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Title: Forbidden Thoughts
Author: Juxian Tang
E-mail: juxiantang@hotmail.com
Site: http://juxian.slashcity.net
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Snape/Lupin, Snape/MPPW
Disclaimer: These characters and places belong to JK Rowling. I am making no profit.
Summary: Challenge # 140. Lupin accuses Snape of holding a grudge for a "silly schoolboy prank" once too often. Snape decides to show Lupin just how awful the Marauders really were.
Warning: contains a rape scene
Author's notes: My deepest appreciation and a million thanks to Beth H (http://bethbethbeth.livejournal.com) - an astounding beta who caught all my mistakes (and there were lots of them, I can tell you :-)) and helped me to make this story much, much better!

FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS

This story is for Murbella

Nobody ever forgets where he buried a hatchet. - Kin Hubbard

***1975***

He thinks later he should've paid attention when a slight draft of cool air brushes over his face. The little flames of the candles flicker, nearly extinguished, and then rise to full burning again. He doesn't notice, just passes his hand in front of his eyes, as if sweeping away a shadow, and keeps reading. The book is great, the only Christmas present that he enjoys - because he told his mother specifically what he wanted and she, obviously in secret from his father, got this book for him.

Severus pushes sticky strands of hair away from his face and wipes the hand on the blanket before turning the page. The chapter is over. He flips through the next one, considering whether he should read it now or later. It is quite long and the subject, Assyrian poisons, is complicated, so he thinks he can deal with it unhurriedly when coming back from the showers.

Tonight no one is going to gripe at him for keeping the light on for too long and send him to read in the common room, which isn't much better because the prefects don't like to have him there in the middle of the night. The dormitory is empty and silent, the curtains on all the beds drawn away.

Severus likes it this way. In fact, Christmas vacations are his favorite time of the year. He usually gets to spend them at Hogwarts. He would love to stay here for the summer as well, but it is hardly an option. Maybe one day he won't have to go somewhere he doesn't want to.

He runs his hand through his hair again and sighs. He really has to wash it. No way to put it off for longer. Well, he thinks, persuading himself, he will come back later and read some more.

Making this little pact with himself, he tucks the book away carefully and gets up from the bed, picks a towel and a bottle of green pine shampoo.

It is so quiet around. Apart from him, only one second-year and one third-year Slytherin are here - and they are already long asleep. Actually, there are no more than a dozen students from all the Houses staying at Hogwarts this Christmas.

Severus winces; he would feel much happier if four of those students were not the damned Gryffindors he hates so much. Why did they have to stay? As if they don't have homes where they are welcome.

He supposes it is some kind of punishment for Black, an unofficial punishment, since there was nothing official for sending Severus to the Shrieking Shack a month ago. The others stayed out of solidarity. And Severus is stuck with seeing their spiteful, jeering faces in the Great Hall during meals.

He sneers, recalling the reason for the new round of enmity between him and the Gryffindors. In a way, he knows that no matter what he does, it still won't be comparable with what Black had done - he doesn't have a werewolf buddy to pay them in kind, after all - but what he did was not half bad.

He recalls the morning two weeks ago, when Potter, Black and Pettigrew walked down to the breakfast sporting jolly blue dots all over their faces and hands. Of course Severus's housemates had already warned everyone what to watch for. 'Let's see how much Gryffindors enjoy wanking.'

It was easy, really. Just a few drops of a potion added to their cauldron so that the fumes permeated their skin; the mixture sensitive to the higher levels of testosterone. Too bad the werewolf obviously chose the previous night to keep his hands away from himself - but three out of four was a good result.

Severus thinks he will never forget the absolutely mad look on Potter's face when his Mudblood heartthrob Evans bent over the table and choked on her cocoa, seeing him. The icing on the cake was that Pomfrey clearly had little compassion for 'idle hands' and said there was nothing wrong with them to absolve them from lessons.

It was good. It almost made Severus feel as if some balance, shaken badly after the Shrieking Shack and Dumbledore's refusal to punish the Gryffindors, was restored.

As he passes the common room, the only sound is the softest crackling of fire. Orange flame reflects in the silver and green decorations on the enormous fir-tree in the middle of the room. For a moment Severus stops and looks at it; at home they never had a Christmas tree - and sometimes, when no one is looking, he just can't help standing and staring.

It is then he feels something is off. He doesn't know what and can't explain the feeling but something has changed. It is as if a trickle of icy water runs over his back. He shakes his head. He isn't going to develop a phobia just because it is so quiet and there are only three people, two of them little kids, here. Severus enjoys his loneliness - and is going to keep it like that.

He throws it out of his mind and walks to the showers, and the brighter lights and pristine white tiles there dispel the feeling. Merlin, the shower-room is freezing cold. Severus casts a spell starting the water, the pipes are old and sometimes the water starts spitting hot or cold.

The sound of the water is steady, somewhat pacifying, and Severus drops his clothes quickly, huddling, shifting from one foot to the other on the cold floor. He grabs the bottle of shampoo and makes a few steps to the showers when something heavy comes down on the back of his head. He sees the white tiles roll up to him with incredible speed - and then everything goes dark.

***

He comes round to a throbbing pain in his nose. He can't breathe through it, it feels clogged and enormous and hot. Severus panics and tries to grip it - and can't. His hands don't move, something hinders him, something around his wrists. The fog in front of his eyes disperses and he looks at the faces of three Gryffindors holding him down.

He is on his back, and Black and Pettigrew pin his arms down to the floor, and Potter sits on his legs, in the clingy, tenacious way he sits on the broom during Quidditch, and even though Severus bucks and struggles, he can't shake them off.

"You slimy bastard," Black sneers, "now we have you."

Severus's mouth feels strangely numb and is full of salty, hot liquid - and when he moves his tongue carefully, he finds that two front teeth are gone, one completely and the other broken - he must've knocked them out when hitting the floor. He glares at his enemies, swallowing blood to be able to talk.

"If you want to see a bastard, Black, look at the mirror. Isn't your mother dying with shame, having a Gryffindor son?"

Black's knee grinds onto his hand, crushing the knuckles against the floor, and Severus gives out a short cry of pain but stifles it quickly. He's not a fool, he knows he's in trouble - very deep trouble - but he isn't going to show them how hurt or scared he is.

He has no idea how they managed to get into the Slytherin dorms, unnoticed by the portrait, or where they hid - but it's not as important now as the fact that there are three - no, four of them, he notices the werewolf standing at the wall, not touching him but still here. And they are dressed - their robes getting soaked with the water running from the showers, their hair already wet - and he doesn't have a scrap of clothes on.

This thought strikes him, and he thrashes furiously, trying to get free, squirming on the wet floor. The hot water sluicing around his body feels very cold suddenly.

"Let me go," he mutters, "let me go, you Gryffindor shits."

"No, we don't think so," Potter says. His glasses are slightly foggy and he wipes them against his shoulder. He has this haughty, scholarly look that he sometimes acquires, by contrast, at the moments when he prepares to play an especially nasty prank. "Did you think you could play games with us, Snivellus? And not pay for it?"

Bastards, he thinks, you never paid for trying to kill me. But another thought comes to his mind, so amusing that he can't keep away from voicing it, even though he knows it'll possibly make things worse for him.

"What will you do? Wank on me?"

Black's fist flies into his face, well aimed, and something crunches in his nose, and he howls and jerks again, trying to free his hands.

"You freak!" Black yells. "You fucking filthy-mouthed greasy freak!"

"'Filthy' is the operative word," Potter says lazily - and Black seems to come round, exchanges a look with him.

"Correct, Prongs. Hey, Moony, what's there? Give it to me."

The werewolf, silent, moves strangely slowly, appearing almost surreal in the misty air, and hands Black the bottle of shampoo.

"'For oily hair'," Black reads deliberately, winking at Potter and causing a fit of giggles from Pettigrew. "Exactly what you need, Snivellus. Why don't you use it, then?"

