Title: Touch and Go
Author: Arsenic
Rating: NC-17
Fandom/Pairing: HP, RL/SS, HP/DM
Disclaimer: All characters and concepts are those of JK Rowling, owned by Scholastic, Bloomsbury and WB.
Summary: Remus gets captured. Severus brews up new potions. Draco defects. It all comes together somehow.

AN: This was written pre-HBP and left as it was in the editing process except for one very small change. Also, I have absolutely no animosity toward Tonks. Actually, I rather like her. Oh, and I've only been to Llanelli once and it was the rather industrial part, hence my limited knowledge of it.

*

Before he killed her, Tonks said, "Don't you say a bloody word, Remus John Lupin."

It had crossed his mind, of all things, to wonder how she knew his middle name. Then her hair turned black and spiky where it had been blue and lush. "Tonks-"

"Don't Tonks me. Not a word."

"I'm-"

"Not even that word," she said. The spikes became pointier.

Remus kept quiet then until the next morning, when he vomited up the parts of her that his human system, his human mind, weren't keen on keeping inside of him. He said it quietly then, I'm sorry, over and over and over. He said it quietly until the Death Eaters came again, came like they always did, when he stopped saying anything.

Not a word.

*

Tonks, of course, was a tactic tried long after his initial capture. It had most likely taken them that long to find another person suitable to the task of trying to get Remus Lupin to give up his secrets.

The first, well first after the Veritaserum that he had adequately resisted, had been silver nitrate. Not enough to kill, no, certainly not. Enough to put Remus in agony that he wasn't sure the Cruciatus could really rival.

It did. Rival it, that is. Perhaps even surpass it. Remus found that out next.

After that he stopped paying attention. A million tactics, each more painful than the last, and Remus couldn't be bothered to keep track. It didn't matter. He wasn't going to say anything.

Tonks had almost been enough. He'd considered shouting out names, places, when they threw her in there just as his body was beginning to yearn toward twisting, his mind toward carnal and carnivorous abandon.

Of course, Tonks was a member of the Order, too. A member sworn to protect Harry, their way of life, all that pretty much wasn't Voldemort and his henchmonkeys, with her life.

The Muggle boy they tried the trick with next wasn't. The Muggle boy of about ten with big green eyes and wild black hair.

The irony of it was that Remus understood the intent--to make him feel as though he were eating Harry. Instead it only strengthened his resolve. One of his friends was already dead at his hands. He would not betray Harry and kill yet more. Not even for the life of an innocent. Not even to be able to live past this moment in any type of peace.

Remus did tell the boy he was sorry. And when the boy had quaked, "S-sorry?" Remus had just shaken his head, unwilling to say more. The boy didn't need to know what would happen ahead of time.

He repeated his vigil of purging and repentance in the morning, and when the Death Eaters came, he kept right on saying nothing.

*

It was their last attempt, their move of desperation. Remus, of course, wouldn't know that until much later, wouldn't understand just why it was that this dose of Veritaserum--was it? Didn't feel like it. Acted like it--made him so sick, made him spew things, bile and words. The bile he was used to at this point.

The words were new. Unwelcome.

He didn't understand then either why they didn't kill him straightaway; was too sick to be exactly sure what he'd told them and what he hadn't. He was careful not to think, Harry, oh fuck, Harry for fear that he would say something he wasn't thinking, something dangerous. Remus couldn't feel them near him, couldn't smell them or hear them, but the sickness was disorienting and debilitating, and he didn't much trust himself. At all.

He must have passed out at some point, fallen into his own waste, because he woke up smelling no difference between it and himself. Which was why it took him so long to realize that he was no longer alone in the cell. His first thought at that realization was panic of a distant sort, panic that he hadn't known it was the full moon, that he was too far gone to recognize the clamoring of his muscles to reform under, outside of, with his skin. Then he looked at the prisoners and that former panic became unimportant.

"Severus?" Remus's voice barely made it off his own tongue, but Severus must have heard because the figure, black and coiled, dirty and self-contained, moved.

"What did you tell them?" The movement revealed something, a second prisoner. Red hair and Remus thought, not Ron, Harry will come, not Ron and then, as the boy moved his face and Remus saw that it was one of the twins, he moved to hating himself for the knot of tension that worked itself free inside of him.

He concentrated on the question asked by Severus. "I don't know. They gave me--I'm not sure. Veritaserum? I resisted it, though. The first time. I'm not sure why this time was different."

Remus wished he could see Severus's face, as there was no immediate sneer, retaliatory comment. Instead he said, with a mercy Remus had long forgotten him capable of, "I think you must've kept silent on the pertinent issues."

Remus said, "You're pretty bloody pertinent."

"I'm not so much, though, so we're still all right," the twin said in a rather droll tone. George then. George was always much better at sardonic than Fred. Remus had appreciated it as their teacher.

More than ever, Remus wondered what the hell he could have said to have these two sharing space with him. Severus wasn't much of a wonder, but the twins weren't even part of the Order. "What are you doing here?"

George laughed. Amazingly, though slightly thin, it didn't sound bitter. "Wrong place, wrong time, mate. Y'donít mind the familiarity?"

Remus recognized the sort of crazed bravery for what it was. "Severus-"

"If you're still alive they certainly won't want the two of you dead any time soon. I might very well be another matter. He's not fond of traitors. You did- You kept what you needed to keep. See if you can't manage to continue to do so." He turned his head toward George. "You as well. Remember what rests on your silence."

George straightened up and Remus's improving night-vision caught what he hadn't before--the bruises and burns decorating both his fellow captor's faces, most likely effects of well-aimed hexes. "I am a Gryffindor."

Severus sighed, settled back against the wall in a jarringly unfamiliar blend of casual movement. "As though life needed to get more depressing."

*

Lucius came for Severus and Remus couldn't help but think that no good could come of that. Of course, no good could really come of anyone removing Severus from the cell ever at this given junction, but Remus was the possessor of a sometimes painfully long memory, one that spanned back to their school days when Severus had written papers for the older, more pernicious boy. With the two of them, it was personal.

Then again, Severus was a spy, Remus imagined there might be threads of personal he would never see, not even were Severus to present him with the quilt they were sewn into. Which Severus, of course, never would.

Remus would have preferred it being someone other than Lucius. The look on Severus's face as he followed Lucius out with his sleek gliding elegance gave no hint of whether he felt the same or not.

George said, "Know any good word games?"

Remus hadn't slept well. Not for nights. Not since the full moon. "Word games?"

"Well, bugger's've taken my wand, I assume yours too?" George looked over for a confirming nod. It took Remus a moment to pull together enough comprehension to give him one. George continued, "I'm not much for wandless, so that takes out any escaping-by-magic capers, and to be honest, I'm only at half-best without Fred on the scheming side, so I thought word games. Passes the time, don't it?"

Remus knew that at least a month and eleven days had passed since his capture. The Death Eaters weren't much on talking to him unless it was to ask questions he wouldn't answer (wouldn't, didn't, almost-) or mocking him. Remus's life taught him far more about the power(lessness) of words, though, so he hadn't paid much attention. Certainly hadn't said much back. The more shut his mouth was kept, the less likely to make some sort of escape from it. The escape he, George and Severus were currently denied. "We used to- James was horrible at Latin. His weak spot, that and the arrogance."

George smiled at that. "Arithmancy for me. It's not the concept, just the equations. Too much logic, Fred says, but then, Fred can't be trusted with water, sugar and a wand all in the same room."

Remus didn't imagine many people knew that. "But so many of your gags are potion-based."

George looked self-deprecating. "I hope he remembers-"

"We used to say four Latin words. He'd have to figure out which one wasn't real. James."

"I'm wonders at Latin," George said softly, as though he was worried it might be taken as rejection.

Remus had spent the last thirty four days with people who conjured needles of pure silver to press into the nerve-laden center of his lower back for a good time. He wasn't easy to offend at this point, even if he ever had been. And he didnít want to think about things that silence would give him time to think about, had given, for nearly a week. Didn't want to think about new things, about the fact that the people who had tortured him for a bit of a tactical advantage and because he was an animal to them, knew Severus, hated Severus. "Know any French?"

George tilted his head. "Bit."

"Voules-nous faire un jeu des mots?"

"I may be bad at equations, but I can count. That was certainly more than four words."

Remus neither confirmed nor denied the charges.

*

They brought back Severus bearing not one mark on him. George gave the man a wide berth as he sort of sailed into the cell, propelled by the force of Crabbe and Goyle's pitching him toward the back. Severus caught himself with the wall and then used it as a guiding tool for his sinking downward momentum.

Remus asked, "They dose you with the potion that worked on me?"

Severus's voice was just a little huskier than normal. "It's rather likely that the only reason you survived being. . .dosed with that," Severus's tone rose in an approximation of his usual mockery, "was due your lycanthropy. They donít want me dead. Not for the moment."

Remus would have been pleased by the recognition that whatever he gave over to wasn't Veritaserum, and by the truth that it had in fact been a last resort if Severus's explanation as to how he had survived it made any sense. Remus, though, had spent near to most of his life being a werewolf and he well knew that the healing powers of one applied only to damage done during the full moon. Generally only to self-inflicted damage. Still, Severus wasn't looking his best, having most like probably been tortured all day, and the man had been on behavior that Remus could almost qualify as "good," so he left things as they were.

Severus nearly changed Remus's mind with a casual, "They tell me you've been positively feasting in here, Lupin."

Instead, afraid of the things that might come from his mouth were he to allow it freedom on that subject, Remus said, "If they're going to let you, you should get some sleep."

Either Severus saw the wisdom in this, or he was feeling too awful to argue, either way he lowered his torso all the way to the ground and closed his eyes. Remus knew enough about the way Order members functioned to know that at least one eye was metaphorically open. He said, "I'll watch, Severus."

Severus gave a sort of grunt to imply that he in no way trusted the other man with that task. Remus struggled with against own exhaustion, and the not-yet-healed wounds that Severus had just seen fit to pour brine upon liberally. "The more tired you are, the more likely to slip."

"I've not slipped for over twenty years. Credit me with some discretion."

"You had a holiday somewhere in those twenty years."

"We all did."

Remus thought about James and Lily's rushed funerals. Peter's. Remus had decided to think of that day with Dumbledore speaking of the boy he had known as a funeral of sorts. Closure was sometimes necessary. And though Remus had every intention of making sure it happened, he would be nowhere near a second funeral for Peter. He had already mourned that which was worth doing so over. Sirius's commitment to Azkaban, the sound of his hysteria echoing dangerously close to how Remus would've sounded had he been willing to say anything more than, "Harry?" and even that had been risky.

But of course Harry couldn't be given to a no-account werewolf with no prospects, no mention in the will and, worst yet, no blood relation. Albus had insisted on that whole part, and Remus hadn't disagreed, not the non-hysterical part of himself, the part that was still being built around, sheltered against when Sirius reappeared and Peter bloody fucking well showed up and Voldemort just had to bugger in on things as well. Harry in the middle of it, of course.

Both James and Lily had always known how to be in the worst place at the worst time as well. There were markers to prove that point, if one knew where to look. Remus and maybe ten others did. This man behind him, refusing to sleep, being one of the odd ten. Remus used to wonder at the insanity of that, but then it bled into all the rest of the insanity and he'd long stopped. "Severus."

"Lupin."

"I killed one of my closest friends. Pulled her apart with claws that grow on me once a month, three nights out of every month. Only friend I'd truly made since the others," Remus wasn't sure when he'd stopped saying their names to Severus if unnecessary, it seemed like a larger concession that he perhaps should have made, as though he should be calling him Snape if he was omitting other truths, but this wasn't the time to dwell on details, at least not those details, "then a Muggle child. Size of my right leg and I'm hardly a giant."

"You knew your capabilities."

That was the crux of it. Remus wished he could tell Severus that. Somehow, he hadn't. "One of them is to stay awake. So that you need not."

George, who had wisely stayed silent through most of this, asked, "Would it help if the both of us kept up?"

Severus opened one eye. Literally. Closed it. "Wake me before they get to the cell, understood?"

Neither Remus nor George answered. Remus figured on Severus being asleep no sooner than the question left his mouth.

George settled by the bars at one edge of the cell. "I'll watch in this direction, right?"

Remus was a werewolf, though. A blooded one. He hadn't known it made a difference, but since that first kill. Tonks. He made himself form the thought in his head, full with a visual. Since Tonks even his previously heightened senses had sharpened, only more so with the boy.

He'd know someone was coming long before George could open his mouth to give warning.

*

"Solitaire, canette, monesse, envie."

George, whom Remus was using as a sort of mental insert, a reminder of how very young Harry was, every time they brought Severus back spotless and incapacitated, didn't answer. He licked his lips without mentioning that he was rather thirsty, which Remus thought was somewhat capital of him, as no liquids had made their way to the cell in at least two days now. Remus thought it closer to three. Finally, he asked, "You don't suppose they use his own creations on him?"

Remus was still thinking about things like Harry and water, so it took him a moment to catch on to what George was asking. He took a good look at the boy sitting with his legs curled up to his chest, leaning back against the wall. Fred and George weren't in the Order for a myriad of reasons, Remus knew, the two largest being that Albus didn't trust them to follow directions quite the way he laid them out and they didn't much care to be told what to do.

Remus knew enough to know, though, that the Order was really just a very small part of the sum total resistance to Voldemort's re-rising. The twins were volatile, but they were also loyal and highly intelligent and Remus didn't doubt for a moment that somewhere along the way Albus had manipulated them (most likely through the unsuspecting hands of Arthur and mouth of Molly) into helping out. He also didn't doubt that the twins had probably untangled most of the original intent of the directives that were handed down to them and followed the rope that Albus had unconsciously thrown them straight back to the center. Which meant that George probably knew far more than he was supposed to.

Still, it wasn't any secret that Severus created potions in his spare time. Thanks to Remus, it was no longer a secret that some of those most likely went to the service of Voldemort. "I imagine that's precisely what they're doing."

"It's awfully clean, his stuff. Not a trace of anything. I mean, where we can see it."

Remus could hear the professional envy in George's tone. It almost made him laugh, given the circumstances. Instead he said, "Invisibility's always been a rather imperative part of Severus's existence, so far as I can tell." Remus wanted to feel bad about that, about the way Sirius and James had never allowed Severus the decency of just fading into the background, something in which Remus himself had so often found comfort. Sirius was dead, though, James even more so, and at the moment, Remus had his own sins to fail at repenting for.

"If he. . .that is, he must have considered this possibility."

Remus rubbed a fist at eyes that were as dry as every other part of him. "I can't for a second think that Severus didn't take into account the prospect of capture, but I'm not entirely sure he would have planned for it by way of his potions. I wouldn't even know what he was being asked to create, or what Albus in turn wanted of him when he was asked. But you're entirely right, there could be a failsafe somewhere in those potions they're dosing him with that they don't see coming."

Something about the statement seemed to satisfy George. A grim type smile appeared on the lower half his face and he said, "Either way, he won't give them what they want."

Remus tilted his head back, let the wall do the work of holding it in place. "I donít believe Severus Snape has ever given anyone anything they wanted, not even himself."

George laughed a little. Remus took care not to take the sound for himself and leave his cellmate with nothing.

*

George, resourceful fellow that he was being, had taken to sleeping most of the time so as to conserve energy. Remus didn't begrudge him the sleep and it made finding a way to have a conversation with Severus without him overhearing a much easier task. Remus had long considered exactly how he was going to ask the question, but when it was finally time, when Severus had been brought back--and there were starting to be marks that Remus recognized all too well--but hadn't quite had time to pass into unconsciousness, it came out the only way it would, serious and quiet, "Tell me you're still useful to them?"

It took Severus a second to catch on, a product, Remus was sure, of the continued torture. His, "Imminently," was a little less smug than Remus could have hoped.

"Will you snap my neck, then?"

Severus looked as though his answer pained him more than anything that Voldemort and all his arse-lickers could ever think to inflict upon him. "I'm not sure I've the strength, you're going to have to ask the boy."

Remus took a moment to wonder if George perhaps had steel in him that neither Molly nor Arthur would have been likely to produce. Bill did. Charlie didn't. Percy. . .the verdict was still out on that one. Ron didn't, but Remus thought Ginny showed the most promise of all of them in that area. If promise was the word for it. "Might be better off to kill him."

Severus considered Remus, and Remus looked back, a shared communion between killers of the unintentional sort. Remus wondered if there had been a time of intentionality for Severus. It wouldn't have surprised him. All that rage had to go somewhere, and Severus's bitterness, wide berth though it struck, didn't have the depth to hold all of it. Severus said, "Perhaps, but then, once you're not around to watch him run from in the depths of the night for the sake of drinking and gaiety, his days are probably numbered regardless."

Cruelly, Remus told him, "Your cruelty becomes blunted after a bit."

"Or maybe the pain of the silver was just inuring."

Remus narrowed his eyes at the mercy Severus was showing. Silver was child's play and they both knew it. He tabled the detail for later. "What do you suggest?"

"That I have two weeks to come up with a better plan than 'have the one innocent in this entire bloody farce snap my neck so that instead of laughing over transformic cannibalism they can practice new torture spells on him with a few classics thrown in for a good time and the comfort of traditions every once in a while.'"

"Did you actually have something in mind, or are you just playing for time?"

"They spelled vermin to burn to death under the skin of the backs of my knees today, Lupin, do you really believe I'm playing at anything?"

"I could snap your neck," Remus forced himself to make the offer without thinking about it. There were things he had promised he would die for. There were things he had killed for. No reason to stop now, not when it would actually be mercy rather than cause. Mercy alongside cause.

"Don't be melodramatic, they haven't even gotten to permanently disfiguring me. Besides, I doubt you could. They've given me more sustenance than either of you since we arrived, and I'm not pointing that out for bragging rights."

Remus kept his eyes open. Said, "Thank you."

"Bugger off," Severus said, with as much feeling as he'd displayed for just about anything since being thrown inside the cell with his. . .allies. He closed his eyes and took what time would give him.

*

Draco was nursing a headache that he would have liked to blame on a stray curse. Draco, however, had been hit with enough stray--and for that matter, aimed--curses in his life to know better.

Professor Snape was a silent sufferer. This didn't surprise Draco. The man had been a silent traitor for Draco's entire life, so why shouldn't he suffer the same way?

It had been Father, of course, whom the Dark Lord had entrusted with extracting any information from the mouth of Prof- Draco probably shouldn't be granting him that title anymore.

Thinking Severus led to other problematic quandaries though. Thinking Severus was practically equivalent to thinking about how Draco had first learned to cast a Petrificus, or how the man hadn't flinched when he'd said, "Your father has his moments of incorrectness just as any other human being, Draco," in regards to Father's rather indecorous reaction to finding Draco sucking Theodore Nott quite expertly. At the time of the discovery Draco had only had one concern--the fact that his father had managed to break through Draco's well cast wards. Later, however, when it was clear that Father had two concerns himself, the concern of Draco's position (the carpet in the Manor really was quite easy on the knees, nothing so barbarous as the stone floors of Slytherin House) and the biological sex of Draco's partner. Thinking Severus reminded Draco that he was still experiencing a healthy sexual life with relatively few mental barriers given that small slip of what wasn't exactly kindness, but wasn't much of anything else, either.

"Moments of incorrectness." Draco probably should have seen. Draco might have seen, but in the same way that he couldn't bring himself to go find a pain-relieving potion at the moment, given what kind of emotions that might stir up, Draco was pretty sure it wouldn't have mattered had he seen. He, like Severus, probably would have been silent.

Draco was safe to think for the moment. The prisoners were in the cell and so his presence at Severus's slow destruction wasn't required and the Dark Lord was holding council with those of his closest. Draco wasn't among them. Draco, who had always resented this, was starting to think the Guy In Charge might just be smarter than his tendency toward grandiose statements with a little bit of hiss for charge would imply.

Father followed Him of course, and whatever else Draco considered his father to be, stupid wasn't among those things. Incorrect, at times. Draco willed the thought away. Father was ambitious and canny. Slytherin. His mum had often smiled at Draco when he was doing his utmost to act like Father, a cunning smile with edges sharp as the ridges of wrought iron that protected the Manor from wild animals. It had always felt respectful, and respect was something Draco craved perhaps over anything else.

Professor Snape had often written small comments, nothing effluvious, the man's silences covered not only his suffering but his pride and most likely his joy as well. Comments such as, "Decent grasp of concepts at a level somewhat above your expected one," at the end of his potions papers. Like his mum's smiles they had always made Draco sense a sort of nod to his abilities, a belief in the person Draco was apart from his family. Not that Draco wasn't honored to be among his family. He was a Malfoy. There was no other way to understand his position, certainly.

Professor Snape, though. Severus. Either way, the man had made some sort of connection to Draco that was now hurting his head at least half so bad as the last hit of Abscindere probably had Severus.

Who was a traitor, and deserved it. He had betrayed the Dark Lord for that Muggle loving pansy Dumbledore and what was infinitely worse, Potter. Potter, with his absolute lack of social breeding, Muggle ways and, well. . .commonness. Surely Severus had known better.

It stood to reason that if Father had his moments of incorrectness, than certainly Severus did as well. Only. . .

Only Draco'd never thought to hurt his father, not physically, over the betrayal that was demanding Draco be something other than he was. Draco hadn't meant to look over at Oliver Wood one morning for a split second during a match and think, "Right then," but he had and no amount of looking at Lavender Brown's more than ample breasts would fix the problem. The only thing that had, at any level, was Severus's simple understanding of a human being having failings.

Perhaps Severus had found failings in. . .

But Muggles were the weak ones, that wasn't to be denied. Muggles with their paltry ways of covering for their own ineptitudes, every once in a great while spreading their legs to spawn out something just a bit better than themselves and presuming that something to belong amongst its betters. Failings were the arena of Muggles.

And Father.

Draco rested his head on his knees. He really wished his headache would clear up. It was evidently hard to think straight with it.

*

Remus split his water ration between George and Severus. George put up a bit of a fuss, but Remus said, "I still have the right to make my own decisions, whether they think so or not."

George frowned. "Same goes for myself."

"But Lupin here is just choosing his path of death. You're making the perhaps more notable choice of life or possible death." Severus nodded at the cup. "Drink up, Weasley."

