eyeus: (snupin)
Title: In Recompense
Fandom: Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling
Pairing: Remus/ Severus
Rating: NC-17
Words: 8520 (14900 total)
Summary: “To be free of your lycanthropy,” the old witch tells Remus, “you must sacrifice something dear in exchange. And considering the nature of your curse…the dearest.”

Remus never realized it meant Severus.

A/N: Written for the 2016 Lupin_Snape Summerfest on LJ, for this prompt here. The concepts of the shop that can only be seen by those who need something, and the witch within who grants wishes are borrowed from xxxHolic.



~


“He’ll be here soon,” Remus says, reassuring. He flicks a worried glance at the hall clock, just to be sure.

“I certainly hope so,” sniffs Severus, of the usual visitor they’re expecting. “Or you’ll have to clear off the rest of these scones, because I’m not letting them go to waste.”

Remus only laughs, because clearing away extra food when they’ve made too much of it is only one of the things he’s grown used to while living with Severus. And certainly not one he’d complain about.

They’d been woken early by the sound of a Muggle rubbish truck, their neighbourhood being primarily Muggle. Severus had sold the house at Spinner's End, and together, they'd put what money they'd had toward a modest little house, one closer to Wizarding London and the creature comforts it offered. Still, Remus had taken the opportunity to enjoy everything else about the morning, despite the bad start: the sun was only a streak of ruby light on the opposing wall, the neighbours were unusually quiet, and he’d had an arm curled around Severus’ waist, the two of them slotted together, perfect, warm, Severus’ neck at just the right height for Remus to press kisses into, feather-light and sweet.

After another hour of sharing kisses and teasing touches, they’d got up to take a shower together—Severus said it saved water, though Remus suspects they waste more of it than on their individual showers combined—then made breakfast, Severus heaping freshly pressed waffles on two plates, while Remus prepared bangers and porridge, all without the use of magic. There was something about cooking together in their little kitchen that Remus always enjoyed, and without the use of heating or monitoring charms, it felt that much more organic and real.

Then Severus had gone off to putter about in the tiny lab they’d set up in the room beside the kitchen—it only made sense to have cooking and brewing implements next to each other, Severus reasoned—while Remus hummed a mangled version of Celestina Warbeck’s You Charmed the Heart Right Out of Me, and made tea for the two of them, a dash of milk in his own, and two sugars on the side for Severus’.

In short, it’d been a day like any other.

Now, Severus reclines in his chair by the fire, the Daily Prophet clutched in one hand, relaxing after an hour of scone-baking, while Remus sifts through their daily mail, as they await their visitor.

There are cleaning product ads, all of them poor variations of Bundimun Ooze and inferior to what Severus can brew, followed by flyers for Weasely’s Wizard Wheezes, and one belated congratulation on Remus and Severus’ wedding. Those were still trickling in, months after the fact; though most of their friends knew they were together by now, and had been for quite some years, it seemed some people were still in denial or just overcoming their shock that a wedding—an unofficial little ceremony, because they couldn’t be overt about it, under the circumstances—had actually happened.

Even news of their being together had come as a surprise to all and sundry several years ago, Remus remembers fondly.

Minerva had invited Remus to Hogwarts—on Hagrid’s recommendation—to speak about acromantulas and grindylows in the Care of Magical Creatures class, offering a generous reimbursement for his troubles. She’d reassured him this would circumvent the Anti-Werewolf legislation that hadn’t been successfully repealed yet, since, as a guest speaker, he technically wasn’t being employed by Hogwarts.

That same morning, Remus had discovered another hole in his already threadbare robes. They’d been living frugally to save up for the other house, which meant no new clothes, dinners out, or extravagances of any kind, as Severus’ owl-order potions business brought in little enough as it was. And unknown to Severus at the time, Remus had been saving up for a modest pair of men’s wedding rings. So he needed to make a good impression this time at Hogwarts. Needed this job, however short the duration. He’d fretted about the hole for an hour—mending charms were ineffective, there was no material with which he could patch it on hand, and simply wearing his Muggle clothes to the class would be frowned upon—when, finally, Severus swept into their room with a set of his own robes and a matching button-down, cleaned and pressed and thankfully hole-free, for Remus to wear.

So Remus showed up in Severus’ attire, sharp, austere and black as the night, even if the ensemble was a bit tight in the shoulders, to speak about Dark creatures, while Hagrid nodded approvingly. But one class turned into two, then three, then dinner at the High Table as a guest of honour—Remus felt strangely bereft not having Severus by his side, something he’d grown used to in the year he’d taught at Hogwarts, and the years after—at the price of being the newest subject of gossip. Rumours had spread from Pomona, the worst of the gossipmongers, to Filius, then Minerva, and finally to the rest of the staff, before trickling their way down to the students.

Professor Lupin spotted wearing Professor Snape’s clothes! the furtive, excited whispers said. The excitement had sprung up in the seventh-years, who still remembered Remus and Severus as their professors. It then spread like wildfire to the younger students, who were simply thrilled about the novelty of one professor supposedly wearing another’s clothes, yet another thing to titter about in the late hours.

Boyfriend robes? inquired some whispers, hushed.

Boyfriend robes, the general Hogwarts public agreed. And through a flurry of charmed paper message birds and missives home, the wizarding public as well.