"He uses it, Padfoot, it just doesn't help," Pettigrew says in his thin, girlish voice.

And for some reason them pawing his shampoo and making jokes about it infuriates Severus more than anything they've already done. He struggles wildly, trying to break free from them.

"Don't you touch what doesn't belong to you," he hisses, his voice tight with anger. "It's mine."

"Of course, it's yours," Black laughs and settles more conveniently on his arm. "And you can have it. Moony, hold him. His head. I don't want him to..."

Severus jerks feeling very cold hands on his temples, preventing him from moving - and the thought that the werewolf touches him makes him frantic. But he doesn't have time to say something hateful because Black unscrews the cap off the shampoo bottle and overturns it over his face.

The green liquid leaks over his face, gets into his mouth - he can't breathe though his nose and kept his mouth open. It gets into his eyes and starts burning there - incredible, cruel burning - and Severus flails helplessly but can do nothing to stop it. He swallows involuntarily and gags, and more shampoo gets into his mouth, and he can't stop it, it gets into his throat, and the fluid is slick and bitter and so revolting that he's going to vomit.

He thrashes so hard that his wet arm slides out of Pettigrew's grip and he grabs Black's ankle blindly - he can hardly see anything - and he yanks and hears a short cry and the heavy sound of Black landing on his arse.

Out of surprise, probably, Potter lets him go, and for a moment Severus is free. He turns onto his hands and knees. He knows he should try to make a sprint to the bench where his wand is. But the bitter, thick fluid clogs his windpipe, and he coughs and sputters, trying to get it out of his lungs. The fit of coughing is so violent that he can't stay on all fours, falls onto his elbows, crouches like an animal. His wet hair clings to his face.

And a moment later someone's boot slams into his side, and Severus chokes, and another blow goes into his face, and he falls, and he can't even see who kicks him but he knows it's more than one of them.

He wheezes and sputters shampoo bubbles when they finally stop beating him. There is an awful bitter taste in his mouth - he threw up when someone got him in the belly. Usually he knows how to cover vulnerable places, life with his father has taught him - but this time he was too concerned with the need to breathe.

He lies on the soggy floor, pushing his face into the puddle of water trying to wash his eyes a little. He is a mess and he knows it. The humiliation is so sharp that all he wants is to curl up and stop existing. His vision is blurry when he finally manages to open his eyes.

Black stands in front of him, panting. Potter and Pettigrew are probably behind him - Severus doesn't see them - and Lupin is sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, his face invisible in the steamy air.

"Look at this," Black says, drawing out the words. "Snivellus surpassed himself. And I thought it wasn't possible to get any filthier than he was."

Someone giggles, Severus thinks it's Pettigrew. He thinks about making one more attempt to fight - if only he could reach someone's wand. But he doesn't see their wands, they work on him without them. It's clever - this way nothing can be proved by Priori Incantatem, just in case.

And Severus doesn't think he can succeed anyway. There is nothing in him that doesn't hurt. His eyes and throat are burning.

"Do you think anyone will notice if he gets a bit filthier?" Black says, and something in his voice is so mean that Severus feels a sting of apprehension. He *is* afraid - he wishes he could keep denying it, but it's true. He hadn't been so scared even at those times when they caught him alone in an empty corridor or classroom.

Black pulls his zipper down, and Severus jerks, refusing to even consider what the damned son of a bitch can have in mind.

"Padfoot, mind your dog habits," Potter says with a mixed expression of amusement and slight disgust. "So, if you can't hump it or chew it, you can piss on it?"

Pettigrew laughs shrilly and Black keeps groping his groin and his expression is somewhat wistful, as if he needs time for Potter's words to penetrate his mind.

And then - something changes, and Severus feels it as a cold finger runs over his spine, and he writhes on the floor, trying to turn and see Potter. Because something important has happened between Black and Potter - and it concerns him.

He jerks to get up but he doesn't have a chance, Potter presses him down with his boot. His voice has that lazy, flippant tone again.

"But if you think about it, why not, Padfoot? The bastard called us wankers. He simply begged for it."

"It's a lesson he's not likely to forget, right, Prongs? It'll teach him some respect to those above him."

"Hey, what're you talking about, guys?" Pettigrew says.

Severus wants to flee; the bad feeling is overwhelming. He doesn't think about getting even, he just wants to get out of here. In a way he understands that there is no way to escape - no one will help him, the dorms are deserted. But he presses his palms to the floor, preparing to fling himself up.

Potter tackles him mid-movement, breaking him down on the floor. Severus makes a thin painful sound as his knee hits the tiles. A trickle of blood from it spreads into the running water.

He doesn't have a chance to get up - Black and Pettigrew are on him, pressing his face to the floor, twisting his arms behind his back.

"Right," Potter says, and there is something cold and wild in his voice. Like he isn't quite the same person as before - and now Severus is really frightened, and he squirms, not trying to break free but at least to see Potter. He has to twist his neck at a very awkward angle, but he needs to see.

Streams of water reflect in Potter's glasses, and then he squats behind Severus, very close, and the contact against his bare skin makes him shudder. Potter's knees press on his legs and then move between them, spreading them, and there is something wrong in it. He sees Potter pick the bottle of shampoo, there is some of it left on the bottom.

"Let's see what this stuff is good for," Potter says coating his hands.

And then - Severus's mouth goes dry - he sees Potter's cock between the flaps of the robe, erect, and Potter runs his palms over it, covering it with slick green fluid - and then his hands touch Severus, in a sick, disgustingly intimate way, pulling his buttocks apart, revealing him in the most obscene way.

The understanding strikes him. But it can't be, Potter can't want to, it's just a joke, a threat, like it was a threat when he said he would take his underpants off - but he never did because Lupin said some teacher was coming. Potter can't - such things are simply not done. Potter's hands are rough with Quidditch calluses, fingers grip implacably - and something wet, warm and blunt pushes against Severus's anus.

No. Nonononono. He says it aloud, he realizes, the litany of a single word - and it does nothing to stop Potter, and the blunt thing pushes through the ring of his anus, entering him, and it hurts.

It hurts so badly that his stomach twists - but Black's knees press his chest and head to the floor so tightly he can't even take a deep breath. Potter moans a little, as if he's in pain as well, and the thing keeps pushing, wide and huge, and it is inside him.

It feels wrong, an alien thing in his body, and Severus wants to scream with the wrongness of it, they shouldn't be able to do it to him, but his voice is gone. Potter gasps - and suddenly it feels as if he's all the way in, the coarse texture Severus feels against the sensitive skin between his legs must be the hair on his balls. He sticks his fingers into Severus's hips for leverage when pulling out - and another wave of sickness comes, it hurts madly again, it feels as if his insides are pulled out.

"Please," he says, "please," and water gets into his mouth, muffling the words.

The seesaw movements, sliding in and out, are nauseating. Blood beats in his head, and the pain is unceasing, befuddling. Severus cries. He hasn't cried since his second or third year, made himself stop doing it, unfortunately when the nickname 'Snivellus' had already stuck to him, but now he can't help it. He doesn't sob, just tears running from his eyes, blurring everything in front of him.

Potter thrusts into him, acquiring speed, and his breath becomes panting, harsh and loud. Every movement is like a stab, but the worst thing isn't even this pain. The worst thing is that he knows there is nothing that will stop Potter until he comes - and nothing can be undone. They have destroyed him. They have changed him irrevocably.

Potter's breath hitches. He goes very still and stays so for a few moments. And then with wrenching pain he pulls out of him, and Severus can't help crying out. He's so sore; his opening feels huge, feels as if it won't ever close again and everything is leaking out of it. He feels empty there, as if Potter's cock rearranged his insides in some wrong way.

He won't ever be as before. Everything in him clenches in grief, and he barely feels as Black's knee is removed and replaced with Potter's.

"My turn, Snivelly," Black says cheerfully.

It hurts again, in a different way - the pain feels like something almost *familiar*. His tears taste bitter as he swallows them.