"If that's so," George didn't drink, "then why do you get half the ration?"

"Because," Severus bit out the word, truncating each syllable, "for some reason, I'm still making that same decision."

George held out the cup. "Then you drink it."

Severus sharpened his eyes. "They've already given me more than either of you and I'm not in the mood for anyone to be noble. Drink the bloody water, Weasley."

Remus heard something in Severus' words, something that George wouldn't have heard, something that Remus couldn't ask about aloud. Severus knew something, though. There had been a sort of ellipsed "else" following that "anyone." Not for the first time, Remus wondered if Severus weren't the Order's only spy. Remus knew for sure that there were levels of information he wasn't privy to. It would be awfully nice if this were one of them.

"I've been reveling in the past," Severus said. Remus nearly smiled at his use of the word "revel" as though it was something he wouldn't touch with ten feet of willow bark and strong warding spells between him and it. But Severus was still talking, so Remus just listened as he said, "Telling them about our project together. Sixth year Dark Arts."

Severus and Remus, though, had never done a project together. Something that none of the Death Eaters would know, not Lucius, who'd long graduated by then, and not Peter, who hadn't managed a high enough OWL for sixth year Defense. Severus was feeding them misinformation then. Remus wasn't sure how he felt about that. Granted, misinformation was something of an old time hobby that Severus had proven himself versed in many times over.

The stakes were higher. And Remus needed someone around to keep George from having to kill or be killed.

Still, Severus was the one with a rune carved into the arch of his foot, a rune Remus vaguely recognized as a cast of malevolence upon. . .well, generally property, although as Severus's body was in fact in the Death Eater's possession, he supposed he could see how that could work. Remus did a little bit of firm not thinking about it. "Right, the-"

"Reversal of tempus hexes. Still working it out when we finished the project."

"Hasn't been solved in three millennia of recorded magic use. Can hardly fault two sixth years for that," George said.

Severus blinked at him. Remus did laugh then. "Look Severus, more than one Gryffindor knows how to read."

Severus blanked his features with what looked like no effort ay all. "And just a minute ago you were being so nice to me."

"You were enjoying that?" Remus raised an eyebrow.

Severus laid down, the foot with the rune curling just slightly under him. George finished up the water, and set the cup down next to him. Remus took a breath. It was just the three of them for the moment. He took another breath. No sense in wasting what was left.

*

"Draco's missing," Severus whispered. His vocal chords were so torn that whispering at that point was more a moving of lips and waiting to see if Remus would catch on. Remus was actually pretty good at stealth. He'd gained a handle on it while hiding the truth of himself for roughly a decade.

"How do you know?" Remus thought it far more likely the little bugger had just gotten tired of the proceedings and asked to visit one of his friends.

"Because MacNair was always shite at Occlumency."

"You have enough- um. Doesn't Legilimancy take a considerable amount of energy?"

"Not if you aren't being stealthy about it."

"Ah." Then, "What's the likelihood it's a good thing he's missing?"

George turned in his sleep and Remus stilled, but Severus shook his head. "Nearly unconscious. Will be given a few more days of this."

Which added another question to Remus' swiftly growing list. "Why is it not hitting me as badly? Why did I survive the truth serum?"

"I suspect both has to do with a mix of prolonged Wolfsbane use and the keying of other's blood inside yours. There are ingredients in Wolfsbane which act as powerful protectants when mixed directly with blood."

"They were in my bloodstream before, though, why not then?"

"Wolfsbane is highly specialized to the person who's taking it. Why do you think it takes so much to brew it? It's nearly impossible for someone who doesn't know the recipient to brew a batch for him, one of the serious pitfalls of the potion. It recognized your blood, but the others, that it saw as an ingredient."

"But if the potion has such a long half-life, why doesn't it work without having to be taken monthly?"

"Just because dregs build up doesn't mean you have a full dose inside you."

Remus forced himself to loosen muscles that had slowly bunched up over the course of the conversation. "Draco," he said, his tone level, "good or bad?"

"I'm not entirely sure."

"You haven't-"

"I haven't said a word. And even if I had, Lucius has well trained Draco to follow the Dark Lord rather than his own ambitions. The Dark Lord is something of a loophole in the Slytherin Ambitious Arsehole Creed."

"Do you really call it that amongst yourselves?"

"When we're being self-aware."

"Slytherins are self-aware?"

"No more or less so than Gryffindors."

"We have our moments."

"Well," Severus said.

"We're pinning our hopes on Malfoy Junior," Remus said, because it seemed the only way to accept the situation was to state it aloud.

"That and Potter's uncanny luck," Severus sounded even less thrilled about the situation than Remus.

Remus asked, "You want to sleep?"

"Not particularly, no."

Remus didn't blame him. He wasn't surprised when Severus fell asleep, though, either.

*

It was convenient, Draco thought, that he'd never given Father any reason to consider that he might do something like slip off to Hogwarts in broad daylight, on a broom, of all things. Because as places of refuge went, Hogwarts was pretty safe and far enough from where Father and the Dark Lord and a whole number of people that Draco knew as either family or dear friends were busy pouring something he didn't recognize down Severus's throat for breakfast. Something Draco was pretty sure he was glad he didn't recognize.

Pumpkin juice just hadn't been on the menu lately.

It was odd, when it all came down to it, that Severus was worth this morning ride, although, Draco could admit, the sky air was quite pleasant at this time, but sometime in between not sleeping the whole night through and muttering a heartfelt, "bugger," before getting up, Draco had realized that he was worth it, and what's more, there was nothing more Slytherin than the act of the subversive. It was slightly thrilling to be somehow more Slytherin than Father, although, Draco supposed, in its time serving the Dark Lord had been quite the rage so far as anti-establishment acts went.

Draco had seen pendulums, though. All things swung back in their own time.

Draco landed in the front lawns and made his way to the door and waited for someone to find him there, as it was summer, and the doors didn't just open to any old person. Particularly not any old person with decorative, if mildly morbid, markings on his arm.

Sprout found him, on her way to the greenhouses. She smiled, patted his cheek and asked, "Didn't you graduate?" so cheerily that he knew it had been something of a highlight of her year.

Draco sneered. "I need to speak to Dumbledore."

"Professor Dumbledore, dear. Just as you've graduated gives you no call to go around dropping people's hard earned titles."

Draco considered his options. There was the dramatic bearing of his forearm, but that seemed a bit dangerous all things being equal. Or there was just admitting that he knew where Severus was, but if Sprout wasn't in the loop then spreading that information might not endear him to Dumbledore. Draco needed all the points he could get. It fell to one thing, he was going to have to play innocent. Draco blanked his face as best he could and worked a bit on his eyes--chewed up and struggling crup ought to do it. Before Severus, those were the only eyes he'd even been unable to resist. Of course he'd had to kill the crup after Father had set the manticore on it--couldn't not have entertainment for the guests, and all that. But that's what the crup had been asking of him with his eyes. It was the first time Draco'd bothered overcoming his own desires to do something for another being. "Please, Professor."

Sure enough, she looked longingly at her greenhouses and then turned back around. "All right. Professor McGonagall'll have to do, though. Professor Dumbledore's away."

Draco's stomach took that moment to remind him very firmly why he was Slytherin and therefore Not Gallant. He was inside Hogwarts, now, though, and that was something.

When they reached McGonagall's office, he asked, "Please, I need to see you alone." McGonagall, she would know. McGonagall, though he hated to think of it this way, probably had more power in Dumbledore's circle than Father in the Dark Lord's. Draco flipped up the sleeve of his robe and McGonagall nodded Sprout away, closing the door behind her with a quick flick of her wand.

Draco, who wasn't going to do this twice, had one word before any others could be said: "Veritaserum."

*

Veritaserum burned and not a bit in the pleasant way that Father's French sherry, good for cleansing the palate, always had. Draco squinted a bit at McGonagall but didn't question whether she'd given him the right amount because, Gryffindor or no, she was the fastidious type. She asked, "What's your full name?"

For a moment, Draco doubted his choice of refuges, because that was just cruel to ask a man compelled to answer. Then it occurred to him that he'd never mentioned his full name, but the school roster would have it, wouldn't it, and she was probably just checking to make sure everything was in working order. All of this worked its way through his head in the second and a half that that burn allowed for before forcing out a, "Draconis Carolignus Glorien Malfoy."

McGonagall said, with a completely straight face, no less, "I'd have deserted long before you got 'round to it, Mr. Malfoy."

Draco, rather close to slipping off the edge of terror despite the crenellated towers surrounding him in every direction, laughed. Then, because time was something that the Dark Lord often found to be His friend in odd ways with which Draco had never sympathized, "They have Severus."

"They?"

"The Death Eaters. Father."

"Do they have others?"

Draco hadn't thought about that, the way Dumbledore's side seemed to place a certain importance on all the members of its ranks. If Crabbe or Avery disappeared tomorrow, Draco was pretty sure the Dark Lord wouldn't spend a hell of a lot of time trying to find them, not unless He thought they were playing out a betrayal. Draco shuddered. "Remus Lupin, George Weasley."

"Is that it?" McGonagall sounded like she wanted more.

Draco said, "Yes," and then, coming to an understanding, "My cousin is dead." The words took more energy than he would have expected them too. The Tonks's were blood-traitors, for bloody sakes, Ned Tonks was a Muggle. They'd- Except that all Nymphadora Tonks had done was to get herself into this world. A metamorphmagus, at that. The waste of it, was. . . Draco shook his head.

"Mr. Malfoy?"

"Have any idea of the geography of Austria?"

"Some."

"A map?" Draco was excellent with geography. Space was much friendlier to him than time.

"You can show me where they are?"

"Or take you. They're- They've got Severus."

McGonagall nodded. "Stay where you are."

When she came back, it was with Dumbledore, and Draco's chest burned just the slightest bit less.

*

In a moment of weakness, which Remus felt was probably deserved, considering that Severus had spent most of the previous hour coughing up blood and something bluish that was probably one of his better inventions, Severus said, "The plan was unfinished."

Remus thought for a moment before realizing that in the midst of his hacking, Severus had neglected to pronounce "the plan" as "The Plan," or the first two words in "The Plan to Bring Down the Most Extreme Asshole of the Moment, aka, Voldemort." Or, if one was feeling really cheeky--and Remus had been, on and off, since they'd made Severus swallow a Purging Potion on a week-empty stomach the day before--Tom Riddle. "Albus is good at finishing things."

"If he was that good, we wouldn't be here." There was actually very little spite in Severus's voice as he told Remus this, just recognition. Acceptance. Maybe a little bit of love, but Remus wasn't sure he knew how that sounded on Severus, so he wasn't jumping to any conclusions.

"Between Harry and him." It felt awful, knowing that in some way he'd put Harry up to this now. Because Harry would come after him, of course. Harry was too Gryffindor, too young, too. . .Harry, to do anything else. Remus hadn't planned it this way, no. He would have kept Harry out if it completely if he'd once had the chance, but from the second he'd shown up Harry was in it and then there had been nothing to do but watch from a safe distance and jump into the fray for him whenever possible. This had left Remus with much the same sense of ineffectuality that most of the other sitting-back-and-doing-what-he-could actions in his life had, but sometimes, Remus knew, there were things that couldn't be changed. Not even by Albus. Or Harry. Or himself.

Remus hoped that him and George and Severus being cooped up in this cage wasn't one of those things. At least for George, who really hadn't much to do with anything. Although Severus getting an out would be nice, certainly. Remus could do with this being the last stop. He needed a chance to say things to. . . Tonks's hair had been that blue-black color that he particularly liked.

Severus said, "Potter-" but then stopped.

Remus raised an eyebrow. "Mm?"

"He doesn't listen." A mild insult, considering some of the tirades Severus had seen fit to embark upon during Order consultings. Then again, maybe he just wasn't feeling up to saying more.

"He's getting better." Listening wasn't even Lily's strong spot, though. Harry was flying in the face of a lot of genetics by trying.

"We don't need getting better," Severus snarled.

Since Severus obviously knew more about The Plan than Remus did, Remus shrugged. "You work with what you have."

"I suppose you'd know all about that."

The cheekiness rose up unwelcomed in Remus. "Until two seconds ago, I'd've called you as knowing quite a bit on it too."

Severus didn't move and yet seemed to draw back in his stillness. Remus instantly regretted the intimation. "Sever-"

"Stop talking."

Remus, knowing the difference between a request and an order, the difference between an order that can be skirted and one that must be obeyed, hushed.

Severus said, "I. . .need some quiet."

Amazingly, as few enough needs were running around this place, plenty of that was to be found.

*

Remus, who admittedly had the advantage of being awake at the time, heard the commotion a good ten minutes before a drowsy George shook himself into alertness and inquired, "Think it's good or bad?"

Remus had pretty much been wondering the same exact thing. "Well, if it's bad that at least takes care of the whole starving-to-death drama we were undergoing here."

George nodded his head. "Excellent point, mate. Can you hear anything that I can't?"

"Probably, but none of it useful at this moment." Well, Severus wasn't making any noise that he could identify, but as Remus wasn't entirely sure why that was, when so many other people were shouting, he wasn't going to mention it.

"Would be nice to join in. I could use a bit of a pick up."

Interspersed with the last words of George's nearly breathtaking understatement were new voices, several of them, voices that Remus recognized. He concentrated on filtering them out. Harry was definitely here. Malfoy Junior, too. For what may have easily been the first time in his whole life, Remus really hoped that Severus was right about something.

It was frustrating, being close enough to hear and yet far enough removed from the action that Remus might as well have been four countries over. Especially when Harry screamed and screamed and wouldn't stop screaming. When he did Remus almost wished he wouldn't have as there was no way of knowing what had happened, why he'd stopped screaming and as traumatizing as the agony that the screaming suggested was, the intimation of its cessation was that much worse.

Finally, (later Remus would learn that it hadn't been that terribly long at all, an hour, maybe, at most from the time that the commotion started until) Minerva found them, worked a bit of complex but straightforward unlocking magic and walked in the cell, the cut along her jaw and the stiffness radiating out from her center not hindering her authoritative grace a bit. Remus tried standing, even enlisted the wall for a bit of help but it was no use. Instead spared her a, "Is-"

"Voldemort's dead," was her answer, although Remus wasn't entirely sure that had been his question.

Still, George hit it pretty much dead on with his, "Glorious. Have any water on you?"

"Still yourselves," she said, and flicked and swished her way to mobilicorpusing the both of them. "Pomfrey will have some, I'm certain."

Remus, who just couldn't wait any longer, asked, "Harry?"

"Alive," was her curt answer.

Remus could hear all the things that didn't follow. "For long?"

She looked about to snap but in the end she just shook her head, a small toss of tightly-pinned hair. "He and Severus were taken to Mungo's. Hopefully. . . Well."

Remus nodded. "How far do the wards extend?"

Minerva grimaced. It was response enough.

*

Draco would never be entirely sure how he ended up with his arms full of mudblood but when it was all over, after Potter had thrown--who in the bloody hell had taught Potter how to throw a knife?--the knife with whatever it had been soaking in all over it into the Dark Lord's face which had subsequently torn itself apart and then disintegrated into liquid form, the effect working its way down his entire body until all that was left was a puddle which evaporated soon enough after, after all of that, despite having his own problems, Draco found himself supporting Granger, who didn't actually seem to be breathing. Draco's wand was still in his hand as there were still Death Eaters about. A few of them even alive. He hit Granger with a respiratus which caught her full about the torso and kicked her into coughing frantically.

He thought about dumping her from his hold, but that felt a little. . .plebian. When she caught enough breath to speak, she asked, "Harry?"

Draco looked around. A few of Dumbledore's army that Draco didn't recognize and hadn't thought to ask for the names of were holding their ground, keeping the Death Eaters who had survived quiet and quiescent. Dumbledore lay where he had fallen moments before Potter's--really kind of impressive--knife-throwing antics. Weasley was across the room, but no less dead, near where Severus was laying moments ago. . . "With Severus?"

Obviously, both of them had missed something vital. Not that, in the complete pandemonium that had accompanied the Dark Lord's less-than-noble end, this was any surprise. Draco unloaded Granger onto the floor and she must have connected the dots, since she didn't complain, didn't do much more than moan a bit over wounds that Draco couldn't see.

Draco made his way to the nearest member of the Order--another Weasley, carefully not looking in the direction of his brother--and asked, "Did you see. . .Potter and Severus?"

"Shacklebolt took them to Mungo's."

Alive then. Draco moved away, not thinking it safest to stay near grief-maddened members of a family that he had until very recently helped to destroy. He went back to Granger and relayed the Mungo's message. She nodded her head. "Saw him get hit with some kind of a. . .his bones?" She shook her head, as though to start something that had stopped. "He screamed."

Draco had heard but he hadn't seen it, didn't really want to list the possibilities. They were manifold. Something occurred to him that dragged him back to the unpredictable Weasley. "Your brother, one of the twins. He's-"

"McGonagall went to find the other prisoners."

She could've asked. Draco would have told her where they were. The more good will he built up the less likely one of his newfound allies was to kill him out of lingering bad feelings. He threw a glance back at Granger and wondered if getting her out would endear him to anyone. Probably. This crew all seemed pretty fond of her. He wasn't sure who was going to be the person he most needed to please in the wake of Dumbledore's death, but he could figure it out soon enough. Draco wasn't oblivious, he just didn't always pay attention.

Draco murmured a spell to relieve Granger of her weight and picked her up. Despite her weightlessness it pulled at the results of a well-aimed diffindo and a vivisere he'd caught bouncing off of something less pliable than himself. Possibly the wall.

She asked, "What are you-" but stopped. "All right."

Draco blinked. Stupid trusting mudblood. He tamped down ruthlessly on the part of himself--it was tiny to begin with--that wanted to smile at her taking him on a level, just letting him take her where he would. He tamped down on it, but he took her out, past the wards, side-along Apparated them both to Hogsmeade and then walked her inside of Hogwarts, inside of where safety lay.

*

Remus had vague recollections of arriving at Hogwarts, of seeing Fred throw himself against wards that somebody--Albus?--had erected to keep him in, away from the action. Later Ginny would tell George who would tell him how it had been Kingsley with enough steel in his spine to trap the non-Order Weasley children behind, where they couldn't interfere. All except Ron, of course, but that would go unsaid, because nobody much was talking about Ron just yet.

He remembered, just barely, arriving in the hospital wing and having Poppy be too overwhelmed to even cluck at him, but then she'd given him something to drink and everything stopped there, traded in for a lengthy acquaintanceship with unconsciousness. When he finally awoke it was to the pleasant experience of voiding nearly everything that had been forced inside of him, the residue of several potions finding their way out of his system through malevolent paths, unwilling to just slide out through the normal channels. George was there after a moment, holding a basin underneath his mouth, saying things like, "Skiving snackboxes are for classes, mate, not for trying to sneak out of the infirmary," which made no sense but were oddly comforting.

When he stopped George handed him water, asked, "Nice to have that back, eh?" and Remus rinsed his mouth before taking several cautious sips.

His voice was weak and slightly foreign when he managed to ask, "You're. . .?"

"I'm. . .healed," was the predicate adjective eventually settled on. And then Fred, Ginny and Hermione were there, telling him things and not telling him things so that Remus could reconstruct what had happened in his own head.

"Harry?" he asked.

"Still recovering," Hermione answered, her lips well-bitten and her fingers restless. "Along with Professor Snape. They'll be all right, so the report goes."

"And Draco Malfoy-"

"Defected," was Hermione's confident if imbalanced answer, her eyes flicking across the hospital room to the door, as though she expected him to stride through at any moment. Remus wondered at the response, but didn't question her further.

"The headmaster?" Because unlike Ron, Remus hadn't caught on to any such undercurrent there and it seemed odd that Albus hadn't come by to see him and George. Perhaps, though, he was at Mungo's-

The four children at his bedside refused to meet his eyes and Remus said, "Ah."

It was only then that George began to cry, silent tears with his lower lip tucked tightly under a damaging set of teeth. Fred put his hands on his twin's shoulders and looked away. Hermione met George's eyes though, nodded and let a sound out of her mouth that sounded a bit like a chant, a eulogy, a hymn, a dirge. All in the space of a second. Ginny said, "I've got-" and gestured uselessly before walking off, out of the hospital wing.

The other three stayed though, stayed until that first (maybe second, Remus had just woken up after all) gust of mourning passed, when Fred suggested, "Lunch, then?"

Hermione nodded her head. "I'm craving whipped potatoes. Remus, you. . .?"

But Remus waved them off. "I believe I'll sleep some more." It was the only thing he could imagine doing, because when he woke up the next time there would needs be other things accomplished. Things he hoped he could forget about just long enough for one more satisfactory lapse into sleep.

*

When Minerva had told him everything she could remember of there being to tell, all about the not-completely-tested potion that Severus had created using the principles of poltergeist matter, as that was the closest thing that anybody could compare Voldemort in his final form to, the way Harry had learned knife-throwing, who was dead and who wasn't, progress reports on those still at Mungo's, when Remus was done listening with a certain agitated patience he said, "I'll need to speak with Ted and Andromeda Tonks."

Minerva drew in a lengthy breath. "Have you something that will comfort them? She was their only child, Remus," she said with the gravity of someone who can only imagine the horror of losing such an irreplaceable part of one's life.

"Would my offering them their right to press charges be selfish?" Remus, as much as anyone, wanted his castigation, his right to the fire, but not at the (obviously counterproductive) expense of others.

Minerva's brow caved for just a moment before it flattened in what Remus recognized as her version of other people's horrified "oh!" sounds. "Remus."

"Her parents, Minerva. I- I've no idea as to how to proceed." Remus thought that sounded nice. Clinical, like they weren't talking about a girl who had once asked him out and then laughed, "Bugger, I'm always off on that score," when he'd flustered something about women not being quite to his taste. A girl who'd had awful taste in dress robes, and a fondness for dried apples, and played the worst game of quidditch Remus had ever seen without a hint of rancor when she lost.

"You're to let me speak with them."

"I don't know that-"

"How do you think Albus would have handled this?"

