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Slash and Yaoi Fiction
TITLE: Lukewarm
AUTHOR: Juxian Tang
PAIRING: SS/Remus Lupin
FEEDBACK: juxiantang@hotmail.com
DISCLAIMER: These characters and places belong to JK Rowling. I am making no profit.
SUMMARY: Remus Lupin finds out that his accommodations in Hogwarts go with a bonus
NOTES: Part of the Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest (Scenario # 4: Snape gets caught with his pants down). Huge thanks for Lewis, my beloved beta (and friend)
SPOILERS: Contains spoilers for book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
ARCHIVING: The Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest Archive, my site - http://juxian.slashcity.net and everyone who wants

by Juxian Tang

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish you were either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth.

Revelation 3.15-16

He's as bad as Sirius told about him. He makes me sick. Disgusting. Pathetic. Driving me mad, ruining calm and quiet of my evenings - taking away the little peace of mind I have.

Damn him to hell.

He's doing it again. Hard jets of water hit against the bottom of the tub - and then the soft, muffled click of a jar put on the tiles - and I know I'll feel it now: the barest, almost imperceptible distant smell travelling to me through the wall - orange and cinnamon, of all things. Shampoo? Shower gel?

There is probably something wrong with the ventilation - but normally it wouldn't matter because normally no one occupies these quarters. It's just that in summer Hogwarts is empty of students - and the Order does need headquarters, now when Number Twelve at Grimmauld Place can't be used any more.

And in any case - no one else would be bothered but me. It's my usual luck - to have hearing and a sense of smell so acute that I catch everything that happens on the other side of the wall.

I stand in silence, palms resting on the edges of the sink, looking at my pale, tired face in the mirror - strands of greying brownish hair falling over the eyes that never lose their haunted look - and listen how Snape shuts off the water in his bathroom.

Several moments of stillness as he probably uses the towel - and then soft barefoot steps, walking away.

Now, if I go to my room - the wall there is thin enough - so thin that if I lean and press the back of my head against it, I will hear him again. But why would I do it? I don't want to have anything to do with him.

"Always coming, looking and walking out," the mirror huffs. "What did you want, I wonder?"

I shrug and leave, deserting it in the darkness.

The sounds... so small one shouldn't be able to hear them at all. The creaking of the bed - and then...

The first time I overheard it by chance. It wasn't my choice to live next to Snape's quarters - and he was far from happy with it, too - but there was not much choice; it's not like I had other accommodations. I had to take what Albus offered to me.

I didn't know that listening to Snape was a part of the package.

Listening to him doing himself.

He is not loud, it's not that - he most obviously has no idea I can hear him - and in fact I don't have to hear: I just need to move to the opposite wall to stop catching those sounds. But really, you can't take them for anything else. Soft smooth sound of a palm touching flesh, ragged breathing that gets louder with time, broken into small tiny moans of building pleasure. The smell... I recognise it so well: the unmistakable smell of sex, semen spilled and his body reaching climax.

I hate it. It's so much more than I ever wanted to know about Snape.

And it's distracting. Here, in Hogwarts, I could've felt so comfortable, welcomed and at home - the only place where I feel at home. Why do I have to be aware of Snape's dirty pastime - secrets that should be hidden, never revealed to anyone?

Well, you know. Everyone does it, from time to time - me too. But there is something absolutely sordid at making it known, making it overheard. Even if it's not Snape's fault... it is, nevertheless. Like James sometimes said, it's already his fault that he exists - and now I tend to agree with him.

Not to mention that the thought of Snape doing it - touching himself, caressing his body, naked, flushed and erect - is enough to make any sane person queasy.

But surely, it's not like he has any other choice. No one else would touch him - that's why he has to use his own hand. No one would want Snape. No one.

I should feel triumph at this thought - at knowing how worthless, how wretched he is, in his loneliness and his miserable pleasures. But listening to him makes me feel dirty. He's really sullying everything around him.

Oh come on, will he ever stop?

I hear his breath hitch as he must be pushing into his palm one last time, climaxing - and then there is just silence, for a while.

He doesn't do it every day. Once in three or four days, sometimes even a week passes before it happens. The interruptions are usually following his meetings with other Death Eaters and I catch myself on wondering if something there puts him in such a bad mood that he can't gather enough stamina even to take care of himself. But eventually he comes round, obviously.

I've learned to recognise the routine - he's having a shower before it, always, with this ridiculous orange-cinnamon soap or what it is... weird, isn't it? You'd say one should be showering before meeting with someone.

But he never meets with anyone all the same. Perhaps that is the closest to intimacy Snape has ever had in his life. Just like Sirius said... we always joked about him, in our school days, how no one would ever even touch Snape with a stick. Looks like it's true, after all.

I've learned to recognise the speed of his breath, the small movements he makes - in arousal, in nearing orgasm. It seems they all are etched in my memory, even when I don't listen to them, leaning against the wall.

Oh yes, here it goes...

Sometimes I have this pang of curiosity mixed with annoyance: what if he'll say something at his moment of climax, some name - revealing even more of himself than he already has? Whose name can it be? Lucius's? I remember what Sirius said about those two, about Snape being more than just a sidekick for Malfoy. Well, obviously even Malfoy doesn't descend to touching Snape.

Ah, he's in Azkaban, right...

And Sirius is dead.

Perhaps I should tell him not to be so loud. But how can I? He's gonna hex me three feet deep into the wall if I ever let him find out that I know. And he's not loud, actually - in fact, he's one of the quietest men I've heard doing it - and I heard my share during the Hogwarts years, in common bedrooms.

