Remus quickly darted up the stairs to the infirmary, taking them two, sometimes three at a time. Albus had been right, he was almost desperate to see with his own eyes that Araminta and her father were safe. Dark images skittered behind his eyes, refusing to be dispelled by mere words, demanding proof, demanding to see, to touch.
That Christmas long ago had started to finally crack the wall between them and they had grown closer to be friends at a time when Severus had desperately needed them. That friendship had flourished and deepened, and to the bemusement of both men they had found they actually had rather a lot in common.
The acerbic wit and seemingly perpetual sneer had hidden a sharp mind and wickedly acidic sense of humour, and Remus had grown to enjoy their time spent together - as had Severus himself. It had started as a simple friendship, a shoulder for support when the potions master had so desperately needed one, but it eventually became more, so much more, and he hadn't realised how much more until the accident.
Severus rested a hand on the pile of books on his desk, staring rather despondently at his seventh-year potions class. Slytherin and Ravenclaw. Fresh from holidays, full of stories of who did what and with whom, completely unlikely to be bothered with anything remotely resembling learning. And they were all his. Oh, joy.
Thankfully Albus had finally learned from the lessons of Harr-
- previous years and stopped pairing Slytherin and Gryffindor together for potions classes. It was a move Snape had pushed for for years - you couldn't have that sort of animosity in an environment where you were dealing with ingredients of this complexity and risk level - especially with the higher year levels. It was a recipe for complete and utter disaster. And since the idiot students seemed incapable of putting aside differences even in such a hazardous environment, the solution was to change the students.
And it also meant he could actually teach his bloody students, instead of playing referee.
"Today, if you are capable of paying attention and drawing yourself away from your sickening adolescent mating rituals MISTER Spriggan I AM looking at YOU - we will be creating the Creosus Argentum potion. Page seventy six in your texts. Miss Solis, please put those cow-eyes aside, I do realise the potions classroom is quite possibly the only room in the school you have NOT indulged in carnal activities in, and I intend to keep it that way." He eased himself into his chair as the girl in question shot him a look of pure evil. "Five points for that glare, although I am taking ten away for aiming it at me, I am your potions professor, not your hexing tutor. Next time find someone else to beta your facial expressions." Behind him, a piece of chalk picked itself up and began to scrawl potion ingredients on the blackboard.
"The Creosus Argentum is a potion I fear a great many of you will find use for. It is traditionally used by those of limited magical ability to gilt items of little value, to turn them into pretty sparkling items of little value that you can then sell for far more than is reasonable to some idiot tourist. For those of you with abilities greater than that of a retarded four year old, it can be used to protect your skin when handling items that otherwise would prove poisonous or dangerous to the touch." He took the moment of rest afforded to him as the students set up their cauldrons and ingredients. Although he had been taking things slightly easier with some classes, both ends of the spectrum - first and seventh years - required constant supervision. The former to prevent them accidentally killing themselves in a bumbling attempt to follow the syllabus, the latter much for the same reason - only with much more dangerous brews. And it was a double, so he had a long session on his feet ahead of him.
An hour into the class found things running decidedly more smoothly than previous years. For starters, no one had attempted a hex, a shove, or to set fire to anyone else. Unfortunately that also meant that since no one was attempting to surreptitiously slip additional ingredients into another student's cauldron, the abysmal failures so far were entirely the result of sheer stupidity. It made him want to weep.
Two cauldrons had been scorched by attempts to heat the brew too fast, another had simply disappeared from reality all together to reappear five minutes later - he made a mental note to ask Dickinson how the hell he'd managed that feat, seeing as none of the ingredients were capable of creating a time-slip - and another four had their contents slowly congealing into a substance with all the consistency of cement, since the idiots tending them evidently found talk of holidays far more important than maintaining a simple fire spell. He was going to take great joy in making those students clean those cauldrons. With a toothbrush.