"Do you like it, Snivellus?" Black mutters while slamming into him. "Tell me how much you like it."

And then - oh Merlin, it's almost worst than anything else - some of Black's thrusts are angled in such way that they touch something in him, something that sends a jolt of a new sensation through him, the sensation that is not pain. He doesn't want it, doesn't want his body to react like that - but he can't help it, something happens to him, he feels heavy tug in his groin. He tries to press tighter to the floor to hide it.

But Black notices it, of course.

"I said you like it, Snivellus!" he yells with delight. "Prongs, Wormtail, Moony, look at that! Snivellus is getting off on it!"

"He's queer," Potter says with such utter contempt in his voice that Severus wants desperately to deny it. He's not, he's not. "I always knew he was."

Black finishes in a few quick strokes that don't bring Severus any more pleasure - but harm is done, and when Pettigrew thrusts into him, he's so ashamed with himself he almost doesn't notice the pain. The pudgy boy is mercifully quick, just a few frictions and he pants and pulls out. Severus feels wetness sliding out of him and is revolted with the thought what it can be.

Black calls over him: "Moony. Hey, Moony, what's wrong with you? It's your turn. Just get over with it and let's go."

Just get over with it... In a strange way it's almost what Severus wants. He's so exhausted that he just wants them to leave, and he knows they won't leave until the werewolf gets his share.

His vision is hazy; he sees the thin figure unwind from the crouching position at the wall, move closer, feels Lupin kneel behind him. The werewolf's hand is cold, so cold, touching Severus's back.

"He's bleeding." The voice is very quiet.

"He enjoys it," Pettigrew says.

"Come on, just do it," Potter says abruptly. "Don't be a girl."

And Lupin does. And finally something snaps in Severus, and the misty, wet room starts swimming in front of his eyes, and with relief he lets it go and slips into unconsciousness.

A tingle of magic going through his body brings him back a while later. He doesn't want to be back - to pain, to realization what happened. At least there is no one holding him any more, no one is *in* him. He shifts weakly, pulling his legs up.

"Are you sure he won't tell?" Pettigrew says in his thin piercing voice. "Maybe we'd better Obliviate him?"

"What's the point of the lesson if he doesn't remember it?" Black asks haughtily.

"I cleaned him up," Potter says. "He won't prove anything if he tells. It will be his word against ours, right?"

"Yes, his word against ours," Black echoes.

Severus closes his eyes and blacks out again.

When he comes round the next time, the water around him is icy cold. He must've spent the whole Slytherin stock of hot water. The fog has cleared and there is no one in the showers apart from him.

Severus moves. His body feels numb with cold - except the throbbing, hot pain in his anus. He clenches his teeth not to make a sound and gets up, first onto his hands and knees, then onto his feet. His knee is bruised badly; he limps to the bench and grabs the wand.

Finally the water stops running. The shower-room is soggy but the water on the floor is clear, shampoo and blood and everything else is gone. The shampoo bottle lies in a puddle, empty. Severus's stomach lurches.

He wraps himself in the robe and stumbles back to the dormitory. The Christmas tree keeps flickering with silver and green in the half-dark common room, and for a moment he feels a fit of unbearable sadness and self-disgust. He should've known they'd hid somewhere here, should've felt it, why didn't he notice them... But it's too late to regret now.

Back in the dormitory he puts ward after ward onto the door, even knowing it isn't necessary, they have already done everything they could - but he can't stop himself. He finishes only when he's completely exhausted. He tries a half-successful healing spell on his nose and falls into bed.

The last thing he sees in his mind's eye before falling asleep - and the first thing that comes to him in his nightmares is streams of water falling onto white tiles.

***

***1999***

He wakes up with his head on Lupin's chest. He doesn't know how it happened. He's been asleep only for a few minutes, half an hour at most, but now he feels woozy and disoriented. Lupin's ribcage rises and falls steadily, and the low deep thudding under his ear is Lupin's heartbeat. Severus jerks and scrambles away to the edge of the bed.

Lupin's eyes are open, even though he's been breathing as if he were asleep, and he looks at Severus with mild amusement that is just barely tinged with annoyance. Severus rubs his face, feeling the oily strands of his hair brush over the back of his palm. A part of him tenses in apprehension that Lupin might say something about it, express his displeasure at having his greasy head touch him. It's not like Severus can't give as good as he gets, of course, and Lupin has never said anything like that since everything started - hasn't said it for a very long time, in fact. But Severus still believes it's better to be ready when it comes.

"Damn," he mutters. "You shouldn't have let me..."

The corners of Lupin's mouth quirk up a little. His voice has the husky, deep sound as it always does after intercourse.

"That's all right, Severus. I don't mind."

But I do, Severus thinks - and doesn't say it aloud, as he never does.

"In fact," there are notes of laughter in Lupin's voice, "I enjoyed it very much. You look different when you're sleeping. Not so... guarded."

Everything inside Severus clenches. What does he mean? Is there a hint in Lupin's words, some hidden teasing? Does he want to remind Severus what he never forgets anyway? The moment when his guard was down, and he let them get him, and allowed them to use him, and could do nothing about it.

He grits his teeth. It is so difficult to read something in Lupin's face. He's always so... so calm. Like water. Like water that slips between your fingers.

Severus grabs the bathrobe from the floor and wraps it around himself, in a practiced, quick gesture, allowing as little skin to flash as possible. Being naked with Lupin in bed is one thing, it can't be helped. But only when the black bathrobe is on him, the cord on his waist tightened, does he feel safe.

He stands barefoot in front of the bed, feeling the cold from the stones seep into his soles. It must be the reason for the slight shiver going through him.

Lupin looks at him and tilts his head awry slightly. Strands of tousled hair, almost entirely grey, fall over his eyes. He stretches a little - the blanket covering only his groin - his body thin, scarred and long-limbed; Severus gnaws on the inside of his lip remembering those long arms wrapping around his body, those thin fingers running over his ribs, those legs clamped around him as if trying to hold him in place even if he tries to escape. There is a rush of heat in his groin, again; and there is clenching of cold that squeezes his brain in a vise.

Merlin, how he hates him. How he wants him. What a fool he is.

"When you look at me like this," Lupin says, "I know it's time to get my arse out of here."

He sounds amused - and he sounds as if he'd like to be reassured and asked to stay - and the worst thing is that Severus partly wants him to stay - wants him in his bed, making it so warm even on the most freezing nights. He wants another time of their bodies entwining, limbs and fingers and chest against chest, nipples and cocks rubbing against each other. He wants Lupin to stay - even as a part of his mind burns in hatred and disgust and wants to shout: 'How can you pretend nothing happened?'

How can you touch me, and be gentle - when you saw me puking green shampoo on the floor, and making bubbles from my nose - green and red, shampoo and blood. Don't you ever think about the first lube you used - don't you think about it every time you coat your cock with the very best lube that I made for us?

But he never says it. There are things that one can't say; especially to Lupin. Lupin who is always so calm and confident and jovial and well adjusted; who's survived the loss of all his friends and still found strength to live. Lupin who sometimes seems impenetrable and unfathomable like no human being can be.

Severus raises his chin, looking at Lupin through the tangled strands of greasy hair and says nothing.

"All right," Lupin sighs, "I'm leaving. You're probably dying to get back to your lab."

It's a good justification, the one Severus couldn't find and didn't even try to look for. The one that makes everything normal. As if their relations are normal. As if there is nothing between them - nothing buried and rotting between them, like a dead body.

***

Severus doesn't know how he got there. Or... no, he knows it. He can recount it step-by-step, recall every little detail of getting himself into it. But it still doesn't do anything for the overwhelming feeling of fear and disbelief that sweeps over him from time to time. Sometimes he wants to get out of it now, at any price. But he doesn't. Because at the same time he wants to stay.

And everything he does - he does on his own accord.