But when at the Order meetings he peers at me with eyes so narrowed I wonder how he doesn't stumble on his way - like I'm something he'd prefer not to see at all - sometimes I feel like saying it. Throwing it in his face in front of everyone.

Can't find a living being who would want to touch you, Snape?

"He's nasty, isn't he?" Tonks whispers loudly after another of Snape's airy remarks that is unmistakably directed at me. "I wonder what bit him."

I grin.

"Nothing, I guess."

"Too bad."

She sits on the edge of the table, dangling her thin legs, and there is a sweet, prankish smile on her lovely face as she looks at me with her head tilted awry.

"You're great for bearing with him, Remus."

Bearing with him? I can't bear with him, thank you very much. Can't bear his casual remarks, his careful callousness, his blatant insensitivity. I'm too tired for that; I hurt too much.

I glare at Snape, trying to convey it with my gaze.

I know your secret, be careful with me.

Snape looks like my stare is a cool breeze for him. Tonks's warm, small palm closes on my wrist.

"Hey, Remus, cheer up," she says. My name said in her high girlish voice sounds strangely pleasurable - so much that I almost forget about Snape and his ugly manners, his disgusting secrets.

Till the next night.

His breath hastens, getting deeper and sounding somewhat wetter, in unison with the softest sound of flesh stroking flesh - intense, insistent, striving to completion. Always the same way - but it hardly should surprise me. Exactly fourteen minutes, from the very beginning to the very end. But where would variety come from? It's only his hands that do it, he probably doesn't know how to do it differently.

Did he even have anyone doing it to him in his life? Does he know how different it can be?

I know. Yes, sometimes it's the only way: to bring himself off, to ease the strain - but this hollow pleasure that comes from your own touch has nothing to do with the rush, heat and dizzying joy of being with someone else, of sharing it.

It must be so lonely... always doing it the same way: bath... bed... bringing yourself off... sleep... like work, like a part of his duties - something planned, not something one does at the spur of the moment.

But it's Snape - if anyone would make it into such a travesty, it's him. Snape with his hair greasy and his face ugly, his underwear ruined in the wash, Snape with no friends, no supporters, and with ability to turn his protectors into his enemies. Snape who tries to look like everyone in the world is far beneath him... so much beneath him that he can't find anyone to bring to his bed. Snape who probably figured out very well that not having is easier than losing... that handing your heart to another being is letting them chew it up and spit it out and stomp on it.

Perhaps he feels safe in the darkness of his room, with no one to hurt him.

And sometimes I think I understand him in that.

He gasps - and for a few moments there is nothing, no breath, not even a heartbeat, it seems - until I hear the slight shift of his bed as he stretches bonelessly, spent and exhausted.

I turn and press my burning forehead to the cool dungeon wall.

We walk down the stairs together, after a meeting. Well, we walk side by side, that is. He has that haughty feeling about him that demonstrates carefully that he isn't willing to notice me and warns me that I'd better keep away from him. Rather ridiculous, taking into account how little I want to socialise with him.

Yet it makes a surge of anger go through me. What does he think he is? Why does he suppose he can feel such contempt towards me - contempt I taste every time when I'm gagging on Wolfsbane potion that he prepares for me? Because I'm a werewolf? How is it better than being a Death Eater, even reformed? At least I never chose to be what I am.

I wonder, if I were not a werewolf, what reason would he find to hate me. That I was a Marauder? That I was James and Sirius's friend?

He probably should be delighted now. My friends are gone - finally and completely gone.

And my life with them, even if I keep breathing.

Is not having easier than losing? Would I prefer Sirius to never come back rather than having him at my side for such a short, short time - and losing him again?

Maybe. Maybe I would. 'Easier' is a defining word for my life - but well, how can it be otherwise? My life is hard enough as it is - and if I don't spare myself, I probably won't be able to get through another day, another month. It scares me to think so - but deep in my heart I can't help admitting that. Perhaps it makes me deficient. But it also keeps me alive.

Yet I sometimes wish I would be able to cry over my losses - rather than feeling this empty place inside me.

Snape comes up to his door as I make several more steps to mine. No 'good-night' from him - well, I don't expect it.

"Skullcap," he says almost inaudibly. The door swings open.

A normal man wouldn't hear it - just me, with my sharpened hearing. I always hear too much, don't I?

This night he's preparing himself again. I'm surprised to feel sharp pang of anticipation - malicious joy? - when I hear him entering his bathroom, starting the water... all those actions I know so well like I'm participating in them. My pants get uncomfortably tight - but I prefer not to notice it, like I don't every time. I never bring myself off on these nights. Not because I'm afraid Snape might overhear me - he wouldn't.

It's just... I don't want to be like him. It gives me leverage over him. I won't do something as pathetic and lonely as he does. This will allow me to feel above him.

If only I could stop listening...

But I listen - playing in my mind the image track of his sharp-featured face flushed in arousal - pale with bright red stains on his cheeks - dark eyes clouded in pleasure - his thin lips slightly open as he gasps... Sirius would joke whether I'm trying to punish myself with such ungainly visuals - do I want to become impotent, thinking of Snape jerking off?

I don't know... I don't know what I feel, why I'm doing it... what's happening to me.

I should hate him. I do hate him - enough to wish to hurt him, humiliate him like he humiliates me with his condescending attitude. He sickens me. I like to imagine him looking at me defencelessly as I approach him, I'd like to see fear in his eyes.