Remus looked at her. "It would have depended on what was important to the final outcome," and, "You're not Albus." The latter wasn't meant to wound and he had to amend, "Leadership is unique, I didn't mean the statement qualitatively in the least," when her eyes fluttered quickly once or twice.

"Leadership is much easier when somebody else is doing it," she said softly. "Nonetheless, I've told you that I'll be the one to approach them and I expect that you will respect my inheriting of said leadership."

Remus bowed his head slightly. "I just want what will be best for them." That actually was far from everything Remus wanted, but it seemed unfair to burden Minerva anymore than she currently was.

Minerva's hand, lined but stable, brushed over one of his. "Very human of you."

*

It didn't take long for Remus to realize that the Tonks might not be his only hope of absolution, that ordinary every day wizards might be up to the task all by themselves. Poppy released him a good twenty-four hours after he was walking around the ward, prowling by the windows in a vain attempt to know what was going on beyond them. Remus could still hear the crackling sound of his wand being broken, bit by bit, in front of him, hear it more distinctly as he walked into Hogsmeade and tried to get someone to let him use their floo. Which was where his first inkling began.

Shop owners who had always been kind to Remus, even in the wake of Severus's (long forgiven, not that Remus had ever mentioned it to Severus) rather convenient slip of the tongue, refused him use of their floo. They were not harsh about it, although Remus could see the desire for it in the way their palms pressed against countertops, the cold set of their jaws, all the same, shop after shop after shop found him turned away, a few with some choice muttered curses.

Rosmerta was the one to finally allow him access, but even she gave it to him without her usual embrace, and not a trace of her customary smile found its way to her face. Remus was well beyond being picky; he threw the floo powder in the fireplace, and transported himself to Mungo's.

It was better there, more hectic and less people having any idea as to his identity. He was able to make it into Harry's room with relatively little fuss. Hermione was there, curled into a chair next to his bed and reading. She smiled at Remus upon entry and though he wasn't sure he deserved it, the familiarity of her acceptance was soothing. She tipped her head at Harry. "Sleeping."

Remus crossed to the foot of the bed and stood there not touching anything. Harry was more bandage and ointment than boy. Remus said, "Nobody's been willing to-"

"It looks worse than it is," she told him softly.

"How much worse?"

"Most of it will heal entirely."

Remus waited. She shut her book. "Something hit him as soon as he'd thrown the knife. We're not sure what. It looks like some sort of. . .directed energy. Not a curse or a hex, something stronger and more flexible in form. It shattered the right half the clavicle and several of the bones down through the arm. The Healers tried their best to place everything back together in the right order, but the bones tore at both muscle and tendon. They're not entirely sure how much use he's going to get of the arm in the future."

The explanation was calm, and Remus could hear its rhythms, the places where she'd had to construct all of this before for other visitors. He asked, "Do you want me to sit with him for a bit? You could go for a snack. A walk."

"There are others I'd like to check on."

"You should-"

But she brushed past him, one hand sweeping against his robes. "I can't stop. Not just yet."

As Remus hadn't stopped, not for years after That Night, the one when he hadn't been there, when Peter had, worse--when Voldemort had, he didn't try to force her into doing so now. He did ask, "Would you give me some idea of how Severus is doing? Before I step into the den of the beast?"

Remus was rewarded with a tired but sincere smile, a, "Certainly, he was on my list in any event."

Remus sat in the chair she'd vacated. In the chill of the ward, it was still warm.

*

Draco awoke from his third catnap of the day to see Granger standing by Severus. He considered pretending to still be asleep, but she was actually in the same room as he was, looking over a man for whom he knew she had little very fondness, so the least he could do was open his eyes and ask, "Potter?"

She started. "Did I wake you?"

He shook his head. Nodded it. "Potter?"

"Oh, same as, well. Same."

Draco hadn't been planning on telling her, "He woke up earlier. Severus," but once he'd said it there wasn't really any way to recant.

"Yes?"

"Asked if the bundimun secretion in his super secret Dark Lord killing potion worked correctly."

"Called it that?"

"No."

"Did you tell him it did?"

Draco blushed. "He was probably thinking me to be somebody else." Dumbledore, perhaps, although Draco wasnít sure he would have known the answer either.

Granger frowned. "What has that to do with anything?"

"I'm generally crap at Potions. Something he well knows."

Granger opened her mouth to say something. Shut it. Tried again with no more success than the first time. On the third try a small strangled noise made it way past her lips and Draco was almost ready to call for a Healer when he recognized the sound for what it was. "Granger," he warned.

But it was too late, despite the two hands crushed to her face, despite her turning away from the bed in full awareness of where she was and who else was there with her, Hermione Granger was laughing so hard that she had lost the ability to stand up. Draco considered all the truly nasty things he could say to her, ammunition stocked up like never before in the wake of one of her friends being dead and the other likely crippled for life, but the truth was that all of Draco's family and friends were either dead or incarcerated, and Granger was too bloody smart for him to be stupid enough to start up a duel of wits between them.

Besides which, Draco really wanted to laugh, and this seemed to present the perfect opportunity. He did, then. At first the sound was as foreign coming from his own body as it had been from hers, but slowly he remembered it, remembered and embraced it. Finally, when both of them were gasping for air, Granger barely visible, seated on the floor on the opposite side of Severus's bed, Draco asked, "So it worked, then?"

"Brilliantly," she said.

"I'll mention it."

"Yes, well." She stood up, soothed a hand over the perfectly smooth blankets covering Severus, and left the room, her upper lip wobbling just a bit suspiciously.

*

Upon Severus' eyes fluttering open, Draco said, "The bundimun secretion worked."

Severus was obviously far more aware of his surroundings on this occasion, as he pressed his lips together. "And you would be privy to this information how?"

"Granger told me. I don't think she was lying."

Severus seemed to take this under consideration. "Unlikely. Well, good then, the Dark Lord should be rather dead by my calculations."

"Did you teach Potter to throw knives?"

Severus turned his face slightly toward Draco. "Jealous?"

"It was rather. . ." Draco made a throwing motion with his right arm, as though this cleared up the fact that Potter's decisive toss had been quite the turn-on. Which was somewhat sick when he got to thinking about it, and probably didn't bear saying in front of his Potions professor, who was currently recovering from a bad case of near death. Draco filed the experience away as a good example of what tact very probably felt like. It could prove useful in dealing with his new allies.

"Madame Hooch taught him."

"Hooch?"

"She was a professional chaser for ten years before her retirement. Rather in her prime, too. Something about knowing when to quit. I pay less than full attention to the sport unless it pertains to house allegiance. She has spotless aim, though. Minerva evidently fed her some story about Potter wanting flexibility in his positional playing and that it must be kept under wraps due his wanting surprise as an element in tryouts come the spring."

"And she taught him with knives?" The flying coach had never seemed particularly dense to Draco, but he could be convinced to reconsider.

"He adapted her lessons." Severus swallowed the words as quickly as they escaped from him.

Draco wondered if they were literally bitter. "He flew apart then melted and. . .boiled away. Condensed? Yes. The Dark Lord."

"I didn't think you were speaking of Potter."

"What was in that potion?"

"Bundimun secretion."

"Ha. Ha."

Severus' lips did quirk, though, and Draco could see the humor. Severus closed his eyes. "Hatred. Hope."

"Did the knife matter?"

"The knife?"

"It looked. . .old."

"Muggle-made," Severus said, his voice softer than a moment before, as if he was holding onto consciousness with his tongue. "Lily's. Heirloom. In Potter's vault. Personal significance."

"The Muggle equivalent of-"

"Don't say it."

"I was going to say magic."

"You were going to be flippant."

"You're flippant about Muggles as well."

"Under the flippancy, there's hard-learned respect. Until you find yourself some of that, I don't want to hear a word about Muggles, particularly not in that tone."

"You've never once-"

Severus opened his eyes, sharp and precisely focused. "I've never killed a Dark Lord by proxy before. Consider it a week of firsts."

All things being what they were, Draco took the suggestion to heart.

*

About two days after Hermione had rounded the door to Harry's room with the announcement, "Professor Snape is up. Awake, rather," and right as Remus was once again thinking that maybe he ought to go and see how Severus was doing, except that Severus most likely wouldn't appreciate that in the least, now would he, in the middle of all that, Harry woke up and said, "Being dead can't possibly feel any worse than this."

Remus said, "Good morning," even though it was afternoon, late afternoon at that, and Hermione said, "I'll see if I can get you something," and pressed her lips to his forehead lightly before sweeping back out the door to find a Healer, or at the very least an assistant.

Harry waited until she was gone to ask, "The funerals?"

For a moment Remus was befuddled. Then he realized that Harry evidently remembered more than the medical staff had thought he would. "Professor McGonagall delayed both the Headmaster's and Mr. Weasley's in order that you and Professor Snape would be able to attend."

"I graduated nearly a year ago, Remus, you can call them by their names. I certainly do."

"Even Severus?"

"No, but that's personal."

"Is it?"

Harry shifted slightly. "He certainly thinks so. At the moment what I can feel of my arm doesnít seem to be a good omen and my best friend is very dead, so my concern over the emotions of one Severus Snape is less than crucial to my existence just now."

"It was his potion on the knife," Remus said.

"He didn't brew it for my sake," Harry came back in that rather annoying way that he had of being just right enough for Remus to be incapable of arguing and not quite right enough to be, well, right.

"Harry."

"Is this what it felt like? After Sirius? I was busy being nearly sixteen, I'm not sure I remember you being there at all, to be honest, but I've been thinking, on and off, mostly off with the unconscious state of things, that he was your best friend. So it must- You must not have known quite what to do. Or what the world meant without him."

Remus didn't say, "But it was the second time I'd lost him, and I was thirty-five, not eighteen, and at least I knew he'd died loving you and your parents," because Harry was only eighteen, and there were some things he wouldn't know until he was considerably further along in the life cycle than this moment. "It was a bit like reopening a wound and knowing it would never quite heal up again."

"Then you-"

"Do you plan to give up and die, after all this, because your arm won't do what you're used to it doing?"

"I have a second arm."

Remus shook his head. "There are no replacements, Harry. Just." Remus looked at the doorway to see Hermione heading their way with one of the adjutant medi-witches in her path. "I still had you. You see?"

Harry's gaze followed Remus's. "I-" But then Hermione was all the way in the door and the medi-witch was poking at Harry, and he was doing his best to play stolid-faced hero for Hermione. Remus figured that was all the answer he needed.

*

The upsurge in anti-werewolf sentiment had begun shortly after Harry's sixth year, when werewolf infection had gone up an unheard of thirty percent, neither wizarding nor Muggle population being exempt. Albus had assigned Remus the responsibility of figuring out what was happening and what could be done to stop it. Remus had gotten as far as the first part when he had stumbled across a Dark Energy Enhancer that could be used to agitate creatures under the influence of natural sources. The moon being one of those sources. Remus had still been trying to figure out what exactly Voldemort had done to mutate the Enhancer so that it focused solely on werewolves when he'd been captured. That, and why go through the trouble of doing so, especially as werewolves were already a downtrodden sect of the population and the results of crazing them were random at best. Not that it mattered anymore, but Remus still would have liked to have found out.

Ironically, Remus, who had been exempt from the Enhancement due the nullifying effects of the Wolfsbane, became the target for much of that societal antipathy in the days before the funerals, after the Tonks released a statement to the Prophet that their daughter, former Auror, posthumous Order of Merlin, first class--something Remus smiled to see despite the rest of the article--had been killed by one Remus Lupin. Remus wondered if he shouldn't talk to Minerva about the possibility of a public apology, but was interrupted from thinking about this when a Healer with whom he'd previously had three civil conversations threw him out of the hospital.

Not knowing where else to go, Remus tried to get himself back to Hogwarts, but the article had included pictures, Remus didn't have a wand, and he ended up, for the sake of personal safety, exiting the back way out of Diagon Alley, the way that his father had taught him as a kid, one that only the oldest and purest of families knew about and most of them wouldn't deign to cross into Muggle London, so the likelihood of someone following Remus that way was small.

Once he was momentarily safe, Remus found the nearest cafť and took a napkin. He walked some more until he found a bank where they left pens out for the customers and dashed off, "Minerva, I'm in Muggle London." That part was easy. Years of self-reliance under the worst of conditions kept Remus from saying what needed to be said, a simple, "Need a wand. Haven't money." In the end he wrote, "When are the funerals? Remus."

In the two years after Sirius's supposed betrayal, when Remus had consoled himself largely by returning to the world he'd known as a child, his mother's world of small non-magic towns, electricity and old-fashioned plumbing, he'd learned quite a bit about the way magic functions in communities that aren't created to support its existence. For one thing, carrier pigeons, while not the smartest nor most reliable creatures, could be given messages that needed to go to obvious places if the need was great enough. Certain birds, pigeons being on the lowest strata, but still in the ranks, had an inner detector of the magic residue left on every communication written by a wizard. Now, a squib who could use an owl due an owl's directional sense and intelligence wouldn't be able to utilize a pigeon, neither's magic charge was strong enough. But a pigeon would work for a fully trained wizard, wand or no, and that was the best Remus had.

Remus walked quickly to the nearest park where, sure enough, he found large congregants of pigeons. Acting like he planned on feeding the birds, he slipped the napkin to the one who looked the sturdiest and watched as the bird flew into the sky, vaguely in the direction of Hogwarts. Remus found a bench and settled in to wait for the response.

*

Although Draco had long been trained not to show anything but arrogance when approaching a mortal (or part-time, or really, any type of adjectival) enemy, the Weasley twins on a spree were something to be behold in terror. In fact, the only non-family person willing to approach them after the funeral, where Remus Lupin's absence had been strikingly obvious to anyone who knew something more than the headlines of the wizarding world's blindingly fact-impaired newspaper could tell them, was Granger. Draco had once envied the seemingly reckless courage of Gryffindors, but really, there was a limit.

When she whispered things into one's ear, though, things that were quickly transferred into the other's, and both boys calmed in both stance and pitch, Draco began to wonder how much she knew. Severus, who would never ask, had been agitated by the lack of the werewolf's presence. Draco didn't understand it, but there were some things he owed Severus at this point, particularly as the man had stood slightly in front of him for both funerals and snarled at anyone who so much looked at either of them from the sides of their eyes. Draco, of course, had acted removed and aloof, but it was an unsettling feeling all the same, knowing that only one man among your allies could be counted as friend and that said man had problems of his own.

When Granger lured the twins outside, away from people who could and would say something to set them off again sooner or later, Draco crept out as well. He followed them past the lawns, waiting for them to go into the groundskeeper's cottage, vacant since Hagrid's death at the hands of the giants nearly two years earlier. Giants had their own codes about blood, evidently, and Hagrid hadn't fit into those codes. It wouldn't have been an issue, Draco figured, had the Dark Lord not played with their prejudices, fine-tuned them to his own, but he had. Potter was terrifying for nearly six months after that, before he had hardened, become someone that Draco only vaguely recognized and couldn't seem to provoke no matter how hard he tried.

Draco curled up at the base of the steps, not really hiding, but not precisely announcing his presence. The twins were saying. "-Uggle world? You're sure?"

"He doesn't have a wand," Granger said. "It was probably the safest place he could think to be after the story broke."

"Harry says they threw Remus out of the hospital." Whichever twin was speaking sounded close to breaking something.

Granger sighed. "Harry thinks they did. He was asleep at the time. He woke up by himself. Personally, I agree, I don't think Remus would have left without telling anyone only to send a napkin written on with ballpoint ink by way of pigeon."

"Is Professor McGonagall going to help?" This twin was calmer, although not by much.

"She'll need to send someone with a wand. I was going to volunteer, but George, I

know-"

"You don't." Then, apologetically, "I appreciate the sentiment, but he gave me water despite having been there longer and having been tortured prior to our arrival. And he was going to make sure that he was dead rather than killing either of us for the next full moon. I overheard- Something I wasn't supposed to overhear."

"Knowing you, you probably heard quite a bit of that," Granger said dryly, not unlovingly.

One of the twins laughed. It was short, sharp, not any sound that Draco really connected with either of them. They said, as one, "We'll go."

"I'll speak to the headmistress," Granger said. Draco made for Hogwarts before they could find him out there on the stoop.

*

Remus intercepted the letter, carried back by owl, that had informed him, "Received message. Will send you a wand. Stay where you are. MM," and had stayed put. Having no Muggle funds nor Muggle identification easily available--his mum had insisted on a driver's license at eighteen and Remus had renewed it at twenty four, but that was fifteen years ago and even had it not been one of the few things he had stashed at Hogwarts, it still would have needed renewing--Remus sought out soup kitchens and homeless shelters that were close enough for whomever Minerva sent not to have a hard time finding him.

When George and Fred arrived on the scene three days later, Remus thought yes, because two identical redheads both over six foot isn't conspicuous or anything, but immediately regretted the thought at the intense look in George's eyes. Remus had never before been able to tell them apart, but at that moment, he had no question of which was which. He drew them into an alley and asked, "The funerals?"

"Quite the to-do, sorry you had to miss," Fred said shortly, with only a trace of his normal ease.

"I'm. . .my deepest condolences on Ron."

Fred looked at him, then, actually looked. George handed over the wand. "The headmistress thought it might be best for you to stay on this side."

Remus took it from him gently. It was maple wood, as best he could determine. Ten inches, maybe. Smooth from point to grip, with a small knot for his fingers to settle into. "Did you ask about the core?"

"Hair from a Centaur's tail, Ollivander said." Fred wasn't bothering to hide the note of surprise in his voice. Remus didn't blame him. To be useful in a wand, Centaur parts, like those of the Phoenix, had to be given willingly. Most Centaurs weren't in the least interested in helping humans build items of magical control.

"Centaur wands are known for bolstering intuition," Remus said.

"Yes, Professor," the twins responded as one, Fred rolling his eyes, George struggling with the smile that wanted its way with his lips.

Remus pocketed the wand. "Thank you for it."

"You're not going to stay here, are you?" George asked. "This side, I mean."

Remus quirked his lips. "Can't."

"We could help-"

Remus cut George off. "A joke. A new one. Several new ones. That would be helpful. Not you seeing to everyone's least favorite werewolf."

"And what are we to tell the headmistress?" Fred asked.

"Nothing. That I took her advice. That I disobeyed her. The decision is yours entirely."

George flinched so slightly that Remus nearly missed it. "Our shop is in Diagon. Even with everything else, it's hard to miss. You're always welcome. If it matters."

Remus inclined his head. "It matters."

*

Draco wanted to curl up where he could never be found after the first day of trials. Nine hours of listening to those he now worked with laying out facts about the people who had always constructed the edges and center of his world, and then having to testify himself, to say, "Yes, I saw my best friend, my caretaker, my godfather, my father, kill this or that Muggle, this or that half-breed, this or that blood-traitor," with members of each such group looking at him and suddenly realizing that maybe he should feel regret about something other than his own traitorous actions, perhaps what had come before those, but for the moment he was full up on emotional overload.

Potter looked no less exhausted on his part, and Draco wondered if being perpetually on the winning side allowed him the right to curl up after each trial and lick whatever wounds were created by always wearing a coat of golden sheen. Draco, for his part, knew better than to curl up or even go near what looked to be a comfortable alcove. That he must always be seen as standing tall, as willing to be on display, as willing to take what came at him was obvious. Unspoken, but obvious.

Granger, with her exasperating inability to ever read anything wrong, sat by him in one amongst a series of the second week of trials and offered, "Drink, after?"

Out of morbid curiosity, Draco asked, "You really feel like it, after listening to all this?"

"Feeling like it and needing it are a bit different, yes?"

And of course Draco had joined her, because need it he most certainly did. She took him to a local Muggle pub wherein Draco had the feeling that he stuck out like blood on a white marble floor, but he must not've because the inhabitants barely looked up. Granger led them to a table which was already occupied by- "She didn't mention," Draco started to turn, "I'll just-"

Potter asked, "Too good to sit at a Muggle establishment?" but there was very little anger in the question, as though he was too tired for games. "Or are you leaving for my benefit?"

Draco desperately wished that Potter had given him such an opening even three months earlier, but he hadn't, and Draco really would like a drink. He sat down. Potter nodded, a bit grimly, but without further comment. Granger said, "What do you usually drink?"

"Spiced rum," Draco told her.

"Erm, all right. I can get you a rum toddy. Not quite the same, but it'll do the trick, I'd imagine." She started to rise.

Draco put a hand on her arm. "I'll do it." From the way she looked at him, he had to wonder if Muggle culture placed an entirely different value on etiquette of any sort. Potter had obviously known better than to offer.

She softened her gaze, though. "I know the barkeep. And the currency."

"Oh." Draco resettled himself.

When Granger was at the bar, Potter said, "She lives around here."

"She lives-" Draco bit his tongue and did his best not to grimace, either at the idea or what had very nearly come out of his mouth.

"Among Muggles? Yes. She's doing post-grad in Cardiff but she said that seven years was enough time away from the city and that Apparition gives her the option of not forsaking it any longer. Her parents were both born and bred Londoners and I think that was the hardest part of Hogwarts, even allowing for your more arsehole-riffic moments, just being away."

Draco wasn't even sure if he was being insulted or complimented. He chose to ignore the entire issue. "Cardiff? Specializing in developing magics through synthetical composition?" That was what Cardiff was famous for, and Draco, no matter how annoyed he had ever been by her paradigm-shifting mere state-of-existing didnít imagine that Miss Hermione Granger would take for herself anything less than the best at what she was working toward.

Proving Draco's point, Potter nodded. "Arithmancy and Potions. She wants to improve upon formulas that currently extract information but also cause moral quandaries."

"Veritaserum?"

"Among the more innocent ones."

Draco wondered how he'd missed the fact that Gryffindors had their dark sides too, they just hid them with different colors. Must've not been paying attention again. Granger returned before he was able to ask anything else, setting something warm and to all evidences strongly alcoholic in front of him.

Draco tipped it back. When he began to choke, Potter used his good arm to pat him on the back. Harshly.

*

After nearly four days of scrounging for scraps, Remus's first order of business when he returned to the wizarding side--after relocating to a spot behind Knockturn where most of the inhabitants were only slightly less reviled than him at this moment--was food. Which required money, so Remus did what he always did when there were no other options immediately forthcoming and walked the streets until someone with a likely gleam in his eye approached Remus and said, "You're that werewolf."