Remus Lupin is the one who's broken the one-year curse of Defense Against the Dark Arts position. Not only does he return to it four years after the first time he occupied it - but also stays on two years in a row. Which puts the position out of reach for Severus again, but he doesn't mind. In fact, he isn't even sure he wants Defense at all any more; he probably wouldn't know what to do with it if he got it. He feels too comfortable with his potions, got too used to them. And changing something... sometimes he feels too old for it.

That's right; he feels too old even though he isn't forty yet; sometimes he wonders how he's going to live further. The thought of Albus's one hundred fifty years is terrifying. He never regarded such longevity before. But now Voldemort is dead, and he, Severus, survived it - so, what would prevent him from living for another forty, fifty years?

The first months after Voldemort's death are a blur. There are still Severus's former 'comrades' on the run, and in a way his position is more dangerous than before. Then everything settles down, little by little. Even the Aurors lose interest in him, accepting the Order's testimony about his role.

It is then Severus starts thinking that he can or should change something. He doesn't even have to stay at Hogwarts, Merlin knows he dislikes children passionately and they like him even less. His debt is paid, Albus wouldn't hold him. He can start a new life somewhere.

But he changes nothing. He's too comfortable in his dungeons, in his role of a child-hating monster, the fiend of the cozy, friendly teaching staff. Changing things would mean meeting new people, settling into new roles. He doesn't feel he has the strength left for it.

And there is one more thing. If he leaves Hogwarts, he possibly will lose the only justification he has for staying alone - that there is no one for him here. In the bigger world he will have to look for someone.

Because he's already thirty-nine - and it is ridiculous and unhealthy to sleep in an empty bed every night.

Besides, Potter has graduated, and now his presence in Severus's life is limited to newspaper articles that he always can skip when he sees the inevitable accompanying picture of the Boy Who Lived.

Why not stay? He loves Hogwarts; despite everything, he loves it.

Severus even learns to tolerate Lupin's presence, two places on the left from him at the table in the Great Hall. While working for the Order, they had to cooperate, and sometimes it was easier to work without wasting time griping.

Life is tolerable - till the moment six months ago when Severus realizes that Lupin is coming on to him. Six months ago, in April.

It probably started earlier, only it never came to Severus's mind to interpret the signs like that. How could he think such a thing, after all?

How could he think that Lupin, handsome, loveable, sociable Lupin - Lupin whom everyone adores - would find no one better than his school enemy? Severus didn't pay attention to anything - to the little squeeze of his forearm on the Quidditch match, when Slytherin beat Ravenclaw and Severus glowed quietly. Or to a little too long eye contact when Lupin caught Severus's gaze in the staff meeting, pushing away the strands of his wispy, dully glittering hair with a small conspiratory smile on his lips. Or to Lupin's new habit to drop into Severus's quarters now and then and linger a bit longer than usual when taking his dose of Wolfsbane.

And when Lupin touches his hand as Severus gives him a goblet of Wolfsbane - thin fingers wrapping around Severus's wrist - Severus just looks at Lupin in displeasure at the unnecessary touch. He doesn't understand. He's never had anyone come on to him before.

And then Lupin smiles and kisses him on the lips.

For a moment - for a few seconds - there is just a touch of warm, moist lips against his, the tongue, tasting sweet and spicy, entering his mouth - and Lupin's taste, Lupin's closeness, this warmth and this moisture are all Severus feels - and all he wants to feel.

Then he jumps away, twisting his hand out of Lupin's grip, nearly spilling the Wolfsbane - and stares at Lupin in shock and confusion as the werewolf looks back at him, smiling mildly.

"You have the most curious gaze, Severus," he says. "Like your eyes want to burn holes in me. I found it disconcerting, before. But I think I might even like it now."

Severus's hand flies up to his face, with a definite wish to wipe his lips, to get rid of the little taste that stayed in his mouth, of the warmth of Lupin's kiss. But he doesn't - just touches his lips with the tips of his fingers, and his hand refuses to move any more.

He pushes the goblet to Lupin, as if shielding himself with it.

"Thank you, Severus." Lupin takes it and keeps looking at him, and his expression is maddening, and yet Severus does nothing, says nothing. "Have you heard me? I might even..."

Until then, everything was not so bad. Severus's dislike of Lupin was routine, for being a Gryffindor, for being a part of the group of the biggest bullies of the school, for being a werewolf and nearly killing him once. He had quite enough reasons to hate Lupin - without having to drag that particular memory out. That memory of the hot water hitting white tiles, and bitter slick shampoo clogging his windpipe, and raw, nauseating pain shooting up his spine, and another body squirming between his legs...

Severus didn't want to remember it. He'd packed it neatly and put it in the deepest corner of his mind. And Lupin yanked it out to the surface, effortlessly, just with this single touch of his lips.

What they had done... in the greater scheme of things it wasn't even all so awful. Severus saw much worse things done, after joining the Death Eaters. Crucio was worse than a few kicks. Killing people was worse. He didn't have any right to feel he'd been wronged.

But it was so humiliating - one of the most humiliating things that had ever happened to him. That's why he tried not to remember.

Perhaps he wouldn't remember even now - would find some other, comfortable outlet for his anger: Lupin being a werewolf, trying to kill him, et cetera, ad nauseum - if for the shortest moment when Lupin's lips touched his he didn't want so passionately for there to be nothing to remember.

Lupin's lips tasted like cinnamon. And he liked it.

His fists clench so hard that his fingers go numb and he can't even feel his fingernails stick into his palms. And he looks at Lupin, and seeks desperately for something to say, for a place to hit. He can't say what he really wants to say, can't drag it up - the showers, them *doing* him - but there is nothing else in his head.

"You look so startled," Lupin says almost compassionately - or Severus would think it was compassion if it were directed at anyone but him. "Like it's a surprise to you. I thought you figured it all out a long time ago."

"Figured out what?" he manages.

"I thought... you didn't mind me. Not like before, anyway. And I'm a werewolf only once a month, you know. The rest of the time I'm pretty safe."

Safe? Severus's face ripples - but finally he starts getting a grip on himself.

"I'm not afraid of you," he shrugs. But it is not true.

Lupin looks at him and smiles - what a boyish smile he still has - and turns to the door, pressing the goblet to his chest as if it is a precious gift.

"You don't need to explain anything to me, Severus. I can take 'no' for an answer."

And at this moment he does a completely crazy thing, saying:

"I didn't say 'no', Lupin."

Severus knows why he says it - in revenge, punishing himself for the moment of weakness, of confusion - both for the moment of weakness just then and many years ago, when he let them overpower him, let them use him.

For a moment Lupin looks hesitant, then nods.

"Then maybe we can have a drink in Hogsmeade this weekend, can't we, Severus?"

They have a drink, and everything is so surreal. They talk civilly when sitting at Three Broomsticks, even though all Severus can think about is whose quarters they're going to go to after that.

It had been ages since he got laid - so many years he refuses to count them. 'A few years' sounds rather more acceptable than, say, eighteen or nineteen. And he wants Lupin. Oh, how his body yearns for more touch, for the closeness - once promised it. He could be telling himself he was sufficiently happy with his right hand - but when Lupin touched him, something snapped in him. And he is drowning.

He wants Lupin's mouth again - on his lips, on his cock, wants those strong long fingers on the inner sides of his thighs, wants Lupin sucking his nipples, wants to do the same to him - to someone - alive, flat-chested and hard.

He thinks about Lupin - his hair soft and messy and grey, the corners of his eyes slightly crinkled with laughter, his mouth pale and smiling. He thinks about the way Lupin holds the small gold-rimmed glasses he started wearing in the last year, touching his lips with the earpiece - and the fear he feels, the fear that wrings his guts, is as strong as his desire to have all this.

They go to Severus's rooms.

And it is good.

It is the worst thing, that it is so good in bed with Lupin. It is everything Severus could dream about, everything he couldn't even imagine because his sex life was so non-existent that he didn't even have enough fuel for fantasies. Every touch of Lupin's makes his body glow, and the low sounds the werewolf makes in his throat are maddening and enticing.