He probably was terrified when he found me then, in the Shrieking Shack, even though I never remembered it...

I do hate him. He deserved everything he got from James and Sirius, it was all his own fault, he brought it on himself... he better not dare to blame Sirius for that! Sirius was a hundred times more a man than him - a hundred times more deserving to live.

He better not dare to blame me for never interfering...

Oh yes, Remus Lupin, the werewolf, dependent on his friends to keep his secret. Snape is probably delighted to have me depending on him, now when I'm safe only thanks to the potion he brews... at his mercy...

He is at my mercy, really - with his filthy secret that I know about. Should I tell about it... should he find out that I know...

Blood rushes in my head. I can't bear it any more. I need to do something or those thoughts will drive me crazy, those sounds will destroy me.

I have to prove I'm in control - I need to show Snape his place.

I get up and walk out of my rooms.

The corridor is quiet - and here I can't hear a sound from his rooms - of course. So, he can't hear me either, as I whisper "Skullcap" to the closed door - and it slides open silently.

I enter the dimly lit rooms, my steps light and soundless.

His gasp is louder than I've ever heard - and for a split second I'm sure it's because he sees me. But then another one follows - and I understand he doesn't even know - how careless! - too submerged in what he's doing in his bed.

The smell is unequivocal and very strong, too, making my nostrils flare and tremble. Arousal and pre-come and some faint unidentifiable scent - oil that he probably uses to make the movements smoother. His gasps have a little vocal sound in them, like soft 'oh' in cadence with every stroke.

There is an empty room - and another room - and I walk, noiselessly, my body for once not betraying me - and he still doesn't hear me but it's not surprising. Foolish man; what kind of a spy can he make?

I look - and he lets me, doesn't even know about it. He's spread on the bed, covers thrown away, in the pool of his heavy bathrobe of murky colour - maroon or something - arms still in the sleeves. The image is strangely familiar - since it has played in my mind so often by now.

His legs are skinny and long and his pelvic bones prominent - and he really looks all angles and his ribs are sticking out - and he's so white-skinned - and his groin hair is black and chest hair black and his nipples are brown and pebbled - and his hand is blurring as it works on his dark, blood-filled cock.

With such intensity, such determination. It isn't about pleasure when you're doing it to yourself. It's work - bringing yourself off.

There's really some oil - glistening on his shaft - and coating the fingers of his other hand that he pushes... oh my God... I really could live without seeing that. His long fingers slide in and come out of his anus and slide in again - and he convulses, small shivers running through his body as he's probably hitting the right place there.

His hair is wet. Wet like washed, soaking the pillow around his head. So, the orange smell is his shampoo...

Of course, he doesn't see me. His eyes are screwed shut - and strangely it makes his face look younger, almost like he was at school - a surly, intense boy, focused so much on doing things just right... like he was during the classes. One more thing for Sirius, who never cared for studying, and James, who studied just a little, to laugh at and detest him for.

His brows are drawn together, his lips bitten as he works on himself - and I know he's already past the stage when there are some images flying through his mind for titillation. Now there is just pure physicality, just the body reacting to stimuli, skin rubbed, shaft stroked.

He moans slightly through his nose - and the sound is pathetic, nothing else - but at the same time it makes me nearly choke on my breath, barely catching myself before I give myself away. His movements are rushed and untidy, in desperation to finish it - and I can see how it stays elusive, like it always is - like even when you do come, you still feel something lacking there, you feel cheated, like it's not quite what you tried to achieve - just because... just because there's no one else with you.

This thought makes something snap inside me. I don't know what I'm doing - until I make a few steps forward and reach my hand. It's not pity... or empathy... not even the wish to humiliate him, as it was when I came here. I have no idea why I'm doing it - and I don't have time to think about it.

I put my palm around his cock, replacing his own hand - and stroke.

The reaction is horrifying. It is like I hit him - and Merlin, I realize my stupidity at once. Not a good idea, to make my presence known at such a moment, in such a manner. All Snape's body contracts, a spasm goes through him - his eyes fly open - wide and black and shocked and still glazed with flooding pleasure. I can't even read recognition in them - when his body convulses again, in a shudder of unbearable pleasure - and he pushes, not realising it, purely instinctively, into my stroking hand.

His head falls back; a hoarse cry, louder than anything else before, escapes him - of pleasure and fury - and then heat and wetness shoot against my hand, covering my fingers richly. The smell is so heady it makes me shiver, too - undeniable, close, the definite smell of the other's climax - and it lasts longer and longer because I keep stroking, squeezing it out of him - like I know he would never be able to do for himself.

Finally Snape's body slumps bonelessly on the bed, his throat working as he tries to swallow or say something. And then, in a whipping movement, he raises his head, staring at me - all the depth of fear and detestation that I can imagine in his eyes.

"What kind of a fuckin' bastard are you, Lupin?"

Well, what else could I expect? I would hate anyone who'd interfere with my privacy like this - and for him I always was an enemy or a detested creature. And it was really stupid of me, I don't even need to repeat that - how could it even come to my mind...

Regret is huge and inundating me fast, equal only to the discomfort I feel.

We both feel, obviously. It's even a bit funny how he scrambles away from me, pulling his skinny legs up to his chest, groping for his bathrobe trying to cover himself ineffectually - like I haven't had a good look by now. He's also got his wand ready.

I sigh. My hand is wet with his come, my own cock still hard in my pants - and I'm not quite willing to brace myself for everything Snape is ready to deliver.

"Calm down, Snape. It's not like I've taken your maiden honour."