By the next day, everyone and their mother seemed suddenly aware of Remus and Severus’ relationship, and despite the few incendiary Howlers, they’d received several congratulatory owls, including one from Ron and Hermione that said, Blimey, Remus, I don’t know why you didn’t just tell us, coupled with a generous gift card to a Muggle houseware shop.

Upon discovering that their secret was out, Severus had only snorted, as if the whole debacle was a waste of time. And done absolutely nothing to disabuse the wizarding world at large of the notion that he and Remus were…involved.

Of course, none of this had been a surprise to Harry, who’d caught them snogging like desperate teenagers in a darkened stairway at Grimmauld Place after an Order meeting, even before the Hogwarts debacle. Remus had worried that each kiss, each moment with Severus would be the last, because every time Severus was called away by his master, he’d taken longer and longer to come back, each time worse for wear, until Remus wasn’t sure Severus would come back. Harry had taken the unexpected revelation with a surprising amount of grace, however; more than Sirius had, at any rate.

There’s a sharp rap at the door, startling Remus from his woolgathering—that must be Harry at the door now.

“Finally,” Severus breathes, casting his eyes skyward.

He’d been settled in their brocade wingback chair with the Daily Prophet and a cup of tea for the last half hour, crossing and uncrossing his legs. Mumbling about how terribly inconvenient it was, for ‘Potter’ to come calling so early, though Remus knows he’s grudgingly grateful for the way Harry had cleared his name after the war, and for the news Harry brings. And that’s most often the goings-on at the Ministry, the things the Daily Prophet never reports on. But when there’s time—when Harry doesn’t have to rush off to a Quidditch game with Ron, or Remus and Severus haven’t an appointment with cryptic clients for questionable potions—Remus suspects Harry comes to hear Remus’ recollections about James and Sirius. And when Severus can be bribed into it, with an offering of expensive honey biscuits, sharing his recollections of Lily.

Remus can hardly blame the boy; he and Severus are likely Harry’s last links to his parents now.

Harry seems to have something entirely different on his mind today, however.

“Neville told me he found something the other day,” Harry says, apropos of nothing. “Something peculiar. Or someone, rather.”

He’s barely touched the cheddar scone on his plate, tearing it up instead and pushing the crumbs around, to Severus’ dismay. Ignored the artfully arranged plate of lemon biscuits and raspberry crèmes, and taken only one sip of his chamomile tea. That he’s also skipped the perfunctory Ministry commentary, and what Severus calls the delightful ‘Who’s Been Sacked’ report speaks to the urgency of the matter at hand.

“Oh?” says Remus. From the chair by the fire, he can see Severus pause in his supposed perusal of the paper, his curiosity clearly piqued. Perhaps one day he will give up the pretence of aloofness and join Remus and Harry in the living room proper. But it is not this day.

“She told Neville she was a travelling witch. From, er—I don’t know, one of those countries whose names are hard to say,” Harry explains sheepishly.

Remus nods. Gypsy witches were common in the Eastern European countries, and were known to move through England on occasion.

“She also told him she could grant wishes.” Harry’s eyes widen, and he shivers, as if he’s remembering Neville’s tale of the encounter. “For a price.”

Remus feels a frisson of fear skitter down his own spine. “And did Neville tell you what he wished for? That is, if he made a wish—”

“Oh, yeah,” says Harry. “He made one, all right. Wouldn’t tell me what he wished for, but he told me he got it.” He pauses to draw a sharp breath. “Gave me a warning, too: ‘be careful what you wish for’.”

“Yes, that would be common sense,” says Severus, as if he’s been part of their conversation all along. He straightens his issue of the Daily Prophet with an irritable snap. “However, it can be said that common sense is not quite so common these days.”

Harry ignores him, and leans in conspiratorially. “Apparently, she’s set up a shop,” he says. “Down in Knockturn Alley. You can only see it if there’s something important you want though, strangely enough.” Harry pauses. “I went, you know. Just to see.”

“And did you find anything?” Remus asks, nudging a raspberry crème in Harry’s direction. Severus looks on, approving; Remus knows Severus would hex him if he dared offer the sacred lemon ones they’d placed on the plate for show. “The shop itself, perhaps?” He holds back the disapproving frown that’s threatening to surface, at the thought of Harry wandering around Knockturn Alley, of all places.

“Yeah,” says Harry. He takes the offered biscuit, grateful. “It’s quite clever, really. Not even hidden between shops or anything. Just sits in an empty space labelled ‘Under Renovation’.” He pauses. “Well—that’s what you see, if there’s nothing the shop can help you with. I took Hermione to look, and she told me she was busy enough without me wasting her time, taking her to an empty husk still under reconstruction from the war.” He smiles, like that’s proof enough of the magic of the place.

Remus hums encouragingly, as Harry stops for a sip of tea before continuing his story of this strange shop.

“I…” Harry looks in Severus’ direction, before lowering his voice, as if what he says will remain a secret between him and Remus—it won’t, really, since Severus hears everything, and there aren’t any secrets between him and Remus anyway, not since the war ended—but Remus leans forward, quiet, to give him the illusion of secrecy anyway. “I tried to wish for something,” Harry admits. “I...I wished for my parents back.”

Remus’ breath catches in his throat. To be able to enjoy the company of James and Lily again would be something, wouldn’t it? It would be nothing short of a miracle. He glances in Severus’ direction, quick, and gets an eyeroll in return.

“Oh, yes, a very Gryffindor reunion,” Severus says with a scowl. He tosses a haughty glance at Remus, as if to say, Now you need only use your wish to wish Black back into existence, and your little club will be complete.