The man was twice as ugly as sin, but he didnít smell, so Remus said, "Eight galleons up front, I keep my wand on me, you don't do anything that will prohibit my walking out alive and well."

"Relatively well," the man amended.

Remus bloody well needed some food. As it happened, the man, for all his bluster, had little imagination to match with it, and Remus, after all, had just been the guest of some people with widely ranging imaginations, so it was a small price to pay for the eight galleons, which in this part of town meant food and shelter.

Or, well, it should have except that it seemed even people in these parts weren't feeling very hospitable to Auror killing werewolves. Which was disheartening, as nobody within five miles in any direction had any fondness for Aurors.

Remus Apparated out of city limits and spent the night in the Forbidden Forest. It was a bad idea on every level, Remus could name at least forty variations of flora and fauna off the top of his head that could eat him, maul him, erode his skin, send him into psychotic episodes in which he would tear himself apart. It was close to Hogwarts, though, and seemed somehow safer than the streets. Or possibly it was that Remus just preferred the feel of the forest to the filth of the alleys. He was willing to accept either self-justification.

He woke up late, sun high in the sky, the forest deceptively peaceful in that way it had. Remus lay on his back, looked up and thought about his options. Staying here, letting the transformations eventually take him in the way that they would, the human body not meant to withstand them indefinitely (less so when it wasn't well-treated) wasn't an option. Harry didn't need anybody else up and disappearing on him. As the only Marauder left, Remus. . .thought it was time to be around when he could.

Which meant either setting himself up in the Muggle world, or going back to the alleys now and then when he absolutely needed sustenance. The brilliance of having not-entirely human physique meant that probably wouldn't be more than two or three times a week. Maybe more before and after the full moon.

He could spend those nights here, far enough in to not pose a danger to anyone smart enough not to venture into the depths of the forest. And most who weren't knew how to protect themselves well enough. Or he could pick up extra work in the alley. The more violent the better the pay, generally. Not that it was a pattern Remus truly relished, but he'd done it before in particularly slow times. It was just another way of keeping himself alive for other things.

Harry. Other- Harry.

Remus took a breath. He didn't need to move just then, and there wasn't a sign of rain anywhere.

*

Draco had been entirely set to take over Father's political connections, the Manor, the fortune and be done with things. Some day, at least. Until then there had always been years at post-graduate education. Draco was pursuing Family Studies, the Wizarding form of tracing back family lines at the best program available, L'Ecole Guinevere near the Riviera. Admittedly, Draco hadn't been terribly turned off by location, either.

Family Studies, however, wasn't just about history. It was about strengthening magic in magical offspring to come. At L'Ecole, given its conservative nature, this meant pureblood eugenics. Draco went back only to tell his advisor, "I'm taking some time off."

His advisor said, "I'm sorry to hear about your father. Take all the time you need."

Draco didn't mention that he probably wouldn't be coming back. Instead he found the nerve to seek Severus out. Severus hadn't been teaching classes since his release from Mungo's, but Draco knew he was still in his laboratories. The times when Draco had stopped by for dinner Severus had seemed distracted in that way he could only be when he had a goal in mind and it wasn't being so polite as to come quietly.

Draco undid the wards on the outside door to the lab, with the incantations Severus had given him two weeks earlier. Severus looked up as he came in, but didn't say anything. Draco sat down somewhere that he couldn't possibly cause problems. "I left L'Ecole."

"Poncy program anyhow. Lucius only allowed you to go as it couldn't in any way make you smart enough to try and go against him, even were you leaning in that direction. Probably hoped it would inculcate you more deeply."

Draco was annoyed, but then, he imagined that was what Severus had intended. "There are cutting edge Family Studies Programs."

"Yes, ones that involve actual history and ideas about integration rather than segregation and all sorts of interesting things that I pick up an article about every once in a while. L'Ecole is a bastion of thoughts that weren't new four millennia ago, so my state of impression with its program is about what one might expect."

"Assuming nothing goes balls-up I will inherit the Manor and the money, it's not like I'm required to do much of anything at this point."

"No, but Potter's not much into poncy gits who sit around on their arse all day, particularly not when he's having to imagine a new life entirely for himself, the Auror program not being cripple-friendly."

It had been in the news everywhere, Potter's "leaving" the program in light of his injury. Draco couldn't imagine why Potter was giving them such an easy time. Were he thrown out of the training for the occupation he'd wanted nearly his entire life after his killing the most renowned dark wizard of his time, Draco would have raised a fuss to define all fusses thenceforth. Of course, Potter never had known how to manipulate the press to his advantage. Even that one time, with the Lovegood girl, Granger's prints had been all over that. Realizing that he'd probably waited longer than he should have, Draco asked, "What should I care what Potter thinks?"

Definitely too long, as Severus only raised his head for a moment, Draco's denial evidently being worth neither words nor a lengthy stare. Then, "There's teaching."

It took Draco several beats to realize they'd returned to their previous topic of conversation. "Teaching, right. I'd be brilliant at that."

"Slytherin needs a Head of House."

"Slytherin has one. There wasn't a head injury that nobody mentioned, was there?"

"I've been offered a job. Special division development potions for Cauldron Works."

"What kind of brewing?"

"Anything I want."

Cauldron Works was a think tank that imported Potion's Masters from all over to create potions that would make the company money. "Are you thinking of something in particular?"

Unusually for Severus, the man hesitated. Then, "Muggles have something called psychotropic drugs. They help heal severe mental distress caused from both inner and outer sources."

"Severus," Draco said slowly.

"The state of the mind is something that wizards prefer not to mess with, at least not wizards of the so-called Light, I know. But we've just finished a war. A long, messy one. One that went away and came back."

"You can't just-"

"Dose somebody with a potion and expect it to be all better?" Severus raised a sardonic eyebrow. "Nobody is more well aware, Draco. You can, however, like potions used to heal the body, start the healing process. The brain is just another part of the body, its injuries also healable, even should a more fine-tuned touch be necessary."

Draco trusted Severus to know enough to be right about this. He brought the subject back to where it had begun. "I can hardly teach Potions, we both know that."

"History. Minerva convinced Binns to quit and I know it's something of a hobby."

Only because during long summers when Draco had been the only child at the Manor there was only so much flying that could be done and Father's library, that which wasn't Dark Arts, had been mostly history. Draco had secretly devoured everything he could find in Hogwarts library as well once he'd arrived, having read Father's books time and time over and unsatisfied with Binn's droning recitations. "I haven't a bit of training in it. Not to mention teaching."

"Yes, well, I had loads when I arrived at Hogwarts," Severus sneered.

Draco started to say something but Severus cut him off. "You'll betray everything you know to be true because something interrupts that truth but you won't consider standing up to eleven year olds?"

"And seventeen year olds. Who will only be two years younger than me."

"You've helped win a war. They haven't. Besides, if you can get Potter into bed think of how that will boost your reputation."

"Bastard."

"Nearly a year at L'Ecole and that's the best insult to my lineage that you can dredge up? Perhaps I shan't leave the Slytherins in your care."

They both knew he would.

*

Word got 'round to all the right places. Or perhaps all the wrong places. People came to Remus, risk-takers curious what the bite of a werewolves human teeth felt like, kids wanting a screw with someone infamous, people willing to pay considerably to do things that Remus couldn't wash off himself, things that woke him in the early hours, shivering in the Forest's arms, things that felt like penance but never healed him. When he'd made enough that he could stop for a time Remus would exchange the money at a branch of Gringotts--goblins, bless them, weren't picky at all about who their customers were so long as they were making good off of them, and at the exchange rate Remus was getting, they were certainly doing so in his case. Once he had pounds he'd venture into Muggle London, eat food somewhere where nobody recognized him, sometimes just walk in the crowds merely for the experience of not being spit at or having objects (sometimes hexes) thrown at him.

When he was ready he would go back, see if he could get a copy of the Prophet, maybe send off some letters to Harry, the Twins, Hermione and Minerva, and settle back into the forest. When Harry's letter, the one that said, "Drop by? I have some of that Darjeeling you like," came, Remus took a couple of clients, waited a day or two for the worst results of the last client to heal, ventured into Muggle London for a gorgeous little corduroy and cashmere combination and then over to Harry's flat, the new one that he'd begun renting after realizing that there would be no returning to the one he and Ron had shared.

Remus knocked on the door. Harry answered, "Oh. I didn't- You didn't owl."

"Sorry, wasn't sure when I'd be able-"

"No, itís fine. I'm glad you're here."

"Darjeeling?" Remus asked, instead of the "Malfoy?" that wanted to come out of his mouth, because while the scent of Malfoy was nowhere in the apartment, it emanated softly from Harry. Nothing serious. They certainly hadn't been snogging or any such thing, but the two had definitely been spending time together.

Harry let him in the apartment. It was nicely organized. Remus said so. Harry said, "I've had a lot of time."

Remus watched without seeming to the way Harry compensated for the loss of mobility in the right arm. "Time off might not be the worst thing for you. I mean, I realize it has its pertinent problems," not the least being time and time and time to think, "but nonetheless, you haven't truly had a chance to just be up until now."

"I've been thinking about investing."

"What sort of investing?"

"Well, I've already a share of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, which, between you and me, could probably keep me comfortable for a long time to come. And Neville's been asking around for capital to start up a shop specializing in supplying magical plants to businesses with large demand. Right now places like Mungo's and the research labs have to go to several different places since nobody can handle the type of orders necessary, but Neville has a rather smart plan for how to change that and I think it's probably worth supporting. And then there's Hermione, who's hoping to independently contract out to agencies like the Ministry with her inventions once she gets out of school, but she needs start up to do that." Harry shrugged. "I could make a career out of making my friends happy, they've spent their lives making sure I survived."

Remus could hear the faint twist of wistfulness in Harry's tone right before it was drowned out by the whistle of the teapot. Harry snatched it from the fire and dumped the tea strainer inside. Remus nodded. "Lily would have gotten a kick out of that. You being the hotspot for young ingenuity."

Harry peered at him. "You're not just saying? Because I'm a bit easy to jerk around with mentions of my mum. It's been pointed out to me."

"Lily was my friend," Remus said softly.

"Right." Harry scuffed his toe against the floor. "Sorry. That wasn't-"

"Itís all right."

"Is there something you-"

Remus shook his head. "Haven't got any brilliant ideas, Harry."

"Surely-"

"No. But keep me updated on how the others go, yeah?"

Harry poured the lightly steeped tea into two cups and handed one to Remus. "'Course. What have you been up to, then?"

Remus took a sip. "Nice brew. Been spending some time outdoors. Yourself?"

*

Draco managed, through no small amount of nagging, to get Severus to share dinner with him a few weeks into the fall semester. Severus had begun working for his development firm no more than a week after the students had vacated Hogwarts in the summer and so was already well on and when Draco--at first too concerned with issues of syllabus and fitting into a staff that was less than enamoured of his presence--realized that Severus hadn't contacted anyone, not even Minerva, in over a month, he'd set to drawing the man out. To be honest, he wasn't entirely sure which effort in his campaign had actually provoked a response, but Severus had finally scribbled off a, "My place, seven o'clock, Thursday. Be late at your own peril."

Draco, who was generally only mildly fond of peril and only then when he knew he would survive it, showed up a minute early. Room to maneuver was always a good thing.

Severus released the wards without meeting Draco at the door, even though Draco knew Severus was bred well enough to know better. Even if it had been Draco's father doing the breeding in the wake of a lack of any prior breeding. Though what Draco knew of the situation he knew only from his superior skills at eavesdropping, he gathered that Severus's parents, Old Family or no, had been rather gauche. Of course, there was always the rumor that Severus' people were foreign, but Draco had never been sure of how much truth to grant to that.

Draco deposited the cinnamon swirl cookies (the ones where the cinnamon actually swirled, as a child Draco had gotten his knuckles rapped more then once for becoming mesmerized by the treat) he'd picked up from Cora's Cookies in Diagon in the kitchen. Father had strictly forbidden Cora's to him as a child seeing as how she was half-blood, but Potter had insisted on swerving by there one afternoon when he was nearly slobbering for a chocolate chip chompers (a treat that personally turned Draco's stomach but he was hardly surprised to find it was Potter's favorite, nor more than somewhat dismayed to find himself slightly charmed by this fact. Very slightly.) Draco had been back four or five times since. Possibly six. Or ten. He'd lost count, actually.

Severus looked at the bag as though it might bite him. "Won't go at all well with what the elves have made."

"We'll have a snifter of cognac after dinner. Clean the palette right off." Then, before Severus could start in on something else, "Thank you for having me."

"You would've left me alone if I hadn't?"

"No." Pleasantly, Draco asked, "What have the elves made?"

Severus frowned. Draco knew the house elves were a new addition, most likely one to which Severus was still adapting. Potter had told Draco about his attempt to have a house elf when he'd first left school, him and Weasley sharing. Evidently they were a bit much if one hadn't grown up with them everywhere and nowhere all at once. Severus's family, from what Draco could gather, hadn't had the sort of money necessary for elves when Severus was growing up, and he'd had no need of them while living at Hogwarts most of the year. Finally Severus said, "Roast pheasant."

"I love pheasant. You do too."

"They will have made too much."

"That's what house elves do," Draco agreed.

"Even more so due my having company."

"We'll sit down. You can insult my pitiful attempts at teaching and I can pester you until you tell me one or two paltry details about your current existence. It will be fun."

"The Dark Lord burned His Mark further in you than anybody guessed."

The barb hit its intended spot but Draco would be damned if he let Severus know it. "Voldemort. And I suspect it was Father more than anyone, truth be told."

Severus eyed Draco with distaste. "You've been spending time with Potter."

Draco twisted his lips. "Yet more for you to rail at me about. My behavior has been thoroughly unbecoming of a Slytherin and a Malfoy, I assure you."

"Perhaps you are right about one thing."

"And that is?" Draco asked with a hint of amusement.

"We'd best sit down."

*

Draco wasn't expecting anyone when the wards warning of company approaching sounded in his rooms the next evening. Draco charmed the door translucent from his side to see who it was. Most students wouldn't bother him here unless it was dire, and even then, they'd probably go to a prefect in order to do the bothering for them. With the exception of Minerva, nobody on the staff much spoke to him. Draco puzzled over the fact that Hermione Granger seemed to be very nearly-

Draco pulled the door open just as she came to a stop in front of it. "The Dark Lord's risen from the dead, hasn't he?"

"Yes. May I have a cup of tea before we rush into battle?"

Draco watched, mildly perplexed, as she walked into his quarters. "I suppose the Dark Lord hasn't risen, then?"

"Oh for fuck's sake, do you really think I or anyone else could be arsed to visit you at home if that were the case? Honestly, somebody would floo and tell you where in the bloody hell to get to."

Draco blinked. "You aren't very ladylike."

"I've been spending entirely too much time with the twins. I really was serious about that tea."

"I'll make you tea. You'll tell me why you're here."

"I enjoy your company."

"No, you don't."

"Actually," Granger sat herself on his sitting chair by the fireplace, crossing her legs with a certain unplanned deliberation, "I'm beginning to appreciate your unique personality, but you're right, that's not why I came."

Draco accioed the tea Severus had sent him home with the evening before, ingredients received from a contact in Singapore, combined by Severus. This package--labeled in Severus's entirely Victorian scrawl--said, "Clear Consciousness."

Granger sniffed at the air delicately. "Smells incredible, wherever do you get your tea?"

"A friend," Draco said.

"Likely the one I came to ask about."

Draco poured water into two mugs, zapped them both with a heating charm and lowered strainers into each. "Why would you have come about Severus?"

"Because George wasn't sure the two of you could be in a room together without killing each other and though that sounded entertaining, he wanted news of Severus more than a good time."

"You're Weasley's squire now?"

Granger looked at him impassively until he amended, "Go-between."

"Something of the sort." Her words were soft. "He wants to formally declare a life-debt. Remus is near impossible to find unless Harry whistles at the right pitch and everybody knows where Severus is and nobody will approach him."

"Aren't Gryffindors supposed to be brave unto idiocy?"

"There's a reason why most people graduate from Hogwarts."

"Not Weasley."

"Malfoy. How's Professor Snape?"

"Getting paid rather indecent amounts to brew potions that will bring him enormous acclaim should wizarding society choose to accept that we experience. . .mental difficulties which cannot be fixed by merely looking ahead and watching where we're going."

"The likelihood of that?"

"Well. I've started to think of you as muggle-born."

"There's hope after all." Her lips twitched. "Do you think George should approach him?"

"Severus doesn't want a life-debt."

"Not really the way a life-debt works as I understand it."

Draco almost sneered. It would have been wasted though. Her understanding from books was probably just as good as his from a lifetime of watching people pledge them to each other when necessary. A rite was a rite was a rite. "Tell Weasley to find Severus a tester."

"Tester?"

"He needs them, and this population is hardly jumping at the chance. I would find them for him but I am relatively friendless these days, and nobody's lining up to do me any favors."

"Harry's quite fond of you," she protested.

"Potter's fond of anyone who doesn't pretend like he's not a bit off balance these days."

"Because it takes a true friend to not pretend."

"Either that or a true enemy."

Granger laughed. "You're going to argue about who Harry's enemies are with me?"

Draco acceded the ridiculousness of the idea. "Do you want sugar? Milk?"

"One sugar cube, no milk."

Draco brought her mug to her and she accepted it with a grateful nod. "Thank you for the advice."

"Don't thank me just yet. I can't guarantee he'll be pleasant even with that little present opening the door."

"No, but you did just guarantee that the door would open."

Draco took a sip, hoping it really would clear his mind. Granger uncrossed and then recrossed her legs on the other side. "How're classes?"

Draco eyed her. "Are you being social with me?"

"Scandalously so."

"Oh." Draco took a seat on his sofa. "They're rather enjoyable."

"Truly?"

"Ye-" Draco stopped. Took another sip. "Well, sometimes."

Granger smiled. "Do you wish to talk about it?"

Draco thought about how just a few years ago Vincent and Greg had been around whenever he needed someone to joke with, how after that there had been Ted, when they'd rented the place above Le Rue des Fueilles. He thought about how silent his quarters would be when she left, not even a familiar around, so much so that he would welcome the morning chaos of the Great Hall when it finally came time for the students to converge upon it, that he would be nearly ecstatic when Potter's next invite came, even if it was for Indian food, which Potter loved and Draco abhorred. He relaxed against the back of the sofa. "Third years are positively the worst. You wouldn't expect it either, but then you're going along, expertly teaching the material you have planned. . ."

*

Remus knew how to read people. There were so many ways to know where danger lay, the movement of eyes, fingers, twitching of the skin. The smell. That most of all, although sometimes it was the extreme speed of a heartbeat, painful inside Remus' ears. He'd never been wrong before.

He'd forgotten that there was always a first.

He Apparated back to the forest after his miscalculation, not entirely sure he'd make it, entirely sure he couldn't walk, couldn't stay in the room where the John had left him, bleeding, the residue from the silver pins still coursing through him, not quite causing him to splinch. Causing him to fall on the ground and retch upon reaching the forest.

Remus breathed through his nose, trying to filter out the familiar smells of trees and creatures and sky from the rank poison of the silver. When his body finally gave up trying to void what wouldnít be voided Remus crawled underneath a tree and curled up on himself, shaking and sweating and nearly too weak to even be sick.

Remus took another deep breath, whimpering at the shock of pain that came with the air. He wondered if he'd gotten greedy--the John had offered a lot, enough to stay away from the alleys for a couple of weeks, maybe more--or if he'd just not been paying attention, but his mind couldn't focus on the thoughts. They didn't really matter.

What did matter was the moon. It wouldn't be full tonight, nor the next, but in three nights the transformation could very well tear him apart if he was still in this state, or worse. Given time the silver poisoning would either bleed out or kill him, depending on how deep it had penetrated and the response of Remus's system. There was no way of telling, really, and if it weren't for the moon, Remus would have been more than fine with waiting things out. Nor was it that Remus really minded the idea of dying in the thrall of change.

It was what the wolf might do if the change was managed and a creature maddened with poison and crazed with pain were loosed upon the world. On a regular basis the wolf was actually rather predictable. So long as Remus went into the deep of the forest the likelihood that the wolf would do anything more than chase the pleasant scents of heated female wolves and bloodied weaker creatures was slim to none. An unpredictable wolf might decide that it wasn't pleased with prey that didn't run. Might decide that blood was no good if it wasn't self-caused.

There were plenty of things Remus could handle. Killing another human wasn't one of them. He wasn't sure infecting another human fell under that rubric.

Apparating again wasn't an option. Remus took another deep breath and another until he had the ability to raise himself upright. He immediately began vomiting again, but there was nothing to vomit and he slowly got the spasms under control. Remus worked to remember the trick. Albus had taught it to him, early in the years of the Order. Fire, first. Remus pointed his wand at a pile of loosely affiliated sticks and fallen branches and managed a weak incendiary spell. Trying desperately to string one thought in conjunction with another, to remember what was a substitute for the powder he mumbled combinations of words until the right ones came to him and he was able to cobble together the verbal formulation for floo powder. He called, "Severus Snape" and hoped that the spell, that his sense of Severus was strong enough.

When, miracle of miracles, Severus answered with an irritated, "I'm busy," Remus said, "I need chains. I'm in the western region of the forest, three miles south the grindylow marsh. Please," and then spelled the fire gone before he could pass out, leaving it to set an entire wildlife habitat aflame.

*

Remus woke to the scent of smoke and a lingering wisp of hellebore. Remus opened his eyes as to more clearly give Severus a befuddled look. "Why are you taking hellebore?"

Severus snapped, "I'm working with it, not taking it, you imbecile."

Remus thought the reaction a bit on the melodramatic side but this was Severus, and they were in the Forbidden Forest with Severus having been dragged unceremoniously from his lab by way of one of his less favorite people. Remus remembered something Harry had said, then, "Oh, psychotropic potions."

"If you insist on being Muggle about it."

"You've come up with a better word?"

"Essence balancing potions."