He stares at me, too shocked and angry to answer for a moment.

There are things I can - and want - to say. Like 'You should be happy someone finally touched you.' or 'You do have some disinfectant to wash it off my hand, don't you?'

I would have said it - if Sirius was alive and we could laugh about it together after that. For a moment I see his beautiful bright face in my mind.

I say instead:

"What's done is done. I can apologise and then we probably can pretend it didn't happen... if you want."

I don't know why I add the last words. Like I care what he wants.

My words cut off whatever Snape is about to say - for a moment he goes even whiter and silent - and then hisses:

"You're very good at pretending that things don't happen, right, Lupin?"

I roll my eyes. It's so much like him - always to come up with generalities, always to hint at something quasi-significant - even when he sits here naked and still dripping and I've just committed nearly the most intimate act with him... despite his will.

No, I'd rather not think about it this way.

"Do you have any other suggestions, Severus?"

Three years ago, when I came to work in Hogwarts, I made a point of calling him by his name. Something like an offered hand of friendship. Well, should I say he never accepted it? But I still call him that sometimes. At least it throws him off his composure.

"Yes, Lupin. Go kill yourself."

I snort - and catch myself. It doesn't feel particularly comfortable: to be amused with something he says rather than laughing at him. But he's really rather funny, when you think about it.

He looks like I've insulted him again.

"Bad idea, Severus. Anything else?"

Looking at his hand clenched on the wand, I bring up my palm and touch the sticky whitish fluid on it with my tongue. The taste is bitter and very strong and... somewhat enjoyable. I didn't know I would ever think it.

Snape's eyes widen some more as he stares at me.

"Well, I do have a suggestion," I say - and as he swallows with effort, I see that I don't have to extrapolate. "I don't mean anything personal, you know - I don't think I have it in me any more, for anything personal. But... I can be useful for you. And you can be useful for me."

His nostrils flare - and his lips are trembling - and he looks completely like he's about to strike; but he never does. Very slowly the wand goes down and he leans against the headboard of his bed.

"Useful," he repeats.


There is my hand smeared in his come - and I move my legs apart just slightly, casually, letting him see the bulge there. His dark eyes are narrowed to slits as he watches me - checking me, trying to weigh me, to figure out if I'm playing some game, planning a prank on him. But I don't; honest. I mean what I say - even if I almost can't believe it.

My friends I could play pranks with are gone. Only he and I stay here, in the dungeons. That's a fact of life - what else is left but to accept it?

Then he nods cautiously - and I nearly gape - because I truly haven't thought he will agree. I haven't thought what I will do if Snape agrees.

What I've gotten myself into... Sirius would laugh himself to death.

But I can't back up - not if I don't want him to use that wand of his on me, after all - not after he's actually accepted my offer. And maybe I also relish the thought that it can be possible, whatever it is, at least for the physical pleasure derived... It's pretty dim in his rooms, I won't even have to see him. A mean thought - a token thought towards Sirius, like I need to justify myself in front of him.

Snape's face looks so focused, so determined - like it takes an awful effort from him to reach to the front of my pants. Going to return the favour, apparently. I force myself not to jerk away.

"Not this time," I say. "Another evening, all right?"

I have no idea if there's going to be another one.

"As you wish, Lupin," Snape says coldly, but there is something in his voice that doesn't sound so sure.

"Fine, then."

And so it starts. There's no agreement, no appointed time - but once I hear him running the water in his bathroom, smell the slight scent of his shampoo, I walk out of my rooms and into his, opening the door with the password he'd never given me but knows that I know. And he's waiting for me in his bed, in near darkness - and as I shed my clothes and slide next to him, there are only our hands talking, working with the soon-acquired precision of touches.

Only hands - never mouths, never anything else - we're not prepared for this level of intimacy yet. Just a hand job for each other, a little different than doing it for ourselves.

No, a lot different. I don't know how to explain it - but it makes all the difference not to be alone at these moments, feeling another body writhing against yours, hearing the other's gasps out of cadence with yours.

Even if it's just Severus Snape.

Even if it's just Remus Lupin.

I learn his body at the same time as he learns mine. How his breath hitches and he pushes towards me when I touch that place on the inner side of his thigh with the rough tips of my fingers. How he shudders and arches when I run my fingernails against his nipples. How astonished he looks every time when orgasm hits him - still unused, clearly, to the fact that it happens without his direct involvement.

He's really kind of inexperienced. Or rather, his experience is very limited - but I don't mind. He's fair in bed, one thing I can give Snape credit for. Whatever he thinks of me out of bed, in bed he always tries to make it as good for me as possible. He gives as much as he takes.

So, it's fair and satisfying and mutually beneficial. And when I come, pressing my forehead against the hard frame of his ribcage, breathing in his smell - it feels good - I feel hungry for more of him, for more of his body, his touch. Then I don't care who he is and how he looks and what Sirius would say. It's just the intoxicating pleasure of the other responding to my caresses, of hearing the moans of pleasure that my fingers elicit.

This closeness is addictive. I've never known I was so starved for a touch, for being with someone. It even happens that I can't keep myself from separating my day life and night adventures - start daydreaming during the meal in the Great Hall or at a meeting of the Order, while Snape customarily sneers and scowls at me. He doesn't have this problem, obviously.

I think about him in his bed, in the very dim light he keeps on - just so that we don't bumble in the darkness - his bony face having this absorbed, focused look as he approaches orgasm - his lip bitten to stifle the sounds and slightly swollen. I've never touched his lips with mine...