Remus sighs. “And did she…? Did the witch…” Remus leans even further forward, in spite of himself, knowing he’s far too invested in the answer.

“No,” says Harry, deflating a little in his seat. He stirs another dash of milk into his tea. “She said there wasn’t a way to bring back the dead.” Before a palpable gloom can settle over the room, however, Harry adds brightly, “Maybe there’s something for you, though, Remus. You know, like a cure for lycanthro—”

“Doubtful,” Severus cuts in, immediately. He folds the paper shut in crisp, neat lines., having finished perusing whatever articles interest him—not many, he often says, and the reports that are available are severely lacking in details and well-researched information both. “If she promises such a thing, she’s likely just another snake oil saleswoman.”

Remus hums, non-committal, like he only has a passing interest in what Harry’s told him; he’s heard the promise of a ‘cure’ for so many years, that he’s almost stopped believing. After Harry’s left, however, mumbling about needing to browse a few more shops for the right ring, the perfect ring for Ginny—poor boy had got it into his head that Ginny would refuse him if he offered an inferior ring, though Remus told him his sincerity and not the ring would win him her hand in marriage—Remus joins Severus in the sitting room, the two of them moving naturally to sit together on the loveseat.

“Go on,” Severus says abruptly, when Remus opens his mouth to speak. “You’re curious about what he said, aren’t you?”

Remus only laughs. He’s never been able to fool Severus like this. “I do live in hope, but this sounds too good to be true.”

“Well, I’m sure you know what I think of this,” Severus sniffs haughtily. “That it’s just another quack selling ‘cures’ to the desperate.” He pauses, his eyes dark with dismay. “Promising things they have no right to promise.”

“I know,” says Remus, slipping an arm around Severus’ shoulders and chafing warmth into the shoulder farthest. Lets his thumb trace the line of Severus’ collarbone, affectionate, grateful for his concern. Of course Severus would try to protect him by providing the harshest truth possible. “I know, yet I can’t help but wonder. What if?” he says, his eyes shining.

Remus would no longer have to trouble Severus for the Wolfsbane potion each month. He would be able to hold down a job—a proper wizarding one, and not just the secretive shifts at Flourish and Blotts when the autumn rush of children proved too much to handle. Or the sleepy afternoons at the Muggle bookshop down the street from them, when the shopkeeper wanted more time with her children.

And the bone-rending pain of the transformation he suffered at the full moon, that made Remus ache for days afterward? He could finally be free of that as well.

What if, Remus thinks wistfully.

“Yes,” says Severus, quiet, his voice hollow. His skin is cool against Remus’ touch, no matter how much Remus tries to rub warmth into it. He stares at a point somewhere in the distance, gaze unusually unfocused, as he lets out a slow, shaky breath. “What if.”

~


Eventually, curiosity gets the better of Remus, and he follows the directions Harry owls him, along with his poorly drawn squiggle of a map—a draughtsman of the Marauder’s Map Harry was not—starting off by wending his way past Borgin and Burkes. Sneaking past the apothecary Severus frequents for less than savoury potions ingredients. And after navigating a series of sharp turns and one surprise drop of a stair, Remus finds himself staring at a dark, dusty little shop. It looks almost as if it fits in among the other eerie shops surrounding it, though as Harry reported, there’s a ragged piece of parchment with the words ‘UNDER RENOVATION’ affixed to the window.

Remembering Harry’s advice, Remus holds the thought of needing something from this place at the forefront of his mind. Focuses on it, letting his feelings surrounding what he wants rising to the surface.

So it’s hardly a surprise when Remus finds, after such single-minded concentration, that another set of words appears within the ragged parchment, browned and curled, written in an old and sprawling script: Irina’s Imperatives.

A light flickers within the shop, weak, like that of a wan, sputtering candle. It’s as much invitation as Remus will receive, he supposes, and he takes a step forward.

“Hello?” Remus calls, as he eases the door open. He steps over the threshold of the shop, his wand out and at the ready, just in case.

The interior of the shop gives him a distinctly unsettling feeling; there are neither monkey’s paws nor hands of glory or even shrunken house elf heads lining the shelves, but still, the hair on the back of Remus’ neck stands on end as he wanders further in. Along the walls are jars of organs, suspended in murky liquid. Frames for old art pieces, their canvases torn and curled from the passage of time. A chipped vase, housing several scrolls with faded writing. A sword, blade rusted and jewelled hilt robbed of its precious stones. A broken lantern, lit from within by an eerie, unearthly light.

Not for the first time, Remus wishes Severus was here with him. But Severus had opted to stay at home, because according to him, someone had to keep brewing potions to secure their finances while Remus was off chasing pipe dreams.

“Is anyone here?” Remus tries again.

He’s greeted only with silence and the creak of his own weight on the dusty floorboards. Remus sighs and shrugs, turning to go, when a tiny cough seizes his attention.

Hating to be caught unaware, Remus whirls around, and catches sight of a witch, bent with age, as she leans on a knobbed walking stick, a ratty woollen shawl pulled loose around her shoulders.

“Er, hello,” Remus tries, before finding his tongue again. “A friend of mine said I might find what I’d been searching for here.”

The witch—Irina, presumably—hobbles forward, her walking stick making a deep and dull clack on the floorboards with each step. “And what is it that you are searching for?”