And after everything Lupin wraps his arms around Severus and holds him, as if Severus were a girl and it is necessary to be nice to him *after*. But Lupin also asks if Severus wants to, again, and Severus says 'yes'.

He knows why Lupin is with him - figured it out, after some contemplation, after the first kiss and before Hogsmeade. Lupin is homosexual - and how many available men are there for him? Not many - and it probably would be a bother to Apparate somewhere all the time. Besides, Severus already is familiar with his secret.

So, when choosing between not getting any and getting some from Severus, Lupin makes an obvious choice. His and his buddies' proclaimed disgust for Severus during their school years must've been exaggerated a bit... well, it had to be, or they couldn't do it, what they did...

Severus makes the same choice. He wants to fuck, plain and simple. He wants it, he doesn't want to be alone any more, to look at his face in the mirror and think that the older he gets, the less chance there is of anyone bedding him at all. And since Lupin offers, he takes.

But it doesn't make anything easier.

Even knowing that he is so desperate that he goes to bed with someone who raped him once is not so terrible. Severus admits he is desperate. Yet sometimes he wishes so hard for Lupin not to be the one - not to be the man who raped him. And this scares him badly.

He wishes there were no past between them. He doesn't wish simply to forget about it, because that he can do, he is very good at denial - he wishes it never happened at all.

He wishes he had been careful enough to figure the Gryffindors would pay a visit to Slytherin dorms. He wishes he had changed his mind and never tried to take that shower that night. Perhaps they would have caught him all the same, but he would have had more of a chance - and it wouldn't be so humiliating.

He wishes it were a full moon and Lupin were not there at all.

And for these thoughts Severus hates himself most of all.

***

He wonders sometimes how Lupin can act as if nothing ever happened - be so unfalteringly cool. The werewolf has such control that Severus often envies him. Polite even when Severus is at his nastiest, amiable when Severus snaps at him, gentle in passion, apart from those cases when they both don't want gentle. It's frightening, really - to know how gentle Lupin can be. It makes Severus wish sometimes it was all he knew about Lupin. He wishes he didn't remember how hard the floor was under him as they held him and how another cock slammed into him.

It seems incredible sometimes that Lupin never even mentions it. Perhaps he forgot, Severus thinks. Perhaps for him it was nothing special. Just one more time when they taught a lesson to the slimy Slytherin.

In summer - Lupin can leave Hogwarts for holidays, he has a place to go since Black's house belongs to him now, but he seldom does, except for a few weeks that he spends with Potter - he and Severus sometimes go to Hogsmeade, have a drink, and even once or twice to Diagon Alley to get supplies for the new year.

Being with Lupin among people feels strange. Severus sees how they look at Lupin - his hair could be greying, his clothes shabby - but women look at him with doe-like eyes and even a dour waitress in the cafe smiles back when Lupin smiles at her.

Lupin is everything Severus isn't; and he is everything Severus never had a chance to get. But here Lupin is, at his side, and in his bed at night...

And Severus doesn't want to share him with anyone. But he also wants to see him writhe and scream under Crucio sometimes.

When the new school year starts, days get colder and nights get longer, there is another pastime for them - a teapot with blackberry tea in Severus's quarters and talking about new students, and lessons, and gossiping about Albus's annoying habits.

And when they talk, and Lupin smiles, brushing a strand of hair away from his face, Severus lets his control slip and forgets, for hours sometimes. And then he feels... contented, if not happy.

But he makes himself remember in the end.

The first time Lupin wants Severus face down and tries to squeeze lubed fingers inside him, Severus panics, thrashing and resisting like mad. And he thinks now Lupin will understand everything and will leave, and part of Severus wants him to but partly he is out of his mind with the fear of being left alone. But Lupin doesn't say anything, just turns him face to face and holds him and strokes his back - and something in Severus crumbles, and he wants to stay like that and let Lupin pet him forever.

Then he bites his lip hard enough to draw blood and dispel the feeling of comfort - and forcibly reminds himself that he shouldn't trust Lupin. He knows the true Lupin, felt his thin cool hands spreading his thighs.

But sometimes Severus thinks that Lupin wasn't like others then, was he? He didn't hit him, and didn't call him words, and he didn't laugh... and it almost didn't hurt when he did it, right? Just a little, because he was already torn by then.

And catching himself on this thought is worst of all. It is worse than accepting a comforting touch from his rapist, for being so bitterly lonely that he debases himself for the chance of being close with someone. It's worse than being such a slave of his body that he can't forfeit those nights with Lupin.

He hates Lupin for it. He hates himself for it. And then Severus fucks, fiercely, brutally, slamming himself onto Lupin's cock - and when the werewolf's breath hitches and hands fist the sheets, his face having that surprised, almost shell-shocked expression - Severus knows why he is doing it. He's punishing himself. Sex is his battle, like all his life has been a battle, a punishment and atonement for the mistake he made many years ago.

And while he remembers it - while for every moment he lets himself enjoy Lupin's closeness in bed he pays with hating himself and knowing the depth of his fall - everything is all right.

***

He tenses when Lupin asks him if he would like to spend Christmas together. In the house at Grimmauld Place; and there will be Potter, and the Weasleys, and other members of the little clique. His mind boggles to think what a pleasant event it is going to be.

"I think it will be nice for you to get out of Hogwarts once in a while," Lupin says.

"No," he says abruptly.

It's not just Potter and the others; in fact, Severus would be just as terrified if Lupin hinted at them being alone. He can't afford stepping on someone else's ground. In his own quarters at least he feels safe.

And why would Lupin want to do it? Why does he invite him - Severus has never been a part of the Order in *this* way. He never wanted to be accepted by those people.

Lupin is doing something wrong. Everything was settled so well, and now he is breaking the rules. Just sex between them, nothing more. Severus lets Lupin use him because he uses him as well. Spending Christmas together doesn't get to be a part of it.

"Thank you for making the offer, but I'll live without ever seeing Potter's face again."

Lupin rolls his eyes slightly.

"What does Potter have to do with it?"

"Am I supposed to explain it?"

"Fine, Severus, I got it. You don't want any company on Christmas."

"I'll get it anyway," Severus mutters. "As if Albus leaves me alone."

And Lupin laughs, and Severus feels again as if water were slipping between his fingers. Sometimes he feels it would be easier if Lupin just left him, hurt by his rude words. But it doesn't work; Lupin always stays.

Perhaps, Severus admits, he doesn't try very hard. And that is one more reason to hate himself.

On the last night before Christmas break, Lupin appears with a gaudily wrapped package in his hands and holds it forward, with clear intention for Severus to take it. He stares at it.

"What is it?"

"A present," Lupin says. "Merry Christmas." And as Severus doesn't say anything, he adds. "I thought I'd give it to you now, since I'm going to be away tomorrow. Come on, Severus, I don't hand you a snake... although you probably wouldn't be so wary of a snake."

And he smiles - in this smile, small and brief and dazzling, that Severus had seen making salesgirls swoon - the smile that makes him feel like a thief because it shouldn't be directed at him.

He takes the package, and it's quite heavy and there is something hard and clanking a little in it.

"I don't have anything for you," Severus says cautiously.

"I didn't expect you would," Lupin answers with amusement. "Well? Will you unwrap it?"

It is a clay glazed teapot and two cups - of a warm orange color, orange like pumpkin juice, like crust of well baked bread. The teapot is rotund, with a snub little snout, and the teacups are smooth and thick, without a handle, and lie in the palm so conveniently. Severus realizes that as he holds one of them and his finger caresses the rim of it.

He puts it away as if it burns his hands.

"I just thought I had to get them for you, when I saw them," Lupin says, and suddenly everything that Severus suppressed in himself for so long rises in him at the sound of this voice. He talks... he talks like everything is normal. Like nothing happened.

At least Lupin doesn't say that they should try these teacups, tonight.