His long skinny body is stretched as I support myself on my arm over him, for closer contact, his knee at an angle, moved apart to give me better access - and his hand slides over my cock, in this very slippery oil he uses, and the fingers of the other hand wander further, to my perineum and then even between my buttocks. His hands don't hold any antipathy towards me - they are eager and bold and fumbling sometimes, but never deliberately hostile.

His eyes fly open and shut, in this inimitable oddity of excitement, stopping on my face just briefly - and I wonder if he sees me - or if there is someone else for him even as my hand pulls and rubs his cock insistently.

The Dark Mark on his forearm glows ever so slightly in the dim light.

We never talk. And I don't mean talking like discussing things. We don't say a word at all, not even trivialities, like 'more' or 'this way'. It seems we're afraid that one might lead to another - and talking at all would mean that we might say things to each other. There are things between us - things that are better not brought up, not even thought about in the darkness, when our bodies press against each other in sheer need.

Instead, we're very circumspect in developing a system of non-verbal communication. It's pretty simple, actually; surprising how little you need to say in bed to be understood - even with a person who doesn't understand you at all.

When I'm not in the mood for another time, I just get up and walk out right after we're finished. And if he isn't - he gets up and goes to his bathroom, the heavy bathrobe wrapped around him - and shuts the door after himself - and it is my clue to leave.

But sometimes we both stay - lie next to each other in near darkness, while our breath calms down from panting to normal. There is such languid pleasure in just being like that - in silence, in comfort - with no need of talking. We don't owe each other anything, even a conversation.

We're so close we nearly touch - his thin long arm against mine. Nearly but not quite - I can feel the heat of his body reaching me - but still I'm aware of the distance, too.

Looking askew, I can see his sharp face, smoothened with recent pleasure, in the tangle of black hair against his pillow. And sometimes I feel like running my fingers through his hair - to find out how it feels when it's clean. And I feel a small pang of loss deep in my chest at the thought that I will never do it.

And then I reach and put my hand on his spent cock - and he makes a small sound of discomfort at first because it's still too sensitive - or, maybe, it's me who's been a bit too rough. But then he hardens in my touch and the little dance of his thighs starts again, and he pushes into my palm, and I feel how he finds my own erection in the darkness...

Hogwarts is never empty these days. Everyone is coming and going and you meet odd people at odd places. In a room where old desks are stored I stumble against Molly Weasley and Tonks, submerged deep into conversation. Tonks's hair is bright yellow and with green streaks and her robes have more patches than mine - but hers are done in such bright colours that I can't doubt it's done on purpose. Probably fashionable or whatever.

She whips around when hearing my steps and her pretty face goes pink.

"Remus," she breaks into a giggle.

"Hello ladies. Should I promise I'll keep hush-hush about your secrets?"

If Tonks was pink in face by then, she goes bright red now.

"I... I have to go!" She suddenly grabs her bag and runs to the door, like someone's chasing her.

"She fancies you, Remus," Molly says good-heartedly as the door slams shut.

I stare. She must me joking.

Tonks? Tonks - who always has this sweet and a bit sly expression in my presence, who quickly stops morphing when I come in - who appears with new hair colour every time I see her - and never once asked me which one I think suits her best...

Not possible. Just... not possible. Things like that don't happen. Not when the two involved parties are a young, beautiful, funny and independent girl - and a life-worn shabby werewolf nearing forty and feeling like four hundred.

"It's nonsense, Molly," I say flatly.

There is infinite kindness and something like pity in her eyes.

"Not at all, Remus."

At night Snape's long fingers slide against my ribcage and along the plane of my back, tracing the thick network of scars there. It comes without warning and can seem almost accidental - only Snape never does anything accidentally. The tips of his fingers are slightly callused, warm and careful following the lines on my skin, and silence is broken only with my gasps as his other hand works on my cock.

But this touch of his means more for me than the one on my groin. For some reason, the soft brushing of his fingers sends a jolt of such unbelievable pleasure through me that I convulse and push my forehead against his hard shoulder, moaning into his skin long and agonisingly.

He shudders as well, so violently he nearly pushes me off, and I feel the need to make him stay put, press him down to the bed as his semen spatters my hand and my belly - and it feels like double orgasm goes through my body - his reflecting in mine.

It lasts long and intense - and then I'm exhausted and limp, unable to move a finger. And there is a strange brackish taste in my mouth - and it takes quite a while for my brain to make a connection and realise that I clench my jaws on Snape's collarbone.

His voice reaches me, as if from afar.

"Lupin. If your teeth itch, I'll give you a rubber toy."

Merlin... he actually talks. The voice is not husky or passionate - rather slightly annoyed - and I can't understand why I feel so glad to hear it. Carefully, I unclench my teeth. The trace does look sore - and for a moment I feel a ridiculous wish to kiss it better. Impossible. I put up with the next best thing.

"It's safe," I say. "I mean it's not a full moon."

"Do you think I don't know that?" Haughty. I don't need to look at him to imagine he's eyeing me disdainfully down his nose. "It's thirteen days till then."

I almost wish he didn't add that - wish I didn't know he knew that - so exactly, to the single day. I remind myself he should know - he's brewing Wolfsbane potion, after all - but I can't throw it out of my mind... in some way, together with the delicate touch of his fingers on my scars, it means more.

And suddenly there is a thought that I've tried to keep buried deep in my mind for so long. Could things be different? Could there be another path, another world - where he wouldn't be so hostile and annoying, where we would be friends, where I wouldn't be damaged even before coming to Hogwarts, where we could be on the same side from the beginning - without contempt, distrust, fear and betrayal?