Remus doubts he’ll find what he needs here, in this run-down hovel of a shop; it has neither ingredients for potions nor books for complicated spellwork, only vestiges of other wizards’ possessions, in what he surmises is payment. But then again, he has nothing to lose by revealing what it is he most dearly wants. “A cure,” he says simply.

“There are cures for many ailments,” says the witch. She draws the shawl around her shoulders tighter, impatient. “You will have to provide more detail than that.” She narrows her eyes, however, taking in Remus’ scars, his gaunt frame, as if she has already guessed his secret. “Quickly, now!”

“Very well,” says Remus. “I seek a cure to rid myself of the lycanthropy that’s plagued me since I was a child.”

The witch strokes her chin, pensive. “You wish to be free of such a curse? Yes…yes, that can be done. But you must sacrifice something dear in exchange,” she says solemnly.

“Something dear?” Remus echoes, furrowing a brow.

“Considering the nature of your curse,” says the witch thoughtfully, “the dearest.”

Remus knows better than anyone that the Dark Arts—for that is what this surely must be—are rooted in sacrifice. That they involve giving up something most precious, in exchange for what one sorely needs. “And what might that be?” he asks.

The witch wags a bony, withered finger at him. “Only you know the answer to that,” she replies.

Remus wonders if it’s his magic that this cure will take from him, dooming him to live life as a squib. If it’s his father’s watch, that he’s kept running all these years. His mother’s hand-knit afghan, made from the softest wool, that’s kept him warm, even on the darkest and coldest of nights, before he’d known the warmth and bliss to be found with another person.

He certainly doesn’t have much in the way of savings to lose.

“All right,” he says, after some deliberation. “But first I’d like to know if there’s a way to…to try it out. To know if it really works.”

The witch pauses, as if considering his question. “You will have three moons,” she says, holding up three gnarly fingers, “to determine the efficacy of the cure. After that, you must decide whether you wish for the change to be permanent, or to return to what you were before.”

When Remus nods in understanding, the witch guides him to what looks like a modified pentagram scratched in chalk on the wooden floorboards. Sketches various symbols into its design, including a full moon, an eye, and other less decipherable designs within. Presses a blade to the pad of his thumb, drawing blood, letting the drops sink into the runes etched within the circle. And when Remus stands inside the circle, the witch draws forth her wand, uttering an incantation.

A column of cold, blue light emanates from the drawn design. The incanted words are haunting, the language not one Remus recognizes, despite his extensive studies—perhaps Severus could shed light on it later—but then a dark, pervading cold seeps into his bones, his very being, and he has no inclination to wonder at the source of the language any longer.

It is Dark magic, old and dangerous, and Remus shivers as the cold spreads to his limbs. His spine. Numbs the very heart of him with each second that passes, filling him with a sense of deep and sinking dread.

But just as suddenly as it starts, the ritual is over, and the witch stands back. Nods, satisfied, as if the spell is complete.

Remus blinks. “Is that it? It’s over?” He hadn’t expected wizarding fireworks or a cake to celebrate, but the entire ritual just seems so…lacklustre.

The witch simply snorts and leans on her walking stick, before starting to hobble away. “Return after the third moon,” she says, throwing Remus a dark look over her shoulder. “Tell me then, whether you wish to maintain this arrangement, or not. But remember, the price, once paid, cannot be reversed.”

With those chilling words of parting, Remus is left alone in the shop once again, surrounded by shelves filled with oddities and layered with decades of dust, in the dark.

~


“Well?” says Severus, when Remus returns that evening, with bags of potions ingredients and the week’s groceries in tow. He’d decided to take the bus home instead of Apparating, since the ritual seemed to drain him of all energy, and it wouldn’t do to waste the bus fare home, hence the impromptu shopping. “Did your visit to Knockturn Alley yield the answer you hoped it would?”

Remus makes a non-committal hum. “I suppose we’ll simply have to wait for the next full moon to find out.” The next one is due to rise in three nights, so they won’t have long to wait, either way. “If it works,” Remus adds cheerfully, “I’ll no longer have to trouble you for the Wolfsbane potion each month.”

Severus had made a habit of brewing it every month without fail, even making it in advance for circumstances when he had to be away.

To Remus’ surprise, Severus only frowns at that and waves a hand. “It’s been no trouble at all,” he says, quiet. He spends a moment levitating their groceries into the kitchen, silent, though Remus can tell Severus himself is distracted, from the way the apples bump clumsily into the refrigerator door several times before dropping neatly into the crisper.

Finally, Severus breaks the silence between them. “What you wished for is obvious,” he says, “but what I want to know is the price extracted for such a wish.”

Remus frowns, trying to recall the witch’s exact words. “She said the price would be something dear to me. I can only assume it would be something of equal value to the wish.”

“I see,” Severus says, folding his arms over his chest. He’s clearly troubled by the implications of this exchange, but Remus doesn’t know how to assuage his fears, other than in the ways he knows how.

“Come here,” Remus says softly, leading Severus to the loveseat. Lets them sink deep into plush, worn cushions, for the familiar comfort of home, before drawing Severus into his arms, slow. Loosens the black silk cravat Severus has taken to wearing to hide the scars at his throat, and tugs him in for a kiss, unhurried and sweet. “I’ve three moons to find out what it is this cure will cost me,” he says, because there are no secrets between them. Not anymore. “And if the price is too high…” Remus pauses, wondering just what he might consider too high. “I simply won’t go through with it.”

