"Why are you working on this now?" Remus asked.
"One must do something," Snape said with a twist of his lip. It might have been a sneer. But whether Snape was sneering at Remus or at himself, Remus couldn't tell.
And, after all, one must do something. So Remus was here.
The letter had surprised him.
Making adjustments to Wolfsbane potion. Come at once for tests.
Snape hadn't developed any social graces recently then. Or, Remus suspected, he knew very well what was required by etiquette and rejected it as being a useless waste of time. But Snape had long since failed to shock or dismay Remus. He wondered if anything could anymore.
He'd received a similar invitation, if one could call it that, four years previous, when the potion was in development and Snape had taken on the task of perfecting it for general use. Remus had survived both Snape and the experiment, luckily. Really, the memories were almost pleasant -- a lazy summer at Hogwarts, hours to spend reading in the library, writing a paper. It seemed much longer ago.
Now it was the end of a long, dark summer, the long dark summer. Sirius gone and Voldemort revealed and Harry depressed and everyone in danger and Sirius dead and lost and gone. He had only just come back.
Remus had spent the months in Grimmauld Place. The Order was stretched thin now, many of them travelling, some gathering information, others standing guard. Remus was the one who stayed behind now, to co-ordinate. To wait.
People apparated in and out, said hello, gave him information, and left again. Sometimes they drank a cup of tea. But nobody stayed for long. Remus occupied himself with reading reports, writing reports, dispatching reports, and sitting alone in the dim. The rooms smelled of dust.
If he stayed there alone much longer, Remus sensed, he'd end up sitting at his desk, fingers cramping as he wrote, the rest of him silent and still, covered in the same fine dust. A change, even if it meant spending time with Snape, would do him good. And if they could improve the potion, so much the better. So he sent a few owls, packed his valise, and apparated to Hogsmeade. He'd have to walk from there.
The sun was shining, the sky was blue. Probably there were birds singing, somewhere along the way. Remus found himself wishing for rain. He could have thought about rain -- concentrated on missing puddles and worried about mud on his robes and fretted about whether his umbrella would hold out.
He didn't want to think about meeting himself along the way. Himself or any of the others, laughing and talking, with no idea of what was to come. This was his third time back to Hogwarts as an adult, but on this road, Remus could only think of his own schooldays, the happy memories he'd tried so hard to leave behind him.
Remus walked. His valise was heavy and he shifted it from hand to hand. Maybe three books had been too many. It was warmer than usual for August, and he was beginning to perspire. He wondered what the first words out of Snape's mouth would be and told himself that if he guessed correctly, he would reward himself with a glass of firewhisky before bed. Well, an extra glass, anyhow. The first glass was to help him sleep. The second glass would be to help him sleep well.
The castle seemed blanketed in a sleepy haze, as though the stones themselves were enjoying the sun and lack of students. Remus met no one in the corridors. He had trouble finding Snape's workroom and he was about to start shouting for someone when it turned up.
He stood in front of the door for a moment. The whole time he'd been teaching here, he'd never come to this room. He knew he wouldn't be welcome. He wasn't sure he was exactly welcome now, only summoned. He knocked and opened the door. Snape looked up with a scowl. "It's about time you arrived."
Score one glass of firewhisky for Remus Lupin. "Lovely to see you too, Severus." The room hadn't changed in four years. Cauldrons still lined the stone tables, some of them bubbling gently over purple flames. Books and scrolls were crammed into two wooden bookcases and a box of white mice rustled near the door. They could hardly be the same mice, of course, not unless Snape had been testing immortality potions. And the heavy cage still stood in the corner, though it was stacked full of books now. Remus set down his valise and walked over to it. He closed his hand around a thick iron bar. It was cool and smooth on his skin. "Have you kept this for sentimental reasons?"
Snape gave him a withering look. "It was too much trouble to move."
"It must be useful for threatening students."
"I never make threats," Snape said and Remus smiled before he could stop himself.