The world where James would live, and Sirius would live, and Peter would be a hero - and I could be proud of myself - and Snape wouldn't be such a git...

He's a git but I can't help thinking he probably deserves more... more than I can give.

I move slightly, rolling off him but still close enough to be aware of his body next to me. He doesn't move, doesn't get up - and I stay as well... another round then, right? In half an hour or so, after we get some rest.

"And I'd appreciate if you'd do something about your habit of flopping on me with all your weight," he says. "You might imagine yourself slight but you're quite heavy, believe it or not."

It makes me chuckle. Not his words - not even the tone of his voice, which is the usual get-out-of-my-life-Lupin - but something... something... You want me to believe that you don't like it, I think but never say it aloud.

"If you say so," I say mildly.

A few minutes before the meeting starts - we're waiting for Albus - Tonks, whose hair is a blinding shade of electric blue today, tilts her head awry and says dreamily, without looking at anyone:

"I heard Rosmerta's got a new kind of butterbeer - very tasty."

There is a small pause - so quiet I hear my own breath. And I can physically feel Molly's eyes on me, even without turning to her - a prodding, insistent, encouraging look. And pushed with this gaze more than anything else, I say awkwardly:

"We might go sample it together some day, how about it?"

I say it so quietly Tonks can really ignore it if she wants. But her dark eyes sparkle in such a way that I feel something twist in my chest - something I haven't thought I would ever feel again.

"Great! When? How about tonight since I'm already here?"

And tonight it is. We sit across the table - and I don't know how actually this new kind of butterbeer tastes - and there are some looks at us but, curiously, none is accusing, all rather approving. And Tonks's small face smiles at me, and her high voice is smiling, too - and it's like I'm in the middle of a dream... not my dream, mine are never so nice - but someone else's: a date (my first date in years), a beautiful girl who clearly is interested - there is innuendo in her words that even I can't miss - and I'm vaguely aware that I answer in the same way.

And later, halfway from Hogsmeade to Hogwarts, we stop and look at each other - and I put my palms around her face almost fearlessly. Her cheeks are pearly white in the frame of my hands and her eyes are shining - and she rubs her face against my palm a little - and it is all the encouragement I need.

I kiss her - her soft lips tasting sweetly with toffee butterbeer - yes, it's the new variety - and suddenly her arms are around my neck and her breath speeds up - and she crushes her mouth against mine, answering my kisses greedily.

She wants me... me... it's a wonderful thought. She's chosen me, with her eyes open - for a reason I can't understand - but she wants me, Remus Lupin, with all the baggage I carry in my life - not some silent partner in the darkness, never to exchange a word with.

There is rush of blood to my cheeks, my groin - and as I cradle her face in my hands, bones so frail under the tender skin, I know that I won't even hurt her. She's a Metamorph, she's safe with me.

Can it be? Can she offer me what I never thought could be mine? Normalcy... healthy relations... a beautiful, caring person next to me... maybe, a family? She's so loveable, I know I'll learn to love her, no problem. She's beautiful and strong and smart - what's not to love about her? And she wants me...

Our kiss breaks and she lowers herself slightly - she was standing on tiptoes. There's a shy smile in her eyes as she touches her lips.

"Wow... Remus, that was wow."

It's nice to have someone call your name in such a voice, husky with passion and pleasure.

I don't know what to answer. And I don't know what I have to do now. Ask her to my place? Or should we go back to Rosmerta's and get a room? Or is it too fast?

For some reason I can't do any of this. And then her small hand squeezes mine firmly and gently.

"Thank you. It was a lovely evening. See you soon."

It's so sweet of her - to give me a way out. I'll need to make it up to her next time. She turns away, again touching her kissed lips - and a moment before she apparates I hear her girlish unrestrained giggle again.

I'm bothered and aroused as I come back to my rooms. Tonks's closeness, her slim body leaning against mine, really woke up something in me. But as I hear the familiar sounds of water running in Snape's bathroom, the soft clicking of the shampoo jar, I suddenly find myself cold and soft.

I can't go there. Not after Tonks - not after her being so clean and sincere - it would be defiling what's happening between us. She trusts me - she trusts me to be what she sees in me. And my night-time trysts with Snape - they are not a part of the image she sees of me.

It's really so simple. Tonks offered me everything - she offered me herself, offered me normalcy - didn't I always dream about it? She offered me a chance to live the same life by day and at night, not an ugly sexual relationship with someone you dislike and who detests you.

Snape never offered me anything at all - why should I doubt what to choose? He never said it was important for him... it was just an arrangement. A mutually satisfactory arrangement.

What do you do when an arrangement stops satisfying you? You break it. Simple.

And a good thing is that I know there won't be questions, won't be reproaches, scenes made. Nothing will changes between us. He was mean to me while we slept together - he'll just stay the same now. And I can handle his meanness - after all, I have quite a lot of experience with it.

I was coming to him because I wanted to. I can stop coming when I don't want to.

It's not like I'm breaking his heart, right? Providing that he had a heart to begin with.

The smell of orange and cinnamon makes my breath catch in my throat. And his soft pacing - it seems I've never heard it more clearly. Soon he'll realize I'm not coming. Well, it's pretty clear - and it's all that needs to be said. He'll just go on like before.

I clench my teeth, trying not to listen - and really, I don't need to listen, I just have to walk away to the opposite wall. And I do it. I lie down in my bed and wrap the blanket around my head, although it is a superfluous precaution.

