|Envinyatar (envinyatar15) wrote in envinyatar_fics,|
@ 2008-01-19 22:01:00
|Entry tags:||challenge: exchanges, pairing:hp:remus/severus, pt:50scenes:hp:general, pt:challenge_the:hp:general, pt:lions_serpents:hp:gryff/slyth|
[Fic] Life Amidst Death (Remus/Severus, R)
Title: Life Amidst Death
Author: Envinyatar (aka envinyatar15)
Highlight for Warnings: *character death (not Remus or Severus), hurt/comfort, AU from what JKR intended*
Canon-compliance: up to Deathly Hallows
Word Count: 7,484
Summary: Remus was only now getting to the point where he saw that he needed to stop what he'd been doing all his life. He was done running.
Notes: Written for mostepotente for snupin_santa 2007. Originally posted here. Beta'd by the ever-amazing zebraspots05; all remaining mistakes are my own. Inspired by "The Gift" by Seether.
For 50scenes: #29 vital signs; challenge_the: #090 coping; lions_serpents: #33 blind.
Every story begins at the end of another.
It isn't much different in this case.
When he awoke, the first half of the Battle of Hogwarts was over – even though he didn't know so yet. Didn't care about it, either, for the eerie calm was only the first thing he became aware of, closely followed by pain.
Excruciating pain. Pain that made you feel like your skin was being torn from your body, inch by careful inch. Pain that made anything but the pain meaningless. His nerve endings were on fire, and it hurt so much that he couldn't even cry out, his muscles so tense that his vocal chords could not move. He writhed on the ground, trying to make it stop - but it didn't. He screamed wordless screams in his breathless attempt of escape, but wherever he went the pain followed.
At long last he broke, laying still on the ground and letting the pain have its way with him.
He didn't know how long he lay there motionless. He came to the thought of this feeling of hurts hurts hurts oh my god hurts so much not being exactly foreign to him, even though he couldn't say why it should be so. It just felt... familiar. He must be used to pain, and even though this was a thousand times worse than anything he could have imagined at that moment he managed to pull himself together, as far as circumstances allowed. Carefully relaxed muscle after muscle, and with less tension in his body the pain became different - shifted from his limbs to his chest and gut. He moved then, slowly, carefully, finger after finger and toe after toe, and moving was good because the pain moved with it, and there was something he could concentrate on at long last.
He managed to drag himself to his knees, pulling strength from his muscles that he wouldn't have thought was there anymore. Or perhaps he hadn't thought he still had muscles from how he ached, bone-deep.
He didn't attempt to stand; his brain wasn't cooperating - too much fatigue, much too much pain - but basic instincts always worked even if everything else didn't, and at the moment they warned him from doing anything more.
Once settled on his knees, the need to explore his surroundings as well as he could became overwhelming, and he raised his head to check out his location. It was dark, the moonlight minimally illuminating the scenery, but at least there was light. He was lying on a hilltop, that much he realised, and whatever it was that had taken him down, it had done a hell of a good job with everyone else, from what he could see.
The bodies lying on the ground seemed surreal, their faces – mask-like - gleaming: ghosts of the night, struck down by something with power greater than theirs used to be: Death. He shivered.
He didn't want to face that power, didn't want to die yet. It wasn't time for him yet, it couldn't be...
Then he lay eyes on the unmoving figure of a pale woman, and he remembered.
Remembered his name, who and what he was.
Remembered Tonks' cry of Behind you! and how he turned around to face the green light, his reflexes just a little too slow. Remembered how his young wife threw herself in front of him.
Remembered the terror gripping his body as he watched her fall, dead.
He remembered how then, uncomprehendingly gazing at her fallen body, anger began surging through his veins, and the need for revenge overpowered his grief. Remembered how his shaking shoulders straightened, muscles tense in readiness, and how he looked at the triumphant man in front of him with his wand still raised. Remembered how his expression hardened, his eyes resembling his stone heart; how his mind turned off, and he'd gone for the kill.
The weight of memory became too much for his shoulders to bear. It was his fault Tonks was dead, his fault his son had no mother anymore, and how would he ever face Andromeda, face anyone? People got killed because of him. It was too dangerous. He was a killer, an uncontrolled animal even in human form...
Too much death, too much death.
The world was blurring in front of his eyes, panic taking hold of him. There was a quick red flash from the tip of his wand, and he ran.
Is this the end or the beginning? Both? Neither?
