kept doing so regardless. It remained a case of 'look but don't touch' for him, though. When his parents had both passed away, Remus had been left to survive on a very meagre inheritance, which he'd mostly had to blow on his school supplies for his final year at Hogwarts.
His appetite for all things sweet didn’t change at all as he entered into adulthood. Nor, however, did his income rise. Despite the fact that he was constantly busy working odd jobs and trying to track down more permanent solutions, his bank vault remained unbearably empty. He made barely enough to pay the rent on his practically dilapidated London flat. This, however, was complimented by the fact that he generally had no time to worry about the food he was missing except in so far as his stomach kept grumbling its protests.
It wasn't long before Remus had to make a choice between losing his sanity and relative health and giving up on the idea of working. He hated the idea of having to turn to the Ministry for a hand-out, but he just couldn't keep on working himself ragged with next to nothing to show for it.
He told himself that he was just taking a break – that he would go back to searching for a job that would actually suit his needs as soon as he stopped looking as if he would keel over at any moment – but he suspected that his efforts would be just as useless the second time around.
That wouldn't stop him. He just had to accept that this was apparently how his life was going to be.
He hardly knew what to do with himself once he had free time on his hands.
He couldn't purchase books, and was unable to borrow from a library (there were no truly 'public' wizarding libraries, and Remus didn’t have the documentation to apply for a Muggle library card). Thus, he couldn't even spend his time catching up on his reading, as he would like to do. For the same reason, he couldn't conduct private study.
Nor could he visit friends, for they all either tended to have their own lives to go about, or seemed to be growing wary when he was nearby. Or, in some cases, both. He couldn’t really blame them. He knew he had a desperate air about him that made men do unexpected things.
There was always work of various kinds to be done for the Order of the Phoenix, of course, but Dumbledore seemed to have no need for his particular services at present.
No one needed him. He felt useless.
Instead of being in any way productive, then, Remus planted himself at the outdoor table furthest from the entrance to the ice-cream parlour on Diagon Alley. He often drifted off, thinking, only to find upon refocusing that he'd been unintentionally memorising the menu board that hung magically suspended over the display of the ice-cream. All the while, he savoured the scent of chocolate and other delicious sweets in the air, along with cherishing the sight of other people eating their purchases. The way the ice-cream melted its way slowly down the outside of a cone and all over a child's fingers was mesmerising.
It was why he was here, essentially. Even after Hogwarts, he was still inexplicably drawn to what he could not have.
He found himself sitting there for several days on end before the owner, Mr Florean Fortescue himself, approached Remus.
Remus saw the older man coming and gathered up the things he always placed on the table in an effort to look busy. When he attempted to leave as quickly as possible (and preferably without making too much of a scene), Mr Fortescue waved for him to stay seated.
"I'm terribly sorry," Remus said as he finished packing his things. "I don't mean to take up room outside your store without buying anything. I'll move."
Remus grabbed his falling-apart backpack off the table and looked up to meet Fortescue's eyes, preparing to launch into a sprint across Diagon Alley if necessary. He'd had quite a bit of practice in running away from things lately.
"Please don't leave on my account," Fortescue replied in a friendly sort of voice. "I happen to be on a break and thought that I might persuade you to chat with me for a few minutes. I prefer to have some sort of diversion to pass the time, and you looked like you might have a similar need. Mind if I sit?"
Remus was shocked that the owner of the establishment would ask permission to sit at his own table, and so found himself gaping somewhat gormlessly instead of finding the words to answer him. He made do instead by gesturing amiably at the seat directly across the table from him, offering it to the other man.
"Thank you. As you seem to have realised, I'm Florean Fortescue, the owner of this store." He extended his hand and Remus reached out to shake it.
Fortescue nodded his head as if in acknowledgement. "Would you mind terribly if I asked you how old you are, Remus? May I call you Remus?"
Remus nodded. "Sure. I'm nineteen."
"Ah. So you've graduated?"
"Yes, sir. From Hogwarts, just over a year ago."
"Of course. May I ask what a qualified young wizard such as yourself is doing spending all of his time outside an ice-cream parlour? You don't precisely look as if you have an inheritance you might be living off like some of the kids I see hanging about," he indicated Remus's torn robes, "and you somehow don't seem to me like the type who would be willing to voluntarily live solely off the Ministry's generosity, such as it is."
This man, Remus decided, was very brazen. He found that he didn't particularly mind. Fortescue had an easy air about him that made it difficult to be affronted by anything he said. It also made it easy to open up to him, apparently.
"I'm in between jobs at the moment," Remus admitted. "I've had a little trouble settling down in one field."
He could see from the look on Fortescue's face that he'd just confirmed whatever it was that the man believed about him.
"I see. Does that mean you're looking for work?"
"I was. Still am, really," Remus replied. "But I haven't exactly been successful, so I'm taking a bit of a break at the moment." He knew that Fortescue's hospitable demeanour was to blame, but Remus still was puzzled that he was practically telling his life's story to a complete stranger.
Fortescue nodded. "I only ask because Frank – he's the man you can see serving at the counter just across the way – is not entirely settled himself. He's looking to change careers. That leaves me with a bit of a problem. I have to replace him, you see, and not many people are interested in working in an ice-cream parlour. The only reason Frank agreed to it is that he had a bit of difficulty finding a job. Again, much like you," Fortescue said with a twinkle in his eye that reminded Remus a little of Professor Dumbledore.