Remus tried sitting up but then realized it was going to be a production with the leftovers from his earlier John. "Has a nice ring."

"So will all the galleons it brings me."

"Severus Snape, inveterate money-grubber." Remus rolled his eyes, too tired to play urbane. Severus wouldn't leave him without giving him the chains, not when Severus had the chance to leave him chained without coming back.

As if Severus had read Remus's mind--and Remus doubted Legilimancy to be entirely out of the question--he said, "At least I can afford my own chains."

"My job prospects aren't what they used to be."

"And whoring just isn't as lucrative as it once was."

Remus stepped up to the challenge. "Perhaps you'd like something for your chains?"

Severus, no less cunningly insidious than he'd always been, asked, "How much would Wolfsbane be worth to you?"

Remus fought not to take the bait, to suggest that he preferred the wildness of the wolf now. He forced himself to remember the vile taste of Severus's brew, the constant, un-ending shock of that first moment of humanity inside the wolf. He knew, though, that none of this, not even his pride, mattered. "I believe the question is what it's worth to you?"

"Quite a bit of my time and no small amount in ingredients."

Remus was smart enough not to play Severus's game, however. "Either come up with your price, or formulate one for the chains."

"You. Once a month, say a week before the full moon. No limits on what I desire. No refusals on your part."

Remus looked up at the sky, just barely peeking through the forest's roof. "How long have you been planning this?"

"Your suggestion that I've known your condition posits that I care about you in some way. No, your firecall was the first I'd heard of you since you left Mungo's," Severus sneered at the word "left." "I merely observed all the ingredients before me and named the correct potion. Tell me, did you truly expect me not to take advantage of a situation that is entirely too fortuitous?"

The truth was, "I'm not sure I could trust you if you hadn't."

*

Potter knocked on the door to Draco's class at about five minutes to the end, and Draco well knew that there would be no recalling a single one of the second year's attentions to the Ministry's 1811 debates over the magical being/creature divide. Not even the Ravenclaws. He waved his hand, "you're dismissed," and watched as twenty-five figures swaddled in black cloth converged and tried to make it out the doorway in one large lump without, incidentally, bumping into the Somewhat Scary Hero standing just inside said doorway.

When they were gone entirely, Draco said, "Was that merely a test to see if you could annihilate my authority completely simply by your presence, or did you actually come for something?"

Potter had the good grace to wince. "Minerva said you were probably finishing up."

Potter looked so contrite that despite Draco's better instincts, he said, "I was." After a moment wherein Potter felt no need to continue the conversation, Draco asked, "Did you need something?"

Potter didn't answer directly. "We never learned that when I was here. I don't think, anyway. Maybe I slept through that class."

"No, too modern. Our History ended in 1704 with the Goblin settlement at Llanelli, of all places."

"I've never been."

"You're not missing much."

"I've heard Wales is lovely."

"Parts of it, certainly."

"Not Llanelli?"

"No."

"Want to take me somewhere that is?"

"Somewhere nice?"

"For dinner. I'm hungry. I figure you probably know some rather nice places."

"I know all the nice places."

"Well then."

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why me? There are plenty of people around to go to dinner with, many of whom would be rather excited that you were doing the asking."

"And you're not?"

"Could you not avoid the question? Please."

"I figure maybe you know nicer places."

"Undoubtedly. You don't strike me as the haughty type, Potter. Though I can't for the life me imagine why."

"I'm not-" Potter walked slightly further into the classroom. "I'm not haughty. It's merely that things are changing rather quickly in my life. There are some changes I'd prefer to be in control of."

"Such as who takes you to dinner?"

"Hermione mentioned you might be open to the invitation."

Granger. Draco should have figured that one out. He really had to start using his instincts again. "Potter-"

"You don't look at me with this sickening. . ." Potter clenched his lips, then relaxed them and spat, "pity when I talk about things. I need someone to talk with about my ideas. I've gotten used- I like having people around me. And Hermione needs her own life, at least some of the time."

Draco was pretty sure that this was as bad an idea as had ever been had. "Wales?"

Potter shrugged. "Not too far. Some place I'd like to go."

"I think I know somewhere."

Potter smiled. Draco cursed himself.

*

Halfway through the bottle of wine, Draco asked, "Did you really seek me out so as to be entertained by my near flawless ability to prattle at inconsequential subjects for days on end?"

"Days, really?"

Draco nodded solemnly.

Potter shook his head. "Although your uncanny knowledge of odd historical trivia might come in useful at some unforeseen moment in the future."

"Not as flashy as knife-throwing or the ability to survive death curses, I'll grant, but we all have our gifts."

Potter looked past him. "Ever play Quidditch these days?"

Draco knew better than to answer.

Potter sighed. "Right."

"Your problem is that you weren't raised to be magical and slightly ornamental."

"That's my problem?"

"At this particular moment in time," Draco clarified.

"How is that, exactly?"

"Your magical intuition is flawless, and you've managed to redirect magic through to the hand you've never used as your foremost hand within a period of months, which shows immense power even had we never been given any reason to suspect such before now."

"Your point?"

"Your magic is still good for plenty so long as you're willing for it not to be flashy."

Potter scratched behind his ear with his new lead hand. "You remember in fifth year how we had to get career counseling?"

Draco took a rather large sip of wine. "Let me guess. You told yours that it was the Auror program or nothing."

"In not so many words."

"And you don't know who to ask for career advice as everybody who would be discreet about it seems to have more important things on their mind."

"I have trust issues."

Draco really could have guessed that from the sublime silencing charms that Potter had woven around their table the second they sat down, the ones that would only extend to right where they were sitting and would suggest to those around them that they could hear the murmuring from their table, when really all it would be was a sound loop from those diner's own conversations. Also from the warding devices that Potter regularly wore on himself, such as the watch on his wrist with a base of topaz, which reacted well to charms used to detect hostile intent. The thought brought Draco to a place he didn't usually find himself, one where he was unable to decide which of his next questions was most important. "Why me, then? And did you come up with the mechanics of that watch yourself?"

"Because you need friends and I'm a good one to have. Well, I didn't make it tell time, if that's what you're asking."

"Itís not."

"Then yes."

"Did you enjoy it? I mean, coming up with the idea and figuring out how to implement it?"

"It was sort of necessary, but I suppose I did. Problem solving's something I find comfort in."

"There are companies that pay people simply to come up with products like that. How else do you think they end up on shelves? Particularly high level companies which sell only to corporations and bodies like the Auror corps are more prestigious, but it's a pretty lucrative line of business any way you go. And I can't imagine that any of these companies wouldn't pant to have you designing for them. It wouldn't even matter if the products worked."

Potter's eyes flashed. "Fuck you, Malfoy."

Draco supposed that was fair. "I didn't mean that I suspected they wouldn't. Don't you ever tire of running from the fact of the way things are?" Draco, unlike others, had recognized Potter's aversion to his name fame for quite some time.

"Oh, because it so obviously suffices you to be at ease in the name Malfoy and the inheritance it implies."

Draco poured himself another glass of wine. "But I accept it."

"And you would expect a Gryffindor to do otherwise than rail against the inevitable?"

"No," Draco admitted. "But somehow I always expect you to."

*

Remus went into Muggle London and washed up as best he could before going to Severus for the Wolfsbane in the first month of their trade. Remus knew that Severus most likely couldn't smell others on Remus, but Remus could smell them on himself, and Severus's vague glint of practiced superiority always made him feel that Severus had somehow boosted his olfactory senses as well. Remus thrift shopped then, finding a workable pair of corduroys, a button down and matching jumper that would do well enough to replace the ones done in by blood and the Forest's sometimes vindictive shrubbery.

None of this, of course, impressed Severus. Not that Remus had expected anything of the sort. Certainly it would have been nice for Severus to seem appreciative of the body he was getting in return for his time, skill and potion's stores, but Remus could do without.

Instead Severus took to looking mildly thwarted and asked, "Have rates gone down in the profession or has dining out simply gotten exorbitant?"

Remus didn't really feel like talking about the fact that he could afford food, simply couldn't deal with the stares and shouts and abuse that him stepping into wizarding public spaces occasioned. "I get enough to eat."

"The Wolfsbane works better if the subject isn't at subsistence level. Or do you take pleasure in perverting my efforts?"

Remus already had a headache. The academic in him, however, couldn't help but ask, "Why?"

"Why?"

"Why does my level of nutritional intake matter?"

The bland inquiry stopped whatever rant Severus had been preparing next in its tracks. "Because the more your body is in practice at breaking down the more mundane items of everyday use such as proteins and fibers, the quicker and more efficiently it will be able to digest and disperse the Wolfsbane, which is much harsher, as you might imagine."

Remus didn't have to imagine. "I'll see what I can do about more regular meals."

"Would you like to take tea, then?"

Remus wondered what tack to take. He decided being polite would probably get him further than being blunt, despite his momentary partner's tendency to function in direct opposition to such an approach. "Certainly."

Severus' house elves laid out a simple but elegant and filling service in one of the Manor's sitting rooms. Remus took in his surroundings in the careful manner he'd learned early in his Order years, but Severus noticed of course. Remus took a sip and considered how to phrase what he was thinking, but in the end just said, "I wasn't aware your family had a manor."

"It didn't. Nor a house, for that matter. We rented from another family. No, my mother's family disowned her when she married my father, but due some bad luck and some worse choices in which side to take, I'm the only living heir from that side, so the property reverted to me anyhow."

"It's quite livable," Remus said. Not that he'd been in many Manors with which he could compare it, but enough to know that this one had an unusual sense of humanity in it.

"I redid the dťcor."

Despite Severus lack of tone, the man's sense of pride tickled at Remus's throat and he nodded. "Severus," Remus placed his teacup gently on the table before him, "have you ever hired anyone for sexual purposes?"

Severus arched an eyebrow. "Most people assume that's the only manner in which I could hope to experience sexual relations at all."

Remus kept his opinion of most people politely to himself.

Finally Severus answered the question with a slight shake of his chin. "No."

Remus would have been shocked had the answer been any different. Preconceived notions aside, Severus liked his privacy. Remus wouldn't be shocked to find that Severus had obliviated past partners post-coitally just as a precaution. "What did you have in mind, then?"

"Trying to avoid doing your share of the work?"

Remus frowned. "Pardon?"

"I'm compensating you to do what you do best. Surprise me." Each of his words was clipped except the "surprise" which he drew out.

Remus tilted his head. "You haven't any preferences?"

"If I think of something, you shall be the first to have that information."

"All right," Remus said, and went back to his tea. It had cooled to his preferred temperature for sipping.

*

Remus had always enjoyed touching others, them touching back. As a job sex had its drawbacks, not the least of which was the fact that customers were rarely looking for sex from prostitutes. Customers came looking for elusive power or non-existent control or fantasies that had nothing to do with the other person involved, but rarely for touch or communicative pleasure. Despite not being much into either giving or receiving pain, Remus much preferred the customers who wanted either from him as part of the sex act, part of the intent toward pleasure than those who did so for other reasons entirely, revenge or fear or helplessness.

The possibility of working his encounters with Severus any way he so chose was enticing and not just a bit problematic.

Severus, so far as Remus had ever been able to tell, didn't like to be touched. Remus waited until evening was touching at the bottom of the Manor's rather breathtaking large-pane windows because he sensed that Severus wouldn't be comfortable in the naked light of late afternoon, not even were Remus to draw the shades. Thinking of the shades, Remus asked, "Is this where you'd like. . .to enjoy me?"

Remus had absolutely no problem being filthy. With Sirius it had often made things that much hotter, the right word here or there. Severus didn't seem the type to appreciate much of anything less than delicate, let alone dirty.

Falling in line with this reading, Severus glared a bit. "Hardly. There's an extra bedroom where you'll be staying."

Remus clamped down a smile at the fact that Severus needed not only a bedroom in which to do this, but a bedroom where he didn't sleep. It was almost romantic. Clearly the more important issue, however, was, "Staying?"

"During the moon, of course. Did you expect that I would merely give over my potion and set you free?"

As Severus had done so for years Remus didn't see why not. Still, an offer to lie somewhere that didn't involve broken twigs and brambles and sneaky creatures who would take off with his life's essence after the shock of recoming into his human form wasn't something Remus was going to refuse. "Erm. Hardly?"

Severus either didn't hear the question, or chose to ignore it. "Also, I hardly think it will be necessary to remove the entirety of my apparel."

Remus bit back a sigh. "No, not unless you wish it."

"I do not. Nor do I have any desire to be penetrated."

Remus tamped down on a rather sarcastic remark about his unending shock. "Anything else?"

"No. I trust in your. . .expertise."

Remus could tell Severus was trying to get at him, to imply at Remus's worthlessness without resulting to vulgarity, something the man generally only used on students or those decisively below him on the food chain. Which Remus probably was, so it was rather interesting, Severus's choice to forego that weapon. Remus wasn't going to tell him he was prodding at the wrong wounds. So far as Remus was concerned there was no shame in selling one's self if necessary, and certainly none in being good at it. The way customers often treated him was shameful, the way society ignored the necessity of a paid sexual outlet and marginalized those who either chose or fell into the occupation was shameful. Being a prostitute wasn't.

If Severus wanted shame from Remus there were hundreds upon hundreds of areas from which he could coax it. To deflect from that Remus thought about letting Severus assume he'd hit his mark. In the end, though, that seemed beneath him. He smiled, let Severus trust him in something. "You won't regret it."

*

Remus returned to the room where he'd worked Severus into a state of reluctant release and relaxation two days later, in the late afternoon before the moon was to set. Severus had greeted him at the door with the Wolfsbane, watched to see that he drank it, locked him into the provided quarters and gone about his business.

Remus hadn't spent much time looking at the room before, there had been better things on which to concentrate. Remus smiled wryly at the thought of his fingers skimming just slightly below Severus's tightly buttoned collar, the choked sound Severus had made at the feeling of Remus's tongue dragging along the bottom of his cock. A pleasant change from the Johns who merely fucked his face, careless of the technique that could be applied. But there was nothing better to do now, with hours until the setting of the moon and nothing besides him and the dťcor.

There was a bed set into the wall--he'd nearly missed it last time, would have if not for Severus's insistence on comfort--but otherwise quite a bit of open space. The windows were high set, nearly along the ceiling. Remus wondered if they'd always been like that or if Severus had worked on the room to make it a safer place if the Wolfsbane didn't perform as expected. Either way, it made Remus feel better.

There was a fireplace but no floo powder to be found. It wouldn't surprise Remus to find out the house was drafty in the wintertime. Most surprising were the hidden shelves that Remus only found on his third walk around the perimeter. Behind a small seam in the wall were shelves filled with books.

Unless Severus had forgotten a large swath of his collection being left in this room, Remus couldn't help but think this a small measure of kindness. Remus perused his options. There didn't seem to be any organization to the titles. Mythology lay next to arithmancy journals, historical treatises next to volumes of ancient wizarding epics. Not feeling adverse to a little comfort, Remus slipped out a book on celestial events that he'd read at some point during his service to the Order (second time around) and enjoyed. He slipped the shelves back into their hiding spot. He intended to put the book back before transforming, but there was no need to leave all the books open to possible attack by a captive maddened werewolf. Not that the Wolfsbane had ever failed before, but there was a first for everything.

Given the deal between him and Severus, Remus rather hoped this wasn't a first on that score. Visiting with Harry was almost enough to make Remus not feel completely disconnected from the human race, but touching Harry with anything more than a companionable pat on the back would have made Remus feel like a dirty old man, worse, an incestuous old man. Blood relative or no, Harry was something just a little too close.

Touching Severus carried different sorts of baggage, but Remus was more than well-enough equipped to deal with those issues.

Remus curled up on the bed and flipped to the first page of the book, just starting in when Severus stepped in the door. Remus hadn't heard the lock undo or even the opening of the door, but he'd nearly tasted Severus's presence. He tilted his head. "Evening."

"Do you have any specific needs?"

Remus narrowed his eyes. Severus was fidgeting. "Are you feeling well?"

Severus's, "Quite fine," was every bit as venomous as Remus had expected it to be. It might have even been a touch more virulent.

"You seem unsteady."

"I've been working long and odd hours. One of the few things about me with which you can surely empathize."

"How come your potions?"

"I came in to inquire after your needs. If you'll be so kind as to simply answer my questions and allow me to get back to my work."

"Tomorrow after I've changed back I could use water, a painkilling potion and eventually something easy to digest. Porridge or broth would be ideal."

"My elves will see to it."

Remus thought about staying silent for a second as Severus turned to leave. Decided against it. "They could have seen to this."

Severus walked out without responding. Remus hadn't really been hoping for anything more.

*

Remus left Severus's home after waking up on the third day, eating a little something, cleaning up and putting himself back into his clothes. Severus, as promised, had sent elves to take care of Remus' needs and give him more potion after all three transformations. Remus decided not to think about his feelings on that until later. He was too conflicted by Severus' actions to deal with them in any useful way.

Harry liked to see Remus after the full, Remus knew, as some sort of verification that Remus was still alive and well. Remus could understand needing the tangible on occasion and he didn't like to make things any harder on Harry than they were by necessity, so he Apparated to London and made his way to Harry's place under a slight glamour which allowed him to get around unmolested.

Harry answered the door in fashionable dress robes. Remus raised an eyebrow. "Am I keeping you from something?"

Harry looked baffled for a moment. "Oh. No, I was just getting back from an interview. Come on, Hermione left biscuits after her last visit."

"Dare I ask when that was?" Remus stepped inside and shut the door behind him.

"Stuff it. I'm an excellent host."

"Of course you are." Remus wasn't really interested in faux-bickering, though. "What was the interview for?"

"Supplier firm. Heard of Monhagan?"

"They make sneakoscopes or something of the like? There was an article somewhere, maybe the <u>Defense Monthly</u>."

"Among other things. Malfoy said something about my sense of the Dark and how to avoid it." Harry shrugged. "Thought I might as well try it out. Sounded better than anything I'd been able to think of."

Remus watched Harry put the biscuits onto a plate. "It's an excellent suggestion."

"I know he's a Malfoy."

"I wasn't going to say anything."

"No, I know, you were just going to think it. How are you feeling?"

"Severus made the Wolfsbane for me."

Harry turned around. "That was awfully nice of him."

Remus heard the doubt in Harry's voice. He reached out for a biscuit. "We worked something out between us."

"Remus-" But Harry didn't seem to have anything ready to say after that opening note of warning.

Remus shook his head slightly. "I'm fine, Harry."

"Because you have a tendency to not complain."

"Not like anyone else in this room."

Harry had the grace to smile guiltily at that. "I've gotten the talk from Hermione, trust me."

"I do. Just, it doesn't seem to have done any good."

"When I'm ready."

Remus conceded. "How was the interview?"

Harry slid into a chair. "Well, at least it was with someone who didn't forget the basics of the English language in my presence."

Remus smiled. "Good omen."

*

When Draco started to think seriously about kissing Harry Potter--which was, of course, not at all a good idea--he did two things. The first was to buy himself a few hours with an escort from one of the houses that Father had never preferred, a pretty little thing with long black hair and not-quite-green enough eyes and talents that Draco left a pretty hefty tip over in way of approbation.

The second was to go see Severus.

Severus was a bit distracted and Draco asked, "Have you gotten any sleep of late?"

"I'm very close-" Then, in a distinctly un-Severus move, he changed sentences mid-flow, "Weasley found me a tester. I'll suppose that was your doing. My appreciation. Just a bit more work and I'll have a product for testing."

Draco took his life in his own hands. "It might be safer for you to come up with it in a less hectic fashion."

"Are you suggesting something about my brewing skills, Mr. Malfoy?"

Draco merely glared away the iciness of Severus's demeanor. "Stop this. You know very well what I mean."

To Draco's surprise, Severus gave. "I will attempt to increase my resting hours."

Draco considered Legilimizing Severus. His odd behavior was sending a crawling sensation through Draco's stomach and he knew it was his probably his only hope of finding out what was truly going on. The second Draco began the process however, all he could remember was the times when his father had used the skill against him. Also, shaken up or no, Severus was enormously talented at Occlumency, Draco wasn't entirely sure he could break Severus' mental wards. Even if he could, he certainly wouldn't be able to do it without alerting Severus, and the last thing either of them needed at this moment was to be fighting with each other.

Draco came up with another tactic. "I hear you're providing Wolfsbane and three-night housing for my somewhat unpredictable ex-professor."

Severus eyed him sharply. Draco said, "Potter."

"Are you sleeping with him yet?"

"Charming. Don't change the subject."

"I found it safer than allowing him to roam the forest."

"Mm."

"You're not the clever mastermind you obviously feel yourself to be." Severus said it lightly, as though it pertained to nothing.

Draco walked to the nearest chair, seated himself. "He's a half-breed impoverished werewolf."

"I make him a potion-"

Draco didn't allow him to finish. "But you're long past old enough to make your own decisions."

Severus locked eyes with Draco for the space of three breaths. "I have a very delicate potion brewing. I need to see to it."

Softly, Draco said, "Of course you do."

*

"You're not being your normal charming self." Potter kicked Draco under the table.

They were in one of Draco's favorite dining establishments and as he didn't particularly want to get kicked out, he declined to kick back on the not-so-off chance that it started something. "You don't find me charming."

"I was choosing my words wisely so as to possibly draw some information from you."

"You donít choose words wisely."

"Look, do you want me to leave?"

A reflexive "yes," came very close to passing through Draco's lips. He looked over at Potter, whose annoyance was coming through in his posture but who still managed to seem concerned in the set of his lips, the expression of his eyes. Draco shook his head. "No, but I don't know that I should talk about it with you."

"Contrary to popular belief, I absolutely can keep a secret."

"It's not my secret."

"Professor Snape, then?"

Draco fought not to react, not to accuse Potter of things that Draco doubted he even ever thought to do. Potter caught on. "I'm not prying where I shouldn't be. He's the only person you speak to on a regular basis whose secrets I can imagine you needing to keep from me."

This particularly valid point won Potter some more information. "I don't even honestly know that there's something about which I need to be concerned."

"But you suspect."

"He was acting like my mother used to, sometimes."

Potter's face went blank. "I, uh-"

"She was addicted to Sleeping Potions."

