Hey everyone. This is kind of cutting it close, but I figured I'd post my story (since I did manage to get it finished at the very last minute.) It's not very good, since I wrote it in about two days, and was too tired to write any delicious sex scenes. Nevertheless, happy IDOS! Cheers.
Title: Worse Things
Author: Mia Ugly
Fandom: Harry Potter (my OTF, apparently...)
Pairing: Remus Lupin/Severus Snape
Disclaimer: These characters and their world belong wholly and completely to ME. HA! Except... the exact opposite of that.
Notes: written for the IDOS "Poetry into Prose" Challenge:
"And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it ware ten thousand mile."
- Robert Burns "A Red, Red Rose"
"There are worse things than being alone,
so I’ve learned to retreat at the first sign of danger;
why wait around if it’s just to surrender..."
- Bright Eyes
Remus Lupin loved books.
Poetry books in particular, but any classics would suffice. He had once told Minerva that if he ever came into money (he delivered this phrase with a wry half-smile, conveying exactly how likely he believed such an event would ever be) he would go mad buying books. He would have hundreds of books. He would collect antique editions. He would have his own library.
Occasionally, when the man thought he was alone in the Hogwarts' library, he could be seen taking books from the shelves, turning the weathered pages with a delicacy that was almost heartbreaking to watch. While he read, his thumb lingered gently on the leather-bound spines, as if his hand were tracing the curve of a lover's hip.
Remus Lupin did not eat.
He was permitted to move back into Hogwarts sometime after Black died, by a Headmaster that did not want him to be needlessly alone (or unsupervised, more like.) When he dined with the staff - a rare occasion indeed - he spent most of the meal cutting up his food, pushing carrots around his plate, slicing roast beef into paper thin layers. This seemed to occupy him until the meal was over. Most of the staff members did not seem to notice, or if they did, they made no comments. For the past few months the man had been treated like finely blown glass, so delicate that he might shatter with a breath.
Remus Lupin wore glasses.
Not often, mind - only when he was working late at night, or the light was particularly dim. They were slightly crooked, wire-rimmed spectacles, very cheap and insubstantial. He seemed embarrassed about them, since he only wore them in the privacy of his own rooms, or when he was certain that there was no one in the library. When he became tired he would put them aside, and rub the bridge of his nose with the index finger of his right hand. He had possessed this tendency since he first started attending Hogwarts, as a boy.
Remus Lupin could dance.
On one occasion he had twirled Pomfrey around the Infirmary, his large hand resting on the small of her back, his steps light and easy. He had obviously believed himself to be all alone in the Infirmary with the witch (who only allowed herself to be danced with for a few brief minutes before blushing and pulling away) but still - the man showed a surprising amount of grace. It was - quite strange, really.
Remus Lupin favoured white shirts on particularly hot days, white shirts with wide sleeves and loose waistlines, light fabric that was often caught and lifted by the wind. He did not sweat much, but when he did it seemed to concentrate at the back of his neck, glistening there like sunlight. On cold days, Remus Lupin wore heavy jackets, worn and patched with many coloured scraps of cloth, and gloves that had the fingers cut off of them. He would clench his hands into fists to keep them warm whenever he stepped outside, but there would be a faint bluish tinge to his fingertips for most of the winter months.
Remus Lupin's throat worked beautifully as he swallowed the Wolfsbane Potion, goblet trembling in his hands. For days after the full moon it seemed as if his entire body had become one large bruise; he would flinch at the slightest brush of fabric, the slightest contact. He never complained about it, but his blond eyebrows knit together so much more often on those days, and his eyes seemed so much more vacant. They were quite often vacant since Black had died.
Remus Lupin idly traced the rim of his glass when he was drinking wine, and Remus Lupin blinked twice, slowly, when he was gathering his thoughts, and Remus Lupin had a rare charming laugh, quiet and low and slightly embarrassed, and Remus Lupin had eyes that looked perpetually sad, and Remus Lupin bit his bottom lip when he smiled, and Remus Lupin had a trail of scars down his left shin, and Remus Lupin was beautiful, beautiful -
And Remus Lupin hated Severus Snape.
The man who knew all this.