Severus doesn’t seem placated by Remus’ answer, but he does partake in the kisses Remus bestows upon him, closing the distance between them by pulling Remus in closer, tighter. “What if,” Severus says haltingly, “the price of your cure is…”

“Yes?” asks Remus. He strokes a finger against the furrow between Severus’ brows, to soothe it away; he’s made it his goal to encourage the laugh lines on Severus’ face, the tiny crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes, of which there are so dreadfully few. To ease the ones created from a lifetime of anger and sorrow.

Severus shakes his head. “No, it could never be…that,” he says, after a moment’s thought. “I’m sure I have nothing to worry about.”

“No,” Remus agrees, unsure of what it is Severus thinks Remus could lose. But he can’t bear the soft, hurt look in Severus’ eyes, the flash of vulnerability Severus tries so hard to hide. “You have nothing to worry about.”

And he leads Severus by the hand to their bedroom, to show him just that.

~


When the night of the full moon approaches, Remus and Severus take the usual measures in preparation for Remus’ change: Severus checks that the wards on the house are secure so Remus can’t escape, makes sure Remus takes his last dose of Wolfsbane, and settles in his wingback chair by the fire with a book, because more often than not, he sits up with Remus through the change.

It doesn’t make it easier in any way, but Severus seems to have sensed that Remus feels safer, secure, when there’s someone familiar nearby. When someone Remus loves is nearby, Remus thinks to himself, with a smile—even if Severus hems and haws, and insists he’s not sitting up with Remus, that he simply refuses to be chased from his own sitting room.

Remus, for his part, folds and puts his clothes away like usual, and stretches out on the rug they’ve set by the fire.

“Severus,” Remus says quietly. He sits up and touches Severus’ knee, gentle. “If this doesn’t work—”

“—then you will be the same as you ever were,” Severus says, waving a hand dismissively. As if whether the cure works or not is of little consequence. He hesitates, before reaching out slowly to cradle Remus’ cheek in his palm. Traces his thumb over the scar across Remus’ cheek, the motion unexpectedly tender. “I have lived with the wolf this long; a few more years will make no difference.”

Except when Remus looks into Severus’ eyes, he can see the hope of more than a few years; he sees his own hope of decades, perhaps even the rest of their lifetimes reflected in them. For that alone, Remus is immensely grateful, and he turns into Severus’ touch, nuzzling, affectionate. Safe.

Before long, the feared visage of the moon rises above the trees, silver, beautiful, haunting, and Remus prepares himself for the change, crouching low to the rug by the fire. Waits for the agonizing process of skin splitting, bones rearranging and limbs lengthening, until he becomes the beast that’s lived inside him for so long, once again.

A minute ticks by. Then another. Then another.

Except nothing happens, and Remus is left crouching awkwardly on the rug. Eventually, Remus sits up, feeling like a fool, and Severus drapes a blanket around his shoulders, in lieu of clothes.

“Do you feel any differently?” Severus asks, uncertain, securing the blanket around Remus’ shoulders with a tidy little knot, when Remus simply blinks at him.

Remus’ skin itches in certain patches, and his eyes must have watered a little as the moon rose, but there is otherwise no real change of note. “No,” he says finally. “No, I feel…fine.”

He doesn’t put his clothes on for the rest of the night, since they’re not so well-off that Remus can afford to burst out of his clothes at a moon’s notice, but with the blanket draped around his shoulders, Remus feels well enough to enjoy a glass of wine and engage in a game of chess with Severus.

Neither of them sleep for the entire night.

Severus sits up with Remus the entire time, watching, waiting, and finally dozing on Remus’ shoulder on the loveseat once the moon starts to sink back beneath the clouds. He wakes with a start when Remus tries to shift a pillow beneath Severus’ head, so he won’t wake with a crick in his neck.

“What—” Severus tries. He licks his lips, his mouth dry. “Did it work?” He clutches at Remus’ shoulders, his forearms, freer with his touches when he’s had little sleep. “Remus?”

“Oh, Severus,” Remus says, throwing his arms around Severus’ neck. “It works. It works.” His voice is a hushed whisper, even in his elation, as if he doesn’t dare believe. Like if he speaks too loudly, it will no longer be true.

Even as he says it, however, Remus is struck by an odd sense of loss, as if he’s given up a part of himself in exchange.

Something dear, the witch had said. Something precious.

But as Remus watches the moon give way to the first, rose-hued rays of the sun for the first time, free of the bone-rending transformations that have plagued him all his life, he thinks it may just be worth it.

~


By the next day, Remus still hasn’t figured out what he’s given up, but whatever it is, it can’t have been too bad. His parents’ possessions are still intact, after all, as his magic, so all in all, Remus counts himself lucky.

He and Severus are due to meet another of Severus’ shady clients soon—Severus supplements their income by taking confidential potions requests that can’t be owled— so Remus busies himself with making tea before the meeting. Severus is always more agreeable after he’s had one cup, even more so after two, and Remus hums to himself as he slips a spoon of milk into his own and brings the tray out into the sitting room, where Severus is curled in one corner of their loveseat, Remus’ woollen afghan sprawled over his knees.

Severus takes one look at the tray, which Remus has taken care to pile high with biscuits of the malt and chocolate variety, and wrinkles his nose in distaste.

“Your head must be in the clouds today,” Severus says waspishly. “Two sugars on the side, Remus.” He taps the tray, as if to draw attention to the absence of the two sugar cubes. “The usual. Or have you forgotten?”