"Oh?" Remus prompted conversationally.
"Yes. Poor man is a Squib, you see. The wizarding world doesn't too take kindly to them, more's the pity, and they don't have the paperwork and such to go out and work in the Muggle world. It's really quite tragic."
Yes, it was. Remus knew the heartbreak of that sort of situation better than almost anyone.
"But you don't mind that he's different?" Remus asked hopefully.
"Of course not. He works just as hard as any witch or wizard could, and I'm perfectly capable of taking care of any aspects of running this place that require magic. In fact, I rather prefer it that way. The magic involved in creating new sweets is one of the things that initially drew me to this job. I'd hate to give that over to anyone else."
Remus gathered his courage. "That's a good attitude to have, I think," he said carefully. "I’d really appreciate working with someone as positive as you. Do you think I could apply to take over from Frank?"
Fortescue beamed knowingly. "Step inside with me, Remus. And help yourself to a few scoops of ice-cream, or some chocolate. You look like you could use it."
* * *
"If you don't hurry up and make a decision now you'll be getting nothing!" the woman standing at the counter threatened.
Her child's eyes watered, threatening to spill.
Remus was immensely glad that they were presently the only customers waiting. They'd already taken a good – or bad, if he was being honest with himself – three whole minutes 'deciding'. The only way he could imagine this being any more awkward for him was if there was an entire line of irate witches and wizards (complete with their own fussing children) waiting behind them. Or perhaps if she drew her wand, but Remus seriously hoped there was no chance of that happening.
"You have five seconds," she continued, and the child's face went a violently dark shade of red.
"Might I suggest the bopping boysenberry? It'll literally make your taste buds dance," Remus chimed in, eager to avoid the possibility of a screaming child within his first few hours of work. He could stand the whining ones – and there were a lot of those – but he hated to think what Mr Fortescue would say if he arrived back from his break and saw that Remus's customers were truly upset. It was only his first day, and he really didn't want to make a bad impression this soon. Or at all, actually. He needed this job. "It's really perfect for keeping kids entertained," he added hopefully.
The woman gave him a swift look down her long noise and laughed bitterly. "Oh, I know your type. On a commission, are you? Trying to sell us the highest priced items so that you can make some money out of us?"
Remus frowned. Since when did employees at sweets shops work on a commission? "Um, of course not, madam. It's actually one of the medium priced ice-creams, but it's –"
"Oh, so my boy isn't good enough for your best?"
Remus opened his mouth to explain, but really couldn't think of anything that wouldn't make her yell at him again. He knew her type, in point of fact.
"I'm not trying to trick you," Remus said slowly, measuring his words, "I'll even be happy to give you a sample of the ice-cream I suggested, free of charge."
The woman's face still looked pinched and suspicious, but she nodded tersely. Remus handed her son a small scoop in an even smaller cup.
"Mum!" he said with no small amount of awe after he'd taken his first bite, ignoring the unbreakable plastic spoon Remus had provided in favour of using his fingers. "My mouth is moving!"
She glanced at the pleased look on her child's face before glaring at Remus as if he should somehow be blamed for eliciting a positive reaction. She then 'hmph'ed and grabbed the boy by the arm (avoiding his sticky fingers, Remus noticed) and marched him away from the store.
"But I want more!" Remus heard him demand.
"Maybe later. Eat what's in front of you," she admonished.
The child stumbled along behind her, trying desperately to get more ice-cream into his mouth without it being jostled out of the miniature cup. It looked like a particularly difficult task, especially since his mother had commandeered the hand not holding the cup of ice-cream.
Remus turned away from their retreating backs and sighed. He fished a hand into his robe pocket, withdrawing the last of his Knuts to pay for the sample he'd given. He knew Mr Fortescue wasn't really in the habit of giving out freebies, and even though he wasn't there at that moment to know what Remus had done, Remus knew he'd feel guilty about it and end up confessing later anyway.
"Leave it, Remus," Mr Fortescue said from behind him, having apparently just arrived back from his break. He indicated the coins in Remus's hand. "You're here to make money, not to spend what little you have trying to placate customers.
"Besides, you did the right thing. The next time she brings her kid into the Alley, she'll stop by and buy some more of that ice-cream to shut him up, just you wait and see. And she'll be sure to tell her friends, since they probably all have the same problem with their little brats. It's like advertising, at a very small cost to the business. I can afford to let a free sample or two slip every now and then.
"So I suggest you put your money away and help this lovely young lady who's just arrived."
The lady in question, who couldn't possibly have been a day younger than sixty, laughed merrily at the compliment. She and Mr Fortescue struck up what sounded like a lively conversation while Remus prepared her Butterbeer float.
When she left, Mr Fortescue winked at Remus. "And she'll be back for more as well, I imagine. Conversation and a bit of flattery is another trick of the trade."
"Are all days like this?" he asked.
Mr Fortescue laughed. "Good Lord, no. They're generally much worse. This whole week has been extremely quiet, considering it's the school holidays. Just wait until the beginning of the Hogwarts year gets a bit closer and the last-minute shoppers appear with all of their squalling offspring trailing behind them."
Still, it was certainly better than nothing. As he went to serve the small group of rowdy teenagers who had just arrived, he clung to the thought of the huge meal to which he would treat himself when he was paid at the end of the week.
* * *
About a week after he'd begun his new job, Mr Fortescue walked in on him cleaning up at the end of the day and whistling merrily (for he'd been paid the day before and was therefore in a particularly good mood). Mr Fortescue looked surprised to see the wand in his hand.
