FIC: In a Cold Climate (Mature) Title: In a Cold Climate Author/Artist:tetsubinatu Rating: Mature Pairing(s)/character(s): Snape/Lupin Challenge: Remix Exchange 2010 Summary: Snape can't believe it. Disclaimer: Even less original than usual, being a remix of a fanwork based upon the work of Ms Rowling. Warnings: none Notes: This fic is a remix of nimrod_9's Cardamom, Nigella Seeds and Love
My sincere thanks to lore for some very helpful ad hoc beta work! I really appreciated it!
The bed is normally quite comfortable, even with two of them in it. Severus has long since grown accustomed to the way Lupin sleeps, to his little snuffles and the way he sends one arm out to burrow under Severus' pillow. Tonight, though, there are no snuffles, no intrusive arm. Tonight Lupin remains still and quiet on his side of the bed, the echoes of his ridiculous outburst still heavy in the room.
'I love you' indeed. Severus isn't stupid, and Lupin doesn't usually treat him as if he is. What can he have been thinking?
A small boy, no more than four or five, plays at with a ball of red wool. It catches like the strands of sticky weed in the abandoned lot next door, tangling in his fingers. The pretty lady who is mama's friend told him that it was from a special kind of wool, but he can't remember what kind she said any more. He unwinds the skein with careful fingers to the tinkling of delicate teacups and the low, slow tones of his mama's voice.
"Not so bad," lilts the pretty lady. "He looks like your father. That might help."
"Oh well," his mother grumbles, "If he were pretty, perhaps, but who can love a nose like that?"
Severus absorbs the information without resentment. As long as he can remember, strangers have felt free to comment on his nose. 'A real Prince' they say in the cobbled street where he goes with his mother. Nearer home they call him 'Beaky' and 'Snoz'. It's not so bad. The little boy in the house opposite gets called 'Shirley' because of his curls. That would be worse.
He's pretty though - Shirley. His mama cuddles him a lot. That would be nice.
Lupin has a pretty good thing going, Severus thinks. Free sex and babysitting pretty much on demand. Of course, Severus has the same deal but that's only fair. Teddy is the son of a werewolf and Conall is an abandoned werewolf adopted by a former DE; neither child is going to have an easy time of it at school. They like each other. They're good for each other. It works.
Perhaps Lupin was afraid that Severus would discontinue the arrangement? Or was that something he usually said to his paramours - something that he thought they expected?
Perhaps Lupin had forgotten in whose arse he had just been buried. Perhaps he'd drifted off imagining that it was Black he held, Black he fucked. Perhaps he pretended that he was fucking Black every time he was in Severus' bed, imagined Black's handsome face and athletic body moving under his.
Or maybe he was imagining a quiddich player. Severus had been called 'Marius' once by a casual partner during the year that Marius Auramor had been Keeper for England. Auramor had angular features and dark hair, too, but his nose was straight and proportionate to his face. Severus had quite fancied him himself, although there was a Beater that year with an arse that was truly spectacular. Severus can't remember his name now but his thighs...
Severus won't say anything about Lupin's slip if Lupin doesn't. Lupin is better looking and far more likeable than he is but Severus is not a werewolf - that's the only thing that keeps Lupin from moving on, he knows, otherwise Lupin would be out of his league. So in a sense Severus owes his sex life to Greyback. His mouth twists. That isn't... a good thought.
No-one ever uses these loos. The're not convenient to anything, and there has never been a more annoyingly lacrimose ghost than Myrtle. Fortunately Severus knows how to get rid of her. So it's a surprise when he hears the chatter of female voices stop outside the door. The door creaks, opening slightly, and as Severus leaps for the darkest stall - the one farthest from the window - and wedges it shut behind him with a whisper, he hears Martina Hungerton say, "Meet you in Charms, then."