As he slowly made his way down the central aisle, he shook his head in disgust. Sometimes he wondered why he even bothered - out of the entire seventh year there was a total of two students that had shown any skerrick of the care and passion needed to be a half-decent alchemist. The others would probably join the rest of hoi polloi, relying on pathetic first year fever reducers and aphrodisiacs. Merlin help him, the only two students he'd seen for nearly ten years that had been incredibly gifted in the arts of potion-brewing had been those god-awful Weasley twins - and look what they had done with their skills!
His daughter shifted lazily in his stomach and he rested a hand against it, making an almost-silent soothing noise. Reacting to his agitation, Poppy had said. Smile more, be happy, Hooch had dropped in. He did not do 'Happy', especially when surrounded by pathetic wastrels.
He'd read once in the history of Hogwarts of a time when there were no safety nets for students. School had quite literally been a survival of the fittest venture, and he wondered what would happen if he did lower the protective spells around his classroom - not enough to actually kill any students, just enough to scare the little ignoramuses. It might teach them that there was far more to the subject than tossing random ingredients about and seeing how big an explosion they could create. The idea did have its merits…
Caught up in his musings, his hand gently smoothed over his belly again, what felt like a hand pressing against his palm. Despite his mood, a smile kissed his face. Completely lost in his own world, he failed to notice the cauldron in front that was starting to overboil, until his foot hit a wet patch and he fell flat on his back on the unforgiving stone floor.
The Slytherin students, predictably, were the first to act. Strabo Ferniss, this year's answer to Draco Malfoy was the first out of his stool and by the side of his head of house, before many of the other students had even realised what happened. Stripping off his robe, he pushed it gently under Severus' head, sending the fastest runner in the class to the infirmary, working at the buttons of his teacher's collar - all in a scant few seconds. Snape, for his part, just stared up at the ceiling and tried to breathe.
Dudley Dickinson, the Boy With The Unfortunately Paedophilic Name as he was also known (the Slytherin long having taken to mocking other students with variations on the infamous Boy Who Lived) pounded up the stairs and along the corridor from the dungeons to the infirmary. Rounding the corner, he ran smack into a certain Remus Lupin, who was on his way to his own class.
Student and professor both fell down in a tangle of limbs, and to Remus' surprise, there wasn't even a frantic apology as the boy simply shoved himself back up to his feet, using the professor's chest as a springboard and made to run off again. A hand gripping the edge of his robes sent him back down as he made an abortive attempt to resume his sprint.
"No running in the hallways," Remus said mildly, peering over at the boy from his position on the floor.
Dickinson rolled onto his back and wheezed over at the professor. "Sir, you don't understand!" he clambered back to his feet. "In the dungeons - Professor Snape - he's had an accident!" More words followed, but Remus didn't hear them, frozen in shock. Accident. Snape. Gods, the baby!
Snapping out of it, he rolled to his own feet. "Get Madam Pomfrey - NOW." The student and professor bolted off in different directions, one to the infirmary, the other to the dungeons, fear speeding both their steps.
Skidding to a halt after taking the entire last flight of stairs in one jump, Remus knocked over four students before managing to stop himself. Dropping to his knees beside the prone man, he reached out, then drew his hands back. He'd dealt with injuries and illness before but he was completely at a loss. He didn’t have the faintest clue what to do with a normal female pregnancy, let alone this!
"Where does it hurt?" he asked gently, risking a safe pat to the other man's hand. His fingers curled around and he counted the rapid pulse under the skin. No serious injuries or signs of pain, Severus looked out of breath and stunned more than anything else. That was a good sign, wasn't it?
Snape was too busy concentrating on breathing, so it was Strabo who answered the question. "I think he's just winded," several of the brighter students had propped the potions master's feet up on some textbooks and fetched the basin of water and cool cloth the student was using to wipe his teacher's face with. "I think he's more worried about the baby than anything else."
Indeed, Severus' hand was splayed flat against his stomach, fingers almost digging in as he frantically searched for signs of life. He closed his eyes and let out a precious breath in relief as after a moment of terrifying stillness, his unborn child began to kick up a storm. The sigh was echoed by Remus as he laid his hand over the other man's, and Snape worked his eyes open and peered at him.