Some might argue end and beginning are the same. If they are indeed, it makes the question superfluous. One is the other; therefore the question is not applicable.
Let's just go with that, shall we?
He ran towards the dark shadows of the night, helplessly drawn to them. His feet found ground where it shouldn't be possible for a human, and he ran and ran and ran, lungs pumping and his head spinning, eyes unseeing except for his goal. Less than human and more than an animal.
He ran as if he were prey, when in truth he is predator. Hunting himself, running from himself, as deep into the woods, as deep into the dark as he can.
Remus came back to himself when he broke through the dark of the trees into the moonlight and recognised the silhouette of the Shrieking Shack in the distance, and he didn't know how he'd got there or even why, but it seemed logical somehow. The Shack was his refuge, a place where he could go and no one followed.
He stopped dead in his tracks upon arriving at the edge of the wood, drawing in gulps of air to soothe his burning sides and his fluttering heart, but to no avail. There was pain and confusion still, lingering wherever he turned, and in the end he decided to approach the house carefully, senses alert. Because the Shrieking Shack seemed like the perfect place for any remaining Death Eaters to hide, but it also was his hiding place since he first came to Hogwarts as a little boy. He didn't know the first thing about how the battle had gone, whether their side - and it was their side as in their side, not as in our side - had won or lost, and if he'd learnt one thing it was to always be on his guard - defend your property where necessary.
He crept closer and closer, feet silent on the ground. Skills he'd learnt when he'd been running with the werewolves weren't all useless; hunting he knew how to do.
Hunting was instinct, and at that moment he wasn't working on anything else.
When he finally stood as close to the Shrieking Shack as he was likely to get - back pressed to one wooden wall, nose pressed to a window - and there was still no reaction to his being there, Remus exhaled. He knew Death Eaters, had studied them in-depth during his time with the packs, because if you wanted to survive as a werewolf you had to be a werewolf - and truth was, more of them had sympathised with the Dark Lord than not.
So, Remus knew that Death Eaters weren't exactly the most patient people, all in all, used to solving conflict through hierarchy, power and, where applicable, violence. Which meant if there were any Death Eaters in the Shrieking Shack they would be moving, and he couldn't sense any movement in the walls. The house stood still in the darkness, as eerie as it ever was.
The creak of the door was familiar. He hadn't opened it in so long, but still the sound was one he was intimately acquainted with: a reminder of a past almost forgotten, the memories it was bringing forth shocking in their intensity. So many things Remus had thought lost...
James grins. "Come on, Moony. Don't be like that. We just want a little bit of fun, yeah? Let's get down to Zonko's."
Peter laughs. He's finally mastered Alohomora after years of trying thanks to Remus' help, and now has a decent chance of mastering the fourth year's Charms exams, too.
Sirius, leaning against the door, is holding him while he transforms, whispers easing him through the painful snapping of bones and the reshaping of his body.
So much had happened in this house, and so little would in the times to come, for Remus' actions since he'd woken up on the hilltop had decided on his course.
He was gone for good.
When asked Remus can't quite explain what made him take Severus with him, but taking the Slytherin with him to safety he did.
Perhaps this is the true beginning of the story.
He wouldn't have seen the Slytherin if the moonlight hadn't been shining in through the window, but the body couldn't be ignored.
"Severus," Remus breathed, stopping dead in his tracks.
With a face so pale and the blood so very present, a dark pool at the man's side that Remus would have recognised anywhere, the corpse reminded Remus of his wife's body, lying unmoving on the ground. Illuminated, ghost-like, unearthly, yet still so very human.
Then a limb shifted, and Remus took an unwilling step closer; unable to believe yet hoping to be allowed to do so. Then he saw Snape's faint breathing, and Remus fell to his knees, one hand outstretched as if to touch the man
He never did, but the urge had been there.
In retrospect, seeing Snape's eyes flutter a little, the ribcage expand and one finger twitch probably was the trigger: the joy of finding life amidst death.
Remus had a safe-house in the woods in the middle of nowhere, his refuge as an adult just like the Shrieking Shack had been for him as a child. He hadn't been there in a long time, three years at least, but it was the first place that came to his mind when faced with the question what to do. So that was where he brought them. When they arrived, Remus' panic had receded - because he was keeping to the task of keeping Snape alive, cleaning his wound single-mindedly, without sparing an ounce of concentration for anything else.