The door pushes fully open and at least three girls come in. "No Myrtle," says one gratefully. Severus thinks it could be Eliana Woodworth - she hangs around with Martina's crowd. None of them actually use the loos, it seems as if they just wanted to tidy their hair or touch up their makeup or some such foolish thing. Severus stays utterly still, listening to their gossip.
"Neither of them," Martina says firmly, apropos of nothing that Severus has heard. "Potter and Black are both egotists. Sally says that Angela says that Black's a good kisser but hopeless in bed - it's all about him.
"Angela would know!" one of the others giggles.
"No, I'd do Lupin if I had to do one of that lot," Martina says dreamily. "Have you seen his hands? And he pays attention, too. He'd be the sort to make sure you had a good time."
'Never mind his hands,' Severus thinks. 'Have you seen his arse?' He knows what Martina means, though. Lupin does have nice hands - long, flexible fingers and broad palms that Severus could imagine resting nicely on his hips.
"Pity he's a Gryff," Eliana says. "How'd we end up with all the ugly ones in Slytherin?" As the group crowds towards the door her voice drifts back. "Like Snape..." The girls around her make gagging noises until the door finally shuts with a thump behind them.
Lupin has to know that Severus isn't stupid enough to believe that those words were true. He can't possibly think that Severus wants or needs to hear them. A slip of the tongue, that's all it was. They won't mention it again.
* ~ * ~ *
But Lupin can't let it rest. Gryffindors. Severus really hadn't planned to raise the subject, however much his mind prods at it, taking the words out to examine them from different angles as if he can possibly guess what was in the werewolf's mind. It's just that he has a headache this morning; drifting nausea and a throb behind his eyes. He's sent the boys outside for a bit of peace - not to quarrel with Lupin - but Lupin rushes in and then suddenly, somehow, he gets the wrong idea and Severus can't even think with the throbbing of his head before he's gone.
Well. Severus had hoped to enjoy the arrangement for a bit longer but it was all bound to implode one day. Better sooner, probably. If Lupin wasn't so...
His head is going to implode if he can't find the bottle of potion. Damn - it's not going to be a headache but a full migraine, he can see the edges of his vision blur and he knows that he is going to throw up. Too late for a potion, now. He fumbles his way back to the table afterwards and sags over it until Conall comes back inside.
As he drifts in a haze of pain through the day he spares a moment to wonder whether Lupin really got the idea that his being a werewolf was a problem or if he was just finding an excuse to stop seeing Severus. It makes sense. Lupin never likes to be in the wrong or to hurt people, so if he had a new interest he would probably feel bad about it unless he could find a way to make it Severus' fault.
Severus should feel angry about it, but just now he's in too much pain to care. Anger will come tomorrow.
* ~ * ~ *
Lupin shows up for full moon.
Severus hasn't been expecting that. One of the thoughts stoking his anger for the past fortnight has been that Lupin had abandoned Conall as well as himself. For himself he never expected that Lupin would stick around, but Conall is only seven and vulnerable - and Severus hadn't realised until now that somehow he had counted on Lupin sticking around for Conall. Perhaps he should have opened the letters. He just couldn't stand the whining. Yes yes, it's over. Let it lie, wolf.
But here he is. And for Conall's sake Severus can't refuse him, can't turn him out of the house or throw things at him. Can't set the wards to burn him, or serve him tea in the best silver. Can't scream at him, can't...
Remus is kind to Conall.
Severus is polite.
He didn't know how his gut would clench, seeing Remus again. He didn't know. Damnit. He didn't...
"But a useful ugly, little poof," Lucius laughs.
In the corridor, Severus freezes, then tiptoes slowly backwards.
The voice of Lucius' companion murmurs something quietly and they both laugh. "I don't think so!" Lucius says scornfully. "But let's change the subject. He'll be down at any moment."
Severus stills again, waiting.
"Oh a mouth's a mouth," says Lucius dismissively. "Have you heard the news from Russia?"
This time Severus makes his footsteps firm and audible.