"No, I'm sure you don't."
"May we begin?" Snape said. "Or shall I wait while you ask after my health?"
"Of course." Snape didn't look all that well, actually. He was always pale. But now he seemed almost haggard.
"Well, come here," Snape said. "I'm not the one who bites."
Perhaps this hadn't been the best choice for a holiday, after all. Remus stood in front of Snape while Snape waved a somameter up and down in front of him and recorded the results.
"Now I need a few things from you. For testing."
"Hair," Snape said. He picked up scissors and clipped a lock of Remus's hair from just behind the ear.
Remus reached up and rubbed at the place where it had been cut. It prickled against his fingers. "Don't spoil my good looks."
Ignoring the remark, Snape held out a glass vial. "Saliva."
Obligingly, Remus spat into the vial. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. "Is that it?"
"Blood." Snape took a sanguinary out of a drawer.
Of course. Always blood. Remus hoped he wouldn't be anaemic by the time he left. "I should have gone to the seaside," he murmured and Snape looked at him sharply.
Remus pushed the sleeve of his robe above his elbow. There was a sharp sting when Snape attached the sanguinary to the inside of his arm. They both watched the bright red blood well up and drain into the bottle. Remus looked at Snape. "How much do you need?"
"Half a pint," Snape said. "You can spare it."
"You need that much for the tests?"
"No." The bottle was full and Snape pulled it away. "Werewolf blood has all sorts of uses."
At least Snape was honest about it. Remus started to say something, but he was too tired and Snape was too tired and it wouldn't really help anyhow. So long as this whole trip wasn't just a ruse to drain Remus of his blood. "Why are you changing the potion?"
"I think it can be improved to make the transformation easier. It's still very painful, correct?"
"I believe much of that discomfort can be alleviated."
That wasn't really the question Remus had been asking, but he knew that was all the answer he would get. "I hope you're right."
"All right," Snape said. "You can go. Be back tomorrow morning for the first dose." He took the blood and started pouring it out into small ceramic jars.
Snape looked up. "I have quite a lot to do. Did you perhaps require a special treat for bravery? I believe the healers gave me a chocolate frog when I was six and broke my arm."
A special treat for patience would be more to the point, Remus thought. But all he said was, "Where are my rooms?"
Snape snatched up a piece of parchment and tapped it with his wand. "Carto." Silvery lines spread out into a small map. He handed it to Remus. "There. May I be allowed to return to my work, now?"
Remus didn't answer, just picked up his valise and left.
At least some things never changed.
The rooms were halfway across the castle, not far from where he had lived when he had been Professor Lupin. These were smaller. The door was heavy oak and the walls were papered in a bilious green and yellow pattern that seemed to rotate and swirl. Remus couldn't tell whether it was an optical illusion or simply enchanted. After a while, it made him dizzy, so he tried not to look at it.
It was still early, so Remus put away his things and went down to the library to find the Volkova treatise. Polyakov had done some important work on lycanthropy in the last year and Remus had not been able to afford a copy of his own.
The library was deserted, but a stone gargoyle perching over the door hissed at him as he crossed the threshold. A recent addition. Perhaps the students had been more than usually careless recently.
Madam Pince had changed her cataloguing system yet again and Remus had to search for the book. He finally found it, not on the shelves, but in a precarious stack by her office. A tattered sign above read "Hold". Remus took the book anyway. He would have it back in a few days.
He decided to read back in his rooms. The library chairs had never agreed with his back and the book-filled silence was a little unnerving right now. As he left, the gargoyle called after him. "Remus Lupin, Volkova treatise. Mind you bring it back now."
Remus took a wrong turning on the way back, where a suit of armour had been moved to a new alcove, and it took him a while to sort out where he was. He thought he caught sight of one of the ghosts but it floated out of view before he could see who it was.