"Don't take this the wrong way," Mr Fortescue said as they were locking up, "but until today I was quite certain that you were a squib. Frank told me he was a Hogwarts graduate as well at first, you see, but it didn't take me long to realise the truth. I figured that you might be the same. You had the look of someone who’d run out of options about you when I first saw you."
"I'm not a Squib," Remus said.
"I can see that. So does that mean that you actually did attend Hogwarts until a year ago?"
Remus nodded. "Graduated at the higher end of my class and all," he mused caustically. "Much good that's done me since."
Mr Fortescue looked confused, and Remus could tell he was wondering why Remus couldn't hold down a job if he was a reasonably intelligent and qualified wizard. Luckily, he said nothing more on the topic, instead apparently choosing to leave it for another time. Remus would prefer that he let it slide completely, but he supposed that would be too much to expect.
"Remus, would you like to come around to my place for a drink? Maybe a proper dinner, as well, to put something other than just skin over your bones? If you don't mind that I'm terrible at cooking up anything that doesn't belong purely to the sugar and fat food groups, that is."
"Very little would taste terrible to me these days," Remus admitted sheepishly.
Mr Fortescue grinned at him. "Ah, well, I think I'll have to make sure you're fed well, then. I'll need you to have discriminating tastes for when I start making you try out my new flavours."
* * *
"So, is there a Mrs Fortescue at all?" Remus asked tentatively. He was keen to keep the light atmosphere that they seemed to have created over the duration of the night intact, but he also wanted to know more about this man with whom he was getting on so well.
"You've seen my home, now," Mr Fortescue replied with good humour. "You can't possibly think there's ever been anything like a woman's touch here."
"Don't tell me there's never been anyone you've considered settling down with!" Remus said, mock horrified. "I've seen the way you use your charms on all the witches."
Mr Fortescue laughed, knocking back some of his Firewhisky. "That's just harmless flirting. Nothing will ever come of it."
"Why not? It's not as if you're unattractive, or poor. Not like me; I don't think I'll ever be able to find someone to settle down with."
Mr Fortescue gave him a serious look. "Don't be daft. You're a very attractive young man. That was the first thing I noticed about you. Well, after noticing how longingly you were staring at the ice-cream, at least."
At the same moment as the implication of that statement sunk into Remus's mind, Mr Fortescue leaned across the small dinner table and kissed him lightly on the lips.
When Mr Fortescue pulled away, he smiled at Remus as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened and said, "And that is why it will only ever be flirtation. Those witches, lovely as they undoubtedly are, are simply not my type."
"And I am?" Remus asked, his voice muffled by the fingers that he'd pressed to his lips, as if checking to see whether there was any physical evidence there (other than a vague tingling sensation) that that had actually just happened.
"Very much so. Assuming you want to be my type, that is. I realise I'm quite a bit older than you. Very nearly twice your age, in fact. And I don't even know for sure that you're attracted to men, now I think of it. Perhaps I really should be more –"
Remus cut his speculations off by locking their lips once more, though this time it was far less chaste.
"I really like the sound of your voice," Remus said when they separated, "but you need to learn when to stop using it."
"Are you going to teach me?" Mr Fortescue teased.
Remus smiled softly. "Perhaps. I suppose we'll see."
* * *
Remus fire-called Mr Fortescue – Florean, he reminded himself sternly – the morning before the full moon was due to come out. For once his tired and down-trodden look was helpful, for he was told to take as much time as he needed off to get better.
He felt disgusted with himself for lying. Or for not telling the whole truth, at least, since it was true that he could be considered quite ill by most standards.
Usually it wouldn't have been so bad. He'd lied to employers before about the full moon, and he'd lied to practically everyone during his school years. And though he and Florean had grown much closer than he'd expected over the past week and a half, they didn't actually know each other all that well. Remus couldn't rely on the fact that Florean wouldn't go about telling the whole world what Remus was, should he discover the truth. There was a difference between being tolerant enough to hire a Squib and not being unnecessarily afraid of werewolves.
Still, he felt guiltier than usual, and accordingly felt a roiling sensation in his stomach that had nothing to do with the approaching moonrise.
He promised himself that if he stayed in the job for another few months, and if the more personal aspect of his relationship with Florean proceeded, he'd tell him. He'd admit to everything. But he wasn't a brave man by any stretch of the imagination, and he didn't want to see the likely horror on the other man's face when he found out the truth unless it proved necessary.
He would tell him. He would.
Just not quite yet.
* * *
Remus would have thought that by nearly a month into his employment at Florean's store he would have been growing sick of ice-cream, or that he would at least be growing fat from continually eating it. The reality on both counts was about as far from that presumption as possible.
For once, he praised his werewolf metabolism.
While Florean was in the back of the store packing away the last of the ice-cream containers, Remus was enjoying some plain chocolate ice-cream – one of the only items of food in the whole place that didn't have some sort of magical effect – in a cone.
He was licking around the edge of the scoop, his eyes closed in ecstasy, when he was grabbed from behind. He dropped the remainder of the treat and spun around. He went for his wand, closing his hand around the handle that slightly stuck out from his pocket. However, he quickly let go of it when he saw that it was only Florean.
"I've never seen anything as hot as you eating that ice-cream just now," Florean said with a wicked look in his eyes. He grabbed Remus by his now-empty hand and drew him into the back portion of the store, where Remus was promptly attacked once again. This time, though, he didn't resist. He didn't want to resist.