"Nothing to worry about," he croaked, slowly getting his wind back. "Just…slipped…"
"Let me be the judge of that," Poppy flew through the doors, a severely bedraggled-looking Dickinson dragging her medical bag behind. Pushing through the crowd of students, she gently displaced the seventh-year Slytherin and began her examination. It was just a simple fall, true, but Severus now weighed a great deal more than he did normally, and it was all centered on his midsection - and the stone floor was hard. Nothing serious, easily repaired and she sighed in relief, starting to work. "What were you working on? Anything that could affect the baby?"
"Don't be an idiot, woman," Snape irritably shrugged off the hand taking his pulse. "It was a simple gilt potion. Creosus Argentum. The ingredient list is on the board - I'm assuming you can calm yourself down long enough to read it."
Poppy let the insult slide off her with a practiced motion as she scanned through the ingredients list. Good. Nothing harmful. To be frank, she was glad he was as unpleasant as ever. She'd learn from experience that when he got meek and polite it was a signal of something seriously wrong.
Lupin, on the other hand, was another matter entirely.
"Creosus Argentum?" Remus’ normally mild eyes blazed with angry concern. "What the hell are you doing teaching a potion like that in your condition!” While it was a fairly stable and innocuous potion when completed, it did require care and delicacy in its creation, and it often proved explosive in the hands of the untrained.
Severus blazed right back. “Who the hell are you, telling me what I can and cannot do?!” He’d had enough of them treating him like china! The staff seemed to be alternating between leaving him alone and mother henning his every move and the dichotomy was driving him more than a little insane. What was next? Allowing him to ride a broom whilst forbidding him to traverse the stairs? "I refuse to pander to the idiocy of my students due to the fact that I happen to be carrying a child! I'm more than capable of bloody well -"
The tirade was too much for his still-recovering lungs and Poppy moved in as he fell back, gasping for air again, a look of dull panic on his face. “Stay calm, Severus, just concentrate on breathing.” She moved automatically to block the view of the gathering students, hands gently stroking back his hair. “That’s it, slow, even breaths. It’s nothing to worry about, you’re fine, the baby’s fine, you were just winded, that’s all.” Actually, the heavy impact against the stone floor had cracked several vertebrae in his spine, but they were easily repaired and pointing out the fact would simply upset him more. It could so easily have gone another way, however, and she filed that thought away to bring up later with Albus. No point mentioning it now, Snape was upset enough as it was without adding to the burden.
Apology coated Remus' tone at the display. "I'm sorry Severus. You're right, you're not a child. I just wish you'd be more c-careful…"
The end of the sentence degenerated into a cough and Snape's eyes widened with panic. This time, it wasn't for himself, or his unborn child - it was for the defence against the dark arts professor as he suddenly remembered exactly what it was he had been having his class prepare. He reached out with shaking hands to grasp the other man's arm. Dammit, the entire classroom was filled with steam from the preparation.
"Creosus Argentum," he wheezed, tugging on the werewolf's sleeve. Remus smothered the last of the cough with his hand, then stared at him, eyes widening in realisation.
The most powerful ingredients of which were an infusion of black kelp, mugwort….
"Oh dear," Pomfrey muttered. "I'd better get both of you to the infirmary…"
News of the accident had shaken many of the staff and students alike. Once the initial novelty had worn off, Snape's pregnancy seemed to have more of a humorous value than anything else - the man seemed to be doing fine, and his prickly-pear approach at rebutting their early gestures of support had set most of them to simply leave him alone. After all, he carried on as usual with little difficulty that they could see, and the sight of him stalking through the halls with a pregnant belly was rather funny. And it didn't seem to have affected his rather sour disposition in the slightest.
The accident however, blew those notions apart. Suddenly he was vulnerable after all, and many of them realised how fragile his condition was. The accident hadn't been serious, but it had been a wake-up call. And not one of them had seen it coming.