A statue of Ulf Sigurdson came into view and Remus's feet stopped him dead before his brain could make him walk on by. The statue winked at him. Remus gave it an embarrassed wave. Just behind the statue was a secret room, more like a secret cupboard really, filled with broken furniture, metal flagons, and a huge framed painting of Helga Hufflepuff herself.
It was there that Sirius had pulled him one time -- the only time, back then -- and they had spent a flushed half-hour together while Helga complained that she'd been meant to be stored there for three weeks while her wall was cleaned and restored and she'd been stuck for two hundred years. "You'll tell them I'm here, won't you?" she kept saying, until Sirius turned her to the wall. Remus supposed she was still in there.
Back in his rooms, he tapped his wand on the plate behind the door and ordered supper from the house elves. "Could you tell me," he said, once he'd convinced them he really didn't need the full seven courses, "if any of the staff are in residence?"
"Only Professor Snape, sir. Do you need anything cleaned or pressed?"
Remus managed to dissuade the elf from washing all his clothes, drawing him a bath, and singing him a lullaby at bedtime. He settled down to read, parchment at his elbow for notes. The chair was comfortable and there was a stool for his feet. So long as he kept his eyes off of the wallpaper, the room was quite cheerful.
While he was immersed in the results of a study on sleep deprivation in the pre-transformative state, a fly buzzed past him. He batted blindly at it. It dove at him again, then began circling his head. Remus looked up and saw that it wasn't a fly at all, but a tiny glowing message bead. He held out his hand and the bead settled into it, unwrapping into a piece of parchment.
Do you have the Volkova treatise?
Unsigned, of course. Remus supposed Snape wanted him to trot down and hand it over. But the book was really very interesting and the chair was really very comfortable and Snape hadn't actually asked for the book.
Remus wrote yes below Snape's question and tossed the parchment into the air. It rolled itself back into a ball of light and zipped away.
It returned almost immediately. Remus let it buzz about until he could no longer ignore it.
I need it.
Still no request. I imagine so, Remus wrote and sent it off again.
Snape's next message had an angry red glow.
Good lord, man, stop playing games and bring me the book.
Maybe playing games had been a little thoughtless. He and Snape were at least on civil terms these days. It wouldn't do to spoil that. And yet, Remus was damned if he'd fetch and carry for Snape.
Come and get it.
He sent the bead spinning off. He was in the middle of a chapter, but he didn't think he'd get it finished before Snape came storming in, so he just left it.
His supper arrived first. The house elves must have been bored because they had prepared more food than Remus usually ate in three full days. Delicious smells filled the room and his mouth began to water.
He had just begun to eat when the door burst open. Snape's eyes were dark, his mouth pinched. Spots of colour stood out high on his cheekbones. Remus felt a pang of regret. There was really no need for him to make Snape angry.
The book lay open on the table. Snape strode in and pounced on it. It made Remus think of a hawk, stooping on its prey. Snape wheeled, and sailed to the door.
"I'm sorry," Remus said and it brought Snape up short. "But you really were very imperious."
Snape turned. "This is for your benefit, as I'm sure you know. I would think you would be more willing to assist me."
"Yes." Remus couldn't summon the energy to be angry in return, or even to be much annoyed. "One would think I would be willing to pack up and travel at moment's notice. One would think I would allow myself to be poked and prodded. Even let my blood be drained from my body." He smiled. "I must seem very ungrateful."
"You should not attempt sarcasm," Snape said. "You do it very poorly."
"I suppose I do," Remus said. The livid spots were fading from Snape's face and Remus could once again see how drawn he was. He wondered how long Snape had been alone in the castle. "Have you eaten?" he heard himself say.
Snape moved his head sharply. "What?"
"There's plenty for two." Remus seemed to recall that Snape was somewhat less irritable after a good meal.
Snape stared, as though Remus had suggested Morris dancing on the Quidditch pitch. "I have no time."
"We can discuss the effects of sleep-deprivation on lycanthropes in the pre-transformative state," Remus said and the prospect of a real conversation on a scholarly topic, even with Snape, enticed him as much as the chops and roast potatoes.