Though they'd, up until that stage, declined to take this next step in their relationship (as close as they'd become since Florean had first propositioned him, it had just never happened) it seemed like the most natural thing in the world that it should happen right then, in the shop and all.
But when Florean reached for the clasps of his robe, Remus experienced a moment of panic. Florean would certainly notice all the scarring over Remus's chest and arms, particularly the most recent batch. No matter what conclusion he drew about them, it was bound to end in Florean running full speed in the other direction.
Remus nearly moved to stop him, but then Florean's mouth found the sensitive skin of his neck and Remus forgot for the moment why the hands trailing down his front, undoing his robes along the way, were a bad thing.
When Florean drew away to shed his own clothing, though, Remus immediately remembered the problem. His eyes shot open to see Florean scrutinising his chest even as he shucked his own robe. Remus was quick to notice he was wearing nothing but boxers underneath.
"Do those hurt?" Florean asked.
"Not particularly," Remus whispered. "Not anymore."
Florean nodded slowly, as if unsure, but then moved down his body to do to his chest what he'd just recently been doing to his neck. He seemed to have decided not to press the issue, and Remus subsequently relaxed into his touch as much as he was able, relieved at the close call.
When a hand enclosed around Remus's erection he gasped and met Florean's eyes once more.
"Have you ever done this before?" Florean asked, rising from what must have been a highly uncomfortable half-stooped position.
Remus blushed and shook his head.
"This isn't where I would have chosen to take you for the first time," Florean said, "but I don't think I can wait to get you back to my place."
"It's fine," Remus breathed. "It's really... really... fine."
Florean stepped around him and grabbed a bottle off one of the shelves lining the back wall of the room.
"This is thicker, less fluid, than I'd like, but we'll need some kind of lubrication, and this would seem to be the best option available to us at the moment."
Remus squinted at the label of the bottle and made out, even in the half-darkness, the words 'chocolate syrup'. He laughed, and Florean joined in. The tension in the room seemed to break at that moment. Remus helped Florean out of his underwear and then tossed them across the room somewhere in the vicinity of their robes.
For a man in his late thirties, Florean still looked very much in his prime. Remus could see the tell-tale signs that that would soon cease to be the case, of course. For one thing, there was a bump in his belly that Remus expected might soon become a beer gut – or an ice-cream gut, actually – if he let it. Unlike Remus, Florean couldn't eat as much as he wanted without any physical repercussions.
Such small imperfections only served to further endear him to Remus, though. It was because of them that he didn't feel quite so intimidated or self-conscious about his own blemishes.
While Florean was smearing his cock with chocolate syrup, Remus retrieved a large spoon and swiped it through a dish filled with pre-whipped cream that still sat in one of the exposed cool boxes, waiting to be packed away for the night. He brandished the cream-covered spoon at Florean.
"Since you're already going to be edible," Remus said, indicating the chocolate-covered member jutting towards him, "I figure I might as well make a bit of a sundae out of you. Complete with a cherry to pop eventually, if you'd like."
Florean shuddered in anticipation. As Remus approached, he laid down on a cleared area of the floor. Remus quickly followed him to the ground.
He ran the spoon down Florean's chest and abdomen until he reached Florean's navel. Then Remus slowly worked his way down the trail of cream left behind with his mouth, meticulously sucking up the food and making Florean gasp when he swirled his tongue just so.
When he reached the bottom of the trail he pulled away. He could feel that he had cream smeared all down his chin, but he couldn't bring himself to care when his partner was looking at him like that.
Florean reached his hand around the back of Remus's neck and pulled Remus up so that he could bring their faces together. He swiped his tongue across Remus's chin, and then again across Remus's lips. Then he brought their lips together properly and plundered Remus's mouth, as if eager to find every tiny bit of cream that had been left behind.
Remus pulled away from him.
"Are you sure you haven't done this before?" Florean asked breathlessly.
"Certain. Why? Do I seem experienced?"
Remus grinned. "Well, as long as I'm bluffing, I might as well take the initiative a bit further."
He worked his way down Florean's body so that his head came to rest about where he'd left off, at Florean's belly button.
He brought his left hand, still clutching the spoon, in towards his face and ran cream over the tip of Florean's erection.
"Tell me if I'm not doing it right," he said. Then he ducked his head down and licked the cream off. It tasted better mingled with the chocolate, he decided. There was also another taste buried beneath the food. Remus imagined that it was the same clear fluid his own cock also leaked when he was hard. He took that as an indication that he couldn't be doing too badly.
Of course, having Florean exclaim how bloody hot he was as he then proceeded to lick up the side of the chocolate-covered prick didn't hurt either, in that respect.
"I'm going to come if you don't stop, Remus," Florean warned, pushing at his shoulder to separate them. "I'd prefer to do that while I'm inside you."
Remus nodded. "All right. You might have to take the reins from here, though. I haven't a clue what I'm doing."
"I hope so," Remus said cheekily.
Florean reapplied the chocolate sauce over himself and then smeared it generously over his hand.
"It'll be easiest if you get on your hands and knees," he said, and Remus quickly complied.
The fingers inside him were slightly uncomfortable, and Remus could definitely see what Florean had meant about the viscosity of the chocolate sauce. However, the movements inside him didn't particularly hurt, per se, and the full feeling was surprisingly (and strangely) pleasant. When Florean declared him prepared, Remus decided, what the heck? He might as well see what it was that made people really want to do this.