He didn't want to think about his late wife. Didn't want to think about his son. Didn't want to think about anything except Snape's faint breathing, because the thought of losing him was unbearable. That night he didn't sleep, fear keeping him awake; it would be just his luck if the Slytherin died now that Remus had found the antidote to neutralise the snake's venom within the depth of the Snape's robes. Instead of resting, he kept watching over the dark figure lying motionless on the old, creaking cot.
The fading Dark Mark on Snape's forearm spoke volumes, but Remus didn't dare hope.
Hope is what life is based on. Having hope means, inevitably, that the stories goes on.
And sometimes on and on and on, even though you don't know what you're hoping for anymore.
Snape's robes not only saved their owner's life, they also saved Remus'. Snape had been quite thoroughly prepared for the run. There was a little bit of shrunken dry bread, a little bit of water in shrunken containers; enough to last him for a day or two, had he needed it.
Since those supplies weren't never-ending and they'd need food for two once Snape woke up, Remus found himself confronted with the question how he could provide said food. The only realistic solution was to go hunting. Even to go to a Muggle village was too dangerous; Remus could be seen and recognised. Besides, fresh meat would do them both some good, especially since Remus was all but exhausted enough to faint himself.
The notion of leaving Snape for an undetermined period of time left him slightly nauseous. Remus had had to go get water, sure, but since there was a small stream right behind the hut that had been nothing compared to this.
Well, bugger. No way around that, now.
Naturally, when Remus came back with a small wild rabbit for dinner, Snape was awake.
Remus had lived with Muggles for some time after James and Lily and Peter had died - except Peter not so much, as it turned out - and Sirius had been sent to Azkaban. Muggles didn't believe in werewolves and thus couldn't pass law against employing one. Remus was clearly well-educated, even though he was also clearly poor, and so he got a job at a local library and rented a flat. He'd had a TV, and sometimes after work - or after just another transformation had rendered him unable to move - he'd watched that soap opera whose name was lost in the fog of memory.
He was very much reminded of that soap opera now, because Snape having woken up while Remus had been away from the house for more than a couple of minutes? That was much too clichéd to be true. Laughter was bubbling up in his throat, the hysterical kind that was caused by too little sleep and too much stress, but he bit down on it, forced it back into the pit of his stomach.
It might be clichéd, but it was true – Snape had woken up at long last. Remus realised that he kept staring at the figure lying on the floor all but motionless, bed sheets twisted around the body, eyes wide open. He put the dead rabbit down on the table, started towards him and knelt down, carefully touching Snape's shoulder.
Snape's head snapped around, black eyes fixed accusingly on Remus. What they accused him of, though, Remus didn't know, but the gaze was sufficient to get his message across. Remus immediately took his hand out of Snape's personal space and proceeded to explain. "We're in one of my safe-houses," he said into the heavy silence, eyes carefully neutral and voice deliberately calm. "I found you in the Shack, almost dead, and brought you back here. I administered the antidote, and now you're awake. You probably can't move because there's still poison in your system, but that should be gone in a couple of days at the latest, too."
Snape's gaze didn't waver, so Remus thought he wanted to know more, but there wasn't anything Remus was prepared to share. There wasn't much he knew, either, but that didn't really matter right then.
"Water," Snape croaked eventually, and Remus was on his feet instantaneously. Should have thought of that; the man had gone without food or drink ever since the attack had started, probably since even before that. He went to the water pot, took a glass out of a cabinet and carried all that over to where Snape lay beside the bed.
"Can you drink by yourself?" Remus asked while he poured the water. Snape's gaze got more intense, sending shivers down Remus' spine. Stupid. "Forget I asked." He lifted up Snape's head, put the glass to the man's lips and let him drink.
Snape passed out as soon as the glass was empty and Remus had shifted him back onto the bed, with expectedly little help from the tall Potions master. The Slytherin really was an insufferable git. That was Remus' last thought before he dragged himself over to the pile of covers in one corner of the hut and passed out himself, the blissful relief of darkness finally welcoming him into her arms.
If there was one thing Remus was good at, it was pretending certain things had never happened. He could confront other people about their problems all he wanted, but as soon as it got to his own? Silence. Pretense. Insistence he was perfectly alright and doing okay.
So when he awoke the next morning with a yell of "NO!" reverberating around the room, sweaty and scared, only the sound of his name whispered from the direction of the cot wrenching him from his nightmare, Remus tried his best to forget about the incident.