He knew all this, and a good deal more. When Snape was in love, he was methodical. He collected moments, fragrances, small slices of time and space. He collected information and memory as if they were so many exotic butterflies, to be pinned and labelled and catalogued. It was clinical. It was systematic. Any outside observer would have mistaken the symptoms for obsession, or at the very most, scientific curiosity. But Severus Snape had been cold and clinical for most of his life. It should have been no surprise that he would behave similarly in love. The greater surprise should have been that Snape could be in love, at all. It was certainly a surprise to the man in question.
In all honesty, there were worse things he could do than be hopelessly in love with a man who could not have cared less about him. There were worse things. (It was difficult to think of one, but Snape assured himself that said things did exist.)
Remus Lupin had tawny coloured hair, like the wings of an owl. It fell in his eyes when he tilted his head, and he was constantly brushing it back with his thin fingers.
He was brushing his hair back that very moment, actually, in the Hogwarts staff room. Snape would not give himself away by looking at the man, but he could see Lupin's familiar gesture in his peripheral vision. Much of his life had been reduced to such vision; Snape loved out of the corner of his eyes.
At present, Mad-Eye Moody was talking about some sort of ridiculous, overly aggressive plan to catch the Dark Lord off guard, that would surely result in only a few hundred civilian casualties; Snape should have been listening, but he found himself letting the words sift through his skull, like so much fine sand between his long white fingers. He contented himself with the steady rise and fall of Lupin's hands, visible out of the corner of his eye - Lupin's subtle shifting, rearranging his long legs in the small armchair - Lupin's occasional sigh or murmur of agreement, gusting between Snape's shoulder blades like the air before a storm - warm and heavy and electric.
"And how is the situation in the East, Remus?" The Headmaster's soft voice reclaimed Snape's attention. He enjoyed the portions of the meeting when the werewolf spoke; in these moments, Snape was allowed to look at him without arising suspicion. Common courtesy after all. Not that Snape had ever excelled in that department.
Lupin blinked twice before he spoke.
"The Russian werewolves are divided." The man's eyes looked more tired than Snape could ever remember seeing them. It was rather shocking, really. There were large purple circles beneath them, blossoming like dark flowers, and giving Lupin's normally handsome face a rather gaunt appearance. "To the North, they support the Order. I was made quite welcome in that community. But they are the - the less powerful members of the werewolf community. Voldemort has not been in contact with them."
Lupin's tired eyes flickered over the other Order members, while they digested this information. His gaze did not, however, come to rest on Snape. It never did. This was not surprising, and Snape bore it as he would a broken bone - the pain was never shocking, but dull, and cold and constant. (My love is like a broken bone, Snape mused bitterly. He would have been quite the poet.)
"To the South, however," Lupin continued, "Voldemort has had a greater presence. The South is where the more prestigious families live. The Old Houses, long lines of werewolf blood. They seemed more - amenable to Voldemort's concept of Pure Blood. They were - um - less than tolerant of my company."
"I see," Albus murmured, folding his hands together. His mouth had narrowed into a small, thin line, "And Nymphadora, my dear, have you anything to report?"
Again, Snape let his mind wander as the diminutive blue-haired witch provided information that was dubious at best. His back ached from sitting in the rather severe armchair, but any show of discomfort would surely result in some attempt at witty insult from that imbecile Moody. Snape's back ached quite often now, along with most of his joints and muscles. A combination of repeated Cruciatus, and his aging body (a notion he found slightly less pleasant than the Unforgivable.)
The werewolf in the seat next to him shifted slightly, and sighed.
(Remus Lupin rarely slept. Light emanated from underneath his chamber door at almost all hours of the day. He often wandered the corridors of Hogwarts, while the rest of the staff and students were asleep. He moved aimlessly, without purpose or intent, just a man lost in the shadows of a once familiar place. This habit was new to him. When he had attended Hogwarts, Lupin could sleep like the dead. But many things had changed, since then. Too many to name.)
"And Severus? What have you to say?"
What did he have to say? Snape wondered how well received his thoughts would be. He tested the weight of them, against his tongue: I just thought you all should know that things are NOT going very well, and actually each Death Eater gathering is more horrible than the last, and I am being Cruciated so regularly I am starting to develop tremours in my left hand, not that anyone has noticed, and I cannot sleep anymore without waking up screaming, and the Dark Lord suspects something, I know it, Voldemort is watching me constantly now, and it's only a matter of time before action is taken, and just so you know, the next gathering could potentially be my last, and when I die no one will be the worse for it, no one will mourn or grieve or even bloody miss me -
"Yes, let's hear what the traitor has to say," Moody snarled, and Snape rolled his eyes.