Dead silence fell across the hall as the potions master entered, Remus at his side. Although the damage to his back had been easily healed, he still ached, and his daughter seemed intent on breaking at least three ribs before she was willing to accept his silent apology for the rough ride. Now in his sixth month, he moved slowly, the ache in his back lending an almost ponderous face to his motions, his usual slim form making his belly appear even bigger.
Severus, for his part, was more worried about Lupin. Although Pomfrey had managed to clear his lungs of the potentially lethal concoction he'd inhaled, she had warned the werewolf that they were still weakened, leaving him more susceptible to chest infections and respiratory illnesses until his immune system had time to recover, and he could hear the slight whisper of an asthmatic wheeze from the walk to the dining hall. He clutched the other man's arm almost as much to keep an ear on his breathing as for the support he offered. If he hadn't been so careless Remus wouldn't have been exposed to the damn stuff in the first place.
The pair were closely followed by Poppy and Sirius, both of whom were trying to hover without being too obvious about it.
Shaking a strand of hair back from his face with a curt motion, Severus dealt the room his trademark penetrating stare. The entire Slytherin house was on their feet, a silent salute, uncaring of the craned necks and whispers of the rest of the school. He wondered what the others made of the gesture of respect from the house many of them would have marked the first to taunt and ridicule his condition. Blind, prejudiced little fools.
He nodded his head at them in silent acceptance of the gesture before continuing his way. He was acutely aware of the man beside him, an odd, fluttery feeling deep in his belly that had nothing to do with his pregnancy. He knew that feeling…and it was one he'd thought he'd never feel again.
Besides, what the hell would someone like Remus want with him?
Dumbledore watched the quartet worriedly as they made their slow way towards the teacher's table, pushing himself up against the armrests a little as if to get to his feet. "Oh dear," he said in a quiet tone, blue eyes muted for once. "He doesn't look well at all. Far too pale…"
"I don't know why you're so concerned, Albus." Her own worry made McGonagall's tone sharp. "It never bothered you during his school years, nor the countless times you sent him to be beaten, humiliated, or worse at the hands of you-know-who."
Dumbledore had the grace to flinch under her accusation. "Voldemort, Minerva, his name was Voldemort. And things were different then - it was war."
"Meaning we all suffered enough without willingly giving our own up to that creature!" it was a long bone of contention between them. Refusing to say more - in case she said something that she wouldn't really regret, but would make things uncomfortable between them, the deputy headmistress got to her feet and made her way to pull out the potions master's chair for him - and to her surprise, she wasn't the only one. She was however, the first one there, and the one whose help was accepted.
Severus cast his gaze over the openly goggling school once more, returning their stares with a slight sneer before easing himself down into his chair. By uniform consent, the standing Slytherin waited until he was settled before taking their seats.
The rustle and hubbub died down as McGonagall tapped on the side of her goblet, and Snape took the opportunity to look around at the staff as the Headmaster made his customary speech.
The sudden show of concern was interesting, to say the least. The ever-present cynic in him wondered which ones were true, and which ones were merely mirroring other people. Severus was under no disillusions as to what people thought of him, and two-faced niceties turned his stomach. Well, there was one way to find out, and he was feeling oddly devilish at the moment.
Reaching for a bowl of peas, he stopped, sniffing the air dramatically. "Do you smell dog?" he asked the table at large.
Remus rolled his eyes and attacked his pot pie with a little more enthusiasm than was necessary. "Severus…please…."
Beside him, Hooch began to laugh very, very quietly under her breath.
"I'm sure I smelled dog...my mistake…" a few seconds of blissful silence, then another loud sniff. "Do you smell dog? I'm sure I smell dog! Who on earth would let a dog into the dining hall?" he wondered, practically oozing innocence
This continued for several moments, Hooch's laughter growing less and less quiet, until finally Sirius snapped, clenching knife and fork in his hands and staring at his plate in wide-eyed fury. "Shut-up shut-up shut UP you greasy little son of a bitch!"