“Right,” Remus blinks, startled. “Sorry, distracted. Important meeting and all today.” Had Severus always taken his tea with two sugars on the side? It seemed like such a little thing, but then again, Remus had always prided himself on remembering little things about people. Especially Severus.

It was one of the ways Remus had won his heart, after all.

“You’ve never—” Severus starts, irritated, before his eyes widen for a fraction of a second. “Oh,” he breathes, blinking. And then, more softly, “Oh.”

“What is it?” Remus asks.

“Nothing,” says Severus, recovering quickly and scowling. “We have a client to meet at the White Wyvern in less than an hour, and their request is time-sensitive.” He motions at the things they have yet to pack for the meeting, after they finish their tea. “So hurry up.”

Hurry Remus does, in an attempt to make up for the tea fiasco, though in his haste, he accidentally packs Doxy wings instead of fairy wings in Severus’ Portable Potions Kit, the PPK—Remus’ pet name for Severus’ on-the-go brewing satchel.

“Remind me again,” Severus says, picking out the jar of Doxy wings and carefully replacing it with the more precious fairy wings, “why I put up with you.” He fixes Remus with a look of what seems like abject scorn, though it lacks the heat of years past.

“Hmm,” Remus says, pretending to seriously ponder the question, even as he slips arms around Severus’ waist, in apology. “The scintillating conversation? A warm body in bed at night?” He nudges his front against Severus’ backside, teasing. “Perhaps more than a warm body in bed at night?”

“The question was entirely rhetorical,” Severus snorts, though Remus can see the hint of the smile he’s teased from Severus. Yes, there it is, tiny and secret and soft, among the hard lines of Severus’ mouth.

“So was my answer,” grins Remus. Scintillating conversations, indeed. Confusing, too, and maddening at times. And Remus wouldn’t give it up for anything.

For their exchange, Remus is rewarded with a chuckle from Severus, quiet and low, nearly disguised within a breath, though Remus catches it all the same.

Then they’re off to the nearest Apparition point, and as Severus puts his arm in Remus’ so they can Apparate together, Remus puts that morning’s events out of mind, too happy to have teased a genuine laugh out of Severus.

~


When the week of the second full moon arrives, Severus insists on brewing the Wolfsbane as usual, and Remus can’t find it in himself to resist, because the what if’s and perhaps the first night was just coincidence still plague him.

But their precautions, wards, and Wolfsbane potion are all for naught, because the night Remus stretches out on the hearth rug, ready for the moon full in the sky and the transformation from man to beast, it doesn’t happen.

Severus,” Remus whispers, barely able to contain his glee. He shifts his way onto the loveseat and grips Severus by the shoulders. “It really works. I didn’t think it’d still—but it does—and it’s wonderful.”

“Yes,” echoes Severus. “Wonderful.” The corners of his mouth are tight—with anxiety or worry, Remus doesn’t know—and it’s on the tip of his tongue to ask what’s wrong or why can’t you be happy for me, because this distance Severus has created between them is new. But this isn’t the time for an argument. And Remus doesn’t know how to bridge that distance, except with what he knows works best.

He doesn’t try to convince Severus that this is a good thing. Doesn’t try to sell him on all the ways it can benefit them. Just tugs Severus into his arms, holding him, his small way of celebrating this miracle, even if Severus can’t share in his joy. Frames Severus’ face with his hands, and touches their foreheads together, gentle.

“I’m just…so happy,” Remus murmurs near Severus’ mouth, warm. Hoping a little of his happiness will spill over to Severus, to lift his spirits from whichever depths they’ve sunk to, for whatever reason.

Severus draws in a tight breath, and closes his eyes. “I know,” he says, his hands coming to cover Remus’. He swallows, hard. “I know.”

Remus had never believed in this so-called ‘cure’, never thought to put stock into some old witch in an obscured and dirty shop. But being able to sit here on the loveseat and hold his lover in the light of the full moon is more than he ever hoped for, and his heart feels so full that he has to tug Severus in closer, kiss him in his joy, and oh Severus’ mouth is warm and sweet, and Remus can’t help but remember the first time they’d kissed, secret and soft, in the room where—

In the moment before they—

A tiny panic seizes Remus’ heart, because he finds he can’t remember, no matter how hard he tries to draw up the memory. Because it’s something he swore he’d never forget.

“What is it?” Severus asks, immediate. As if Remus has given himself and his worry away with the tic of an eye. The stutter of a breath. “Remus,” he says, slipping a hand to the nape of his neck to calm him. To steady him. “What’s wrong?”

“I,” Remus tries, swallowing, as if doing so will tamp down on the panic that’s welling up in his chest, the fear rising in his heart, threatening to spill over. “I was just thinking about our first kiss.” He ducks away, embarrassed, in case Severus plans to berate him for being overly maudlin.

Severus stiffens in Remus’ arms for a moment, but only nods solemnly, as if to say, go on.

“I just…I can’t remember where it happened. Or when.” Remus looks at Severus, plaintive, too glad for the way Severus folds him into his arms, the motion making Remus feel protected, safe. “Severus? What’s happening to—”

Severus silences him with a kiss, swift, demanding, chasing all coherent thought from Remus’ mind. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” he says, when they both draw away for air. And before Remus can protest that their first kiss was far from nothing, he hurries on to add, “Perhaps things from the distant past are harder to remember.”