"I cannot discuss something I have not yet read." Snape held the book close to his chest, as though he expected Remus to spring at him and snatch it away.
"I'll explain the study to you."
"If I thought that would be sufficient, I would hardly need the book, would I?"
That stung. A harsh reply was almost out of Remus's mouth, but he bit it back. He wasn't going to give Snape the satisfaction. "Then take the book," he said instead, "and go."
Something rapped against the windowpane. Remus looked over to see an owl perched on the narrow sill, beating a staccato on the glass. He let it in. A report from Shacklebolt in France. He skimmed it --nothing that couldn't wait.
When he turned around, Snape was gone and the owl was pecking at his pork chop.
Remus had three glasses of whisky before bed and dreamed that he was chasing rabbits through the woods, filling his belly with their hot blood.
Sunlight woke Remus early. His anger had faded overnight and now he was just tired.
A huge breakfast was on the table: sausages and bacon and kidneys. Remus drank tea and ate toast and jam.
Two more owls arrived for him. More news from the Order. Nothing too bad, nothing too good. Just more fodder for his endless reports.
At ten, he went down to Snape's workroom. There was no sunshine there. A haze of green smoke hung in the air and Remus couldn't help but cough when he came in.
"It's not ready yet," Snape said. "Half an hour."
Come back in half an hour, Remus supposed that meant, but he spotted the Volkova on the stone tabletop beside a vial of blue liquid and a rat's skull. There was an armchair in the back, next to the cage. Judging by the look he received as he sat, he might have to worry about untraceable poisons in his potion, but as Snape didn't actually say anything, Remus ignored the look and tried to find his place in the book. Snape had a bookmark in the section on physiological changes through the monthly cycle so Remus started in on that instead. He was most of the way through the chapter when he realised Snape was standing in front of him.
"Drink this," Snape said and thrust a goblet at him. The cup was warm, almost hot, and smoke poured out of it. Remus sipped, not wanting to burn his tongue. It was foul, Wolfsbane always was, but there was a different tang to it, something coppery on the back of his tongue. He drank the rest in three swift gulps, then stood and set down the goblet.
"I could do with that chocolate frog now," he said. The potion had a dry, cottony aftertaste. "Or a cup of tea."
Snape didn't offer any. He picked up his somameter and waved it around Remus again. "Come back tomorrow for another dose."
Remus tucked the book under his arm but he didn't quite make it to the door before Snape spotted it. "I still require the Volkova," he said.
For a brief, hysterical moment, Remus considered just taking the book and running. But probably Snape did need it for his research. He set it down and went over to the cage where most of Snape's books were stored. He thought he'd glimpsed...yes, Arroyo on Stealth Charms. He managed to get it out without toppling the whole stack. "I'll just read this in the meantime," he said and didn't wait for Snape's glare before leaving.
But he paused at the door. "I thought I would walk into Hogsmeade this afternoon," he said. The faint invitation hung in the air like the smoke. Remus coughed again.
"I have, as you can see, many demands upon my time." Snape inclined his head to a row of bubbling cauldrons. "I do not have the leisure for foolish dawdling."
Remus didn't speak. He was done being friendly. He left, taking the Arroyo with him. Then he went back to his rooms and started in on the messages he'd received, eating sandwiches with one hand and making notes with the other.
It was quiet. Warm and bright and quiet, unlike the damp, dark quiet of Grimmauld Place. But still silent, still empty. Remus set down his quill and went out to shake the dust off.
He took the walk slowly. The fatigue was creeping up on him, the aches in his limbs and the vague unwell feeling. Aside from the change itself, he thought, lycanthropy was a lot like influenza. He shaded his eyes from the sun and thought about werewolf physiology.
Hogsmeade was bustling. Remus poked about a few shops and bought some sweets to send to Harry when he got back to Hogwarts. Or was Harry too old for that now? No, though Remus supposed he might prefer one of those Muggle magazines James was always sneaking into school, the ones they passed around and laughed red-faced over. Well, Harry was on his own there. He'd have to make do with chocolate frogs and peppermint toads.