Several members of staff put down their goblets and eating utensils, moving surreptitiously closer to the Animagus.
Severus himself was the perfect picture of injured innocence, resting one hand against his chest. "Me?" He dropped the act and let his face fall into its customary sneer. "And as to the subject of bitches, your knowledge far surpasses mine. As I understand it Professor Flitwick's poodle has taken to walking with a decided limp and whimpering every time someone mentions your name." His tone dropped, slow and even, shaking his head a little in reproach. "Such conduct unbecoming of a Hogwarts Alumni. Perhaps we should have you neutered. Or perhaps a leash, to stop you traversing about on your little canine trysts. Can you say "Heel, Black?"
“You bloody -“ Snape sat back and chortled as Sirius made as if to leap from his seat and promptly disappeared under a tangle of limbs as the entire faculty jumped him at once - Remus included. Oh look, it appeared that he could 'heel', after all, even though it took Dumbledore sitting on his chest.
Oh yes, this entire night would be one to store in his pensieve, to be drawn out and savoured with a warm brandy on cold winter nights.
Clambering heavily to his feet, he rocked back and forth on his heels, one hand resting on his belly for a moment before picking up a biscuit from the plate on the table, a smirk crossing his face as he threw it insolently to the floor in front of Sirius. “Good Dog.” Everyone knew you should use the reward system, after all…
After the fuss had died down and the Animagus suitably chastised (Snape's suggestion of making him eat from his bowl in the kitchen not helping matters in the slightest), Remus shot him an exasperated look, reclaiming his seat. “That was unfair, Severus. You knew I couldn’t resist a threat to the pack and pup.”
“Pack and pup?” Snape was radiating innocence as he pulled a dish of Bertie Botts closer. “I have no idea what you mean.” His fingers flicked though the selection, hunting out the tomato ones - he’d developed quite a liking for them. “Are you raising dogs? By the way, if you’re not planning on eating those potatoes…”
Remus gave an exasperated sigh and scraped them onto the other mans plate. “You’re well aware of what I’m referring to, Severus. Besides, you know that Sirius won't lift a finger against you."
"Mmm, yes, but do they know that?" the grin Snape shot him was positively Machiavellian as he gestured absently to the rest of the table. Flitwick in particular looked more than slightly displeased - he'd overheard the comment proceeding Sirius' abortive attempt to jump to his feet and defend himself, and even now Severus could see him making mental notes to protect his hideously fluffy ribbon-bedecked "snookums" from the sexually rampant Animagus.
Remus followed his gaze and choked on his pumpkin juice. Without asking, Severus knew the mental image going through both their minds and leaned over, whispering in the other man's ear "Poor snookums…I do hope he used protection, Flitwick strikes me as the type of man to insist on a shotgun wedding."
That did it.
Hooch swung to one side and stared at the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, shaking her head a little to rid herself of the mouthful of juice Remus had just sprayed into her ear.
"Sorry R-rolanda…" he got out, trying unsuccessfully to clamp a lid down on his laughter. Under the table he smacked the back of his hand against Snape's leg in a plea for him to please shut the hell up before pieces of pot pie began to come out of his nose. Between the juice, the laughter, and the still-present aftereffects of his silver inhalation he was hard pressed to draw a complete breath.
When Snape grabbed his hand, he thought it was simply a mute gesture for him to please stop thwapping the other man. But Severus gave his hand a light squeeze, and there was voiceless concern in those black depths.
He stared into those eyes for a long moment, breath coming back under control without any effort on his part, deepening and smoothing out. He'd never noticed how beautiful those eyes were before…like twin wells plumbing hidden depths of a soul so complex it went beyond intricacy and into beautiful, like higher mathematics at its best.
The skin around those eyes tightened, pain lancing across them and he squeezed the hand back instinctively. "Are you alright?" he kept his tone low, somehow sensing that the other man wouldn't want the attention of the other staff drawn.
