|Title: Here Be Dragons
Author: SassyInkPen (July 2003)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to JKR, not me. I merely amuse myself with them in the long dark nights.
Summary: A sequel to "From the Mouths of Gardeners", Severus spends a little introspective time considering Remus' advances, and celebrates a holiday.
Notes: Part of the Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest, Three Word Challenge: Hogmanay, gewgaw, banter
Here Be Dragons
Severus Snape knelt in front of the fire grate and scooped up another shovel full of ashes, dumping it into the large bucket sitting next to him. The ritual cleaning was soothing to him, and he'd been at it all day. It was meditative, as well, and during his work he'd been thinking very hard about the events of the past several days. That primarily meant Remus Lupin.
Six days ago, Remus Lupin had professed a great attraction for him, attempted to seduce him, and ended up rubbing off with him right there on the floor. The problem Severus had was that he'd liked it...and he didn't want to. It wasn't that he wasn't attracted to Remus, or that he didn't think he'd enjoy the man's company, he just couldn't handle it. The thought of letting someone that close scared the hell out of him. He'd spent his whole life fending off abuse, taunts, and humiliation, and the result was that he'd shut himself off completely. From everyone. Forever.
Or so he'd thought. Then Remus came along, drunk and reckless, and tore that all to shreds. Severus wanted to believe that Remus was in earnest, that he really cared...and desired. Oh god did he want to believe that. But history taught him not to.
"Have you scared away all the house elves, Severus?"
Severus snapped his head around, nearly dropping the shovel in his surprise. "Lupin...What do you want?" he bristled. It was too unnerving to find the man leaning in his door frame when he'd just been musing over the finer points of getting involved with him.
"Same thing as always...you," Remus said with a grin, unfolding his arms and strolling into the room. He looked around with interest. "This place is spotless. Did you do all this?"
"Yes I did, a hard day's work is good for the soul." Severus turned back to the fireplace and scraped up the final pile of ashes, emptying it into the bucket, before standing up and dusting his hands off on the large work apron he was wearing.
Remus dropped easily onto the sofa, watching Severus work. "Oh I couldn't agree more, I'm just wondering why do it...without magic even?"
Severus bit back the automatic sarcastic reply, reminding himself that not only had Remus done nothing to deserve it, but also that it was unlikely to deter him in the least. He took up a broom, since it was easier to talk if he had a distraction, and explained, "Today is Hogmanay. My family has always been very traditional when it comes to holidays, and I've always particularly enjoyed this one. The cleaning is part of the tradition - clearing out the old to make way for the new."
"Oh really? I confess I'm not up on the traditions much. Although, I was aware of it being Hogmanay. That's why I'm here in fact, I came to ask if you planning to go to the bonfire tonight. Many of the students are back from holiday and they've got quite a party planned."
Severus made a face and finished sweeping out the hearth. "Absolutely not," he snorted, "They don't give a damn about Hogmanay, they just use it as an excuse to get pissed and snog each other senseless."
"Sounds like a nice evening to me," said Remus with a wide grin.
Severus felt himself flush slightly at this and focused his attention on the fireplace, continuing on as if he hadn't heard Remus, "A few of them come up with some hideous little gewgaw for whatever conquest they have their sights set on, claiming it as a Hogmanay gift in the hopes that it will get them laid. None of them understand the true traditions, the history of it." Severus gathered up the cleaning supplies and set them in the hallway with the bucket of ashes. He truly enjoyed this holiday because the traditions and rituals were so meaningful to him. Not based on any religious fables or filled with frivolous and inane practices. It was a time for the mind and soul, at least for him, and it was rather special to him. It was also one holiday he usually didn't mind spending alone since he considered it to be so introspective.
He closed the door and turned around to find Remus standing right there. A part of him shuddered internally at the similarity to that fateful night when Remus backed him against this same door. This time, however, Remus was sober, and regarding him with an infinitely sincere expression.
"Severus..." he began quietly, "If part of Hogmanay is clearing out the old to make room for the new...." He stepped closer, and continued on, "Then wouldn't this be a excellent time for us to put our past behind us and start all over?"