The Three Broomsticks was crowded when Remus arrived. But the crowds parted for him. A few people turned their backs. He'd got used to this, or thought he had, but it did rather spoil the afternoon. He didn't stop for a drink, just got himself a new bottle of whisky and left.
Out in the street, he looked up at the Shack, alone on its hill, looming at him. It should be torn down, he thought. Burnt, smashed, made into toothpicks and shipped to America.
He walked back to Hogwarts. On his way to the owlery, he passed the library. "Remus Lupin, Volkova treatise," the gargoyle called after him. Remus wondered what would happen to him if it was never returned. He imagined the gargoyle perching on the end of his bed, croaking out "Remus Lupin, Volkova treatise" every time he dropped off to sleep.
He reached the corridor down to Snape's workroom and paused there a moment, wondering if he should take a chance on getting the book. "I shouldn't if I were you," said a painting of a tall, thin wizard at a chessboard.
"Has something gone wrong, then?"
"I was speaking," the wizard said, pushing a pawn ahead, "generally."
Good advice, likely. And he should be reading about the Stealth Charms anyhow. At least they would be useful for the Order.
Remus sent his parcel off to Harry, then went up for a nap. He didn't wake until the evening. The moon was in the sky, one day away from full, and it tugged at him, made him restless and unsettled.
He closed the curtains. The bottle of firewhisky stood on the table. Remus opened it and read Arroyo until he was sleepy again.
Snape wasn't in his workroom in the morning. Instead, there was a note scrawled on the back of a first year exam and propped up on the Volkova treatise.
*Called away. Take one gobletful potion, cool, drink. Take reading with somameter and record results carefully. If not back, take reading before transformation as well.*
That was all. Remus ladled out the potion, splashing a few steaming drops onto his wrist. His hand jerked and green liquid ran down the side of the goblet. He set it down and cleared up the mess. His wrist was red, but not burnt.
As the Wolfsbane cooled, Remus looked around. Snape seemed to have four other potions on the go, each labeled, but cryptically. One frothy orange brew made him lightheaded when he looked inside the cauldron. The purple flame beneath it sputtered and died. Was it meant to do that? Or should the potion go on simmering? Remus watched it for a few moments, then lit the fire again, hoping he was doing the right thing, but suspecting that whichever choice he made would turn out to be the wrong one. No doubt Snape would have a thing or two to say to him when he returned.
What could have made Snape leave so suddenly? The moon would be full tonight; surely he had wanted to observe the transformation. Remus imagined a sick mother or perhaps an urgent call from a colleague with a delicate potion gone wrong.
But then he realised where Snape must be and why, playing the most dangerous part in the Order's whole dangerous game. And there was nothing for Remus to do but stay behind and write reports.
So he drank his potion, recorded his vitals, and he left, taking the Volkova and the somameter with him. He put a charm on the door, to alert him when Snape returned.
Then Remus went up to his rooms and read. He read about sleep deprivation and vegetarian diets and experiments in transfiguring a werewolf into something else prior to the change. He read about vitamin deficiencies and gender differences and how many sheep a werewolf can eat in one night. It put him off his lunch. When the sun was low in the sky, he began to think about supper, but he couldn't stop turning pages long enough to order some.
The door opened and Remus jumped up, startled, dropping the book onto the floor. Snape stood in the doorway, his face white as chalk. The alarm had not gone off -- Snape must have come straight here. He looked exhausted. "Come in," Remus said. He nodded at the good chair and poured a shot of whisky as Snape sat.
Snape waved away the glass, but Remus put it beside him anyhow. "Drink it," he said and set the bottle down too.
Instead Snape reached inside his mouth and pulled something out. Remus saw it in the palm of his hand for a moment: a cap that looked like an ordinary molar. For recording? Or blocking? A chill ran over Remus as he realized what it must be: poison, instant and deadly. This was what the Order asked of Severus Snape.