He nodded his acquiescence and tried not to tense up, as instructed. Florean moved his prick into place and slowly breached him.
It took a while, and a good deal of uncomfortableness bordering on pain, but eventually they began to move together at a reasonable angle and Remus was made entirely aware of exactly what it was that made men want to be fucked.
That. Spot. Right. There.
Florean didn't last much longer after that. Remus felt pulses of hot liquid, even more gelatinous than the sauce, inside him just as he heard Florean's cries of completion.
Remus felt oddly proud that he’d managed to outlast Florean, considering he’d half-expected to embarrass himself by coming at the first touch. Then it occurred to him that that might not be such a great thing after all, if it meant he was left to deal with it himself.
He shouldn’t have worried, though. Florean took a moment to recover slightly and then pulled himself out. A decidedly stupid expression adorned his face. Remus flipped over onto his back and pointedly brought his hand down to his cock, his eyes not leaving Florean's glazed ones.
"Let me help you with that," Florean offered once his breathing had evened out somewhat.
Remus decided over the next minute or so that a blow job was better than all of the chocolate in the world. Particularly when the face he saw when he looked down was Florean's, and it looked like he was enjoying himself almost as much as Remus was.
When Remus reached his climax, Florean pulled off and gave his prick a few final jerks with the hand that was wrapped around the base. As Remus's ejaculate spurted, the majority of it coated Florean's face.
Lord, that was hot. Strange, but hot.
Remus eventually gave him a questioning look.
Florean shrugged. "I figured now's as good a time as any to try that, considering I'm already a mess."
" 'S a good look for you," Remus slurred, inexplicably tired in the aftermath of orgasm. "Come up here."
Florean pulled himself up so that their faces were aligned, leaving more stickiness all down Remus's body in his wake.
"This might be a little weird," Remus said, "but..."
And he reached out and licked some of his own semen off Florean's lips. The salty tang of it was actually welcome after all of the sweetness of the cream and chocolate.
Florean grinned. "Maybe a little weird, yes. But it's a very good kind of weird."
Remus sighed and looked around the room, surveying the mess they'd made. He scrunched up his nose at the open tub of ice-cream that Florean had clearly been in the process of putting away. It had been knocked over at some point and now lay near his hip. The ice-cream itself was melting over the floor, mingling with drops of his release.
"You might want to throw that out," he suggested. "Unless you want to change your 'Fudge Obsession' to 'Fudge Ejaculation', that is."
Florean spied what Remus was referring to and laughed. "A happy ending with every bite," he joked. Remus groaned. "Oh, come on, now, it has potential. Perhaps when I open up that adult shop in Hogsmeade …"
"You wouldn't!" Remus denied, wide eyed. "Imagine how many Hogwarts students you'd have trying to get inside when they were in town on Hogsmeade weekends."
"Well, there'd be an age line, wouldn't there? Even so, I suppose the ever-proper wizarding world may not yet be ready for something like that. Not on this side of Knockturn Alley, at least." Florean shrugged. "It's a pity, though. I was looking forward to testing my ideas out on you even more than I do currently."
Remus shivered at the suggestive tone. "Well, maybe we can plan for the future when the wizarding world finally removes the wand from its collective arse. No harm in thinking ahead."
Florean beamed. "Wonderful idea. I suggest we begin immediately."
Remus couldn't agree more.
* * *
"Move in with me," Florean begged. "It's not like you'll really miss your flat; it's tiny and cramped, and smells vaguely of Doxy repellent."
Remus shook his head. "There are things you don't know about me. Things that make it too difficult for us to live together."
Florean snorted. "Remus, I'm not a stupid man. I may have chosen to run an ice-cream shop rather than creating more academic potions to earn my living, but I did graduate Hogwarts with high marks, just as you did. I think I'm intelligent enough to put two and two together, at the very least."
"I don't understand."
"There are only so many things that can make a person sick and moody like clockwork each month. Since I've done enough extensive study of your anatomy to be completely certain that you aren't a woman, that leaves some kind of magical curse or disease. And it doesn't take a genius to notice that you tear chunks out of yourself at that same time each month. Or to notice what natural occurrence happens to fall on those same days."
Remus was silent for a long while. "How long have you known?" he asked.
"About three months."
"And you didn't say anything?"
"No. I don't care. It doesn't make a difference in any way that matters."
Remus bit his lip. "It does, you know. It affects every bloody thing in my life."
"Not this. I care for you. You. The man that you are for all but one night every month. That's not going to change."
Remus allowed himself to be taken into Florean's arms.
“I still don’t want to put you at risk like that,” he mumbled against Florean’s shoulder.
“I have a basement, remember? And I’m perfectly capable of casting wards. It’d be a lot safer to have a wizard nearby just in case, I’d say.”
Remus sighed, not quite willing yet to concede the point. “I’ll think about it,” he said instead.
* * *
"I need you here right now," Remus sobbed through the Floo.
"Jesus," Florean said at the other end. "I'll be right there."
No sooner had Remus pulled his head out of the fireplace than his partner Apparated in, looking frantic.
"What happened?" he asked. "Did you seriously hurt yourself last night? Do you need me to take you to St Mungo's? I knew I shouldn't have let you lock yourself up like that. Haven’t I told you there’s a better way?"
Remus shook his head. "Haven't you heard? I would have thought the whole world would have been talking about it."