“Perhaps,” Remus says, nodding his agreement. Loses himself in more kisses and the warmth of Severus’ arms for the rest of the night, though that feeling, that trickle of dread that’s built up in his chest, still remains long after the sun has come up.

~


The third moon passes with just as little fanfare as the second.

Remus drinks the Wolfsbane potion diligently, as always, Severus puts up the wards, and together, the two of them settle in the sitting room to await the change. When it doesn’t happen—as expected, since the first two times have demonstrated that this supposed ‘cure’ works—Remus cautiously decides that this is a cause for celebration.

Severus breaks out a tin of butter biscuits, the expensive ones from Minerva to celebrate their union, while Remus casts a heating charm on the kettle to brew tea, giddy with joy at the thought of being able to do this for the rest of his life—being able to watch the full moon in all its splendour. To stay up with the one he loves and enjoy tea and biscuits and all the little mundanities other people take for granted.

“I’ve decided,” Remus says, eyes shining, when they’ve settled back on the loveseat. He gestures between himself and the moon, the doomed relationship he’s been forced into all these years. “I’ve wanted this for so long—to be free of the curse that’s plagued me all my life. And now I finally have that chance.” This freedom is so close to being his, to being permanent that he can taste it.

He chances a glance at Severus, whose eyes have grown wide, and uncharacteristically soft. “Severus? What’s wrong?” This anxiety that’s plagued Severus has been festering for long enough, and—

“Nothing is wrong,” Severus snaps. He looks away, picking at the frayed binding of the book in his lap, a treatise on the use of Stinksap in topical pain treatments. “I was simply thinking of the hassle it will be to repot all the Mandrakes soon.”

Remus knows there is more on Severus’ mind than the Mandrakes growing in their small study-turned-greenhouse, so he simply waits. Gives Severus the time to say what's truly on his mind. When no explanation is forthcoming, however, Remus decides a change of subject is in order. If Severus did not wish to speak of something, even pain of death couldn't force it from him.

“Tomorrow,” Remus says decisively. “I’ll go back to Knockturn Alley and see the witch. Make the change permanent.” You’ll never have to suffer the wolf again, Remus thinks.

“Oh, yes,” Severus echoes hollowly. “Permanent.” He’s oddly listless for the rest of the night, letting himself be held and touched and loved, but doing nothing to initiate in return. Like he’s withdrawing, retreating back into a safe, fortified shell to hide himself from hurt, and none of Remus’ attempts to coax him from his cocoon have any effect.

Remus is up with the sun the next morning, letting Severus sleep in. Takes care, within his morning routine, to dress in his newer robes, shave carefully in the mirror, and comb his messy hair just so, more of it coming in silver than brown now, because today will bring a new change, the kind that will affect the rest of his life.

He fixes his own breakfast, and leaves Severus’ share beneath an inverted bowl, with a warming charm cast on it just in case. With any luck, he’ll finish up at Knockturn Alley and be back just before Severus wakes. With the best luck, he’ll be there and back with time left to watch Severus sleep and kiss him awake, the way he knows Severus loves to be woken, even if he’ll never admit it.

Which is why it’s a surprise when Severus catches him at the door and snags a fistful of Remus’ robes, frantic. “Where are you—” he starts.

“Only to Knockturn Alley,” says Remus. He places a palm over Severus’ hand, reassuring. The sight of Severus in his dressing gown—flannel and forest-green, Remus’ gift from the Christmas past—hastily thrown on and his feet clad in Remus’ old slippers makes something bright and warm bloom in Remus’ chest. Makes him reach out with his free hand, to card fingers through Severus’ hair, fond, the lovely mess of it soft and tangled from sleep.

“Oh,” Severus says. He blinks, and rubs the sleep from his eyes. “Yes, of course.” He swallows audibly, like there’s a lump of emotion in his throat he has to swallow around, before repeating, yes of course, his fingers lingering on Remus’ robes, as if he’s loath to let go.

“I won’t be long,” Remus promises, and he leans in to press a kiss to Severus’ mouth. It’s just a small, sweet peck, like any other have a good day or see you soon kiss, except Severus surges into it, cupping Remus’ cheeks in his palms, like he’s something precious and dear, something Severus can’t bear to lose. Kisses Remus as if he’s thrown every ounce of feeling he has into it, turning short and sweet into long and lingering and so unbearably tender that Remus trembles in Severus’ hold.

“Keep kissing me like that, and I'll never leave,” Remus smiles against Severus’ mouth. He doesn't understand why Severus turns away then, sudden, and he reaches out to catch Severus’ wrist. Tugs Severus back into his space, not letting him hide like he wants to, not letting him run. “Severus,” Remus says slowly. “I will be back.”

It’s a promise Remus knows he’s making. An oath that he knows he’ll uphold.

Because deep in his heart of hearts, he’s wondered if Severus is afraid Remus won’t want him anymore, when he no longer turns at the full moon. If somewhere in Severus’ convoluted thoughts, he thinks Remus only stays because he’s dependent on Severus for the Wolfsbane. Of course, Remus intends to prove him wrong on every point—today, and every day after.

Severus' expression is shuttered. “We’ll see,” he says.

Remus is of a mind to scoff at that and say there’s no we’ll see about it, since it’s a complete certainty that he’ll return, but he’s sure Severus will take that the wrong way. So he only ambushes Severus with a surprise trifecta of kisses—one to the nose, and one each to the spots of color on both cheeks—before waving cheerily and heading to the nearest Apparition point.