Remus wanted to say something, some thanks perhaps. But he knew better than to even try. Snape would take his head off and there were no words adequate anyhow. So he pulled up a chair and watched Snape pick up his drink. Snape's hand was steady on the glass, but Remus could see his tendons tighten with the effort. He drank the whisky down, grimacing, and let Remus pour him a second shot. Then in a toneless voice he gave Remus his report.
Remus scrambled for parchment and started making notes. He'd had these reports from Snape before, of course, but always in writing. He'd never seen the weary lines on Snape's face or the dull, glassy look in his eyes.
Voldemort was keeping a low profile for now, but he was planning and they would need to keep special watch on a few people and places. He couldn't send this by owl; it would have to wait until next week's meeting. "You should eat," Remus said.
Snape's mouth twisted, as though someone planned to make him drink one of his own potions, but he stayed in the chair.
Remus ordered supper. And then there was nothing else to fill the silence in the room. Snape's eyes were closed, his hand pressed to his forehead. Remus suddenly remembered seeing Sirius like that, sitting alone in a darkened room, palm to his brow, as though he were trying to hold something inside.
They were gone, all his friends, taken by Voldemort, and Remus was damned if Voldemort would get Snape too. Remus found his hand clenched into a fist and stared at it for a moment. He picked the book up from the floor and ran his fingers over the leather binding.
Supper appeared on the table. "Severus," he said. Snape's eyes opened and his hand dropped into his lap. "Let's eat."
They sat down at the table. There was wine and as they ate and drank, Remus felt something ease inside of him. He met Snape's eye and gave him half a smile. Snape set his glass down. "So you read the Volkova?"
"Yes," Remus said. "Polyakov's work on alteration of the human form before transformation is interesting, but doesn't seem particularly useful."
"On the contrary," Snape said. "I found that research most informative. Even though none of the experiments caused gross changes to the wolf form, there were small physiological changes."
"And what good is that?"
"We'll see once you transform."
"Still," Remus said, "he's too reckless. He doesn't seem to care about the safety of his subjects."
"Are you saying they did not consent?"
"No, I'm sure he had them sign all the proper forms. But they couldn't have known how risky some of the experiments really were."
"These experiments are just as dangerous for the experimenter," Snape said. "As I'm sure you are aware."
Remus waved his hand. "Let's just leave that. I thought the chapter on isolating the physical compounds exchanged in the wolf's bite was brilliant. That's where we should be looking for a cure."
"Schlesinger disagrees. He wrote in Undertakings that Polyakov is drawing an unwarranted conclusion from the data."
Remus leaned in as Snape continued, then responded with a citation of his own. He was tired and ill, but he hardly noticed that now, was barely aware that he even had a body as he and Snape shot words back and forth, arguing and agreeing with equal vehemence. An emptiness was filling up -- a need not just for contact, but for intellectual engagement. It had been a long, long time since Remus had had a discussion of any length that did not involve Voldemort in some shape or form.
Their plates were empty. Remus opened another bottle of wine.
"Are you planning some research into the effects of drunkenness in the pre-transformative state?" Snape asked.
Remus filled both glasses. "I've already conducted that study. I would have written a paper, but I was too hungover." He could have sworn Snape smiled at that, but it was gone so quickly he wasn't sure.
They were nearly through the bottle and in the middle of Dor's work on Muggle and wizard werewolves, when Remus's skin began to crawl. "It's time," he said, cutting Snape off in the middle of a sentence.
He went into the bedroom. Snape followed, somameter in hand. "Would you wait outside?" Remus said.
"I have to see the change." Snape stood just inside the room. "There's no need to be so delicate."
At least Snape wasn't Polyakov, casting random spells on his subjects as they transformed. Remus turned his back and took off his robe. He stood for a moment in his thin vest and pants.