"Very well, Alastor." Snape pulled himself together instantaneously. If there was anything he could manage, it was contemptuous dignity. "Since you seem so particularly interested."
"Snape, you twisted -"
"That is quite enough, Alastor." Albus eyed the Auror over his wired rimmed spectacles. "Severus, if you would."
Snape pinched the bridge of his nose, a headache flickering at the base of his neck. "The Dark Lord is - suspicious. I believe that he suspects a spy in the midst of his Death Eaters."
"Capital job, Severus."
Snape ignored Moody, and continued. "He has asked me some particularly pointed questions, as of late. Malfoy Sr. has also been attempting to establish a more familiar relationship. I can only assume he is doing so at the Dark Lord's request."
The Headmaster closed his eyes, mulling this information over. Snape's attention was drawn to the webbing of tiny veins that crossed through the old wizard's eyelids.
(Remus Lupin smelled like pine and firelight and fresh soap. The scent clung to the man's clothes, to the chairs he occupied, to the books he touched. After Snape returned from bringing him Wolfsbane, he would find that his goblet, his hands, his hair were laced with that unique fragrance. Sometimes he would be kept awake half the night, envisioning that scent whispering against his pillowcase, his sheets - moving into his pores and running through his bones and blood, like so many tiny starlight-coloured fish.)
"Severus," Albus said quietly, after a moment. "This situation can certainly not be - particularly safe. For you. If Voldemort is beginning to suspect something, and I have infinite faith in your opinion of this, then - precautions must be taken. I will not have
"And what would you have me do? Shall I suddenly stop responding to the Dark Lord's call? Shall I sit and hide in the dungeons until he has realized without a doubt that I was the spy he suspected? And then perhaps he will find me and kill me, or perhaps he will come here, crumble a wing of the school and destroy the several hundred children in it."
"As if that's anything you'd lose sleep over, Death Eater."
"Intelligent and insightful as always, Moody. Well done." Snape curled his lip. On second thought, his sarcasm would probably be better spent on someone who would understand it.
"I understand your difficulty, Severus," the Headmaster interrupted before Moody could string together a reply, "But surely there is something that can be done. You cannot simply return to the Death Eaters, and continue to endanger yourself."
"Why not? I won't bloody miss him."
"Be that as it may, Alastor," Snape did not spare the man a glance, "I feel that to leave the Dark Lord now would be even more precarious. He would certainly seek retribution. At least in this case, the only one who will - experience - his displeasure, will be myself."
"My boy, I - "
"You needn't worry about my personal well-being, Albus." (Remus Lupin had elegant hands with long pale fingers, not unlike Snape's own. He drummed them on the arm of his chair in a delicate rhythm when he was uneasy or nervous, but they were most beautiful when they were turning pages.) "I certainly don't."
The Headmaster looked decidedly unhappy, but Snape was not moved. Albus had looked similarly unhappy when that imbecile Sirius Black was captured on Hogwarts grounds, and later when the man passed behind the Veil. Such empathy was trivial at best. Snape would have none of it.
"We will talk more on this," Albus said softly, with a pointed look in Snape's direction. "I myself am not convinced. In the meantime, this meeting is adjourned. And Severus, if I might have a word in private?"
The rest of the Order stood to leave (Remus Lupin rose elegantly, his grace always evident when he moved or spoke.) As they shuffled out of the room, Mad-Eye paused by Snape's still occupied chair.
"There you are, then. Go and cry to the Headmaster, he'll make it all better."
Snape turned. "Alastor -"
"For Merlin's sake, Moody, can you be quiet for one bloody minute?" a low voice interrupted, and Snape did not have to turn his head to know who was speaking.
- beautiful, beautiful -
Everyone in the room was staring, open-mouthed, at Remus Lupin. He had gone very still very quickly, and his hands were fisted by his sides.
"Oh he needs your protection now, does he?" Moody growled.