He had no nightmares, not that night and not any other. There wasn't anything wrong with him. He was perfectly alright.
The funny thing about the life story of one Severus Snape, Slytherin, Death Eater, Master of Potions and the Dark Arts?
It's that he knows how to live with denial.
Except one doesn't live. One exists. One doesn't know what's inside oneself, and if one doesn't know that, one pretty much doesn't know oneself.
Living in denial is dangerous, but Severus understands that Lupin needs to do it right then, even if Severus doesn't approve. Lupin's life will continue once he gets to the point where he realises that denial doesn't do him a lot of good, that it's just a way of pushing things into a corner of his mind and not dealing with them. Their comeback will just be more vicious, and come back they always do.
Sometimes, though, a little pause before continuing with the story isn't all bad. Everyone needs a stop to draw breath once in a while.
Severus wishes that sometimes he would have been able to pause and shut down, too. Probably that is why he is with Lupin now: a kind of late reward for his endeavors, a chance to slow down and recuperate.
Remus nursed Snape back to health. Except he didn't nurse, he was allowed to nurse, but that was perfectly fine with him. Snape always told him where the line was for him, where Remus wasn't allowed to go, and that felt freeing - Snape's tongue had lost its edge for him, it just nudged him where he should go. Remus didn't have to think for himself, just floated throughout the days.
Snape could stand and already walked around the cottage, but they'd agreed that Snape couldn't go outside just yet. No words had passed on the subject, but they both knew that Snape still wasn't in possession of all his strength.
It was a weird feeling, living in close quarters with Snape. Remus had, when he finally found a moment to think about it, expected viciousness, snarling, anger, once Snape had any strength back at all. Instead there was quiet, not exactly awkward and not exactly tense, but not really comfortable either.
It was like they'd found a truce, knowing they were both running from something – past, present or future. Perhaps they weren't as oppositional as they'd always thought they were. It felt good not to be alone; having someone around. Snape's presence held the dream's at bay.
It was an odd kind of peace, but it was the first peace he'd known in more than seven years, and Remus had learnt to be grateful for the small things.
The sixth morning in a row that Remus woke up yelling, Snape, already up and about, caught his eyes as usual, calming him through the simple act of eye contact. An eternity went by when neither could break away, caught in the cloud of emotions – anger, grief, but above all confusion - surrounding them.
Then Snape shifted and looked away. He took a deep breath, looked back again finally said what he was on his mind. "I need to know more."
Remus went rigid.
"My raven found me this morning, it seems," Snape continued. He gestured towards the black bird sitting on the window ledge. "I will send her out to get a hold on a new copy of the Daily Prophet." His gaze stayed steady on Remus, heavy, questioning. They hadn't touched the subject yet by mutual agreement. It had been rather surprising that Snape hadn't asked, but the continuous watching he was doing instead was just as unnerving. Still, Remus had thought it best not to question it. He had known that sooner or later, Snape would want to know what they did out in the wilderness. Now later had arrived, in a rather indirect and circumspect way.
After Snape had sent his raven off, breakfast was a tense affair. They were waiting for the bird to return, every sound startling them. Perhaps not outwardly, but their eyes snapped towards the source of the sound every time.
Remus was dreading the news, to be honest, and wished it wouldn't arrive - except he knew they couldn't shut themselves off forever. Snape wouldn't stand for it anyway, and Remus didn't think he'd be able to survive alone.
If he was alone the silence would be too oppressive, too heavy. Sharing its weight made things easier.
When breakfast was over, Remus went out to relieve himself and splash some water on his face. The fog in his mind cleared away a little and he could finally release the breath he'd been holding ever since Snape's words that morning. He was able to relax a little again.
It figured that just as Remus walked back to the door Snape would be storming out, gracefully sidestepping Remus without a glance before disappearing in the wood. Remus wanted to call after him, but the tense shoulders spoke volumes.
Remus went in, cold dread pooling in his stomach. This couldn't be good, really couldn't be. He saw the newspaper on the table, the first page flashing "Burial of War Heroes" at him. He quickly skimmed the article, words like "Remus J. Lupin, posthumously awarded an Order of Merlin, First Class, earlier this week" and "Nymphadora Tonks" and "side by side on Hogwarts grounds" ingraining themselves in his mind. "Ted R. Lupin" was mentioned, and "Severus Snape" who had apparently gotten an empty grave in the new Hogwarts cemetary for heroes of the second war against Voldemort.