"Good lord," Snape said. "If you don't take them off now, you'll have to keep them on and shred them. It's all the same to me."
Remus sighed and stripped away his underthings. Then he sat on the bed, naked and shaking. It was starting. Snape came at him with that damned somameter, but, Remus noted, keeping his wand ready in his other hand. Remus itched all over as coarse hair pushed through his skin. His body stretched and twisted and he thumped to the floor on all fours. His vision changed -- colours flattened and some shaded into grey. The wallpaper was a muddy yellow now and didn't move at all.
And there was no pain, or at least none worth bothering about. No agony as his limbs were pulled into a new shape, no stabbing in his head as he pushed the wolf-mind away. The potion was a success. He sat back on his haunches and lolled his tongue out.
"Well," Snape said, "has it worked?"
Remus nodded. It was an awkward gesture in this shape -- the long jaw made his head balance differently.
"Let me see." Snape knelt and put his hand on Remus's back. He looked into Remus's eyes, turned his head this way and that, ran the somameter over him one more time. Remus hoped that after this, he'd never have to see it again. He snapped his jaws and barked at Snape, just because he could, but when Snape jumped back and raised his wand, Remus thought perhaps he should be more restrained.
"I need to watch you for a bit," Snape said. He sat down on the bed. Remus watched back. He felt bolder in this form. If he could disconcert Snape, that was fine with him. But other than that first startle, Snape betrayed no sign of nerves or discomfort. He simply wrote notes on a piece of parchment, leaning on the bedside table.
At last Remus got bored of staring and trotted to the other side of the room to where he'd left his shoes. It was odd, he supposed, but he liked to smell the soles. His sense of smell was so much more acute. He could pick out the mud and the dust, bits of carpet, something harsh and strong he couldn't identify -- probably something he had trodden on in Snape's workroom. He turned to ask Snape about it before he remembered he couldn't speak.
Snape was asleep. The quill was on the floor and his wand was slipping from his grasp. He was half-lying, half-sitting, and it looked uncomfortable. Remus nudged Snape's thigh and Snape rolled a bit and swung his legs up onto the bed.
He was a jumble of smells -- chemical, potion-y smells, the wine they had been drinking, grass, earth, that queer floor polish Filch liked so much, and dried sweat. It wasn't from a hot day or hard work -- Remus could tell the difference. It was fear, cold, clammy fear, the kind you feel when you know that any moment you might have to bite down hard and die and you can only hope that you'll be fast enough.
The wine was still in Remus's blood, slowing him, making him drowsy. The lamps were burning, but there wasn't anything he could do about it in this form. He jumped onto the bed and curled up next to Snape. If Voldemort comes, Remus thought, I'll bite him. And he fell asleep.
There were fingers in his hair. Fingers stroking just behind his ear where the hair was short and bristly. It was morning, Remus was human, and someone was stroking his hair.
Remus kept his eyes closed and tried to breathe as though he were still asleep. It had to be Snape -- the idea was fantastic, but there was no one else. Opening his eyes meant he had to work out how to deal with this most unusual situation and he really didn't feel up to that.
Besides, it felt so good.
It had been long, too long, since had he been touched more intimately than a handshake. He hadn't realised how much he missed it. But now he craved the warmth, the skin, the pressure of another human body against his own. He drew a long breath. Snape's hand stopped, then left entirely. Remus had given himself away.
So before Snape could stop him and before Remus could stop himself, he rolled over and took Snape in his arms. He pressed them close together, his bare chest to Snape's clothed one, and hid his face in Snape's neck. Then he simply held on.
A shock rolled through Snape's limbs and he pulled back against the resistance of Remus's arms. He made a small, impatient sound against Remus's ear. Remus didn't move. Then the breath sighed out of Snape's lungs and he returned the embrace, his hands cold against Remus's naked back.
They stayed like that for a long time. They barely moved -- a small shift so Remus's knee was between Snape's, furled in the fabric of his robe, Snape's hand sliding down Remus's spine to the small of his back. But mostly they were still and let the warmth build between them as the tension slowly leached from their bodies, tension Remus had not even known he was carrying.