I fall asleep stuffy and hot and it's a never-ending full moon night I keep dreaming about.

In the morning everyone knows. I see it when I come into the Great Hall, still slightly sleepy, and am met with good-hearted cheers. After the eighth question about how Rosmerta's new butterbeer tastes, I don't know whether to laugh or to be annoyed.

Snape is a bit late - he enters and gives me a customary disdainful look. Nothing changed - I re-play it in my mind trying to make sure. Absolutely nothing; he detests me as always - there is nothing like hurt in his eyes.

Hurt... I didn't hurt him, there was nothing between us - I have a right to happiness, for a normal life. It was just... just mutual masturbation, we saw each other like tools to bring off the pressure. His necessity to me has come to an end - so what? He'd do the same to me without a second thought.

He sits down at his place, but not before giving the same evil look to everyone at the table - and I relax a little. His hands fumble a bit with a plate and a cup - mornings are the only time of the day when his long bony fingers are at least a bit clumsy.

There is some dryness in my mouth and I shake my head and take a sip of coffee.

"Did you go to bed late yesterday, Severus?" Flitwick asks cheerfully. "What held you up? A date, like Remus had?"

Someone laughs. Snape drops a spoon, raises his head and scowls at the company. His eyes are dark and blinking like he's really too groggy to understand clearly - and I feel something heavy falling in my chest.

"A date?" I wish he didn't sound so puzzled.

"Yes. Do you need to find the word in the thesaurus?"

"It seems Tonks has an interest in Remus," provides Minerva.

I look at my food, frowning a little. I won't look up; if I don't look up, I still can believe it isn't happening. Well, should've known it doesn't work, since school - but I still keep doing it.

"The girl will be good for him," Flitwick says.

There is a pause - and in it everyone can very clearly hear how Snape mutters:

"Some people are obviously so desperate to get laid that they're ready to make out with a werewolf."

"Severus!" Minerva sounds as scandalised as she is supposed to be. I lower my head even more and chuckle.

It's actually funny, if you think about it - as an in-joke - funny in a painful, unsettling way that makes me wonder if I should ask Albus to give me different quarters in the castle. It would make things easier, wouldn't it?

The full moon time of the month has been difficult - and I feel like a stranger finally walking down to the Great Hall for breakfast. The food smells too strongly but tastes like cardboard in my mouth, even though I should be ravenous. The voices of those around me are like a soft buzz, I can't distinguish a word among them.

It's only halfway through the breakfast that I realize that the place that used to be occupied, the place I used to avoid looking at - is empty. There's no plate, no cup for him ready - nothing.

I turn and look - and in some way Albus seems to guess what I want to ask even before the words leave my mouth. His blue eyes behind the half-moon spectacles are so understanding and so sad.

"He hasn't come back," he says.

I feel how my mouth rounds in a small 'oh' but no sound leaves me.

"Pass me the bread, please," Minerva says to someone - now I can hear them.

It takes me a while to struggle with my disobedient voice.

"You mean... you mean he's stayed at... You-Know-Who's side?" That's the only chance, the only hope I cling to.

Albus's glasses catch the light of a bright morning as he shakes his head.

"I don't think that is the case."

He doesn't think... but why? Why should he trust him like that? Why should he be so sure that...

It can't be. It just can't be.

"But you didn't..."

Didn't what? I can't seem to bring myself to verbalise it.

"Not yet," Albus says.

But if they didn't find... how can he know... oh God, I can't breathe, it's like something very sharp stuck in my throat and cutting it - and I croak, my voice almost unrecognisable for me.

"How long?"

"Three days," Albus says.

"How is the beautiful young lady, Mr. Lupin?" Flitwick asks at my side. "Nimphadora is her name, right?"

I sit up in my bed, the blanket wrapped around my midriff tightly and strangling me, and stare wildly into the darkness. The image of the Great Hall basking in light fades too slowly in front of my eyes. I groan and bury my face in my hands. My hair feels spiked and soaked with sweat.

A nightmare. What's new about it?

But relief is tearing my chest - relief as huge as I only feel when I see the dawn on the third night of my transformations - that it's gone and won't come back for what seems so long it's almost like never.

A dream... it didn't happen. He's safe... so far at least.

Or is he?

Sudden fear jolts at my chest, unreasonable and so strong that I can't squash it. This thing with prophecies and predictions must've affected me. Like a sleepwalker, I get up and walk to the door. I'd stop if I let myself think - but I never do.

There are just a few steps between our doors - and under his I see darkness - and it is quiet behind it - and my fear comes back, reinforced. What if he's gone? What if he won't... come back.

Please, please, I don't want to lose him... I can't.

So many things have been taken away from me - perhaps because I never had the guts to hold onto them. I lost everything that was dear to me. I don't want to lose any more.

I won't let go.

I mouth the password and the door doesn't open - and for some reason it makes me feel such grief, such loss. But what should I have expected - after I stopped coming to him?

I shake my head stubbornly - and my hand is raised, the fist clenched, hitting against the door with loud thumping sound. It's good there's no one else but us in the dungeons, that would be difficult to explain, what I'm trying to do.

Come on, open up, I know you're there! Do I know? I want to believe it, desperately, I won't let myself believe in anything else. The edge of my hand hitting against the door becomes numb - but I'm not going to stop - and then suddenly the door falls open in front of me.

Snape is standing in front of me, wrapped in his velvet bathrobe, and squinting at me with furious narrowed eyes. There's a red trace from the pillow on his cheek and his hair looks like dead crow's feathers.