Florean looked at a loss. "The shop's not open yet. I haven't spoken to anyone."
"Dumbledore contacted me. And then that came around." He gestured at the crumpled special edition of the Daily Prophet that he'd left lying on the floor.
Florean picked it up and read it, then let it fall right back to the ground where it belonged.
"They're gone," Remus whispered. "All of them. Dead. Or dead to me in every way that matters, in Sirius's case."
"I'm here," Florean said, allowing Remus to cling to him.
"You're all I have left."
"I know. I'm not going anywhere."
* * *
Remus imagined that had he not wanted to be around Florean as much as possible, he wouldn't have been able to stick it out through those first few years of employment at the ice-cream parlour. It was a dull job, really, and it didn't change over time. It was always the same annoying customers; though their faces changed each day, the problems they caused were just the same. Remus was well and truly tired of it.
Then, by the time he decided that working apart from Florean wouldn't be so bad after all, since they'd still see each other during the nights when they both came home, he'd grown accustomed to the security of having a job where his boss knew what he was and so didn't constantly demand explanations he couldn't give. He wasn't prepared to go back to having to search for a new job every couple of months when his current employer decided his absences looked to be forming an unacceptably regular trend, or began to suspect the real reason for them.
So he remained working with Florean, but he still wished for something more. And when Florean offered him a partnership in the business – which was more a formality than anything, since their money was pooled and Florean didn't officially pay him as it was – he turned it down. He was all in when it came to his relationship with Florean, of course, but didn't want to commit to anything related to the job. One day, he swore to himself, he'd find another job – a better job – that he could hold onto.
It took a while – far too long, if he was honest – but finally his day came. Admittedly, it was also a day of horror for him. All of the customers were buzzing about it. The papers screamed that Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban, and Remus felt chilled to the bone.
Only a few hours later, Albus Dumbledore appeared in front of the counter.
"Hello, Remus. It's been a while."
The words were said with the same kind of grim smile Dumbledore had worn for the majority of the end of Voldemort's reign, when it had begun to seem like all hope was lost for the Order of the Phoenix.
"What would you recommend?" Dumbledore asked mildly, looking pointedly at the ice-cream display in front of him.
"For you, Professor? Definitely the Sherbet Shock."
Remus dropped a scoop of it – larger than he would normally give on the rare occasion he offered a sample at all – into a cup and handed Dumbledore a spoon. The Headmaster dug in, and Remus saw the expected jolt run through him. His smile became more genuine in that moment.
"Ingenious," he said.
Remus smiled half-heartedly. "You aren't here for ice-cream," he stated.
"No,” Dumbledore agreed. “I'm here to offer you a job."
Remus hadn't even realised how he'd dreamed of hearing those words until they were already hovering between them like something tangible. Still, he was shocked.
"At Hogwarts?" he asked. "What, teaching?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Defence Against the Dark Arts. I seem to remember that you excelled in that class."
"This is about Siri— Black, isn't it?"
"Yes. The Ministry may have only just today admitted to the public that he's broken out of Azkaban, but he's actually been free for several weeks now. It doesn't look like they're going to find him any time soon, which is why Fudge has finally confessed that there's a problem."
"You're worried about Hogwarts?"
Dumbledore looked at him shrewdly and lowered his voice. "If I may be perfectly candid with you, I am worried for young Harry Potter. All signs indicate that Black's intentions are to seek Harry out. The Ministry is talking about posting Dementors at Hogwarts, but you know as well as I do that it won't be enough to keep out a wizard of Black's intelligence and nerve. I need someone who knows him inside the school. And the Defence position just happened to be open."
"It's always open. The position's cursed."
"So are you," Dumbledore returned. "So I feel it will be a good match."
Remus snorted. "Yeah, maybe."
"Are you interested?"
Remus's eyes flicked towards Florean, who was watching them both with a dark expression.
"Give me a few days. I'll owl you when I've decided."
"Very well," Dumbledore agreed. "I'll look forward to hearing from you. And do be careful, Remus. If Black is seeking out people he once had a connection with, like Harry, chances are you aren't entirely safe either. Perhaps that’s another reason in favour of your coming to Hogwarts."
Remus nodded. "I'll keep it in mind."
Dumbledore smiled and added, "And please give my compliments to Mr Fortescue regarding the standard of his ice-cream. I would do so myself, but he doesn't appear entirely happy with me at this moment in time."
Remus bit his lip. "Of course, sir. Thank you."
As Dumbledore left, another person stepped up to the counter. Florean, however, intercepted them.
"We're closed," he said abruptly.
Florean glared at the man, who rolled his eyes and turned on his heel, clearly not wanting to take on a man with that dangerous kind of look in his eyes. It took just about the same amount of time to make everyone sitting down inside clear out as well, muttering amongst themselves as they went.
Florean shut the door behind the last one and spelled it locked. Then he spun around to face Remus.
"Why didn't you say no?" he asked.
"He needs me there," Remus explained patiently. "If Black's out there –"
"Let Dumbledore deal with it. It's not your responsibility."
"It's not!" Florean snapped. "All he's ever done is put you in danger. Don't think I don't remember when you were in the Order. Every time you went off doing Dumbledore's bidding, don’t you think I worried that you wouldn't come back? So many people died for his cause."
"And a lot of people were saved as well," Remus said. He tried to push his own anger down, reminding himself that Florean was only trying to look out for him.