Severus squeezed his eyes shut. This was essentially the same conversation they'd had nearly every night for the past week. "I don't think you really understand me, Lupin. I'm not resisting you due to any long held grudges from the past, or some deep-seated inability to forgive. I am simply not interested. I like my life the way it is, and I'm not about to change it." This was not entirely true. He was not exactly happy with his life as it was...at least in some areas, and he was wary of change more than he was set in his ways.
"I don't believe you," purred Remus as he closed in, reaching out to trail his fingertips down Severus' chest.
Severus swatted his hand away, gently, and said, "Well you'll have to make a valiant effort, because that's the way things are. If it would make you feel better, I'll forgive you, officially...*out loud*, for whatever differences we had in school." He looked Remus in the eye and said, "I am fully aware that you were rarely the instigator in any of the events at school, and even that you made some half-hearted attempts to stop them occasionally. Furthermore, I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that you are now a grown adult with a great deal more compassion and a full set of manners, and therefore you would not be likely to repeat such atrocities again. I forgive you. Are you happy now?"
"Almost...." said Remus, leaning close and lowering his eyes seductively. He brushed his lips over Severus' jaw and earlobe and whispered, "Now what about the future....?"
His heart was pounding in his ears, and Severus had to work hard not to lean into the kiss. A long shiver ran through him and he felt his resolve slipping. Giving himself a mental shake, he pushed Remus away and averted his eyes. Swallowing hard, he said, "I realize this is the part of the story where we are supposed to fall into each other's arms and confess that we've always been secretly attracted to each other and live happily ever after. But, it's not going to happen, Remus. I can't do that."
Remus gave him an expression that was a mixture of hurt and irritation. "How can you say that when you've never even given us a chance? You might be too blind to see it, but once in a while when you forget to be an ass and just talk to me, we get along quite nicely. I *know* there's something here..." He trailed off helplessly. They'd had this conversation before as well.
"A little witty banter and an inability to restrain your lust does not mean there's something wonderful happening between us," Severus shot back. He pulled open the door and hung his head, hoping that Remus would just leave quietly this time, because he was running out of the will to fight back, and he knew giving in would be fatal.
"Fine," said Remus with an air of deep resignation. "I don't know what else I can say to you. I'll be back, you know that don't you? I can't give up now. I won't. I don't *want* to...." He darted forward and kissed Severus softly on the lips before he left with a sad smile.
Late that night Severus sat alone deep in the Forbidden Forest, next to his own solitary Hogmanay fire. It was a thing he'd done for over a decade now. All part of his solitary celebration. Usually, it was a time for him to do a little soul searching, plan for the upcoming year, take stock. It was a ritual he'd enjoyed and looked forward to. This year was a little different, however. The stakes were *much* higher and he was reluctant to delve into that tangled mess of thoughts and emotions that embodied Remus Lupin.
The truth was that Lupin was right. There *was* something there. Severus felt it too. If he was honest with himself, he found that all year he'd been enjoying Remus' company, and even looked forward to mealtimes in the hopes that Remus would join him and they could talk as they had taken to doing. Remus was kind and gentle, and possessed a practical wisdom that Severus found extremely interesting. It had been rather nice having a friend at the school, someone his own age to talk with, but then Remus made his move and changed everything. In the blink of an eye, it was all different and Severus hadn't known how to handle it.
The thought that someone cared about him that way was nearly unheard of. Most were scared off before they ever got to the point of showing it. If there were many. When Remus had come down to his rooms and...come on to him that way, it was too much. It felt wonderful and exciting, and before he'd known it, Remus had broken through all his barriers and had him wanting and needing more than he ever had in his life. It had been all he could do to kick Remus out before he gave himself away.
But where had that gotten him?, he thought bitterly. Severus stood up and paced 'round the fire, trying to sort it all out. He thought about their conversation that afternoon, when Remus had used his own beliefs to try to sway him. He was right though, wasn't he? Wasn't Severus supposed to making way for the new things the coming year would bring him?