Something about Severus’ persistent wariness bothers Remus, however, and he finds that he’s muddled his destination and ended up in Diagon Alley instead. No matter—he would find his way to Knockturn Alley soon enough, and it would work in his favour, in fact, if he could find some book or trinket that interested Severus while he was here, to bring back as a gift.

He’s just come out of Obscurus Books—empty-handed, as Severus already owns all their rarer potions tomes, and annotated them with his own notes—when someone calls out his name.

Harry?” Remus blinks, startled, before waving back. “What are you doing down here?”

“It’s—well, I’ve been looking for rings,” Harry says, catching his breath from his jog down the street. He jerks a nod in the direction of the various jewellery vendors lining Diagon Alley.

Remus is of a mind to simply suggest Harry bring Ginny here herself to pick out the ring she wants, when Harry adds, smiling, “You’re looking well today. Had an interview for a job down here, did you?”

“Oh, this?” Remus laughs, plucking at his clothes. “No. No, I just thought…since I was planning on making the cure for my curse permanent today, it might as well be an occasion for other changes as well.” He’d told Harry, during his weekly visits, of his stop at the witch’s shop and what the cure had entailed.

Before Remus knows it, he’s been roped into accompanying Harry to a ‘place that has the best biscuits and rooibos tea this side of the Wizarding world’, something Harry promises won’t take too long, since he’s due to meet up with Ron later, anyway.

Over the richest chocolate cream biscuits Remus has ever tasted, they talk about Harry’s still-fruitless search for the perfect ring. How he’s actually going to ask for Ginny’s hand in marriage, in terms of ambience and timing. And the words he should say, because according to Harry, Ron is absolutely no help at all in that area, since his own proposal consisted of hey, fancy getting hitched? and Hermione ignoring him for a week, before realizing no poetry or prose were forthcoming and finally responding with a resigned I suppose so.

“It’s just…” Harry sighs, frustrated. “I’ve fought a dragon, and Death Eaters, and Voldemort, and—” He flaps a hand helplessly. “It shouldn’t be this hard.”

Remus laughs at the sentiment. It shouldn’t be that hard, but Merlin knows it wasn’t easy asking Severus, either.

“How did you do it?” Harry asks. “You and Sna—Severus. I can’t imagine that proposing to him was a walk in the park either.”

“No,” Remus says, laughing, “it wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that. But what I did was…” He trails off, blinking. He should know this. He’d spent at least two weeks preparing for it, making sure it’d go off without a hitch. “I just…”

No, no, no, the memory has to be there, Remus can’t be drawing a blank here—

All of a sudden, he’s struck with the same aching sense of loss he feels each time the moon passes, and it’s the moment of clarity, the instant he realizes just what it is he’s been losing, what price he’s been paying to be rid of his curse.

It’s not his father’s watch, or his mother’s woollen afghan, or Remus’ magic itself.

It’s Severus.

Suddenly, it all makes sense—the way he’d forgotten how Severus took his tea, their first kiss, and now—now, the manner in which he’d proposed to Severus, knowing how nervous he’d been, how hopeful, but coming up empty on everything else: where he’d done it, how he’d asked, the look on Severus’ face as he realized Remus wanted forever with him.

It’s all gone.

Instead of one large sacrifice, he’d been bartering bits and pieces of Severus away, each month taking another memory of his beloved in recompense.

And that starts Remus thinking, of all else he could lose, that he can’t bear to. Severus’ first genuine smile, when they’d got over their animosity of years past. The tiny uptilt of his mouth when Remus would take his hand, and their wedding bands would clink together. The tremble of Severus’ lower lip, before they’d consummated their marriage, the tremor in his fingers, long and lean and lovely, until Remus had leaned in, to kiss those very fingers and that fear away.

Three moons, the witch had said, to see the effect of his wish, and after that—Remus could make that change permanent.

Recalling the words sends a shiver down Remus’ spine, because permanent can only mean one thing.

The loss of something most dear, the witch had said, her smile wry.

And Remus has to wonder how he’d been blind for so long. That his most precious thing isn’t keepsakes of his parents or his magic, but Severus, whom he’s taken for granted, Severus, who’s been there through Remus’ triumphs and defeats.

Severus, whom Remus hadn’t noticed being the very thing slipping through his hands, because he’d become as essential yet unnoticeable as air itself.

“I—I have to go.” Remus rakes a hand through his hair, frustrated. Blind, blind, blind. “I’m sorry Harry, I’ll have to catch up with you another day.”

Harry blinks, surprised. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” says Remus, though it comes out as more of a growl, because everything is wrong, and there is nothing Harry can do to make it right again. Everything is wrong, and he has to—he needs to see Severus, to hear his voice, to know he hasn’t lost him completely. And it’s moments later that Remus realizes he’d Apparated straight out of the café to their house.

It’s a wonder he hadn’t splinched himself on the way, with how distracted he was.

“Severus?” Remus calls, bursting through the front door. “Severus.”

He doesn’t bother with the I’m home he usually says, a joke between them, since Severus once said he wasn’t some housewife to have Remus’ arrival chirped at him, though Remus had caught the tiniest twitch of Severus’ smile, and kept the habit anyway. Doesn’t bother shuffling his way into the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea first, or settle in his chair to enjoy the paper. He just throws open door after door, stalking through each room, calling out Severus’ name in hopes that he’ll get an answer, something, anything

But there’s no response.

And the man he loves is nowhere to be found.


(tbc - Chapter 2)
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