"Sod the hell off." Lupin did not spare a glance for Snape, did not even seem to recognize the man's presence. Instead he stared at Moody, and everything became very slow, very quiet. Partly due to the violence in the air, but mostly due to the fact that this was the most animated Lupin had been since the death of Sirius Black. For a brief moment, Snape was convinced the two men were about to come to blows. But then Remus turned on one heel and strode from the room, followed by a very indignant looking Alastor Moody. Snape managed to press his lips back together.
And then the Mark burned.
(Remus Lupin watched the skies like no one else - watched them with fear shining in his wide brown eyes, making those eyes lighter, and clearer, and so so beautiful. When he was outside at night, his head was perpetually craned upwards, tracing the delicate movements of the stars, his body trained like a compass to the moon. No one knew the constellations better than Remus Lupin, and no one lived in such abject fear of the clear and silent night sky.)
Unconsciously, Snape's hand rose to curl protectively around his forearm.
"Severus?" Albus asked, softly.
"I - must go. My apologies." Snape rose stiffly from his chair. The muscles in his forearm spasmed, and he took a sharp breath in.
"Yes. It seems our conversation must be - postponed. Good day, Headmaster."
Severus left the room quickly, nearly missing Albus' soft "Be careful." Once outside the staff room, Snape strode frantically toward the dungeons, preparing himself as he walked, what he would say, what information he would have to report, and the Lestranges would be there tonight, oh jesus, how much sleep had he had, when was the last time he had eaten, he would be sick, he knew it, and he must try not to scream this time, it only made things worse, he must remember to bite down on his lips, the inside of his cheek, anything not to -
Snape turned the corner and ran violently into Remus Lupin (who smelled like pine and firelight and fresh soap, who loved books, who did not eat, who had a trail of silver scars down his left shin -)
"Watch where you're going, Lupin," Snape snarled and attempted to brush past the man. Lupin blocked his path of escape.
"Snape, actually - I was coming to see you." Lupin ran a hand through his light, shaggy hair. "I wanted to say - I'm sorry. For the way Alastor behaved this afternoon. I was on my way to your office, to see if -"
"I don't need you or anyone else to protect me. I am perfectly capable of handling that ridiculous man by myself, so you needn't bother yourself in the future. Now if you'll excuse me -"
"Of course, I know that." Lupin continued to block his path. "He was just driving me mad, and I really couldn't stomach it for a moment longer. I hoped that -"
"Lupin," Snape hissed, pulling up his left sleeve and thrusting the Dark Mark in the werewolf's face, "I have been bloody summoned. Would you do me the courtesy of getting out of my way?"
"Oh, Jesus, Snape I'm -"
"You're sorry. I am aware." Snape pushed past the man and continued down the hallway. The scent of Lupin still clung to his nostrils, and he was nearly dizzy with it. He turned to look over his shoulder, lip curled, eyes narrowed in final parting glare at the werewolf, and -
And he was stopped dead in his tracks. There. In a Hogwarts hallway, with the Dark Mark sizzling against his skin, with Lupin's scent whispering against his lips and hands and neck. Snape stopped moving. He turned around.
Lupin was watching him - was looking at him in a way that he had never seen before. Remus Lupin never looked at him. Remus Lupin - for all intensive purposes - hated him. Remus Lupin -
(- had a dusting of golden hair against his forearms; Snape could remember the first time he had ever seen the man with his sleeves rolled up, and the desire that coiled like a serpent within his stomach, full of nervous energy, heavy and hot and waiting to strike -)
"Severus." The man murmured his name, softly, and for the first time Snape could remember. He felt it more like a lash against his skin, than the simple word it was. Say it again. Please. Say it again.
"Severus, I -" Lupin paused, mouth open. His eyes locked on Snape's dark ones, filling them with light, warm and golden-brown. There was a silence that seemed to last forever, that stretched before Snape like so many years of his life, laid out in shades of black and brown and grey.
"You will be careful, won't you," Lupin finished quietly, "You will - come back."
I will come back. I will come back to see you smile, and hear you laugh, and spend meeting after countless meeting 'not' looking at you. I will come back to sit next to you, and to watch you reading when you think you are alone, and to memorize the cadence of your speech and the rhythm of your step and the movements of your hands when you are tired. I will come back because I have to. I will come back because of you.
Much good may it do me.