The skin eased, fine lines remaining. "It's nothing. Just an ache…" the side of his mouth twitched, then relaxed as Remus carefully slid a hand around behind him, the motion hidden by the high table and began to rub gently.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Remus worried. "Pomfrey was right, you shouldn't have left the infirmary." He took a bite of his pie to cover their conversation, well aware of the hundreds of eyes on them. "I should take you back…"
"No..." Snape murmured. "You know how I abhor the way that woman paws at me every time she gets me into her clutches. Honestly, you'd think she'd never seen anyone with Faery blood in them before."
Remus stopped, fork hovering at his lips. "Faery blood? Sev, how…"
"How do you think? I do trust you took sexual education with the rest of us. In fact, I recall you in the back row with Black, drawing moustaches on the pictures of sperm. It's from my mothers side - or father's, whichever term you prefer to use." He was using the talk as a distraction from the maddening pain in his back, and a happy groan slipped from his lips as the ever-conscientious Remus once more began his one-handed massage. "How else did you think I was able to become pregnant in the first place?"
Remus' hand froze. He knew full well - Dumbledore had informed him of the situation when he had arrived to take up the teaching position. Which of course inevitably steered the conversation as to the identity of the other father - something Dumbledore has also warned him quite seriously not to bring up. "I hadn't thought of it," he said carefully.
"Bollocks," Snape's eyes began to lid as those wonderful fingers danced across his spine, easing away the ever-present ache. "I've heard the rumours - everything from a botched potion to a curse to performing a hermaphroditus spell on myself and getting impregnated during a drunken orgy with the entire English Quidditch team. Nothing quite so exciting, I assure you."
But in the end it hadn't mattered how, or who, or even why. Severus had been blessed with a gift, a miraculous, wonderful gift, a daughter, a child. And then she had been taken from him in the cruellest way possible.
It had taken every inch of strength he had in him to leave the injured man, joining the search, terrified that somehow in his absence, without him, Severus would lose his tenuous grip on life. But he'd forced himself to go. Because he knew, while there was a chance that Severus could die, that he wouldn't be there for him…If Araminta wasn't found in time, if she was hurt, or worse…
Then it would become a certainty. Even if the other man recovered physically, it would only be a half-life. Losing his daughter, losing the most important, glorious gift in his life after all that had happened to him would do worse than kill the potions master, it would destroy him. No Dementor's kiss could be as cruel.
Fear sped his steps, warring with the hope racing his pulse as he pelted along the brief corridor. Turning a tight corner, he skidded and nearly fell, colliding with a giant form just outside the infirmary doors.
"Hagrid." He didn't bother to compose himself before the other man. The groundskeeper was the only official member of staff who was aware of the low-key relationship between Severus and himself - low-key due to a little-known rule in the school's charter forbidding relationships between staff after a philandering professor some hundred years ago had cheated on his wife with three other teachers. He'd been aiming for four before the other women had hunted him down and displayed his remains from the Hufflepuff flagpole.
Not that the other man knowing really bothered either of them, seeing as he wasn't exactly known for adhering to the rules side of the fence. In fact, he was quite amiable about the whole situation, beaming fondly at the little family in the making.
But there was no effacious grin on the gargantuan features now, just the solemn, almost hard look of a man faced with an unpleasant, but necessary task.
"Lupin, a quick word if I can..."
Remus reflected that no conversation ever started off well on those words. And he was right. Although the owl Dumbledore had sent had told them Araminta was returned and safe, he didn't say how, or by whom. Hagrid filled him in, and he felt the colour drain slowly from his face.
Harry was back.
Well, this promised to be fun.
Anger started a quick curl in his stomach at the sheer affrontry of Hogwarts little lost lamb, but he pushed it back down. He knew the story - he knew it better than anyone else save the two involved - after all, he had been the one to help pick up the pieces. But it didn't belong here, it could wait for later. He had to see Severus, he had to see Araminta, and Hagrid was blocking his way.
And that's when Hagrid dropped his second bombshell.