Deep down, Severus knew that he'd made his decision days ago. He'd just been fighting it all along, and the hours he'd spent cleaning and meditating were really nothing more than an attempt to fight off the inevitable. He had a chance...a golden opportunity and he would be stupid to let it pass him by. He'd done that before, and as far as he could tell, he was *not* better off for it.
Bracing himself against a tree, he squeezed his eyes shut and prayed to the gods that he wasn't about to do something he would eventually regret. The answer they gave him came in the form of all the regrets he had over doing nothing.
He hastily pulled out his pocket watch, there was just time enough if he hurried. Taking out his wand, he conjured up a bell jar and captured a bit of his fire in it, then extinguished the bonfire and rushed off to gather a couple of other things.
At exactly midnight, Severus stood outside Remus' door feeling agitated and excited at the same time. He stared at it for several seconds, giving himself every opportunity to back out, but once his mind was set, he rarely changed it. He reached up to knock and then was immediately on guard. He didn't even know if Remus would be in. He'd been talking about going to the bonfire, and he most certainly wouldn't have come back yet. This was the prime moment of Hogmanay.
He was considering leaving when Remus finally opened the door. The expression that lit up his face made Severus' heart skip a beat, but he managed to find his voice anyway. "It's...ah....another long held tradition of Hogmanay that you will have prosperity and good fortune in the new year, if the first person to cross your threshold after midnight is tall and dark-haired..."
"Then by all means, come in," said Remus breathlessly. He stepped back to allow Severus into the room. He was hugging a book to his chest and looked like he wanted to say much more, but was keeping himself in check.
Severus entered the room somewhat hesitantly, clutching a soft black bag that muffled the clanking within it. "Part of that tradition involves gifts of whiskey and coal for the fire," he continued, setting the bag on the sideboard and starting to rummage around in it. He brought out the jar containing the fire and held it up for Remus to see. Swallowing hard, he met Remus' gaze. "Since one of the more popular interpretations of the importance of the Hogmanay fires is to put the darkness of the past behind you, I thought it more appropriate that I bring you some of my own fire."
"Severus..." breathed Remus, coming to stand in front of him. "I'm...I'm speechless."
"That's ironic, considering your behavior this past week," chided Severus, falling back on his habit of sarcasm now that the situation was becoming more serious. Remus grinned, taking the jar and setting it on the table along with his book. Severus was suddenly concerned that Remus might be about to kiss him and he turned swiftly to delve back into his bag. This time he produced a bottle of whiskey, which he uncorked as he reached for a glass. He poured a measure of liquor into it and offered it to Remus.
Remus took it and raised the glass before drinking, his glittering eyes fixed on Severus the entire time. "It's my understanding," he said, setting down the glass and turning to fill another from a bottle of his own, "that the proper response is to offer you a drink from my own bottle. Is that correct?"
Severus gave him a quizzical look. It was basically correct, but Remus himself had said that he knew nothing of the holiday. He was about to ask, when Remus tapped the book he'd been reading. Severus flipped it over to read the cover: 'A Historie of the British Isles: Times and Traditions'. He glanced back up at Remus who only said, "I was curious."
Severus was momentarily stunned. It was somewhat difficult to comprehend that Remus had gone to the trouble of researching the Hogmanay traditions simply because he'd said they were important to him. This, more than anything, finally gave him true insight into Remus' nature, and the sincerity of his declared feelings. He took the glass Remus was handing him and stared at it with awe, feeling rather speechless himself.
"That," Remus said wryly, "is the last of the Elvin brandy..."
"I'm surprised you haven't finished it since then," said Severus taking a sip. He discovered that he'd formed an association between the taste of it and the events of the other night when a startling jolt of lust shot through him.
Remus picked up his own glass, "I've rather lost my taste for it after I learned that a hangover and a full moon go very badly together." He smiled and raised his glass, "To a prosperous new year?"
"And good fortune," agreed Severus, touching his glass to Remus' before drinking the toast.