Remus felt sick. He barely made it outside before he fell to his knees, retching all his sorrow and pain into the dirt.
There was no way back now, for either of them.
Remus was curled around himself in his corner on the floor when Snape came storming back in.
So he hadn't taken off, then, as Remus had feared. Thank Merlin.
He listened to the sound of heavy boots on the wooden floor coming closer, but he didn't move even his small finger. It would be easier if he just pretended he was asleep. Perhaps Snape would leave him be.
Not so much, though. A strong hand grabbed him by the shoulder and hauled him up effortlessly. "What the-" Remus tried to protest, but Snape smashed him hard against the wall and held him there. Remus stared into black, fathomless eyes that tried to swallow him, but this time he fought for his life. It wouldn't do to surrender to Snape, not when hatred and the readiness to kill were outlined on the Slytherin's features. Remus gasped, tried to twist away from Snape, but to no avail: the man pressed his body fully against Remus' in an attempt to hold him there, their gazes still locked.
He shoved Remus away from him, just like that. Took a step back, stretched his arm out towards the table behind him, said quietly, "Explain that to me." It was like the calm before the storm, or perhaps in this case the calm of the eye of the storm, because there was no way this storm was over already. Remus stayed where he was against the wall, eyes straining to where Snape pointed. The silence stretched, Remus looking at the newspaper lying on the table so innocently, Snape looking at Remus, and neither of them moved and they could have been frozen except for the fact that Remus almost panted, so difficult was it to draw breath. An eternity went by like that. Then -
"You can't explain to me why you are supposedly dead? Why you are buried? Next to your dead wife? You can't explain to me why you aren't with your son? You can't explain to me why you just didn't get on with your life, or why you didn't let me get on with mine?" Snape's voice rose from a whisper to a roar, and by the end he was shouting and Remus was wincing, wishing he could cover his ears, wishing he could pretend he hadn't heard Snape's words. But he had and now they hung between them, like the bricks of a wall.
The silence lasted several days. Remus spent as much time as possible outside, on the hunt or simply looking at the trees, looking at the sky, looking at nothing. He was trying not to think about the words that had fallen between him and Snape, except he couldn't escape the thoughts, couldn't escape the memories they brought up.
You can't explain to me why you are supposedly dead?
Thinking about it made Remus sick to his stomach. Tonks' eyes staring into the nothingness, hollow and dead, and the same feeling welling up in Remus... Death all around him while his heart was still beating, unnaturally loud and fast... Panicking, looking at the corpse of his wife's killer, bloody and dirty. Acting before he could think, whispering an incantation, and the corpse suddenly looked like Remus, except his eyes were hollow and dead, too... Fleeing the battlefield.
You can't explain to me why you aren't with your son...
No, Remus really couldn't explain it, because he knew it wouldn't make sense to Snape. Remus missed Teddy, missed Tonks. There was that hole in his chest where the two of them used to be, and at times Remus couldn't sleep, it hurt so much, but he wouldn't be responsible for his son's death like he was for Tonks' death. It was better, safer if Remus stayed away and remained dead to the world.
It had to be.
The first full moon since the battle was approaching – and it was one Remus would have to go through without Wolfsbane. They didn't have the means to brew any, and writing to St. Mungo's for a batch was out of the question for obvious reasons.
The atmosphere in the hut grew even heavier, filled with anticipation, and Remus could see how Snape was practically bursting with nervous energy. The Slytherin was pacing the cottage restlessly, from one wall to the other, side-stepping the table on his way, then a sharp turn and back again.
Remus tried to read - there were few things he kept in the hut, two or three books among them - but the need to watch Snape was overwhelming. So he pretended to read, but in reality his eyes followed the anxious form of the Potions master.
When they got ready to turn in for the last time before Remus would lock himself in the basement, he thought it was high time they broke the silence. "It'll be alright," he said with a half-nod to Snape. They'd checked everything, the door, the small window, even the floor – the cell should hold.
Snape froze at Remus' words, then turned around to face him with that unfathomable gaze, face carefully neutral, a mask Remus wished he could punch away.
Finally Snape nodded, perhaps in a small concession of trust. "I know." Remus exhaled.
That was that.
The full moon is pretty much the defining influence in Remus' life. The full moon and what it brings with it has taught him many things, the most important lesson being you can run from everything, just not from yourself.