It's his own fault, Severus thinks later, as Lupin thrusts into him, one arm wrapped around Severus's waist and his other hand stroking Severus's cock, in cadence with his own movements. What did he think he was getting himself into? This tea drinking, these conversations. As if they were friends. As if they were lovers. As if there was nothing wrong between them. Lupin's lying, kissing mouth covers his lips, and Severus opens up for him, letting his tongue in.

He had stopped trusting his body long ago, since that time when it betrayed him, answering Black's brutal slamming. But Severus always thought he could rely on his mind. And it wasn't true. Because it is his mind that betrays him worst of all, making him want to forget everything.

He jerks convulsively, and Lupin moans in pleasure, and Severus gasps a little in pain, hurting himself on Lupin's cock. That's more like that, isn't it? But Severus doesn't even remember how it was then, exactly how it hurt, it was more than twenty years ago...

Maybe it never happened.

His breath hitches, and it isn't quite a sob, and his eyes are dry anyway - but Lupin looks at him questioningly, as if afraid something might be wrong. And Severus thrusts back at him, and Lupin's eyes close in pleasure, and it's better this way, he feels safer, he can stop thinking, he can...

He comes, and Lupin comes half a minute later, and quarter an hour after that Severus lies in his bed, listening to the sound of the shower in the bathroom. Lupin is humming some Christmas tune under his breath, the sounds barely discernable behind the rustle of water.

Through the opened door to his sitting room, he can see the crumpled glittering paper on the table and the round teapot and cups - orange like pumpkin juice, like a crust of bread, the only stain of color in the dark room.

I can't drink tea from it with him, he thinks. I can't bear to be with him at all. I hate this sound of water.

He remembers how the water tastes - hot water mixed with the salt of his blood and the bitterness of the shampoo. His stomach cramps, and something snaps in him. Severus grabs his wand from the nightstand and throws a hex at the teapot.

The sound of the breaking glass is brief and loud. The warm orange splinters scatter on the floor - and Severus feels instant regret, looking at them. He liked the teapot; in a shameful, humiliating, weak way as he liked Lupin stroking his back. He liked the cups. Now he will never drink tea from them with Lupin.

He sits in bed, huddling, the wand clenched in his hand, and looks at the splinters. Perhaps he can repair one cup, it's just cracked. But nothing else can be restored.

Lupin comes out from the bathroom, buttoning his shirt. His hair is still slightly wet, strands darker at the roots and lighter on the ends where they had time to dry.

"Something broke?" he says. "I heard the noise."

He looks at the splinters on the floor, and then at Severus, and Severus feels a ridiculous impulse to lie, to say it was an accident - but the wand in his hand gives him away. Lupin looks at him, frowning slightly and the warm light-brown eyes darken.

He looks hurt, Severus thinks - and it is the first time he sees Lupin hurt like this, by something Severus has done. It's a different hurt than the one, for example, when he revealed Lupin's lycanthropy to his Slytherins. It's something inner, more personal. Severus didn't think he was capable of hurting Lupin like this.

"I see," Lupin says.

And Severus thinks he's done it - what he tried to do for so long and so unsuccessfully, with his insulting words and nasty remarks. He's driven Lupin away. He watches Lupin pick up the robe and walk to the door, past the orange broken fragments on the floor, and he knows it's all over, he won't be coming back.

Severus panics. He doesn't want to be alone again. Doesn't want to face those lonely nights. He jumps from the bed, quickly pulls on the bathrobe, catches Lupin at the door.

"Lupin! Wait!"

He turns around; his eyes are dark and cold but he waits patiently as Severus wrings the collar of his bathrobe, pulling it tighter. He forces the words through his teeth - because saying them is not so horrible as the thought of his empty bed... and lies are always easier to tell.

"I'm sorry... for breaking your present."

If Lupin decided that putting up with Severus was worth it, he should've expected such things. Severus meets his eyes levelly, raising his chin.

"Please," he adds. "Don't leave."

Well, he's done worse things, begging someone is not new for him - if it serves some purpose, he can handle it. Just please make the werewolf fall for it...

There is something in Lupin's eyes - hurt, yes, and tiredness, the lines on his face more pronounced than usual - but it has worked, something softens there. It has worked. Severus feels a small shiver of relief running through him.

Lupin walks back into the bedroom, and Severus, satisfied for the moment, perches on the bed and wraps the blanket around himself. Lupin looks at him with a strangely intent expression, and Severus feels nervous under this scrutiny. Damn it, why can't the werewolf just let it go?

And why did he have to break that teapot, damn it? It was so *comfortable* with Lupin - and now what will Severus have to do to get everything back in place? Back to hating himself, and wishing to stop it, and being unable to.

He tenses involuntarily when Lupin sits down on the edge of the bed. Lupin's hand is pale on the dark cloth of the coverlet, and Severus looks just at this hand, swallowing convulsively. Lupin has such beautiful hands...

"I don't know what I would like to know more, Severus," Lupin says. "Why you hate me so much - or why you're sleeping with me if you hate me."

He bites his lip; the question is like a blow but he manages not to jerk. And given a choice what to answer, Severus gropes frantically for the right, safe way - until finding it.

"You don't particularly like me either, do you?"

Lupin frowns briefly, looking as if he wants to say something and then changes his mind.

"I don't go to the bed every time as if I were punishing someone with it, Severus. Do you know how difficult it is for me? It shouldn't be about punishment - sex, I mean. It should be... about joy."

And at this moment Severus feels a sudden, fierce surge of anger piercing him, maddening, sweeping away all coherent thoughts. His vision gets foggy, like in a steamy shower-room, and he sees Lupin only vaguely, but his even, calm words keep sounding in his mind. It should be about joy... Anger chokes him, and he breaks, he can't stop himself. The words rush out - choked and desperate.

"You... you hypocrite... how dare you..." He doesn't know what he's saying until it's out. "You tell me what sex is about, you fucking liar! Was it... was it about joy, what you did to me...you and your friends... what you did to me in the showers..."

His voice halts. He can't breathe, he doesn't know what he wants more - to scream, to hit Lupin - or to kill himself, to put himself out of this misery, the pathetic freak as he is. And Lupin looks at him, in a painful way, as if Severus's words don't make much sense.

"In the showers?"

He feels cold wash over him. It's even worse than he could imagine. Lupin doesn't remember it. For Lupin it was just an episode, just like many things they'd done to *Snivellus* - and he... what a fool... he gave away that it mattered for him, that it kept bothering him, after more than twenty years, that it hurt enough to keep hurting even now.

Severus is a person with long memory. He never felt ashamed of keeping his resentment forever. But this... this is different, it's the shame he tried to forget, would want it not to matter, would like to cross it out of his mind.

Now it's too late. Lupin knows.

"Is it another one of your grudges, Severus? Then you have to be more specific because I don't understand you."

Oh no. It's nearly more than he can bear.

"Get out," he says. "I don't want to see you again."

"No wait!" Now Lupin looks angry, and the curve of his mouth is quite harsh - and he tries to grab Severus's wrist, which makes Severus jerk away. "If you started saying it, say it to the end. I know you carefully cherish each of the hurts that we allegedly inflicted to you but - what exactly are you referring to?"

Lupin can be quite cruel sometimes, he thinks. Sometimes he forgets it. Well, why not - he'll say it; it'll be his punishment for being such a fool.

"Sixth year," he says. "Christmas."

Lupin frowns. "Yes? What then?"

And for a split second Severus feels as if the world shatters around him. Lupin can't deny it so blatantly, it's abominable.

Or maybe it really was so insignificant? Hot jets of water and the salt of blood in his mouth and the empty, warm place of his knocked out tooth and piercing, nauseating pain...

"For Merlin's sake, Severus," Lupin snaps. "Is it so difficult to say? If you accuse me of something, at least I should know of what."

He can't put it in words.

"When you broke into Slytherin, got the password from somewhere..." Nothing in Lupin's eyes changes. How can he be like that - so calm, so confident - such a good actor? Severus leaves his hope to be saved from saying it and finishes. "When you fucked me."