"People were saved by the sheer luck of the Potter boy living, not the efforts of Dumbledore's little Order. And you haven't even seen Dumbledore since the day he told you about the Potters. Suddenly, the moment he has need of you again, he's back here. And, what, you're fine with that? You're going to allow him to use you like that?"
"He's not using me," Remus said, scowling by then. "I want to help. I always have. I put myself in danger by choice. Dumbledore's just the one that helps me do it in a way that might actually make a difference."
"By choice, is it?" Florean asked. "Right, so you want to leave? You want to leave me? Because if that's the case, at least be honest about it!"
That was the crux of the matter. That was why they were yelling, and Remus had known this exact argument would come the moment Dumbledore said he had a job for him.
"I'm not leaving you," Remus said, calm once more. "I'd be staying at Hogwarts for the main part of the year, but it's not going to be permanent. The position's cursed. I doubt I'll be able to stay for more than the one year. And when that time's up, I'll come back to you."
Florean turned away. "No you won't. If you go out there, into the real world again, you'll meet people your own age. They'll have done wonderful things and have all sorts of skills and knowledge and be in the prime of their lives, and you'll wonder why you ever settled for an aging ice-cream vendor."
Remus saw the half-angry and half-heartbroken look in Florean's eyes.
"No," Remus replied. "I won't think anything of the sort. I love you. And I hear absence only makes the heart grow fonder."
Florean laughed, seemingly against his own will. "Maybe."
Remus smiled encouragingly. "And besides, the only man at Hogwarts who isn't ancient – or already dead, for that matter – is Severus Snape. I don't think you have much competition there."
Florean snickered and Remus felt much better. "Well then, perhaps a handsome young seventh-year will catch your eye instead," he suggested. “What’s the rule about teachers dating of-age students? I admit that I never had opportunity to find out when I was at school.”
Remus pulled the older man into his arms. "You're an idiot."
"Only when it comes to you."
"I'm going to take the job, if I have your blessing. Maybe even if I don't, but I'd prefer it the first way."
"Don't you want to work here anymore?"
Remus gave him an incredulous look. "You've known for years that I wanted more."
Florean nodded. "Mmm. So I have. You're right. You should take the job."
Remus kissed him on the forehead. "Thank you. In that case, you should stop scaring the customers off. You need to find one that's interested in replacing me. Seen anyone loitering about outside much recently?"
Florean snorted. "I couldn't be that lucky twice."
Remus granted him a fond look.
Then Florean gruffly said, "And for Merlin's sake, Remus, if you're going off without me, remember to take some chocolate with you. I doubt even those feasts at Hogwarts will be enough to sate your enormous appetite."
Remus smiled. I love you, too, he thought, but he didn't say it again. He didn't have to.
* * *
"Harry Potter was in the store today," Florean greeted as he arrived home in the evening.
Remus jerked his head up half-way through writing Week 17 of the fourth year class's Defence curriculum.
"Yes. He's staying in the Alley, by the sounds of it."
"That's probably a good thing," Remus thought aloud. "Sirius – Black – could probably track him down pretty easily at his relatives' house. At least in the Alley he's surrounded by witches and wizards who'll throw themselves between Black and the 'Boy Who Lived' in a heartbeat."
"Yes, well, speaking of the special benefits one gets from defeating You Know Who, I think I might have favoured him a bit when he came by. He was sitting outside the shop today, doing his summer work. He looked so much like you did when you first showed up; skinny as a rake and hunched over his belongings, though he, at least, actually had a book or two to be reading. So I gave him a few handy tips about the paper he was writing and gave him a few sundaes. Hopefully that'll help him put a bit of bulk on."
"You helped him with his homework?" Remus mused.
Florean shrugged. "I figured that since there was no Professor Lupin there to help him today, I'd better do my part instead."
"Professor Lupin wouldn't have helped him anyway, since students are meant to do their work themselves."
"Oops," Florean said overly innocently. "I broke the rules. Are you going to punish me?"
Remus shook his head incredulously, resigning himself to picking the schedule up where he left off later.
"Being kinky is a violation of the rules as well, Mr Fortescue," he said in his best teacher voice. "I'll clearly have to assign you a detention to remind you of that fact."
Florean grinned. "I'll take that as a yes and ask that you please schedule my detention in the form of sex over your teacher's desk. Maybe with an added spanking. I really think I’ve earned that, Professor."
Remus laughed. "Oh, you can count on it."
* * *
When Remus returned to his lover just under a year later, jobless once more, he wasn't sure whether to be upset that he'd lost his last hope of having a job that he truly liked, or happy that he could be with Florean once more.
He'd known it was coming, really. But that didn't make it any easier to take.
"I read the paper," Florean said upon his arrival. Remus received the comforting hug gratefully.
"I don't know what I'm going to do."
"You'll work it out. You always do."
Remus looked at Florean speculatively. "Sirius Black is innocent. The papers didn't say anything about that because the Ministry don't believe it, but it was actually Peter who got James and Lily killed. He was the traitor.
"If Sirius needs me, I'm going to be there. I owe him that."
Florean didn't look particularly happy about that, but he didn't argue. Instead, he merely said, "We'll worry about that if and when it happens. Right now, though, come to bed. I bet you're tired."
He was tired. Bone tired, in fact. However, it seemed that he was never quite too tired for comfort sex.
As he curled up afterwards against Florean, who was just dozing off, he thought that this was exactly what he needed. He didn't know how he had ever lived without it.