Remus just stood there, feeling very much like the little goldfish thrown into the proverbial frying pan as the other man quite calmly and with the best intentions began to tear his euphoria apart.
There was sympathy in the half-giant's voice, but it was firm. "'tain't your place now, Remus. Not now Harry's back. He's her father, they belong to him, not you." He reached out and put a hand on the other man's shoulder. "You know that, lad. You and perfessor Snape…it's not like he and Harry were. And it can't be. It's time to stand aside and let the family go back the way it should be."
Remus' eyes closed in twin pain and impatience. "Please Hagrid. Move out of my way." His voice wasn't quite steady and the half-giant took pity on him, shifting aside.
"Yeh know I'm right…" the words followed him inside the infirmary and he damned himself a thousand times over because part of him believed the other man.
A screaming ball of toddler flew across the room and into his eagerly outstretched arms. He just stood there for an endless moment, holding her, letting his frayed and broken nerves align to the face that she was there, alive, unharmed. Pressing his face to the crook of her neck, he stifled a sob of gladness. The wolf in him imprinted her anew on his senses, her smell, her feel, part of the pack. The toddler gripped gently at his bangs and cooed into his ear. "Remuu…love you remuu…"
"Love you too, 'minta," he whispered back. Drawing back a little, he kissed her forehead, carding a hand through her hair. Green eyes peered lovingly up at him and he briefly closed his own in response to the evidence shoved into his face.
Cradling the little girl in his arms, he made his way to the sole patient of the infirmary. "Hello, Severus."
Slow, tired, pained movements that made his eyes sting and Snape turned his head to face him. "Remus." Neutral. Safe. A hand reached for his and he wrapped his fingers gently around it.
Poppy cleared her throat and got the hint. This time, she didn't pretend to busy herself with her paperwork - she didn't have to worry about these two going for each other's throats - but simply let herself out of the infirmary. Remus would call her if she was needed, and the two friends obviously wanted privacy. She didn't blame them - Remus had been unbelievably upset after the attack, then immediately left on the search for his adopted niece, not even waiting for a search party to be formed, both he and Sirius striking out on that wheeled monstrosity of Black's, hoping their unique skills could find her before the trail went cold.
Lupin waited until she was out the door, then cast a mild charm on it - just enough for warning in case anyone planned on entering. Then he quite unashamedly climbed into bed with Severus, clothes and all.
Both men let out a sigh at the contact, Severus gingerly moving over to rest his head against his lover's shoulder, feeling the werewolf's gentle arms wrap lovingly around him. Soft wuffs of breath ghosted across the top of his head and he gently floated in the sensations. He wasn't one for overt displays of love, but he allowed himself this, this peace. Somehow here, in Remus' arms it didn’t hurt so much.
His daughter cuddled down happily between the pair, nestling into the cocoon formed by their bodies. Turning one side, then the other, she eventually settled down with her back snuggled against Remus, head leaning against her father's chest.
Severus smiled, and gently stroked a hand down the side of her face, eyes closing and face turning into the man holding him. "Missed you…" he murmured gently into the hollow of Remus' throat.
"Missed you too…" it was soft, almost choked as a feeling so strong he couldn't even name it rose up in him. He knew what he was supposed to do. Be the honourable man. Step aside. Harry was Araminta's father, something he could never be, not really. There were ties between Severus and the Boy Who Lived that had come before him, and lasted after. He was a poor second, a pauper, he should step aside and play the ever-honourable Gryffindor to the son of an old friend.
And he was damned if he was going to do it!
"Harry was here…" Severus murmured sleepily. Remus fought the instinct to stiffen at the sound of the other man's name. "Wanted to be a father…" a lazy hand stroked his daughter's hair. "…wanted….to make it right…" he laughed a little at that. "don't want him to hurt her, Remus…" His breath was evening out, slipping into slumber.
Remus pressed his temple to the other man's, turning slightly to brush his lips feather-light over the battered features. "shhh….he won't…." I won't let him… it went unsaid as he slowed his breathing to match the other man's, cradling him as he slid into the healing sleep he so desperately needed.