Lupin blinks and his mouth goes round for a moment, as if in a sudden 'oh', as if he tries to understand some foreign language. And then something flashes on his face, and he looks startled and angry and disbelieving.

"You say... you're trying to say we... we forced you?"

Yes, fucking yes, forced, raped, whatever else you call it - and Lupin reaches for his hand, and he shakes it off furiously.

"But Severus," Lupin says, "we never did such a thing."

He didn't expect it. He expected some bland justification, of him being a difficult person, of deserving it, of saying Severus wanted it, like Potter and Black kept saying. But not plain denial. He can't help staring at Lupin, and it takes him a few moments to work up enough anger to say the right thing.

"Leave."

He doesn't.

"I... you..." Lupin starts and stops, takes a few deep calming breaths. "You must be mistaken... perhaps..."

For a moment, Severus doesn't know what he wants more - to hit him or to laugh in his face. Suddenly he feels he's too tired for arguing.

"Fine, Lupin. Then I was. Leave."

"You can't accuse us..."

"I don't accuse anyone."

He didn't - he didn't say a word to anyone, for all those years. Next day he went to see Poppy, and she fixed his nose and his teeth but when she asked, all he said was that he fell from the stairs. That's what his mother always said about herself and about him to the rare visitors to their house.

He didn't say anything - like Potter said he wouldn't. Because he knew how Dumbledore would react, would find some way to make it *his* fault. And he couldn't bear it. He just wanted it to be over.

It was bad enough to look at the Gryffindors every day in the Great Hall and in joint classes. But eventually new pranks made them forget, it seemed.

"Severus..."

"Leave." Hard to imagine he wanted Lupin to stay, only half an hour ago.

"Are you sure... are you sure we were involved?"

"That's a strange question, isn't it?" He smirks, and Lupin looks pained and fidgety. "Who can answer it better than you?"

"I'm sorry," Lupin says and gets up. He walks to the door without looking back - and Severus suddenly feels an enormous feeling of emptiness. He wanted him to leave, insisted on it - but now, as Lupin goes, he wants him to stop.

And this 'I'm sorry'... how often he dreamed about hearing it, Lupin, all of them begging him for forgiveness - and now it means nothing, he isn't even sure what Lupin is sorry about. Lupin doesn't feel guilty - and it doesn't make anything better, and he doesn't ask or need Severus to forgive - doesn't give him a chance to forgive. He just walks out, his shoulders slightly hunched - and more than ever in his life Severus wishes none of it ever happened, wishes he could undo it somehow.

He hates Lupin; he can't live without this hatred. He can't live without him.

***

But of course he lives. He goes through the torturous Christmas feast - it seems Albus arranges more elaborate celebrations every year, no matter how few students stay on vacations, or maybe exactly to make it up for those few. Albus has a present for him - a Quick Quill that he can use to take notes without being distracted from brewing. He knows Albus will be getting him something, so, he has a return present, a big box of chocolate figurines: pixies, thestrals, kneazles and crups. He knows Albus will like it. Other presents are from the parents of his House students, and Severus doesn't even unwrap them all.

He spends the days at his lab, catching up on the projects he had to leave during the term due to lack of time, and the evenings catching the students who entertain the absolutely wrong notion they can disregard the rules during vacations. Terrifying them is the biggest joy of his life, after all.

"Severus, not that I'm not happy to have you at my side but I hoped you would celebrate this Christmas somewhere else," Albus says teasingly. "With someone else."

At the moments like this Severus wonders why it seemed such a good idea for him to spend the rest of his life at Hogwarts, at the side of this meddling old man. But well, it's not too late to resign; nothing holds him here. He narrows his eyes and bites down an answer. It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter that at nights he aches with loneliness, that he dreams about warm arms and soft kisses and frenzied sex. He hates himself bitterly for it, for wanting it so much, Lupin's hands, Lupin's mouth on his cock, for wanting Lupin back in his life. Even his hatred isn't pure, like nothing is pure in his life; it's poisoned with lust.

And he hates himself for being such a fool, for destroying everything. He didn't manage to make Lupin feel guilt, and he should've known it, the werewolf was like that. And nothing can be fixed now.

He repaired one teacup, the one that was just cracked - and he couldn't bring himself to break it again. So it stands on the shelf behind potions jars - and sometimes he sees it glowing warmly in the darkness.

The last day of the break there is a knock on his door. He opens it, and Lupin is there, wrapped in his shabby robe, standing somewhat awkwardly. He doesn't look like he particularly enjoyed his time with Potter and others. Perhaps they've got on his nerves finally, Severus thinks uncharitably.

"May I come in?" Lupin asks, and Severus steps away, tearing his gaze away from Lupin's face with an effort. 'You have the most curious gaze,' Severus remembers. 'I think I might even like it now.'

The werewolf's face is pale, there are shadows under his eyes.

"It's too early for Wolfsbane," Severus says. Lupin looks a bit taken aback and then shakes his head.

"I know. I wanted to tell you something. That Christmas..."

No, Severus wants to say, don't start it. Don't lie to me again, don't tell me I'm wrong and it was all different.

"After you walked on to me, in the Shrieking Shack, you know, Pomfrey and Dumbledore and I... we wanted to find something, something that would control the wolf. We tried some potions, experimental ones, there was no Wolfsbane then... The one I took then, it didn't work. But it was... I remember I felt really strange then... and almost nothing else. Nothing else. It's like a black hole there, for days..."

Severus is speechless. He didn't expect this - and it's something he doesn't know how to handle. And he doesn't know if he believes Lupin. It might be a convenient lie - what's one more lie for Lupin?

But for some reason he does believe it; maybe because it's too outrageous for a lie.

"I know it doesn't excuse me if I did what you say I did," Lupin says. "I just... I just don't remember."

Severus can't help it. He slumps in the chair, covering his face with his hands and laughs. That's all? All this time - all this self-hatred, the humiliation of being unable to stop sleeping with Lupin, when they both knew what happened - and Lupin didn't even remember? He would never have even known if Severus didn't tell him. Black, Potter and Pettigrew are dead - no one would know his secret if he didn't tell. Merlin, what a fool...

If he had known Lupin didn't remember, he would never have told, he thinks with longing. He would bury it so deep he wouldn't ever stumble against this thought accidentally. Then he would be free to fuck Lupin until his brain fogs.

It's all about fucking, isn't it? It's all he wants.

"Severus," Lupin says - but he doesn't touch him, and suddenly Severus wants to feel his hand on his shoulder, to feel how Lupin strokes his back comfortingly. But it will never happen again.

"Yes?" he raises his face. "And what's your explanation for the others? They were taking some potions as well?"

Lupin winces and pulls himself together visibly.

"I don't know. If it is the time you mean... I can only find one explanation... they only learned how to turn Animagi recently. And you know how it happens, sometimes there is a dissension between human nature and..."

Fortunately, Lupin stops; he probably realizes himself how it sounds. *Recently*. Yes, nine months or a year is recently, isn't it?

"I have to ask you for something, Severus." He pulls the flap of his robe away, and now Severus knows why his pose was so awkward. He has a pensieve in his hand. "Albus gave it to me. Can you..."

"Albus?" He jerks up. "Did you tell him?"

"No. Of course not. If you want to tell him, it's your right to do it."

"Good," he sneers, feeling relief. "So, you want a proof? That I tell the truth?"

"It's not like that," Lupin says tiredly. "I just... need to know."

What can it change? What *more* harm can it do? Pandora's box is opened, Severus can't close it again.

"All right, Lupin," he says. "Enjoy yourself."

He pulls a long wisp of memory with the tip of the wand. He does it effortlessly, he already pulled it out, when teaching Potter Occlumency. It was lucky the boy didn't stumble across this particular memory - Severus would have killed him.

Lupin doesn't look at him and reaches to take the pensieve.

"No," Severus snaps. "You watch it here. I don't trust you not to... share it with someone."

He knows it's unfair - but why should he be fair? Why should he spare Lupin? No one spared him.