"I shall - do my best." The Mark burned. Snape would certainly be late, but he could not bring himself to say goodbye. It seemed like such a terrible word. Eventually he settled upon a terse nod. "Lupin."
Lupin gave a reciprocal nod, his lips pressed tightly together. "Severus."
(Remus Lupin was quiet and intelligent. Remus Lupin was loyal and trustworthy and surprisingly fierce when it came to protecting those important to him. Remus Lupin was never the centre of attention, never in the spotlight really, but always somewhere in the background, a steady pulsing presence like the beating of a heart. And Remus Lupin was - most desperately - loved. Most desperately.)
Snape's heart gave one final lurch within his wide and empty chest. He turned away before he lost whatever courage he had left, and strode briskly down the hall. The Mark burned, and the scent of firelight billowed after him. That scent followed him everywhere. Perhaps it always would.
Snape could imagine worse things.
* * * * *
Severus Snape had elegant hand-writing.
His parchment was filled with the elongated script, all looping L's and cursive Y's, the obvious hand-writing of an intellectual. It made every note he wrote, each scrap of paper his quill touched, that much harder to throw away. It made it all so much more valuable.
Severus Snape had beautiful hands.
They were long and white, etched with blue veins like drops of watercolour paint. His fingers especially were lovely - thin and tapered, delicate and cruel. Recently, his left hand had begun to shake, almost imperceptibly at first, but the tremours were gradually becoming more and more noticeable. The beauty of them, however, was undiminished. Those hands could break hearts and shatter mirrors, it was obvious. One must be very careful around them. Know where they were at all times.
Severus Snape had black hair, that certainly was as greasy as it looked. It hung over his face when his head was lowered, and one couldn't help but think that this was done on purpose. It gave the man a perpetual look of brooding, which was possibly not far from the truth. Nevertheless - it would have been nice to see his face.
Severus Snape was fiercely protective of his past, and was viciously eloquent, and did not tolerate incompetence even slightly. Severus Snape looked delicious in black, and had a glare that could wither even the most stalwart of Gryffindors. Severus Snape cut a thin, jagged silhouette, and pinched the bridge of his nose when he had a headache, and had robes that billowed around him like a great black cloud, and rarely slept, and was beautiful, beautiful -
And Severus Snape hated Remus Lupin. The man who was currently watching him walk down the hallway, growing smaller and smaller in the distance. Soon Snape would turn a corner and be out of sight, but for now Remus contented himself with the movement of the small departing figure. He took what he could get. (And Jesus, would Sirius ever be disappointed, thought you would've gotten over that git by now, Moony, how pathetic can you be, I mean really -)
"Shut up, Sirius," Remus whispered to himself, and then was instantly mortified. In the distance, Snape disappeared down a stairwell; Remus gazed after him for a little while longer, leaning against the cold stone wall of the school. The cold slowly began to spread - first through his shoulder, and then gradually beneath his skin, into his muscles and bones and blood. Into his lungs. His heart.
"You will - come back," Remus whispered again, hating himself for it. It was true. He really was pathetic.
And surely there were worse things he could do. Surely there were worse ways of spending his life, than being half in love with a man who would never return the emotion. Surely there were worse ways of spending each minute, each hour, than cataloguing the Severus Snape's likes and hatreds and small insignificant gestures. Remus could have been murdering people, or stealing from orphanages, or that sort of thing. There were certainly worse things he could do.
Difficult to think of any, right now. But he was confident they existed.
Remus brushed his hair out of his eyes, and decided to go seek refuge in the library. He spent more and more time there these days, hiding between the racks of ancient, dust-covered texts. It had become a sort of sanctuary for him - hidden away from the prying eyes of the students, or the sympathetic ear of Albus Dumbledore, or the helpless and humiliating longing for Severus Snape.
Not that anyone noticed. Or ever would.
Remus turned and walked alone down the hallway. Snape's gaze lingered darkly in his mind - all hard edges and sharp angles, all layers of black and midnight blue. He imagined that if he closed his eyes he would still see Snape there, imprinted beneath his eyelids, keeping him perpetually awake. Please let him come back. Keeping him perpetually alone, and uneasy, and devestatedly mad for a man who was cruel, and selfish and completely indifferent towards him.
He could imagine worse things.
Author's note: The song quoted at the beginning of this piece was "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and Be Loved)" by Bright Eyes