Remus tried to outrun his lycanthropy by immersing himself in his studies and becaming a scholar, a thinker. The contrast between man and animal became sharper and sharper the older Remus grew, and he never forgave himself for being what he is, until his friends, his wonderful friends, all dead now, accepted him, and at long last he could accept himself.
Which doesn't mean he doesn't want to protect others from himself.
The sun was setting.
With a last look and a half-smile to Snape, who returned the gesture with a grim look of his own, Remus went down the stairs to the basement.
He locked himself in the cell with a feeling of dread in his stomach. He hadn't been in close quarters with other people for his transformation for a long time, wanting to prevent any further accidents. The wolf could smell humans and would fight until he got to them or passed out from the pain of the self-inflicted wounds, and while the cell of this safe-house had never yet failed him, Remus was anxious. The door hadn't been tested yet while someone else was around, even though it had been built with the chance of that happening in mind.
Remus hoped with all his being that it would hold – for Snape's sake as much as his own.
The first real connection between the two men was forged in the cold light of the next morning, when Remus woke up on the cot and found Snape sleeping on the blanket in the corner. The night before their sleeping arrangements had been the same as when they'd arrived; Snape hadn't even offered to trade, and Remus hadn't asked. Now, things seemed different.
Remus smiled, turned around and slept again.
Remus woke again a couple of hours later, when the sun was shining on his face. He cracked one eye open, then the other, half-smiling into the warmth, stretching instinctively.
His bones cracked, his skin stretched taut over abused muscles that cried their desperation to the world. Remus screwed his eyes shut, tried to make it all go away, and that was when he remembered.
Tonks. Transfiguring a body into a reflection of himself. Abandoning her. Running. Finding Snape, rescuing him. Hiding with him in the hut...
A hand on his shoulder jerked Remus awake, and when he looked up into the black pools of Snape's eyes it finally occurred to him.
He reached out with a tentative hand, gently touching Snape's cheek with the tips of his fingers, the pain momentarily forgotten. They ghosted a line from temple to jaw, trembling as Snape drew in a breath. "Why are you still here?" Remus asked.
Snape spun around and with three long strides he was at the table, bracing himself there with his back to Remus.
Remus watched him, again, feeling that these past few weeks he hadn't ever done anything else. Figuring Snape out was like a puzzle with too many pieces, and perhaps there were even a few missing in the set; Remus didn't know that yet.
Well, in that regard they complemented each other, because Remus himself was very sure he wasn't whole either, though he didn't think he was as much a puzzle as he was a mirror that had been thrown to the ground.
He propped himself up on his elbows with a grimace. His muscles protested loudly, but this was important, much more important than the transient ache he was feeling in his muscles, because that permanent ache in his chest could perhaps be eased.
"Severus," Remus said quietly as there was no answer to his question.
Then Snape was back at the bed, kneeling beside it and cradling Remus' face in his hands, kissing him like both their lives' depended on it, and Remus thought This is it, please, this is how it's got to be... A moan escaped his throat as he opened up to Snape's questing tongue, and the world had stopped turning and nothing but this mattered, nothing else existed. Snape's mouth shifted, kissed its way to Remus' neck and nuzzled at the sensitive spot behind Remus' ear, his hand tracing a way down Remus' uncovered chest down to the waistband of his pants.
The touch brought Remus back to himself. He was aroused, painfully aroused, his body responding to the soothing touches with a vicousness that should not be possible the morning after the transformation, but this was the first comfort he'd had in a long time.
His body was a traitor, just like his mind. It had always been that way.
"Severus," Remus croaked, but Snape didn't listen, licked his way from his ear to his throat and back again.
"Severus. I can't," and this time Remus broke, guilt and grief finally overtaking him after weeks of pushing both away.
"I know," Snape murmured against the crook of his neck, sending shivers down Remus' spine. Then he withdrew with a last kiss and walked out.
Remus followed his retreating back with his eyes, then he turned around to face the wall as sobs rocked his body, uncontrollable and uncontrolled, all the intense feelings finally pouring free.
When finally he quietened, he was colder than he had been in a long time.
Fear is one of the basic instincts, one that not even humans can fight. Especially not a human who has such a close relationship with his animal side.