Severus knows better than to fix his affections on anyone as attractive as Lu... He knows better, anyway. And yet he's made a fool of himself by offering Lupin a pain potion after the change. Lupin will probably laugh himself silly tonight - no, he won't, because Lupin's not like that: he'll be sorry to have hurt pathetic, pining Severus. It was just common politeness anyway. Severus is a professional and he couldn't help noticing the way the skin around Lupin's jawline was white with tension and the way his hands shook. Lupin has no business judging him.
And he didn't say it because Lupin had flashed his arse at him either. He doesn't know why he offered.
Anyway, Lupin said a stupid thing first.
* ~ * ~ *
A month ago today he'd had sex with Lupin. Severus thrusts his plate aside and stands to wash the dishes. He isn't hungry.
"You have to eat your vegetables, Papa," Conall says. Severus grits his teeth and finishes his beans, then lets Conall finish his meal as he tidies around him. The leftovers will do for lunch tomorrow in any case. He has a busy afternoon ahead of him.
Conall, however, has different ideas.
Severus is appalled to find that he called Lupin through the floo because he is worried about Severus; that he misses Lupin; that somehow he thinks that this is his fault.
When Lupin tactfully goes away, Severus holds Conall tight - tries to explain to him - but Conall has known too much loss for one little boy's lifetime and it isn't easy to explain that he isn't being rejected again.
"I love you Conall," Severus offers helplessly. "And Lu... Remus and Teddy care for you too. This isn't your fault. Sometimes things happen."
"I love you too, Papa," Conall says. His arms loop around Severus' neck like the strings Severus uses to tie up his beans, holding on tight.
It's not the first time he's said it, but it bursts on Severus' heart like a revelation: Conall LOVES him. Conall loves him. He gasps; his lungs feel deprived of air as it rolls over him like a wave: he is loved.
Conall doesn't care what he looks like, and he never will. Conall loves him. Conall worries about his health and his happiness.
Conall loves him.
Something inside him flares with greedy hope. He won't look at it yet but it's there, beneath his ribs.
In his bed that night he finally lets himself define it.
He is not unloveable. And therefore Remus might... just might... have been sincere? It seems so unlikely, and yet looking back...
Remus never called him by another name, never averted his eyes. Remus touched him with a certainty and tenderness that belied any notion that he found Severus's flesh repulsive. He stayed the night. He trusted Severus with Teddy.
Moonlight illuminates the room - the only light that Severus will allow. Remus' face is in shadow but his eyes glint , seemingly fixed on Severus' face.
"Get on with it," Severus says. He's had sex before - he knows what to expect.
But it isn't like any sex he's had before. It's slow, it's gentle. Lupin takes his time and makes it good. He even kisses Severus as if he means it. Whatever sex Lupin has been having has been worlds away from the sex Severus has been having.
And afterwards he wipes them both down with hands that Severus has watched for years, capable, sensitive hands, before he pulls Severus close and falls asleep, clearly feeling as safe as a babe in the cradle.
Severus lies awake as Lupin rolls away in his sleep, leaving only one arm burrowed under Severus' pillow. The moon is low now, barely half-full, and the light is kind to the sleeping man. It is almost possible to see the boy who laughed with Lily in the man's lax face. He looks content. Severus doesn't understand him at all.
If Conall loves him, Severus thinks - if loving him is possible - then the world is remade in a different light. It requires trust, but Severus already trusts Remus with Conall. It requires hope, but Conall has lit that fire. It requires taking a chance, but he is not a coward.
A month ago he lay sleepless in this bed because of Remus and tonight he does the same. But tonight, tonight the promise of the day ahead is that he will be loved. Conall loves him.
And Remus just might love him too.
"I love you," Remus says. He looks a little startled, but then his eyes crinkle at the corners, warm and affectionate, as if he expects to be believed, as if he expects something in return.
Severus takes a deep breath and allows himself to hope.