Lupin says nothing, sits down in the armchair and touches the swirling strands of white with the tip of his wand. And Severus can't look at it, can't look how the pearly shadows reflect in Lupin's pupils. He regrets demanding Lupin to stay here. He walks, almost runs out of the room.

But in a way not witnessing is even worse. How long is it all going to go? Severus doesn't see Lupin but he can't stop listening - and there is no sound from the other room - and it seems it'll never end.

Then he hears Lupin get up.

"Severus." He walks back, steeling his gaze, trying to look through Lupin, not to notice in his face anything he would hate to see. Lupin stands, his hands clenched in front of him, his eyes downcast. "Thank you," he says.

"Are you satisfied?"

Lupin makes a gesture - a protective one - as if shielding himself from a blow - and this gesture is so vulnerable, so unlike Lupin's usual low-key gestures that something in Severus crumbles.

"Please," Lupin says. "Not now. I need to think." He points at the pensieve and makes a movement as if pulling the memory out of it. "Will you..."

Severus smirks a little; he doesn't *have to* do what Lupin wants from him, right?

"I'll remove it later. I'll return the pensieve to Albus myself." It comes to his mind that Lupin might be afraid he's going to reveal it, so he says. "Don't worry, I'm not intending to let him see it."

"No," Lupin says, looking lost. "I need... I have to..."

Then he waves his hand and walks to the door.

It's a hollow victory.

Severus looks at the swirling strands in the pensieve and can't understand what he wanted, why he hadn't given it back to Lupin. Just for a chance to pettily hurt him? He should've wanted this memory back with him as soon as possible - in his head, where it's safely hidden... where it can keep eating through him.

He sits in the armchair that Lupin occupied just a few minutes ago. It's still warm. He reaches the tip of his wand to the pensieve.

It's strange; as many times as he put this memory here, he never re-watched it - couldn't bring himself to. And it never stops surprising him how the pensieve changes things - how you see them not from your own point of view but as a bigger picture. It feels - almost as if it's not him. Just some pathetic skinny black-haired boy bleeding on the floor under the shower, red of blood and green of shampoo, dissolved with water and leaking down the drain.

He sees Lupin through the fog, standing and swaying slightly, a strange, delirious smile on his lips. His eyes are glassy, wandering around the shower-room. He reels and leans against the wall and slides slowly down onto the wet floor.

"Moony. Hey, Moony," Black says. "It's your turn."

Lupin gets up and there is this dazed expression in his eyes but he smiles at Black, looks at him with complete trust. He'll do anything Black say, won't he?

Severus can't watch it. Suddenly it isn't distant any more, it's all real - and he remembers it so clearly - Lupin's quiet voice: 'He's bleeding', - and the hand touching the small of his back - a cool hand - and he remembers how these hands feel on his skin, so recently... and Potter says: 'Don't be a girl...'

No. He wrenches out of the memory, unable to keep watching. He wants out of here. He wants... he wants to be free of everything, of his own mind that is destroying him.

His wand twitches. And suddenly he is inside another memory - and it is not his memory but a memory of him.

Severus stands in the hall of the house on Grimmauld Place, the Order's headquarters, his hair tangled and greasy as always, hands tucked in the pockets of his robe. He looks like he hasn't slept for a few nights and hasn't washed for a longer time - he looks wild and a bit crazy. But he smiles; not the usual sneer of his - but a happy, defiant smile. He thinks he remembers it - he's just come up with the antidote to the poison Death Eaters were going to use against the Muggle-born students. Albus drones something approving at him.

And there is Lupin, in the darker corner of the room, his face very pale and his eyes bruised, it's just three months after Black's death - and there is a somewhat astonished, puzzled out look on his face as he looks at Severus. As if he sees him for the first time.

He doesn't know what's so particular about this memory - but something jolts in his chest, and he suddenly feels regret that he hasn't noticed this look on Lupin's face before. It wouldn't change anything of course but still, still... Another memory overlaps it, of him on the stand at the Quidditch pitch, looking terribly smug as Slytherin scores - and Lupin looks at him with a tiny smile on his lips, and it is not a bad smile, not a mean one.

And there is the memory of them in bed, Lupin flushed and making soft, whimpering sounds as Severus thrusts into him - and even though in reality he never stopped looking at Lupin's face, it's the first time he sees a flicker of distress in Lupin's eyes as Lupin meets his stare.

"Why do you never close your eyes?" Lupin asks.

And in another memory Lupin looks at him as he curls in bed, tired and satisfied after one of their nights - and there is something so soft in Lupin's eyes...

Severus yanks the wand away from the pensieve and sits motionlessly, silent and exhausted. Lupin's memories; that's why he didn't want Severus to keep the pensieve. He doesn't feel shame for spying on these memories. He feels something else.

All those times, when he thought about forgiving Lupin - just crossing it out of his memory, never reminding them both about it - what stopped him was not that he couldn't or didn't want to forgive. He wanted it so much, so passionately.

But then he thought that he could forgive and it would mean nothing, his forgiveness would be worth nothing - as he himself was nothing for Lupin.

Maybe... maybe it wouldn't be nothing, he thinks.

***

He knocks on Lupin's door; it opens almost instantly. The werewolf is wearing his old home robe, so washed out its color is unidentifiable. His tired eyes stop on Severus who hands him the pensieve.

"Here. You can return it to Albus."

"Thank you," Lupin says, and Severus keeps standing, and his tongue is glued to the palate. "Please come in."

He does. He thinks that he's never been in Lupin's quarters before, always preferred his own ground. There is something about Lupin's rooms - something like about him - a little shabby, a little frail... warm.

"I don't know what to say," Lupin says. I don't know either, Severus thinks. "And I don't know what to do. Do you want me..." he pauses. "Do you want me to resign?"

Albus will be ecstatic, he thinks dryly and mutters: "It's the middle of the year."

"Yes," Lupin says. His cheeks flush a bit. "But I don't want to... I don't want to make it more difficult for you," he finishes the phrase quickly and awkwardly. And before Severus has time to say anything, he continues, and he's wringing his hands. "I don't want to hurt you. I wish I hadn't hurt you. I don't know how it happened. Then... I didn't know it would matter so much for me... that you would matter. I think I could have hurt you, then. We all could. But they are dead - and I... It's different now. I don't want you to be hurt any more."

There are so many of these words, hasty, rushing over each other - and for once Lupin isn't calm and reserved - and Severus thinks that maybe it is the most important thing for him to see Lupin like this. These words - probably there is nothing special in them - but it seems suddenly to him that he has wanted to hear exactly these words for such a long time.

"It must've already been bad enough for you," Lupin adds. Severus shakes his head, in stubborn denial, but Lupin doesn't look at him. "You must've hated me so much."

It's true, he hated Lupin, although not as much as he hated himself. But now the thought of losing him makes everything in Severus turn upside down.

"Do you want to go?" he asks.

There is something like a shadow of surprise in Lupin's eyes as he looks up, meeting Severus's gaze for a moment. He says: "Hogwarts is my home, the only one I have. Of course I want to stay here. I want... to stay with you. But you..."

"Then don't go," Severus says.

Lupin still looks like he can't quite believe in it - or doesn't know what to do.

"Why?" he asks.

Because I don't want to be alone any more. Because I don't want to punish you and myself any more. Because I want to try and see how it would be without this overwhelming, lingering thing between us. I want to try to leave it behind.

"Please," he says. Please don't make me explain. Please just stay. And Lupin is silent, and Severus thinks that it's all over, Lupin won't be able to, no matter what.

"Severus," Lupin's voice is soft, barely audible. "Can I hold you?"

Yes, he nods. Yes. And Lupin's arms wrap around him, and it's all like he dreamed it would be. It doesn't feel wrong. He feels safe.

Light fingers brush against his back, between shoulder-blades, and he wants it never to stop, and Lupin pulls him a bit closer. And when Lupin's mouth covers his, the warmth lips touching his, Severus knows it is exactly what he wants.

THE END

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