Later that day, Remus woke for the third time. Snape was nowhere to be seen - not exactly unexpected - and Remus' stomach grumbled, so he eased himself out of bed on wobbly legs. He made it to the table and crashed on a chair; luckily there was bread and water to be found on the table, and Remus sent a silent Thank you to Snape. He doubted he could have walked to their storeroom. Remus supposed he could have Summoned what he needed over to the bed, but he preferred to do things the Muggle way if he didn't absolutely have to use magic. He didn't like being dependent on his wand.
Snape was the same in that regard, and that had surprised Remus at first; though, once he'd spent a couple of thoughts on the matter it really wasn't all that surprising.
Remus knew now that his hope hadn't been falsely founded. Snape hadn't been a Death Eater for a long time; had, in fact, given his life to allow Harry to destroy Voldemort. He might have been misguided in his youth in his attempt to fit in - and Remus hadn't been any better, in his attempt to make everyone like him - but he'd seen the error of his ways, and that was what counted.
Remus thought he was only now getting to the point where he saw that he needed to stop what he'd been doing all his life.
He was done running.
He wanted to see his son.
There is bitterness in realising that you've been afraid all your life, and that this fear has ruined a great many things for you.
But once realisation hits you have the chance to change the direction you're heading in.
You have the chance for a new beginning.
Please don't expect me back until nightfall at the very earliest. I have urgent business to take care of.
Of course, when Remus came back that night, Snape was pacing the room again.
He stopped dead in his tracks as the door opened and Remus entered, both staring like they'd never seen each other before. It was Snape who broke the silence first.
"You look like shit."
Remus gave him a wry smile as he shrugged out of his jacket. He could barely hold himself up any longer. He let his coat slide to the floor and slumped onto one of the two chairs, utterly exhausted. Wearily he rubbed his hands across his forehead; he was tired, beyond tired, and his brain felt like it would explode any second now. Too many things had happened that day.
The scrape of the other chair on the floor drew his attention to the man seating himself across the table, frown apparent on the Slytherin's face. Slight fury, too, and worry, if Remus squinted. "Tell me."
Remus sighed. Where to begin? He exhaled, then leaned back. Begin at the beginning.
“I went to see my son."
The silence that greeted that statement was enough for Remus to discern that Snape had expected anything but this. He could have heard a needle drop, and for all the silence that had been in their dealings with each other already, it had never been like this.
"You did what?" Snape eventually spluttered. Remus answered him with a small smile again, amused. He liked having Snape off-balance. There was a vulnerability to him that he'd never quite seen before, either.
"I went to see my son. Concealed myself, Apparated to Andromeda's with every intention to reveal myself." Remus laughed humourlessly. "I heard voices from the garden, so I rounded the house, and there I saw them. My mother-in-law with my son on her lap, and he was laughing at her as she played with him. And Harry was there with Ginny, and Hermione and Ron, and I just... I couldn't break the peace they seemed to have achieved." Remus trembled, but he kept looking at Snape. "They laughed, sat there and laughed, you see? They don't need me to be happy, Severus. They don't need me."
His lip quivered as he turned his face away from Snape at long last. Snape would go now, vanish from Remus' life like everyone else had done. He was sure of it, because what had Remus given him except a life away from all the recognition the man deserved?
Then there were feet on the floor, hurrying around the table, and Remus was drawn up and strong arms embraced him. Shock made him try to resist, but the arms only tightened around him, and the warmth and strength and protection and comfort they offered was too much to push away, so Remus gave in. He slumped against Snape's chest and let himself be held, his trembling slowly ceasing as he realised what this could mean – that perhaps Snape didn't want a life in the spotlight, that he wanted to be where he was. Before Remus could make sure, however, his legs protested, too weak still after the transformation and a day without rest, and if it hadn't been for Snape's arms around him he would have fallen to the floor. Snape guided him over to the cot and lay him down, then climbed onto the bed as well, his arms coming around Remus immediately.
"What about Nymphadora?" Snape asked, his voice a low rumble against Remus' ear.
Remus shook his head. "She's dead."
Apparently that was all the answer Snape needed, because his fingers grabbed Remus' chin and tilted his head up, and the next moment soft lips were over his, slowly coaxing them open, and with a sigh, Remus let Snape in.