He prayed he would never have to again.
* * *
"It's just for a few days," Remus wheedled.
Florean sighed. "A few days that's going to turn into weeks. Weeks during which I expect I'm not going to be screwed sideways even once, all because you'll be too worried that he'll hear us, as if I can’t cast a decent silencing charm. I know you, remember?"
Remus trained pleading eyes on him.
Florean sighed. "If it's that important to you, fine. He can stay here."
Remus beamed. "I'll just write Dumbledore back, then. I imagine Sirius will arrive within the next few days."
"Oh goody," Florean mumbled.
Remus grinned. "You're such a child. Look, how about we get some of that sex out of the road now, while there are no house guests around to be worried about."
"Now that sounds like a compromise I can really get behind."
"Behind works for me."
* * *
"I knew this was going to happen," Florean said.
"I'm sorry. I did tell you that I would have to be there for him, though."
Florean nodded. "I know. Just... Please come back to me, when this is all over. I know that the Order is important to you, but I don't want you dying for it."
"I'm not doing anything dangerous at this point, anyway. I'm only leaving because I need to help get the Headquarters ready."
"Ready for what?"
"For use, I suppose." Remus shrugged. "Plus, we'll be picking Harry up from his relatives in a few weeks. Sirius says he'd prefer his godson can actually walk down the hallway without being killed. Imagine that."
"The Potter boy, eh? You know, I really did like that boy, when I met him. Keep an eye on him."
Remus grinned. "That's a big part of my job. And I like him, too. A lot more so when he's alive."
"As long as you stay alive as well. And safe. Don't forget safe."
Remus pressed his lips to Florean's. "Don't worry; I intend to."
* * *
It took days after Sirius's death before Remus could break clear of the Aurors who wanted to question him about every little thing his old friend had ever done. Eventually he was released and Sirius was declared innocent posthumously.
That just made his heart break even more.
He would have Apparated directly to Florean's parlour, but Dumbledore caught up with him first.
"I know this is hard," he said, "and I know you just want to go home. However, Voldemort and his followers are not lying low anymore. Particularly, in the last few days Fenrir Greyback has been making more threats than usual. I need a man inside with him. You're the obvious choice. But if we're going to do it, now is the time. You're fresh out of Auror questioning, you're seemingly friendless, and you can easily claim that I, and the Order in general, have forsaken you. We need this, Remus."
As he always did when Dumbledore asked something of him, Remus agreed.
He wished he hadn't. Living with the werewolves – and particularly with Greyback – was hell on earth. And whatever Dumbledore might have hoped for, Greyback didn't trust him at all. He kept attempting to crack Remus's mask. And occasionally his neck as well.
Just a few weeks after Remus first arrived, Greyback made a caustic comment to rile him up that almost succeeded in breaking him just as he wanted.
"You know, Lupin, I've heard that the Death Eaters have taken a new victim. I also hear that you once worked for the man. They dragged him right out of his ice-cream shop in the middle of the day, I hear, and no one lifted a finger to help him."
Remus didn't let his uncaring façade fall right away. He was closely watched over the next few days, so he kept it up unceasingly for that long. Greyback clearly suspected him to do something. Apparently he decided he was wrong, though, because Remus's out-of-sight but still obvious guard dogs disappeared. When no one seemed to take back up the task of watching him for a day or so, Remus decided it was safe.
He made it outside the werewolf camp by foot and then Apparated once he was hidden from sight by the trees.
He found the shop deserted, though the door was wide open.
"Florean?" he called out. "Fuck, where are you? Please, please, please be here. Damn it, answer me!"
But there had clearly been a struggle, and Florean was nowhere to be found. He wasn't at his – their – house, either. There was no reason not to take Greyback at his word, as much as Remus felt his very being would collapse upon itself at the mere thought of it.
Remus Apparated to the new temporary Order headquarters Dumbledore had informed him about the last time they were able to speak.
Unfortunately, only Tonks was there at that moment.
"Fortescue," he gasped, breathless. "Where is he? Have we heard anything?"
Tonks looked alarmed. "Remus? Are you all right?"
"Please," Remus said. "Just tell me."
Tonks shook her head. "Not a word. Sorry. The Aurors were looking for him for the first few days, but he's vanished. Presumed dead."
Remus would not fall apart in front of her. He couldn't. He had to be strong.
"Thank you," he said, though he didn't mean it.
"Are you really okay?"
Remus snorted. "I'm fine."
He met Tonks's eyes and saw concern there. He also, however, saw something else. A look that he knew only too well.
He'd seen something similar in her eyes over the past year or so, he realised belatedly, though he hadn't quite realised just what it signified until that moment.
Don't, he thought, trying to send the silent message to her. Don't even think about liking me that way. I couldn't possibly like you back.
Remus had just lost the man he was planning on spending the rest of his life with. And Remus hadn't even seen him at all in the months prior.
I'm too broken for you, he thought silently. Tonks's look didn't change.
The only way Remus felt that he could ever be put back together again was if someone told him it was all a joke, and Florean appeared right there with those well-remembered laughter lines marking his face. Or that it was real, but Florean still somehow escaped with his life. He needed him there. He couldn't be whole without him.
"Fuck," Remus whispered.
"What's that?" Tonks asked.
"Nothing," Remus said. "I'll be back later."
Tonks looked hopeful. Remus wanted to cry.
He Apparated out, leaving his heart behind.