"Potions are addictive?"

"Can be, certain ones anyhow. Almost certainly will be if you aren't careful about your use."

"Snape is a Potions Master."

Draco stared at him.

"I'm not trying to be inane, here, I'm trying to point out the likelihood that whatever you're seeing is probably something else, given the things we know."

"He didn't want me there." Draco couldn't look at Potter as he made the confession.

"You know how he-"

"Usually it's. . .the behavioral equivalent of a glamour. But he didn't want me there. I know the difference."

Finally, Potter asked, "Do you want me to ask around, see if I can find out what's wrong?"

"Wonít that seem odd? It's not a huge secret that the two of you dislike each other."

"Minerva and Hermione have known me to ask about him before, and the two of them have the oddest ways of finding things out once the question's been presented."

"You've asked before?"

"I have a saving-people thing. Ask Hermione."

"No, it's pretty blatant." Draco laughed a bit.

"Yeah," Potter joined him. "I guess it is."

*

Severus tapped his wand to the wine-dark stain spread over the lower region of Remus's torso. "The simplest of healing spells are completely beyond you, now?"

Remus shrugged. "Werewolves heal quickly and self-healing wasn't part of Hogwarts curriculum. I never sought it out on my own."

"I donít like reminders of your. . .other liaisons."

"My life is what it is, Severus." Remus didn't say the words with spite or bitterness, just a steadiness that he hoped conveyed his unwillingness to play eternally at being Severus's whipping boy. "I don't like the smell of ground fluxweed, but it's evidently rather central to whatever you're working on, so when I can, I breathe through my mouth."

"And when that is not possible?" Severus's jaw tightened.

"I generally have nicer things on my mind." Remus fitted himself up against Severus, cupped his fingers over the taller man's groin.

Severus glared down at him, but didn't move. Remus took that as approval and set to doing as he wished. "I have a different plan for today." Which he really thought should be obvious by the state of his undress, a not so slight alteration from the previous two months.

"I will not be-"

"I know, Severus. Relax, I'll still be doing all the work."

Severus might not want his skin disturbed by any sort of (com)passionate touch, but Remus had just taken a day off after a client with a kicking kink (or, possibly, just a lot of rage) had focused his attentions on Remus, and he needed something to wash the feel away, something more then the clinical tap of Severus's wand.

Remus got it, too. When he slid down onto Severus and Severus could no longer keep his hands still at his sides, then his fingers crept over Remus's back, impressing into the skin with a desperation that Remus appreciated, soaked up. Remus let his head drop back, his eyes following, moved at the rhythm that Severus' hands urged.

Remus slipped the hand that wasn't keeping him upright, pressed to Severus's chest, over his cock and got off more from the feel of the ten digits supporting his position than the five providing pressure.

As soon as he'd caught his breath, Severus let go, Remus falling slightly to the side. He picked himself up, accioed his wand, and hit both of them with a cleansing charm.

Severus's hand shot out as Remus turned to re-clothe himself. He turned Remus back to facing him none-too-gently and soothed a hand over the area he'd healed completely before any of this had begun. Then he let go.

*

In the fourth month, Remus wised up. Not that he felt particularly proud of this, he should have figured things out the first month, with all the clues, with everything he knew. It wasn't even any of the obvious things that let Remus in on the secret. It was the fact that Severus touched him first. Not a spot of encouragement from Remus, just reached out and wrapped his fingers around Remus's throat. Not harshly.

The hand trembled slightly and all Remus could smell was hellebore and fluxweed. Remus asked, "How long?"

The hand tightened. "Careful what you ask."

"The fact that you prefer to kill me with your hands is nearly progress between us, Severus. How long?"

"You've no idea what you're talking about. You could barely brew-"

Remus waited a couple of breaths. "You were going to say Clarification Concentrate, I believe? With silver nitrate? I'm glad I looked so very incompetent that day in class that you should remember. Reminds me of how good I am at keeping secrets. And yet, not quite as good as you."

Severus released his grip. "Not quite."

Remus wanted to touch him as he said, "Psychotropics. You were testing on yourself." He kept his hands to himself.

"It was. . .unethical to do so on anybody else."

Remus nodded.

Severus stood stiffly. "I've tried stopping. There are things to be done, though, and when I stop, I-"

"Feel sick, can't concentrate, can't sleep, experience mental anguish."

Severus whispered, "Among other things." Then, and Remus could feel the pain of this admission, "Draco suspects."

"Severely addictive qualities are a flaw in the design anyway. At the very least the tests weren't fruitless."

"I think I've found a way to lessen the problem. Not fix it. Mental fixatives-"

"Are always going to have that side-effect. But not to this extent."

Remus moved closer then, close enough to touch, although he didn't actually do so. "After the moon, Severus. We'll work on this then."

"If I've given you the impression that your help is welcome, I apologize profusely."

"Probably the last time I'll ever hear that from you. Unfortunate that I plan on disregarding it."

"Get out."

Remus said, "No," and touched Severus. Severus didn't pull away.

*

Severus, although Remus knew he would have protested otherwise, had plenty of friends. That said, there were very few that Severus would trust to see him in a place of weakness. In fact, off the top of his head, Remus could only come up with two outside of himself. He couldn't ask for Minerva's help. It was the middle of the school year, she was crazed with her own responsibilities without adding someone else's to the list. Which left one Draco Malfoy.

Remus found him through Harry. Specifically through visiting Harry after the moon, as was their tradition and saying, "I need a favor," and Harry saying, "Anything," before really thinking about what anything might mean.

Remus had seen the worry in Harry's eyes when he'd asked how to find Draco, but all Remus had been able to say without giving anything away was, "I've no plans to hurt him."

The look hadn't completely disappeared, but Harry had told Remus that Draco was teaching and Remus had thought, I really need to start paying more attention.

Remus went to the school on the pretext of a Very Secret Visit to Minerva, who sat with him for a bit, fed him lemon bars and tea fortified with eighteen year old Scotch, and asked, "You didn't really come here to see me, did you?"

He gave her an apologetic look. "I'll come around more. I just don't want your reputation being sullied should someone find out."

"Allow me to worry about that, yes?"

Remus inclined his head. "Mind telling me how to get to Professor Malfoy's rooms?"

Minerva's gaze had sharpened. "Severus has gotten himself into a spot, then?"

"Something of that nature."

"Behind the portrait of the Queen Maeve, one floor up from the Slytherin dorms."

Remus found the quarters easily. He knocked on the door and waited the requisite amount of time for Malfoy to draw back the partition and say, cautiously, "Lupin."

"Professor Malfoy, may I come in?"

In spite of what were obviously his better instincts, Malfoy allowed the intrusion. "Is there-"

"Something you can do for me?"

"Rather for whomever you're coming in the stead of."

"Severus."

Malfoy's eyes shut just long enough for Remus to know he had already suspected something. "How bad is it?"

Remus was surprised this wasn't going to take more effort. "Not sure. He's been taking for four months, and I've no doubt that if he started it wasn't just for testing purposes. He needed whatever he thought the potion could supply."

"Undoubtedly."

"He says he's found a way to lessen the problem, but no doubt by the time that advancement came along-"

"Yes, well."

Remus nodded. "I need help. I haven't any idea how long it's going to take to get him through the initial withdrawal and getting him to talk about it at this moment isn't the world's easiest task, probably wouldn't even be were he to actually like me."

"Youíd best leave him to me."

Remus raised an eyebrow.

Malfoy shrugged. "Figured it was worth a try."

Remus could respect that. "I didn't tell Harry. I'd think it best if you didn't either."

Malfoy's eyes hardened. "I've never once yet snitched on Severus. And believe me, there have been opportunities."

Remus could only imagine. "His place, tomorrow? Seven thirty in the evening?"

"I'll get someone to take my detentions."

Remus couldn't shake the oddness of the bully he'd taught seeing to his own responsibilities, but there he was. It was reassuring that what they were about to do together might actually be successful. "Thank you."

Malfoy looked away. Said, "I appreciate your coming to me."

*

Severus didn't appreciate it. Severus, in fact, hexed Remus upon Malfoy's arrival. It was a minor hex, and Malfoy just wrinkled his forehead and Finited it away, but Remus got the message. He thought about saying sorry, but if there was ever a word that Severus liked to ignore, Remus was pretty sure that was the word.

Remus regretted Severus's irritation, but he didn't regret asking Malfoy to help. Malfoy, as it turned out, knew more about drying someone out than Remus did, which was saying something. Remus had a tendency to fall in with the severely hapless.

Also, Malfoy evidently cared fiercely for Severus, something that Remus had guessed at but been unsure of until he watched the two of them together. And Severus, miracle of miracles, obviously wanted the boy to have a good opinion of him.

The potions had a half-life of roughly thirty hours, so the first day wasn't so much a day as sitting around and discussing pertinent issues such as Severus's, "If you remove all temptation from this place, I lose my job. My career." He'd left "life works" unsaid.

Remus had conjured some tea. "I don't think we have to remove the stuff."

Malfoy looked like he was trying his best to be well-behaved and patient. Which he probably was. "How do you figure?"

"I donít think Severus's problem lies in having an addictive personality, I think he's addicted to the actual substances in the faulty potion. Once he's clean and has had the more completed product tested he can probably put himself on it to clear up the emotional necessities over which he originally started taking the potion."

Malfoy asked, "And if you're wrong?"

"We have to do this a second time. Which," Remus admitted, "isn't ideal. But if you're unwilling-"

"Shut it," Malfoy snarled.

Remus watched Severus sip at his tea, as if by watching he could force him to participate in the goings-on. Remus wasn't sure if it actually worked or if Severus just felt the time right to say, "We're going to try it his way, Draco. I'm not sure I'm ready to do this with the awareness that it means giving everything up. Besides, he has a good chance of being right. The intended effects aren't even present anymore, it's merely physical at this time."

"Merely," Malfoy echoed.

Severus nodded his head in acquiesance. Remus said, "These ingredients. How comparable would you imagine them to be to say, Muggle narcotics?"

"Harsher," Severus said.

"In what way?" Remus asked.

Severus launched into a lecture worthy of his teaching days but noticeable for its lack of insults. "Muggle narcotics merely imbed themselves in the blood, potions ingredients mix themselves in with a person's. . .core. Whatever creates the basic essence of a wizard, someone able to interact with magic, these ingredients actually find their way into that part of the imbiber."

Remus thought about that. "Should we be worried about rogue magic?"

"Should we ever," Malfoy muttered.

Remus stood. "I'm going to go work some warding, then." He walked out on the small chance that the two of them could work out at least a few of their issues over him before all of this started. He really didn't think mixing withdrawal in with everything else was going to lessen the volatility of the situation.

*

Gryffindors were not subtle. When it came to Potter, this was actually something of an advantage. Left in a room alone with Severus, Draco was less than pleased by Lupin's heavy-handedness. There was only one person in the room to vent his anger on, however. "You trust a werewolf to do this? Has the reliance gotten to the point of suicidal folly?"

"You were never supposed to be told."

"And that's somehow better than 'you weren't supposed to be told after the raving not-even-half human in the other room'?"

Severus was distinctly unperturbed. "You kiss Potter with that mouth?"

"I donít kiss Potter. I don't kiss Gryffindors."

"Neither do I," Severus said, with the air of Innocence Wounded herself. "There are more pleasurable things. At the price of Wolfsbane, there should be."

"For. . . At least Father had the sense to never bring his whores home!"

"Your father was a man of impeccable taste, of that there is no doubt."

"So are you, normally. None of the ingredients in your little cocktail of destruction and degradation should cause enormous impairment to your judgment."

"You should try his mouth. There's probably a normal going rate. Then we'll talk about judgment."

"He came to get me, Severus. Not under your order, and not for something that anyone would deem pleasant, right mind or no. It's not just about his mouth."

"His fingers-"

"Severus!"

Severus shrugged. "He's a Gryffindor, Draco."

Draco met Severus's gaze. "As it turns out, things aren't as simple as all that."

"Really?"

Something in the way Severus drawled the question lodged itself inside Draco's rather frustrated head. "You're telling me that I have to start understanding some half-breed werewhore as part of an overwhelmingly complicated situation in which he just might be someone worth knowing?"

"I haven't said a word," Severus said.

"You have an annoying tendency to teach by example," Draco told him, probably unnecessarily.

Severus didn't respond. He put two fingertips to one temple and pressed. "Try and work with him. At least until it's clear that I'm not going to harm myself or anyone else who tries to come near me."

"I betrayed Father and Voldemort for you. I think I can handle a little bit of time with a Dark Creature."

Severus brought two fingers to the other side of his head. "You might be surprised."

*

The withdrawal effects were more severe than anybody had given thought to them being. The vomiting, which set in nearly immediately once the potion's half-life expired went on for hours. Remus knew that using any sort of healing potion or spell would only cause trouble later, but trading off with Draco hour after hour at holding Severus steady, stroking his back, running wet flannels over his forehead and neck made it a tempting prospect all the same.

When Severus had finally voided himself out, Draco tried giving him water to rather disastrous effect, which had Severus screaming at him. Draco's face remained calm, but Remus could see the slight shake in his stance and stepped between the two of them.

Later this earned him a snarl, and a, "I can take a few harsh words, Slytherins aren't made of blown Gryffindor glass, you know," emphasis on the "blown."

Remus continued what he was at--washing down the bathroom with a combination of spells and old-fashioned anti-pollutant potion--"Severus mentioned my day job, then? Or just our arrangement."

"Shockingly, I was smart enough to cull the former from the latter."

"No, you were always intelligent, just unwilling to think outside of strictly proscribed guidelines. It was enormously frustrating, seeing all that talent go to waste." Remus glanced over his shoulder at Draco, who looked about ready to throw something. Luckily Remus had removed all small objects due the threat of Severus's rogue magic. Pleased to have gotten a rise, but realizing this was all rather counterproductive, Remus asked, "What's your biggest problem with me? That I'm a werewolf, half-blood, poor, Gryffindor, selling myself, or that Severus obviously trusts me?"

Draco opened his mouth. Snapped it shut. Tried again. "Werewolf."

"Really?" Remus had been expecting that if Draco were to be honest the answer would be the final one. But Draco's answer had the ring of truth.

Draco leaned up against the doorjamb. "Father used to keep one on the premises."

"Lucius kept a-" Remus knew his expression was horrified. He couldn't help it. "What did he do with the human being during the days and twenty eight nights a month?"

"The Manor has extensive holding cells."

Remus swallowed. "All right. So this werewolf-"

"Father liked to threaten me with him. One month, when I'd really upset him. . .I can't even remember what I did, I'm sure it had something to do with expectations, he released us both in the maze. Father'd put up wards so that the werewolf could never actually get to me, after all, disappointment or no, a son who was a werewolf would be a total loss. I didn't know that, though. That I was safe. I just ran and ran and ran until I couldn't run anymore and then I used magic to ensure that I could."

"If I ever come after you in feral form, turn your wand on me and use the Death Curse. Don't hesitate, don't think any more than you have to, just do it."

"You killed my cousin."

"I wish she'd had her wand. I wish that Muggle boy had been left with some sort of weapon, a letter opener, anything. I mean what I just told you. Don't even think about it."

"Malfoys, as it turns out, can't kill indiscriminately without consequence anymore. Or is that your angle?"

Remus scoffed. "Be serious. Voldemort himself could come back for a day just to kill me and the entire wizarding population would breathe a sigh of relief. There might be a mock trial, just to soothe everyone's sense of justice."

"Potter wouldn't."

Remus frowned. "What has Harry to do with any of this?"

Draco looked disgusted with himself, but answered, "Losing another. . .friend would devastate him."

"Which under no circumstances would I enjoy, but at the very least Hermione, the twins, and Minerva would see to it that he made it through. And I won't kill again. Also, I was inquiring into the nature of your concern for Harry."

"Having Potter in my corner is a safety concern. I'll be sure to keep a wand on me when in your presence."

"See that you do."

Draco stepped backward, out of the immediate room. "I'm going to check on Severus."

"Don't try water again just yet."

Draco nodded. "No, perhaps not."

*

Remus was the first victim of Severus's rogue magic, hit with a shock of malevolence so intense that when Remus awoke, he was somewhat surprised to have come out of it whole. Draco saw that Remus was awake and said, "I locked him in. This is the part where we just have to wait."

Remus nodded. "Did he drink any of the water?"

Draco looked at Remus as though he'd just asked to bear Draco's children. "Yes, a bit. You were unconscious for several hours."

Remus wasn't terribly surprised. "Severus is strong. I'm lucky he can't focus. You might not have noticed, but he doesn't like me much."

"I don't think he has any clue how he feels about you."

"I'm starting to think the two of you may have a lot in common."

Draco ticked a list off on his fingers. "We're both Slytherins, of decent to surpassingly fine birth, relatively to enormously wealthy, intelligent, and for the most part, on the same side. That's a fair amount."

"True. I was referring to your inability to simply admit that Harry makes a rather good friend and probably a good shag, although I wouldn't know on the last and would really prefer to keep it that way. In fact, should I go through life maintaining my belief in Harry's celibacy, few things will make me happier. And Severus's inability to admit that I might have my uses beyond flawless fellatio and a sounding board for untested magical expressions of withdrawal angst. But I don't feel like spending another few hours unconscious on the sofa, so we'll just let all that pass, will we?"

"Potter is not-"

"Evidently we won't."

"You don't know your friend very well."

"Nobody, perhaps excepting Hermione, and even there I have my doubts, knows Harry very well. But I'm starting to think you could be even closer to knowing him than I. However, had I been forced into betraying everything I held emotional attachment to when I was eighteen, I've no doubt I would have been rather wary of re-forming any sorts of attachments. As it was, being the betrayed, I still had a hard time of it."

Draco stared at Remus for a considerable length of time. "Is this some sort of penance?"

Remus frowned. "Penance?"

"For my cousin. Trying to pay back the debt through family lines, heal where you killed, I don't know. Half-breeds take to wizarding tradition in odd ways."

"This hasn't anything to do with Tonks. It has something to do with Harry, certainly, he deserves happiness and it seems that he's not going to get any of that without some fairly extensive intervention on the part of several people. He could use a friend and although I probably would have chosen someone else, he seems to rather enjoy you in that capacity."

"You've spoken of me?"

"No. I smell things." It was more complicated than that, it was about instinct and love, but Remus didn't feel like explaining all of that, not now. "And Severus loves you. And whatever else is between Severus and I, there's been a lot of touch."

"Touching doesn't mean anything. Especially not when Wolfsbane is drenching it."

"You have the right to draw your own conclusions."

"They're not-" Draco scuffed his toe along the wooden floor. "All right, fine."

Remus took the small victory.

*

Severus didn't sleep for four days straight, and Remus was beginning to worry that even if he came out of the addiction he would be completely mad. The worst part of having to deal with Severus's sickness and irrationality wasn't the symptoms themselves, which were vastly on par with normal potion withdrawal. It was the things that weren't. The things that suggested this new breed of potion might be affecting Severus in ways that not even he had predicted. It was almost enough to Remus to plunk Severus down in a lab and have him just brew up a new batch of what he needed, but even had he felt comfortable so clearly betraying Severus' wishes, there was no guarantee that would fix anything at this point, assuming Severus could even brew it competently in his current state. Remus shuddered to think what a bastardized version might do.

By the fourth day, luckily, most of the frenzied magical energy that Severus had been unleashing upon everything and everyone in sight had depleted itself, and though Remus was still careful about bringing him water, he felt secure enough to move in close when Severus just held his hands up helplessly. In the dimness of the room, kept that way so as not to grate on Severus's photosensitivity, Remus could still see them shaking. "Will you let me touch you?" he asked.

Severus didn't immediately refuse, which gave Remus hope. After a while he said, "My skin is excruciatingly sensitive."

Severus was the only person Remus had ever known who could speak in full sentences while in agony. "I promise to be careful. I just want to help you relax a bit."

"Gryffindors and your precious lost causes."

"It lends us a certain predictability," Remus agreed lightly.

Severus acceded with the merest inclination of his head. Remus set the water down on the floor and moved to where Severus was standing. Draco and Remus had agreed not to leave anything in the room after Severus had destroyed the few blankets they'd left with a ferocity that made even Remus think twice about going to him again. Severus' clothes weren't even in the best of condition either.

Remus placed the tips of his fingers gently atop Severus' hair. "All right?"

Severus nodded jerkily and for a moment Remus was thrown by the unusual lack of grace in the movement, but he gathered himself and began to massage at points that would help blood flow to the brain while relaxing Severus. "Just tell me if anything hurts."

Remus spent a decent amount of time on Severus's head, before moving downward to gently press at the sinus cavities, and work at the kinks in Severus's neck. By that time there was a considerable lessening of tension in Severus's posture. Remus knew better than to descend any lower. "If I bring you some blankets-"

"I'll use them for sleeping, not for decorating."

Remus snorted. "Not that the dťcor wasn't classy."

"A pillow as well?"

"Certainly." Remus moved to the door. "Try and drink the water. Your skin wasn't as pliable as it should be."

Severus nodded, and Remus noticed the irritation in the movement. He had just passed the door, wanting to get out before Severus decided to throw the glass at him for the suggestion. It was spelled not to break, but Remus wasn't really going to pit his precautionary measures against Severus' mood swings at the moment. Then, just as he was about to close the door behind him, Remus registered a whispered, "Thank you."

Blinking, Remus reflexively said, "You're welcome," before shutting the door, heading off to find the softest blankets in the house. A nightshirt too, perhaps.

*

Between teaching and tending to Severus, Draco was running on about as much sleep as Severus was at the point before the latter finally dropped off. That had been about two days earlier and Remus, Draco knew, had now taken to checking that Severus was still breathing every hour or so. Draco had sneered at this, but somewhere inside it was a bit reassuring, particularly during the hours that he needed to be at Hogwarts.

After a particularly frustrating class with students who were in the mood to show off to their friends by way of mouthing off, Draco was walking back to his quarters in order to Floo over to Severus's. Upon reaching his quarters, however, he found a somewhat beleaguered looking Potter at his door. Draco stopped, a bit awkwardly. "Potter."

"You have to be the only person in the wizarding world who doesn't know my first name."