Closing his eyes, he fought the tears that demanded release, cradling both man and child in his arms. He loved them both, loved them so much and he had almost lost both of them in a heartbeat. He had known something was wrong, he had felt it….and he'd ignored it, and they had almost paid the price.
"Row row row your boat, row row row your boat, row row row your boat…" the lung capacity of the two year old never failed to astound him. Nor Severus - the man would quite calmly verbally dissect a student for asking an innocent question, yet he had put up with the fractured rendition of the song for over ten minutes so far.
"Row row row your boat, row row row your boat, row row row your boat…"
Shaking his head, Remus turned back to the debate in progress. "Are you sure you don't want me to come with you…?" he was nervy, on edge for some reason, some unknown instinct and he'd learned long ago not to argue with his instincts.
Snape raised an eyebrow at him. "I wasn't aware I needed a babysitter to go into Hogsmead…" there was no bite to it, more amusement than anything else.
"Row row row your boat, row row row your boat, row row row your boat…"
"You don't…it's just…something doesn't feel right," Remus confessed. "Are you sure you need those ingredients? Why don't you just send a house elf, or at least floo across…" he was being unreasonable and he knew it. Still didn't stop him though.
"It's a half-hour walk, Lupin. The exercise won't kill us." Severus sat on the side of his bed and gestured to the madly hyperactive toddler. "Besides, look at her. I've told the headmaster not to feed her those abominable 'sherbert bombs' he's so damn fond of, but will the man ever listen?"
Remus laughed and moved to the dresser, deftly avoiding the screaming bundle of energy as she dove between his legs. "You know he loves to spoil her."
Snape grunted. "He doesn't have to deal with the aftermath. Honestly Remus, I swear I should just leave him locked in a small room with her for an hour or so. Perhaps that will get the message across."
The rhythm of the endless chant changed with his words, although the toddler kept running around in circles. "Remuu remuu remuu remuu remuu…" evidently his name was the flavour of the minute.
"We'll be gone an hour, maybe two, I promise." His tone softened, reassuring to the obviously agitated werewolf as he gently tugged the other man down beside him. "Besides, you have those papers to grade. Why you let yourself fall so far behind I have no idea…"
Remus snorted and gave in to the offered cuddle. "Just because I don't subscribe to your method of grading - throwing them up in the air and according marks to how high they go…"
Severus shrugged, the motion carrying both men easily as they relaxed in the privacy of the dungeon rooms, watching the toddler run along the intricate pattern of entwined snakes on the rug. "I honestly don't even know why I bother with that. It's all the incompetent dribblings of sex-crazed teens anyway." He let out a soft ~oof~ as Araminta launched herself though the air and into his lap.
"Go papa, go NOW! Wanna see the funny man at potions!" He rolled his eyes and pressed a quick kiss to the werewolf's lips before letting himself be dragged out of the room. "We will return. Count on that."
And he had.
He'd almost lost them both, in a second. The two most important people in his life, and now Hagrid was asking him to hand them over. Like they were simply goods, possessions to be foisted off to the highest bidder. They weren't, they were people, living, breathing people and his love for them wasn't any less valid or real because he wasn't there first.
But it wasn't his choice.
If Severus still felt…if he still….a sob tore at his chest at the image of Harry sharing Severus' bed, his life. Hagrid's words stabbed at the one insecurity he had, Severus wasn't a whore, he didn’t jump into bed with anyone who passed his way. What had been between him and the formerly faceless father of his daughter had been real and his darkest fear was that one day he would come back to claim Severus…..
…….and that Severus would go to him.
But it wasn't his choice. It would never be. It was Snape's and Snape's alone, and if he truly wanted to go…then he would let him. It would tear him apart, but he wouldn't force the other man into something that he no longer wanted.
But if Severus chose to stay with him, Remus, and Harry thought he could just waltz in and take what he wanted…
He had a hell of a fight on his hands.
All Content Copyright © 2001 Taleya Joinson