For a moment there is silence as he takes a deep breath.

"What do you think you're doing, Lupin?"

Yeah right; it's Snape at his best. Alive and whole and angry. And his hair is greasy - what's he doing with it to make it look like that, I wonder.

"Do you have any idea what time it is?"

I don't; should've.

Now as I see him - and don't feel any more like something is choking me - I start being aware of how stupid I must look. My old pyjama jacket hangs open on my chest, my feet bare. And I can see the hem of Snape's night-shirt under the bathrobe. He measures me with such a gaze as if he's considering whether it's worth it to 'Avada Kedavra' me.

"What do you want, Lupin?"

To make sure you're alive? That'll be a camp day for him if I said that. I can't really make these words leave my mouth, even if they are true.

"I just... I..." Find something to say, for Merlin's sake! "I have an awful headache, I thought you might have some potion..."

He draws in a breath, with a hissing sound that makes it clear my question was not a good idea. For a few moments I stand his gaze that really can't get more distasteful.

And then he starts:

"Headache, Lupin? You come and wake me up at three at night because you have headache? What next - are you going to scream for help if you stub your toe? Some people don't have unlimited time for rest and entertainment, like you, Lupin..."

His voice is merciless and precise, hurling insults - but for some reason - or, maybe, it is mixed relief and the late night hour - it starts lulling me. I close my eyes and sway a little - and I think, but I'm not sure, there is a smile on my lips.

"What else can one expect from you but flagrant disregard for anyone else's privacy, Lupin..." The voice comes to a halt all of a sudden.

I open my eyes. Snape stares at me like I'm something dangerous he doesn't know how to behave with, something that can attack him.

"What are you doing?" he spits.


"Sleeping on my threshold."


He shakes his head in distaste, black dirty hair whipping against his cheeks. His pale lips are bitten through - and suddenly it reminds me how the trace of my teeth looked dark and bloody on his collarbone... I wonder if he removed it when he understood I was not going to come back.

My cheeks flush - and there must be something in my eyes, something that he catches, because he goes red all of a sudden and even makes a step back - and recovers next moment.

"Get out, Lupin! Go! Go to sleep."

"Yeah," I say - and walk into his room, past him.

He's bewildered enough not to stop me - and I walk inside and right to his crumpled bed, with a dent of his head on the pillow and the blanket still keeping the form and the heat of his body. I slide into this bed and lay my cheek on the pillow carefully.

His hasty steps approach.

"Have you finally lost the remnants of your mind, Lupin?"

I look up at him. It's a strange perspective, with me lying and him standing over me, his face shut, lips compressed tightly and something strangely vulnerable in his eyes.

"I don't think so," I say.

"Then what?"

I feel rather unhappy because I don't know what to answer to that. I'm still not quite comfortable with the choice I've made - perhaps the first definite choice in my life.

"Oh, I see." There is a shadow of smile on his lips - not a good smile. "You're trying to burn your candle from both ends, right?"


"Sit on two chairs," he adds irritably, "shoot from two barrels..."

Ah, that.

"No," I say softly and pointedly. "Just one."

Please understand.

It seems he does - his face distorts in pain - and this grimace that I normally would seem ugly makes my heart clench. I don't want to hurt him... not now.

But why should he believe me?

He hovers uncertainly at the bed - like he doesn't know what to do. Like he can't throw me out bodily even if he decides to do it. In the dull light his face is surly, resentful - and yet somehow defenceless.

"Are you trying to make me believe you know what you're doing, Lupin?"

"I know what I'm doing."

Perhaps I don't. But I am doing it.

There's something almost childish in his face - like an ungainly, unloved child who negotiates with himself whether he should believe in fairy tales once more.

"I really need to sleep," he says, "and if you're insistent on occupying my bed..."

For Merlin's sake, it's just a bed, it shouldn't be... but I know well that it is - a proclamation, a pledge - for me, for us both. I lie very still and wait.

"I don't want to be your charity case, Lupin."

"That's good. Because I'm not a charitable man, you know."

"And if you think I'm going to put up with your snoring and hogging the blanket..."

"I don't snore," I say and find myself smiling.

Come here.

I hear the door shut behind him softly - and a moment later the light dims some more. I watch how he slowly shakes off his bathrobe, staying in his night-shirt. His face is blank but the sharp line of his jaw shows me it is at the price of clenching his teeth. I realise I'm biting the inside of my lip, hard.

It isn't easy. It isn't normal. With Tonks it would've been easy - but I forfeited it. I never meant to hurt her but I likely did. And Molly will be disappointed. And I don't even want to imagine what others will say when they find out about me and Snape. Will they find out? Or will we still keep it clandestine, like it's something shameful and dirty?

Snape slides under the blanket, rigid and obviously not sleepy at all. Neither am I, actually. For a few moments he looks silent and determined, as if working on saying something and unsure of his voice.

"I want you to remember, Lupin, that it was your idea."

'And don't you dare blame me if it doesn't work' remains unsaid.

"Duly noted," I say.

His sharp face in the tangle of dark hair is very white, black eyes looking at the ceiling determinedly.

"Nox," I whisper.

It takes minutes, long ones, before he lets out a small breath.

"Good-night," he says - and in the darkness his voice sounds just a little bit less tight.

"Yeah," I say.

Under the blanket I reach carefully and find his cold, clasped hand. It jerks a little, like in an attempt to withdraw - but never does - and his fist unclenches slowly, letting me intertwine his fingers with mine. It is the only place where are bodies are touching.

I go to sleep with his hand in mine.


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