Remus brightened up suddenly and grinned, "If we're going to celebrate, we need to do it proper fashion." Taking out his wand, he launched into a small flurry of activity, during which he moved most of the furniture to the sides of the room, extinguished the fire in the grate, and conjured up a stone fire pit in the center of the thick rug.
"You *are* mad," muttered Severus in the darkness, pressing himself back against the sideboard when Remus breezed past him to fetch the jar of fire. A warm feeling curled in the pit of his stomach as he watched Remus transfer the fire into the pit, coaxing it into a neat little bonfire, which crackled merrily. It was substantially smaller than Remus' fire had been, so the light in the room was now much dimmer, and gave the general ambiance of being outside 'round a campfire.
Remus came back to stand close, stroking his arm and fingering the fastenings of his robes. This time Severus had nowhere to turn and simply stood frozen, watching the long elegant fingers toy with his buckles. Remus spoke softly, "I can't help but think of our conversation earlier today...A-Am I a fool to hope that perhaps you've changed your mind, or is there another reason you're here now?"
Severus sucked in a short breath, knowing that this was truly the point of no return. He thought carefully over just how to answer that question, as he unfastened his robes and took them off, reaching out to drape them over the back of a chair. "Well, I've been considering what you said..." He gingerly placed the tips of his fingers on Remus' chest, "a-and I was not being honest when I told you I was uninterested...." He shivered when he felt Remus' hands slide around his waist and pull him close, but made no move to resist.
"I suspected as much..." whispered Remus, leaning in to kiss his ear. Severus let out a shaky breath and turned his face toward Remus, awkwardly pressing his lips to the man's jaw. Instantly, Remus claimed his mouth in a passionate kiss, wrapping his arms around him and bringing their bodies tight together. Severus moaned and responded with long pent up need and desire, tangling one hand in Remus' hair and exploring relentlessly with the other. He was rewarded with greedy little noises from Remus, and found himself being steered over by the fire while Remus worked the buttons of his coat and pulled it off. Remus broke away long enough to grab some pillows from the sofa and throw them on the floor, before pulling Severus down with him.
For the better part of two hours they kissed and caressed each other, struggling with buttons and tearing at clothes, lavishing each exposed inch of flesh with the ardor of all new lovers. Severus felt as though he were walking a tightrope, and hovered constantly between elation and sheer terror, but both his heart and his body were urging him on, telling him this was most definitely what he'd been missing...that it was right.
"My *god*, Severus," groaned Remus, biting at his earlobe and raking his fingers along Severus' thigh, "I want you so badly...*please*...." He arched his hips against Severus and slipped his knee between Severus' legs, panting as he moved into position.
Severus' head was spinning and he could scarcely register Remus' words at first, but his meaning suddenly became clear, and Severus froze up. "J-Just a moment, Remus....wait..."
"What's the matter," gasped Remus, wearing an odd expression of frustrated concern, and rocking his body slightly, unable to completely stop his momentum.
"I've never really been in what you'd call a cooperative venture...All my experience has been more akin to 'mutual taking'...."
Remus stilled himself and nuzzled Severus, "Never really *shared*?"
Severus shook his head, and avoided Remus' gaze. But Remus kissed him gently and said, "It will be all right..."
Remus started in again, slowly, teasing and caressing, stroking Severus' skin, and kissing him all over. Soon they were both nearly senseless with desire, and Severus clutched at him wantonly when Remus finally entered him. Severus had never felt anything as perfect or powerful as they moved together, and shuddered with the intensity of it. When they came, crying out loudly and panting each other's names, he clung to Remus, and Remus held him tightly, kissing him and stroking his hair long after the last tremors had passed.
They lay there silently for a while, and then Remus found his wand and summoned a blanket that came sailing in from the other room like a large square bird. He pulled it over them snuggly, and then curled up around Severus, sighing happily. Severus sensed Remus falling asleep and then grew drowsy himself, far too overwhelmed to make sense of any of it, or worry about what would come next. As he drifted off to sleep, he heard the faint shuffling of someone dragging a heavy basket, and a quiet, "Well...see now? I told 'im so....."