"All right, Harry. It's been a bit of a week, if you don't mind-"

"I mind. It's about Snape, isn't it?"

"You must be the only person in the wizarding world who doesn't know his first name," Draco mimicked.

"We're not friends."

"Neither are-" Draco stopped, well aware that his protestations weren't true anymore, and a lie was only useful when it got the liar somewhere. He slid past Harry. "Would you like to come in?"

Harry followed him in silently. "Remus has disappeared as well. Only, I think you know that. I mean, Remus is always sort of hard to track down, and Hermione and I worry about the things that could mean, but of late it's been near impossible, which means he's somewhere where the wards don't recognize his friends. Between that and our conversation of nearly a month ago, well, I do have some sort of investigative mind."

"Severus was ill. He's feeling better."

"Good to hear."

"Potter-"

"Harry."

"Harry." Draco carded a hand through his hair. "I have to go back there."

"Remus is there."

Draco nodded his head. "Yes, but I-"

"You look exhausted," Harry said it softly, without any type of overtone.

"It's nothing Severus wouldn't do for me."

"No, but if he's getting better. . . A few hours of rest can't possibly hurt, can it?"

Suddenly it occurred to Draco that he hadn't yet asked the question that should have been the first thing out of his mouth. "What are you doing here?"

Harry smiled. "Saying hi."

"Hi?" Draco asked, as though it were a language he couldn't quite work out.

"You weren't returning my notes."

Draco's eyes strayed to one of the random pieces of parchment that Harry had sent over the last couple of weeks. "It's not personal-"

"It's just been a crazy couple of weeks, yeah I'm getting that. But I thought I'd check, just in case."

"Why?"

Harry shrugged. "Hadn't anything better to do."

Draco squinted. "Really?"

Harry fingered his robes. "Yeah. Really."

"You want-" Draco collected himself. "You want to stay for some tea?"

Harry grinned. "It's a long Apparition back home. That'd be nice."

Yes, Draco thought wearily, nice.

*

Draco found Remus sleeping on the couch in the parlor. He was mildly horrified at the breach of etiquette and knew Severus wouldn't bother with the mildly, but Draco himself had just spent three hours in his own bed so he supposed waking Remus was unfair and turned to leave the room when Remus mumbled, "He's still sleeping."

Draco pivoted back. "True sleep?"

"Yes."

Draco sank into a chair. "Well, good."

"I was going to rest in the room he lets me have, but I didn't want you to get back and wake him unknowingly."

Draco, not yet at a place where he was willing to acknowledge these sorts of kindnesses, drew a letter from his robes. "Harry asked me to give this to you."

"You've seen Harry?" Remus reached for the parchment.

"He dropped by the school."

Remus didn't respond to that, instead opening the letter and scanning it thoroughly. He glanced up at Draco. "I hadn't thought that the wards might hide me. I'll have to respond."

"He didn't say this, and I'm hardly one to claim expertise, but-"

"Not being able to find me had him a bit out of sorts?"

Draco looked away. "He was pretty sure you were helping Severus."

"However would he have been pretty sure of that?"

"I. . .had mentioned some concerns."

"Harry's discreet."

"Yes," was all Draco said.

"I think Severus is past the worst of it. We should probably wake him in a few hours if he hasn't done so himself to make sure he doesn't dehydrate."

"I can handle it. You should rest. In your room."

"Wake me if there are any problems."

Draco laughed a little at the understatement inherent in that offer. Remus smiled a bit himself, "Any major ones."

Remus was almost at the door when Draco called, "Lupin."

"Mm?"

"Harry came to see me. To say hi."

"This makes you uncomfortable."

"Perhaps he doesn't know that I merely need allies."

"Why should that be your problem?"

"I'm not entirely sure, but it seems that I feel it is."

"Maybe allies aren't all you need," Remus said, and left the room. Draco watched his back recede before shaking his head. The unease in his stomach wasn't anything a pasty wouldn't clear up.

*

Remus sent Draco back to the school that evening so that he could get some rest before the next day's classes. Severus was sleeping again at the time, and Remus was prepared to be unsurprised if Severus slept for a week running. Remus crafted a letter to Harry letting him know where he was and that things were fine and most significantly, "If you decide upon snogging Draco Malfoy, which I suppose I can concede would have its merits even if I really feel obliged to point out that Zacharias Smith has grown into a startlingly good-looking young man, I think perhaps you ought to wait until he's figured out just why he wants to snog you back. Please consider my duties as a responsible adult to you duly finished for the term of the next 365 days. Remus."

He sent the letter off and made himself a cup of tea, waiting until it was time to wake Severus up for a bit of rehydration.

The house elf made up a tea tray that was rather appropriately sized, throwing Remus a bit. When he looked over at the elf to ask the elf merely said, "Master is needing this," which Remus could hardly deny, so he put it down to an odd moment of prescience in the creature and took the tray.

Severus didn't wake easy. Not that Remus had really expected him to, but he wouldn't have complained. As it was Remus woke him slowly rather than resorting to any sort of forceful waking. He was mostly sure that Severus's rogue magic would be tempered at this point, still, it wasn't something he wanted to test by way of putting himself in between Severus and any possible outbursts.

When Severus did finally wake it was with an odd look in his eyes, Remus would have categorized it as wistful in anyone else. Then he blinked and asked, "Draco?"

"I sent him to the school. He's been working all this time, you know. He needed more rest."

"Tea?"

"And water, you need to drink both. And if you could attempt to get a little food down as well I would think that best."

"I do actually know the process, Lupin."

"Well, as you've been fuckall insane for the better part of a week now, I thought you might enjoy a reminder. But youíre right, I might have forgotten to whom I was speaking there for a moment."

Severus took a long pull of the water. "Is the Wolfsbane worth so much to you?"

"Are you wanting honesty, or are we re-embarking upon our relationship of thorny non-answers so that the cycle of violence and disgust can be carried out in its own due time?"

"As you prefer."

"The Wolfsbane is worth everything to me, but that's not why I chose to help and you're too smart not to know otherwise."

"Why can't you just properly hate back where you are so obviously hated?"

"Your hatred takes odd forms at times, Severus. And I rather love touching you, no matter what your opinion of intercourse free of commitment might be."

"Do you. . .enjoy your occupation?"

"I don't know that it's something I would have chosen of my own free will and I rather wish I had more room to say no when I so please, but if you're asking if I mind having sex for economic profit then the answer is only very rarely. Sex is what it is, and I'm rather good at it. I don't think it's shameful to say that. I'm good at other things. I make a good mentor, I've a wicked way with nearly any Dark Creature you can think of, and I know how to keep a secret. Sex is just something else I do, something that every once in awhile, affords me a way to live."

"You were living in the forest."

"Society hasn't been entirely friendly of late. I killed one of ours and a Muggle, although nobody seems to care about that last except, well, me."

"It would be best if I had someone around for a bit. I plan on going back to brewing and while the addiction isn't one that will consistently create a desire to return to the potions once theyíre entirely free of my system, I think having someone around to. . .monitor the situation would benefit everyone."

"Of course."

"The thing is, I find it problematic now, to ask you to touch me."

"Because I enjoy it?"

"Because I'm not sure how to delineate it as anything other than payment, either on my behalf or on yours."

"You could just say that you rather like having me touch you."

"It's. . .you're right, something at which you're quite good."

Remus nearly choked at the compliment. "Drink up. You need more rest."

"Yes." Severus took another extended sip, his eyes never leaving Remus. Remus looked away first, knowing that Severus really did, in fact, need his rest. Remus listened to the sound of Severus swallowing and indulged in a momentary, rewarding, cursing of the fates.

*

Draco came back the next evening. Remus said, "He's still sleeping, but I think he's coming to the end of it. Would you mind if I went out for a bit? The house elves have gotten the knack of his waking schedule, they'll tell you when it's time. Although, you have a while, he woke by himself this afternoon. He may very well do it again."

"Tell me you'll be available every moment you're away," Draco said in a high, breathless, pleading sort of voice.

"Right, I'll just be off then."

Draco waved lazily. Remus walked out the door and past the Apparition wards. He arrived at Harry's place a moment later, and knocked on the door. Harry threw back the door and grinned. "Remus!"

"New detection spell?"

"One I came up with myself. Works beautifully. The company wants to market it starting in a month."

"That's fantastic news."

"Well, are you coming in?"

Remus did so. Harry said, "I'll just put on a pot. The couch has missed you."

Remus laughed and went in to sit down on Harry's seemingly sentient furniture.

Harry returned in less than a minute with a tea tray, which he set on the coffee table before settling across from Remus on the couch. "You've been staying with Snape."

"Yes, sorry about the letters. I didn't think how his wards would. . . It's unusually paranoid to keep out letters, even letters to one not being the regular inhabitant of the house. I can only think he put those up after. . ."

Harry looked away. "How's he feeling?"

"I'm expecting his charm to reappear any day now."

Harry smirked. "If you say so. And you're all- I mean, he wasn't messing up the Wolfsbane, or anything?"

"Severus has never hurt me."

"There was the end of third year."

"That was more misdirected anger, than anything."

"Feeling mightily relieved on this corner of the sofa."

"Harry."

Harry shook his head. "You used to be- You used to forgive yourself. Now it's just day after day of repentance without any true horrors to submit yourself to. And you think we don't notice or that it doesn't affect us, but I'm done watching my friends suffer." Harry's voice stayed soft, but there was an intense bent to it.

"I." Remus took a breath. "All right, Harry. But this isn't about repentance."

"Then what?"

Remus raised his eyebrows a bit. "What's your thing with Draco about?"

"I haven't the slightest clue. It just. . . I'm trying to trust my instincts."

"See, you do understand."

"This is probably a bad idea, Remus."

"Oh, undoubtedly."

"Right then," Harry said, and reached over to pour some tea.

*

"I need to start preparing the Wolfsbane if it is to be ready in time."

"I'd made other plans," Remus said. While he did believe that Severus would be able to resume brewing, he wasn't sure that Severus's going back to the occupation within less than a week of fully detoxing himself was for the best.

"No doubt something suitably tragic, but I have worse penance for you, fear not." Severus swept his hand a bit dramatically.

Remus fought not to smile. "Always thinking of me."

"That, or the hapless students who see fit to wander into the forest."

Remus had purposely never stayed anywhere near the edge of the forest where Hogwarts was located and Severus probably knew it. Besides, "You just used the students as a manner in which to deflect my suspicion that you might have a small amount of concern for me."

"Tactical error, I agree. It might take a few weeks before my wit is entirely recovered."

"I'll try to squeeze in all the victories I can within that time limit, thank you for the warning."

"They accuse me of not having manners, you realize."

"They?"

"It was a purposely vague pronominal."

"Ah."

"I really do plan on brewing. Best to know now if it's going to be an issue."

Remus watched the man across from him. Severus was still, the way Remus remembered him always being. He wondered if Severus had ever twitched or fidgeted the way most small children do, but somehow he just couldn't summon the visual. "There are other things, Severus."

"We can't all be nymphomaniacs, Lupin."

"Sadly, no," Remus agreed. "I meant Draco and Minerva. I meant parts of the world you've never seen, books you've never read, games you've never played, music you've never heard."

"I'm not fond of wasting time."

"I'm not sure you've ever had time to waste."

"I've found that's something that people make sure to acquire."

"Well, nobody ever said you played well with others."

"Will you help me brew or not?" Severus snarled.

"Of course," Remus said lightly, calmly. "But I won't allow you to muck about in self pity should the worst of our fears prove true."

"Our fears, Lupin?" Severus's voice sounded like green light and imminent death.

Remus was unperturbed. "I'm good at sharing. Besides, you always try so hard to make the Wolfsbane easy for consumption." He smiled his most complacent smile.

"I could always add a bit of silver bromide."

"That was less than subtle."

"My few weeks aren't up."

"Lethe's milk, perhaps, because it sounds so alluring." Remus well knew, though, that it would reduce the drinker to nothing more than a hulled out lump of flesh almost instantaneously.

"Siren's gold." Severus named the mineral that was most often used in potions meant to transubstantiate something. In a living being, the results were disastrous unless very carefully applied by someone who knew exactly what he was doing.

"There you go."

"Lupin-"

"All right, brewing. But I wonít be your conscience. Mine's barely enough to serve my needs these days."

"No, I will tell you should there be a problem."

"You could work on your own potions. My plans will stand."

"I thought I'd start with something easy."

"So the potion that only three known Masters in the world can brew was what you came up with?"

"That's two more than the other things I'm working on."

"Irrefutable logic, that."

"I knew I could talk you into seeing it my way."

Remus sighed. "Don't be terribly impressed with yourself, we both know I'm easy."

The look that accompanied Severus's following silence was too enigmatic for Remus to even begin poking at its edges. His, "Exactly so," was several minutes too late, but Remus gave him the benefit of the doubt. His few weeks weren't up yet.

*

"You need me as an ally," Harry repeated back to Draco, clearly unimpressed with this statement of admission on Draco's part. "Well, sure I suppose I don't hurt in that capacity."

"Come off it, Potter."

"Harry. It's the same amount of syllables, I promise."

"You donít listen to a bloody thing anybody has to say, do you?"

"I think it's good for you, to realize that not everybody hangs on your every grunt. Healthy."

"Harry, I'm using you!"

"No, but you're very comfortable feeling that you are, so I thought we'd just let things go on like that. Particularly as I figured it was the best strategy for my getting laid."

"It's phenomenally amazing that we're not all being ruled by-"

"Don't underestimate me, Draco." Harry said this glacially. Softening, he said, "I'd tell you not to underestimate yourself either, but despite your complaints about me, you would hardly listen to anything I'd have to say concerning that."

"You do know that traitors to one side are likely to betray again?"

"Like Snape?"

"I'm not Severus," Draco spit.

"The fact that you put up with me gave that one away early in the game. But the two of you have a fair bit in common."

"What is it with Gryffindors assuming that because we're both wayward Slytherins-"

Harry pressed his lips to Draco's, almost experimentally. He pulled back and blinked. "Sorry. Just wanted to see if that actually worked."

"Worked?"

"Y'know, kissing someone to make them quiet. Like in the stories."

"Stories?"

"Novels, mostly a muggle tradition, but it's infiltrated the wizarding market over the past few years. You've never read a novel?"

"Father wasn't a fan of frivolous reading."

"You should try it some time. It's cheap fun. A way to get out of your own head for a bit."

"You kissed me just to see if these stories were telling the truth?"

"Among other things."

"Other things?"

"Other things," Harry confirmed.

"So if I tried kissing you again?"

"It would be a wholly different sort of experiment."

Draco, despite the fact that their chests were nearly touching already, inched closer. "I'm curious."

"What it's like to have an ally?"

"Yes," Draco said, and closed the gap.

*

Remus had never imagined that he could be a room--not all that large a room, either--with Severus, and have the other man almost completely unaware of his presence. Remus would have struck the "almost" from that thought, but this was Severus Snape, and Remus was quite sure the man never entirely let go of the awareness of any of his surroundings.

As fastidious as Severus was in his potion making, he was also far more fluid than Remus generally thought of him being, moving without seeming thought or attention, but never tipping more than one flake or splash than necessary for the given potion. Remus acknowledged silently while watching Severus that though there were other things in life, he couldn't imagine being able to redefine this man without his potions, and Remus could only surmise that Severus fended off an even larger block of panic at the mere thought.

The Wolfsbane took over a week and Severus finished it just in time. He ladled the appropriate amount from his cauldron into a goblet and handed it over to Remus, who sipped without letting himself think too much about it. It wouldn't do to get sick on it, not after all the work he'd just watch go into it.

To his surprise, it was relatively tasteless. Not entirely, and Remus would hardly have ingested it for fun, but it was nowhere near as vile as he was used to it being. Remus frowned. "Are you. . .I would hardly slander your abilities or memory, Severus, but there seems to be something out of place about this batch."

"Are you referring to the taste?"

Remus put the goblet down before he could drop it, his fingers suddenly feeling funny and oddly useless. "Yes."

"You mentioned it being less than desirable."

"I'd mentioned that a good hundred or so times."

"It was time I showed to you the full extent of my skills."

"You had the ability to fix the taste all along?"

"A small dose of citric acid. It hasn't the correct qualities to interact magically with any of the ingredients, therefore it can't change the composition and harm its effectiveness. But the acidic properties cut the taste."

Remus considered Severus. "Are you showing off for me?"

Severus didn't dismiss the notion out of hand. "For myself, I think. But if the former was accomplished I see no reason for you not to show off to me in turn."

Remus laughed at that just a little. "No, I don't suppose you would."

Severus shrugged but didn't follow the comment up with anything. Remus said, "You'll taste the Wolfsbane on me."

"Not if we don't kiss."

"We will kiss."

Severus stood watching Remus for a few moments before crossing in total silence to the other side of the lab. He drew something from a jar and then flowed back toward Remus. He held the object out to Remus, who identified it up close as ginger roots. Remus took them and chewed slowly, the stinging spice of the ginger hot and pleasant against his tongue.

He shared the last of the sting with Severus.

*

Severus tasted bitter, like the inside of freshly roasted coffee beans. Remus nearly laughed at the appropriateness of this discovery. Severus must have sensed his amusement, as his hands came up to Remus's chest, as though to push, but Remus merely threw his weight against the hands and didn't let up.

When Remus was beginning to feel the mutter of impatience in himself, he pulled back, licked his lips, and asked, "Is it really a good idea to do this around all these jars?"

Severus shook his head.

Remus lead him into the hallway, "This'll do," and picked up where he'd left off. When Severus was marginally looser, leaning against the wall for more support than he'd needed when all this had started, Remus told him, "I'm going to undress you."

"We're in the middle of my house."

"The elves won't disturb us, and I don't know that I've mentioned this, but you have quite the warding system." Remus neatly unbuttoned the wrists of Severus's button-down shirt. As he had been brewing in the privacy of his own home, Severus was nowhere near to as completely dress as he generally was in public, but even in the relatively relaxed circumstances, each and every button on the shirt was affixed in its hole. Remus wondered if that sort of fastidiousness applied to other things. The idea was definitely worth exploring.

Remus brought one of Severus's wrist, now just barely exposed, to his mouth. He swiped a line over it with his tongue. Severus struggled a bit in his grasp, but Remus held on, following his tongue with a kiss. With his free hand, Remus swept the sleeve of Severus's shirt higher, following in its wake with his mouth. When the sleeve would go no further, Remus turned his attentions to Severus's other arm.

Remus drew up a bit, then, and carefully undid each of the buttons keeping the shirt on Severus before pushing it off of the man, letting it fall to the ground. Severus, unsurprisingly, was looking underfed. Remus pulled his own jumper over his head and tossed it aside, leaning in so that their chests made contact. Severus gasped at the feeling. Remus took a chance and asked, "Was it always quickies, before?"

Severus shook his head. "Women."

"Oh." Remus laughed a little. "Oh." He insinuated his fingers between their chests so that he could run his thumbs over Severus' nipples. Severus tilted his head back ever so slightly until it hit the wall. Remus kept up the gentle rubbing until Severus's groin began to thrust against Remus's. Then he moved back a few inches, taking his hands with him in order to shuck his trousers. He removed Severus's as meticulously as he had everything else. He ended on his knees, looking up. He ordered, "Stay standing."

He unlaced Severus's shoes and removed them, setting them aside, the socks that he also removed curled up and stuffed neatly inside. He used one hand to lift Severus's right foot and one to push Severus deeper against the wall before used his tongue on the bottom of the foot, wringing a scream from Severus. Remus smiled. "Sensitive there."

"Lupin."

Remus didn't really feel like talking. He pressed kisses to the roughened pads of the feet, took small swipes at the areas in between the toes. When it felt like Severus's left leg would give out, Remus carefully planted the right one back on the ground and switched his attentions to the left.

When he was good and ready, Remus gave Severus back his second leg, and caught him as he slid down the wall. He laid Severus down, the hallway just wide enough that Severus's hair touched one wall, his toes, when flexed, the other. Remus situated himself in the V of Severus' legs, pushing them up so that Remus' hands rested on the back of Severus' knees for balance. Then he lowered his head, and drew another neat line with his tongue, this one from Severus's ass to his balls. Severus arched radically in response, and Remus contentedly swirled his tongue over each of Severus' balls.

"Lupin!" Severus warned, but Remus just ran a calming thumb over the back of Severus' knees, which seemed to do nothing but make his cock stiffen just a tiny bit more. It was a rather pleasing sight, one which Remus began to take care of only when Severus stopped growling at him and began making plaintive sounds that were the antithesis of his coffee-bean taste. Then Remus swallowed him down and worked his tongue up and down the length of Severus cock until it was clear that if he didn't pull off, Remus wasn't getting what he wanted out of this encounter, and that just wouldn't do at all.

He pulled his mouth off of Severus's cock, applying a last bit of forceful suction as he went. Severus snarled when the last of the stimulus disappeared completely. Remus ignored him. He gently laid Severus' legs back on the floor and kneeled up over him. Remus bent to his side, rummaging through his trouser pockets for something that he'd been keeping on himself for the last week or so, as a sort of talisman of hope. He ripped the tiny package of lubricant, dribbled it over Severus's cock, spread it out a bit with his fingers and then dropped the empty package next to Severus before sliding slowly onto Severus's cock and lowering himself so that his chest pressed against Severus's.

Severus's breathing was shallow when he finally asked, "Are you going to move?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"When I feel like it, Severus."

Then, and only then, did Remus rock himself slightly, up and down, his nipples brushing against Severus'. Only then did he tilt his chin so as to kiss at the underside of Severus's. Only then did his bring his hands over the length of Severus' arms and down to where they interlocked with Severus' hands.

Severus stopped breathing. Remus said, "Breathe." Severus listened.

Remus would stop occasionally, just to lie on Severus, allow their skins longer time to make each other's acquaintance. When Severus said, "Remus," Remus decided to give him what he wanted, pulling himself upright so that Severus's hand--firmly encased in Remus's guiding one--could wrap around Remus's cock and pull at it in a slow, nearly harsh rhythm, while Remus rode Severus into a rather unique sunset.

*

After a bit, Severus said, "It's rather bad form to lie starkers in one's hallway."