Every kiss said But I need you, shaking Remus to his very core because he didn't know whether it would be enough, whether this would be enough for either of them. He clutched at Snape as if the Slytherin were his lifeline, grinding against the other man as urgent need welled up within him. It overwhelmed them both, this sudden need to be as close as possible to each other, and they shed their clothes in quick succession. Remus gasped into Snape's mouth as his hand closed around both their cocks, sliding them together, his world collapsing and narrowing down to nothing but this feeling. He rocked against Snape, and finally Snape's hand began moving, jerking them off with quick, hard strokes, and Remus chanted "Severus Severus Severus" under his breath. Because it was only them and there was no-one else, not anymore, they were all dead, and if the the two of them didn't have each other's backs, how would they ever find the light at the end of the tunnel?
Remus felt orgasm build blindingly fast. All too soon he was coming all over Snape and himself, stars flashing in front of his eyes as the wave of release hauled him away. He could hear Snape's answering groan a lifetime away, but the current had already carried his mind away to a far land called Forgetfulness & Sleep. His body remained anchored in Snape's arms, a haven for the rest of him to return to.
And return his mind did. Remus woke with a start, disoriented and almost falling out of bed, shocked at the feeling of a body pressed against his.
Then he remembered last night, remembered that Tonks was dead and Teddy was as happy as he could be. Remembered that there was no one who needed him, and it hurt, but perhaps in due time he'd be able to let go and Snape would be all he needed to ease his pain. He didn't know whether this would be enough; it was all he could offer, though, and he thought Snape understood. If Snape could accept that, Remus would try.
It was the least he could do.
Every story ends somewhere: a new one needs to begin.
This is the end of this particular story, but for them, it is the beginning of another. Many steps have led to this, and we need to leave them here so that they can figure out where they want to go.
I'm sure they will find a way to make everything work out, in the end.
Eleven Years Later
It was September 1, the first day of school for Teddy Lupin. He was nervous – no, he was beyond nervous. Which House would he be Sorted into? Would he make friends? He'd already been to Hogwarts - something most of the new first years hadn't, so he had a slight advantage - to visit his parents' graves, so it wasn't that much of a new event to go there, but he'd never used the Hogwarts Express before, and he couldn't believe he'd be living in the castle for the next seven years.
He found it sad that Victoire wasn't yet old enough to attend as well, and that he wouldn't be able to see his extended family except for during holiday - his grandmother, Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry, Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron, and his horde of small cousins. Of course, aside from his grandmother none of them really were his family, but that had never mattered. He belonged in their midst.
Teddy was still standing outside of the wall leading to platform nine-and-three-quarters, waiting for Uncle Harry to give him the sign to go. But his godfather was talking to someone Teddy didn't recognise, most likely a reporter, so he had some time to look around and search for other first-years.
There were many Muggles hurrying through the station and a few wizards that Teddy could identify from their robes, but aside from that there weren't really any interesting people around. Well, they were still early for the train - it would leave in half an hour - so the other children probably weren't there yet.
Then two men standing at a distance caught his eyes for the fraction of a second; one shabby-looking man gazing in his direction, and a dark, tall man standing slightly to the side and behind the other, one arm drawn about the other's waist in an obvious, possessive gesture of comfort.
Teddy remembered a conversation he'd had with a furiously blushing Aunt Hermione, not so long ago. There are men who like women and women who like men. But remember, Teddy, that there are also women who like women and men who like men, and sometimes they like both, and they do what man and woman do to make babies. - You mean they have sex, Aunt Hermione? - Teddy! - What? - Ooooh you... Okay. Good. Whatever. You understand what I'm saying? - Yep. - Good. Then promise me that you'll treat all women and men equally, whatever you think you know about their sexual preference? - Why should I not do that? - Because, you understand, there are some who believe only the love between man and woman is rightful. - That doesn't make sense. Why would anyone think that? To which Aunt Hermione hadn't had an answer.
Teddy was curious, and because he knew his father had been a werewolf and been slighted for it and Teddy himself had caught a fair share of unfair remarks, he very much followed Aunt Hermione's footsteps when it came to social inequality. Since that conversation Teddy had investigated and found out that there had been laws in effect against same-sex relationships, as they were called, and that many still thought something like that shouldn't happen, that it wasn't right. So whenever he saw a couple of two men or two women obviously deeply caring for each other he thought brave people and looked on - because there were enough passers-by staring at those couples on the streets already, and he didn't think he should add to their number.
The two who had caught his eye were the same. He looked away, a small smile crossing his lips - then Uncle Harry had finished his conversation and was telling him to go, and anything that wasn't Hogwarts was pushed from his mind.
He walked through the wall, leaving the two strangers behind to live their lives without him.