At last, Remus was so relaxed that his grip loosened. They came apart bit by bit, hands slipping away, legs stretching, until they were lying on their backs, still touching at hip and shoulder. The wallpaper was swirling again and so Remus looked up at the ceiling and smiled.
Snape stood and Remus couldn't get a look at his face before Snape straightened his robe across his shoulders and stalked off into the toilet.
Remus laughed once, a low chuckle bubbling up from deep inside his chest. Then he rose, dressed quickly, and went to order breakfast.
He felt...better. Like he'd taken a tonic. What the conversation last night had done for his mind, the closeness had done for his body. He was clear-headed, serene. He hoped it was the same for Snape.
Snape made the tea. He probably thought that Remus wasn't capable of doing it correctly. When they each had a cup, Snape sat down, looked at Remus, and said, "Tell me about the change."
"It worked, Severus. There was no pain. Itching, a lot of itching, but that was all." Remus sipped his tea. It was excellent. "Normally, it's agony -- like I'm being stretched on a rack and having a spike pounded into my brain all at once. But not this time."
Nodding, Snape made more notes. And, of course, measured Remus's vitals and wrote them down.
"What did you add to the potion?" Remus asked.
"Glimwort instead of thessroot, rampion stalks, and blood."
"No," Snape said, and put down his cup. "Mine."
Remus wasn't sure what to say to that. He decided it, like other things, was best ignored for now. "I should be getting back. Work to do. Do you need anything more from me?"
"No," Snape said. "This will do."
Remus couldn't help but smile at that. He started to gather his things; there wasn't much to pack. Snape stood, notes in hand. Remus turned back to him. "Thank you for the potion," he said and held out his hand.
Snape hesitated a moment, then shook it. His palm was cool and dry. "I'll bring you some next month."
"You'll be at next week's meeting?"
"Until then." The Volkova treatise was lying on the table and he picked it up to take back to the library.
"I'll take that," Snape said and Remus handed it over.
"Just be sure to return it. Else that gargoyle will hunt me to the ends of the earth."
"Of course," Snape said, but which part of Remus's remark he was agreeing with, Remus wasn't sure.
"And may I borrow the Arroyo? I think it could be useful."
Snape nodded and so Remus packed it away. There was nothing more to do, so he took his valise, and left. He was just at the castle gates when a bell rang in his ears. His alarm on Snape's workroom. Remus remembered the fire he'd lit under the mysterious orange potion and walked faster.
That night an owl arrived at Grimmauld Place.
Collaborate on paper re potion improvements. Outline to follow tomorrow. Will expect your notes within the week.
*PS The Draught of Silence was completely ruined.*
Remus smiled, drank his tea, and thought about the paper.
F I N I S
Let me know your thoughts on the effects of sleep-deprivation on lycanthropes in the pre-transformative state. Or just, you know, whether or not you liked the story. :)
Halrloprillalar "Hal" email@example.com FIC: http://prillalar.com
"Caulk, delicious caulk!" -- Homer Simpson
Please post a comment on this story.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Title: Misanthropy, Lycanthropy, and the Pursuit of Knowledge
Author: Halrloprillalar [email] [website]
Details: Standalone | PG-13 | 34k | 03/12/04
Summary: Adjustments to potions and other things.
Notes: For the Master and the Wolf Fest. (http://chance.slashcity.net/masterandthewolf/index2.html) "Snape is making progress with the Wolfsbane potion, but to continue working on it he must have 24/7 access to Lupin to observe and record subtle changes."
Thanks to Kest for beta and to Am-Chau for answering questions on UK English. I didn't have time to get a full Brit beta on this, so all remaining errors are my own.
Snape, you bastard, this is for you. I think you know why.
Disclaimer/Other: Rowling, not me.
Distribution: Archive anywhere. Email forwarding allowed.
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