"Yes," Remus said with not an ounce of worry. "I suppose it is." He didn't move from where he was draped over Severus.

"If you could-"

"Not just yet."

"Lupin."

"This is one of the things I mind about prostitution, you see. Sex isn't just about sex. It's about before, and after."

"This is not a contract of emotional significance."

"This isn't a contract at all, really, and I wasn't speaking of emotions. Pleasure, true pleasure, has stages. Or didn't you notice when you were being drawn into your substance of choice?"

Severus threw his weight against Remus and rolled them over at that. "How dare you-"

"I meant the question, Severus. Just because it was dangerous didn't make it lacking in pleasure. Some people get off on that, you know." Remus had met quite a few of them.

"It wasn't about that."

"No," Remus agreed, "not for you. Still, I should think you'd be able to see my point."

Severus pulled himself off Remus. "I'll have another dose waiting for you in the morning."

"Thank you."

Severus turned a suddenly curious eye to Remus. "Does the release help?"

Remus couldn't help looking just a bit smug. "Enormously."

"And this was-"

"About my pesky fondness for touching you. Doing all sorts of things to you, really."

"But there was an element of it-"

"Sex should be about the people involved, Severus. However many that includes."

"And if you were nowhere in my thoughts?"

"It must have been lonely, I suppose."

Severus scowled at that. He fished for his wand in his discarded robes and muttered the spell for them to replace themselves over his flesh, followed by a thorough cleansing charm, one that spread wide enough to hit Remus, cold and just the tiniest bit uncomfortable. Severus stalked off. Remus rolled over and considered his own robes, still lying strewn about the hallway. Undeterred by this latest complication, he picked them up slowly and dressed himself, foregoing magic for the comfort of his own body.

*

Harry wasn't particularly good in bed, just. . .thoughtful. Fun. At least, once he'd relaxed enough for the last one. At first it had been obvious that he was nearly out of his mind with nerves, and Draco had even gone so far as to taunt him about it, but then Harry just became worse and Draco didn't blame him really. He apologized with a few words and a lengthy searching out of Harry's erogenous zones with his tongue. After that, things had rather rapidly spread toward the delightful.

Draco awoke from a post-coital nap to the smell of bacon and kippers. He followed his nose into the kitchen. Harry turned around with an off-center smile. "Thought, erm. Well, it's Saturday, and you haven't much been sleeping-"

Draco said, "Yeah, thanks for that."

Harry tapped the hob with his wand, quieting the flames. "Breakfast?"

Nothing looked burnt or severely undercooked so Draco sat down. "Sure."

Harry seemed awkward in his movements. Draco couldn't remember him every being so, not even when he'd first been learning to wear robes or after his last major growth spurt. Draco took the pan from him. "Tell me that wasn't your first time."

Harry looked shocked for a moment before laughing. "No, although I can see where you'd get that from."

Draco thought of Harry's eagerness to touch and be touched, his joy in the pleasure, the way he wouldn't let go of Draco, not even when they were done, this morning's edginess. "Sit down."

Harry did, and Draco slid some of the bacon and kippers onto his plate, taking what was left for himself. Harry tucked in, obviously using the distraction as a way not to have to talk, and Draco followed suit, not entirely sure that he wanted conversation any more than Harry did.

When they were finished and he'd helped Harry clean up from an instinct that didn't seem instinctual at all but was still somehow in him, Draco couldn't decide whether to stay or go. Normal procedure for him at this point was to flee, and the thought was terribly tempting. But Harry wasn't his normal type, and the temptation to stay was oddly strong as well.

"You play chess?" Harry asked softly.

"Badly," Draco told him, surprised at his own honesty, but he'd never had a head for all the intricate choices necessary, let alone the sacrifices one had to make.

"Yeah, me as well. Fancy a game?"

"Sure."

Harry set out the pieces. He put a knight in its proper place and said, "Ron taught me how to play. He was bloody brilliant," and fixed Draco with a look that burned hot as the Dark Mark.

Draco said, "Father. He had a tendency to repeat strategies," but he couldnít tell what his face was doing. Whatever it was, Harry asked, "Do you still really want to be here?"

Draco thought of the work that needed doing, of the visit he should pay to Severus, of the privacy of his own quarters and the comforting regal nature of Snape Manor. "You liked touching me."

Harry blinked. "I suppose you returned the favor."

"I wasn't expecting-"

"What were you expecting?"

Draco shook his head. "I don't know. Not the bed. Not breakfast or chess. Not to want to stay."

"Sit down," Harry said, motioning at the chair on the other side of the board.

Draco did.

*

"The wards around my room aren't engaging," Remus said, expecting that Severus had changed the password out of a subconscious need to annoy his guest.

"I deactivated them."

Remus knew that the knot in his stomach was a precursor to a panic that he had no wish to explore. Tonks eyes swam in his mind for all of a second before he shoved the thought away with perhaps even more violence than the act it represented. "I will only leave if you ask me directly, Severus."

Severus seemed confused for a moment. "Ah, no. I merely thought it might behoove me to trust in my own ability to complete potions correctly. A step toward recovery, if you will."

"Allowing a werewolf the perusal of your house is less a step toward recovery than one toward insanity." Remus didn't bother to soften his words, Severus wouldn't appreciate it even if he did.

"If you eat me I'll at least have the satisfaction of knowing I won't go down well. Hellebore smarts quite nicely during transformation, doesn't appreciate physical change so well as mental, and clean or no, I'm sure I still have some of it settled in me."

Remus tried for calm, took a breath in and let it slowly out, tapped his wand to his stomach with a Calming Charm that had always worked before, but in the end it was all useless, and Remus shoved past Severus in the hopes of finding a chamber pot. He only made it to the doorway of the lab before falling to his knees and expunging his last two or three meals.

He was still trying to clear his head of the grief and guilt and fear when the last of the retching tapered off. Something Banished the vomit from in front of him and if he had been thinking about it, he would have recognized the gesture as one of uncommon mercy on Severus's part, but he wasn't thinking about it. He was thinking about little boys with Severus's black hair, and Tonk's eyes, as frightened as they were determined. Severus pushed a bottle into his hands. "Drink. The whole thing. And try not to bring it up again."

Remus did as told when the instructions managed to find their way into his head. No sooner had he finished off the last of the bottle than a brilliant sort of apathy tore its way through him, wiping any sense of why he might care about those things that had so recently seemed important. He looked up to see Severus grimacing. "It's yet to be perfected."

Remus shrugged, he wasn't sure why such a thing should matter. Severus sighed. "You're no good to me like this."

Remus wondered if that should be a problem. Severus lifted him off the ground. "Tea?"

When Remus shrugged again, Severus said, "Right, silly of me to have bothered." Severus dragged Remus through the hallways and into the sitting room, depositing him in a chair and snapping out a house elf's name. Remus closed his eyes, and let the world go by in darkness.

*

Remus awoke with the feeling that someone was sitting on his chest, but a quick glance confirmed this to be without proof. Of course, it could have been someone in an invisibility cloak, but he seemed to be in his bed at Severus's house, and that wasn't something he could imagine Severus doing, not without a good reason. Remus made himself sit up, just in case, and sure enough, nothing tumbled from him.

He struggled to get in a full breath and then swiveled so that he could put his feet on the floor and rise from the bed. When his feet hit the ground some of the hour before he had passed out came to him. "Bloody-"

Remus slipped into some house shoes and made his way into the hall. He walked down to Severus's study, where he was most likely to be, as he wisely was still being rather cautious about brewing by himself. The door was open and Severus was inside, but Remus knocked on the doorframe anyway. Severus looked up. "How do you feel?"

"I'm having some trouble breathing."

Severus frowned. He summoned a house elf with a wave of his wand. "Bring us some eucalyptus tea, well-steeped."

The house elf disappeared again. Severus said, "Well, come in."

Remus did, settling himself in the cushiest chair he could find. "Sorry about earlier. I've some demons regarding Tonks and the boy, and we both know how close- My mind put together a rather disturbing image for me."

"I said some things that were perhaps best left unsaid."

"No, I'm not certain silence does either of us any good at this point." Remus tried for another breath. "What did you give me?"

"An emotional rather than physical sedative on which I'm working. It obviously needs some further trials."

"It caused apathy."

"Complete apathy?"

"I'm pretty sure I would not have been bothered by a personal meeting with Andromeda and Ted Tonks."

Severus frowned. "It's supposed to mute emotion for short periods of time, not kill it entirely."

"Surely there are others in your field with whom you can consult?"

"I tried when I began. Nobody wants to work in an area that's seen as walking dangerously close to Muggle habits of medicating emotional trauma. That's frowned upon."

"That, and sanity."

Severus moved his shoulders in a fluid movement that resembled a shrug, but Remus could not reconcile anything so casual with the man. "I'm alone in this. I'm lucky enough I suppose that the Order of Merlin and my previous reputation have garnered me a position through which I can pursue the matter."

"You would be alone if you had only yourself to talk to."

"Or only my own tail to chase."

"Severus-"

"I regret the nature of my sarcastic remarks, but not the point I was driving at behind them."

"It is your house and your potion, I'm entirely sure you'll have your way one way or another."

"But I find to my shock that I'd prefer to have it with your approval." Severus looked away as he said this.

Remus struggled for another breath even as he struggled for something to say. He was saved from having to deal with the latter by a house elf's reappearing with the tea. Severus instructed, "Drink, it'll help with your chest."

It took two cups for Remus to breathe normally again. He still hadn't found a response.

*

Draco took Harry when he went back to check up on Severus. Remus had been sending him notes pretty consistently until the day before, and Draco was in no way put at ease by his missing a morning. He wasn't sure why he took Harry, it wasn't as though he doubted he could handle a magically crazed Severus if it came to it, although that was the reason he gave Harry, who had the good sense not balk at it. Draco supposed it didn't sound all that implausible.

When they arrived, however, Severus was eating a perfectly balanced breakfast and reading one of the latest potions journals, his robes donned and neatly swirling around him. He looked up at his intruders and nodded.

Draco said, "Good morning," prompting Harry's rather unsure, "Erm, good morning."

"Draco. Mr. Potter. Would you like some breakfast?"

Because he could sense Harry's agitation next to him, Draco rolled his eyes at Severus. "Where is Lupin?"

"Still sleeping."

"He's not generally a very late sleeper," Harry said, and it had the sound of confusion leading very closely on accusation.

Severus sighed. "Go down the hall, make a left at the end, take your second right and then the first right after that and you may check on him yourself, Mr. Potter. I assure you he has come to no harm."

Harry took him up on the offer. Draco was glad of the chance to sit down and talk with Severus. "What did you give him?"

Severus looked up from his journal and raised an eyebrow. Draco raised one in kind. Severus made a sound of discontented amusement. "Experimental potion to dampen emotions. I. . .made a comment that was most likely best left unmade."

"And that certainly doesn't describe every single conversation between the two of you for the last thirty or so years."

"You're being impertinent."

"Yes."

"Do you really want to do that when your," Severus put in an extra sneer for good measure, "boyfriend is down the hall?"

Draco made sure he was collected as he said, "He might very well think of us that way."

Severus must have heard the fear, though, as he backed off. "You've slept with him."

"I know somebody must have mentioned that Gryffindors are emotional psychopaths at some point, but I think I was busy buying new robes that day. Or something of the sort. He asked me to stay, after. Well, he made me food."

Severus looked unimpressed.

"Also, there was chess."

"Pretty soon there will be discussions about you making an honest man of him."

Draco thought about it. Shook his head. "He didn't seem to expect that I would stay. And that didnít seem to bother him."

"Which I suppose is why you stayed."

"I donít know that it was," Draco whispered, terrified at the options that left.

"Draco."

Draco looked to him to say something cutting, to stop this freefall, to put things in their proper pessimistic perspective. Severus said, "I will deny ever having said this, but Gryffindors' greatest strengths lie not in their willingness to brave physical demolition, but rather, emotional. Potter will understand himself as the one at risk. If you want him, you have only to hold on."

"My grip is-"

"Unfaltering."

Draco had never known Severus to lie to him. He couldn't imagine his mentor deciding this was the moment to start. He didn't want to imagine.

*

One of the first times that Remus had ever had the advantage of taking the Wolfsbane, he had curled quietly in his Hogwarts' quarters simply reveling in the thought that he could go to sleep, since his human mind clearly recognized this as night time. Instead, though, he had found a mirror, curious at what his friends had seen all these years, curious as to whether the pictures in books were at all adequate. The mirror had said, "You're a big boy, aren't you?"

Remus, to his surprise, had agreed. It wasn't that Remus was a particularly small human, he was for the most part average sized, with the odd bout of hunger making him a bit on the lean side. His wolf form, however, bordered on the gigantic.

It shouldn't have been possible, Remus always thought, to make something so large out of someone so, well, not large. But then, it shouldn't have been possible for him to turn into a mindless creature feeding on what would normally be his own kind once a month, either, so the world was just full of impossible things one had to accept on faith, or the word of a rather nosy mirror.

He told Severus, "I'm your size as a wolf, maybe a bit bigger."

"I remember," Severus said, with only a hint of trepidation.

Remus thought a hint was actually quite a bit when one was facing the idea of spending an evening with one's almost murderer. "It can be a bit off-putting."

"Unlike the feral eyes or the fangs."

Severus had a point. Remus wasn't going to point out that his eyes weren't quite so feral when on the potion, more placid. If he was lucky, Severus would talk himself out of it.

Remus should have remembered that of the many, many things that he often was, lucky was not among them. Severus said, "Of course, I would imagine neither of those are quite so intimidating when you're in your right mind. The eyes probably respond to the presence behind them and you most likely do not go around with your fangs bared."

"It's sometimes more comfortable-"

Severus cut him off with a quelling glare. "Then you'll just have to remember you have an audience."

Remus voiced the question that might make this entirely easier to bear even as it was the last thing he was sure he wanted to hear. "Is this some sort of revenge that I cannot wrap my Gryffindor mind around?"

"It seems your mind is wrapped enough for possible identification of it as such."

"I'm good with the plans, but not much for the carry out."

"Would it make it easier if I said it was?"

Remus frowned. "What do you care about easier? It would make it easier for you to lock me in that room."

"I care about easier," Severus said. "But there are limits."

"Why? Why are there limits?"

"Because this isn't about revenge."

There was a crash of something that Remus only vaguely recognized as joy against the restraints of his rib cage, and Remus thought that perhaps the other answer would have been easier after all.

*

Hermione said, "Look, somewhat incredibly what I'm about to say to you is nothing personal, but if you hurt Harry, what Voldemort did to traitors will honestly seem like a day of being caressed by Cheering Charms."

Draco said, "Right, well. Would you like to come in?" and stepped past her to open the door to his quarters. She took the invitation, Weasley twins following in her wake.

George (at least Draco assumed it was George) said, "Thanks for the advice regarding Snape."

Draco found it somewhat tactless to acknowledge that information a person wasn't necessarily supposed to have given out originated from said person, but he had a feeling that Weasley hadn't gone around sharing the news, so he just nodded. Hermione told him, "George had mentioned that the prof- that Snape hadnít contacted him in a bit, so I got hold of the Headmistress who vaguely didn't really mention that I might ask Harry. She's channeling Dumbledore far too frequently these days."

"Harry told-"

"No, but he reassured me that things were all right and then talked about all sorts of other interesting things."

Fred snickered at that. George just kept his eyes on Draco. Hermione asked, "Mind if we have a drink?"

Draco started, "The house elves-" and then stopped, cringing, remembering something Harry had told him about Muggle philosophy on the societal conditioning of Othered species, but Hermione just nodded and summoned them all drinks. Draco was surprised to find himself with a black Ethiopian blend and wondered whether she'd actually requested it, or if the house elves had just filled in the blanks, as they were.

She took a sip of her own beverage and sighed, sitting in the nearest chair. "You're at least partially responsible for saving George's life, and Harry seems rather contented, so I actually didn't come to get on your case."

"Just to remind me that Harry Bloody Potter has friends? Because I'd rather noticed."

Both Fred and George snickered at that. Fred began, "Hard to miss-"

And George capped off with, "Isn't it?"

"Harry has plenty of people who mildly worship him and a small group of friends. I would lecture you on your blithe treatment of the manner, but I'm busy being sad over the prospect that you actually might not know the difference." Hermione challenged him with a slanted look.

Draco took another sip. "I haven't any intention of hurting him."

"It's not so much your intentions we're concerned about, mate," Fred told him, "although I can't say as I ever thought I'd be saying that to you."

Draco frowned. "Then why-"

"To let you know you can hurt him," George said softly.

Hermione added, "We weren't sure you knew. Harry's not the most vocal."

"Ah." Draco looked around at his three guests. "You're certain?"

"Quite," all three said together.

As much to his surprise as any one else's the foremost emotion that rose up in Draco wasn't panic. There was certainly confusion, and not a bit of amusement, but mostly there was an odd and uncomfortable feeling of awe. All he said was, "All right. Thanks."

When Hermione rose to go he said, "You can finish your drink."

She sat back down. Fred asked, "How's it feel, not being evil?"

*

Remus woke up from the transformation sore and thirsty. Severus said, "If you sit up, I'll give you water."

Remus croaked, "No legilimancy when I'm recovering from forced transfiguration."

Severus sniffed. "I wasn't-"

"Joke, Severus." Remus eased himself into an upright position. "Water just sounds brilliant."

"There are water-leeching components in the Wolfsbane."

"I rather figured. The need is far more urgent when I use it than when I go without."

Severus handed over the water. "Are you nervous?"

Remus took several slow sips, waiting to feel a little more. . .well, human. "When I'm in wolf form, I'm far more. . .empathic isn't the right word. I'm more sensitive, I suppose, to small changes in others moods. There's an energy people give off that the wolf," Remus thought about it, "it tickles the wolf."

"I was a bit-"

"Terrified?" Remus offered. "You shouldn't have stayed."

"Would you prefer I left?"

Remus snorted. "Hardly. Solitude is lovely at times, but not when I'm feeling like this."

"Would you like?" Severus eyes were intent.

"I-"

"Like this," Severus said, and put both his palms against Remus's chest, moving in slow circles.

"Yes," Remus said with a small smile, "Yes."

"I am not a coward."

Remus shook his head. "Have you ever thought that perhaps you've been afraid enough for one lifetime?"

"I helped win a war being afraid."

"Right, there was that."

"One has to believe that the rewards will outweigh the disadvantages of any choice one makes."

Remus laughed a bit. Severus raised an eyebrow in question. Remus leaned forward just a bit in order to kiss Severus somewhat chastely, but with the offer of more. "That's definitively the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

"Best not get used to it."

"You're not a coward, I'm not a fool."

"As long as we know what we're not," Severus said, and took Remus him up on his offer of more more more.

*

Draco said, "Harry and I have plans for the summer. He's never been to Switzerland."

What amazed Remus was not that Draco and Harry had plans, for the two had been settling into an unacknowledged monogamous partnership for the same stretch of months in which Remus had been living as Severus's sometimes assistant and regular lay, nor that Harry had never been to Switzerland, as Harry hadn't been much of anywhere. It was that Draco made the announcement in front of both him and Severus, as though he might owe both of them an explanation as to where he was disappearing.

Severus asked, "For how long?"

"Harry was able to get a full month with all the overtime he's been working. That's probably why he's running late."

Remus laughed. "Harry's running late because he's Harry."

"Telling all my secrets?" Harry asked, as he strolled in and slipped into the chair next to Draco's.

"Nice of you to join us, Mr. Potter," Severus said in his best detention-giving voice. Remus did his best not to give into the temptation to give Severus a blow job under the table. With just the elves around that sort of behavior was fine, but Draco and Harry would surely notice.

"I knew you'd be glad to see me." Harry gave his widest, most unaffected grin, and reached for the nearest platter of food while inquiring after Draco's day.

Draco didn't even bother wiping the smirk of amusement over Harry and Severus' antics off his lips. "I killed two Gryffindors and a Hufflepuff."

"But Hufflepuff's are really quite inoffensive."

"He was standing near the Gryffindors and I shot wide."

Severus shook his head. "Not even I can condone that sort of carelessness."

"I'll concentrate harder next time," Draco promised.

Harry smiled at his plate. "What were the rogue Gryffindors doing?"

"Being-" Draco stopped at the doleful look Harry gave him. "Tormenting a Hufflepuff."

"The one you accidentally killed?" Remus asked.

"Oops."

Remus laughed. Harry followed in his wake. Severus just asked, "What would the literal definition of death be these days?"

"Three nights of detention, one with me, two with Filch, all three overlapping quidditch practice."

"You didn't really assign the Hufflepuff-"

"No, Harry," Remus said, "he didn't."

And although Draco threw him a look that clearly said, "I can speak for myself," he didn't take the issue up. Harry just looked pleased. "Have you told them about Switzerland?"

"That we're going, yes."

"I'm going to ski," Harry told Remus. Draco looked at his plate with a certain expression of disgust that he reserved for times when he'd lost several arguments over the same thing in a row.

Remus said, "Remember to use self-protection spells."

"There will be Muggles everywhere," Harry protested.

"Severus and Draco can obliviate them all. They'll have fun."

Severus glared at Remus. "I'm rather done doing the dirty work of Gryffindors." He turned to Harry. "Besides which a well cast self-protector shouldn't be detectable, even when doing what it does best."

"Yes, sir," Harry said.

Severus asked, "Do you need-"

"No," Harry said, "but thank you."

Severus took the thanks as his due. Draco cast an oddly grateful look at both sides of the table, catching both Severus and Remus in his net. Harry pretended to be blissfully unaware of his boyfriend's terror of all things non-magical, and Severus pretended to be blissfully unaware of Draco's feeling of indebtedness.

Severus said, "You'll owl regularly."

Harry grinned, "And regale you with the brilliant time we're having while you're stuck here."

Severus looked up at Remus. "Ever been to Spain?"

Remus blinked. "No."

Severus said, "I think you would like it."

Severus might not always know Remus all that particularly well, and the reverse was certainly true, but they were getting better at feeling their way to easier and improved understanding. "Entirely possible."

Harry and Draco were both concertedly looking anywhere but between or at their two former professors. Remus repeated, "Possible."

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