westernredcedar: (Hands)
[personal profile] westernredcedar
Title: The Steep and Thorny Way
Author: [livejournal.com profile] westernredcedar
Summary: Remus is married now, soon to be a father. So why can't he stop thinking about a man who is a traitor and murderer?
Rated: R
Warnings: not exactly infidelity, but not exactly fidelity, either
Length: ~2300
Notes: Repost! Written for [livejournal.com profile] omni_sama at Snupin Santa 2011. Based on this prompt- Canon-compliant (as much as any non-canonical pairing fic can be) heart-breaker fic taking place during the Second War, after Severus has killed Dumbledore. Two souls that were meant to be, if the world had spun differently, but can only brush past each other in the blinding darkness of their personal hells. An attraction never before admitted, a love never to be spoken. Make it hot, make it hurt.
This fic was vaguely inspired by this part of Good Omens: "The ducks in St. James' Park are so used to being fed bread by secret agents meeting clandestinely that they have developed their own Pavlovian reaction." The title is from Hamlet.
Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] islandsmoke and [livejournal.com profile] celandineb for the inspiration when I needed it!



The last time they'd seen each other. Before. Remus could remember every moment.

It was after an Order Meeting at Grimmauld Place. Severus had stayed late, and Remus had allowed himself the hope that it might be to spend some time with him.

"War makes for strange bedfellows," Severus had said, as they lingered in front of the fire in the twilight, sharing a bottle of something old and oakey that the house elf had brought up from the cellar.

"So it does," Remus had agreed, and their eyes had met. He could still recall the lurch in his gut from the promise in Severus's direct gaze.

But they hadn't said any more that night, hadn't touched each other. Kingsley had joined them, turning on the lights, and then Dora had inserted herself on the arm of Remus's chair. Remus had felt Severus pull away, and then he was gone, slipping out of the room just as Arthur joined them with another bottle. He hadn't even said farewell.

***

Their rooms were usually warm, which was the way Dora liked it, but the oven had been on all day so the small flat was now thick with hot, damp air. Remus felt stifled, and not just from the heat.

"It smells delicious," he said, looking up from his reading as Dora pulled a fruitcake from the oven.

She looked at him skeptically. "Don't even try, Remus Lupin," she said, her sweet face twisted in frustration. "It's blackened and smells like a bonfire." She dropped the pan onto the counter with a clatter.

"And I love the smell of bonfires." He stood and grabbed her around the waist, pulling her in to him. He could feel the warm swell of her belly beneath his hands, and he leaned in and put his chin on her shoulder. "Just send that one to your mum. She'll love anything you made."

"Brilliant idea, husband dear," she said, spinning in his arms and planting a sloppy kiss on his cheek. "Now let me free. I have many more cakes to ruin before the night is over."

He felt the pain in his chest. Guilt, he knew, gnawing away at him. Gods, she doesn't deserve an old fraud like me, he thought.

"I'll be going out on my walk," he said, grabbing his coat and scarf from the hook by the door.

"Pick me up some more sugar?" Dora asked as he opened the flat door, but she didn't turn around from her baking.

Remus could feel cool, fresh air spiraling up the stairway, and the lure of it made him dizzy. "I will," he said, closing the door softly behind him.

***

The year previous, Remus had been months with Greyback's pack, isolated in an old warehouse in Brixton and cut off from regular news of the Order. Dumbledore had set up a weekly contact for him. He would slip away every Thursday afternoon to meet his contact by the edge of the lake in Battersea Park.

The first time, he hadn't known who would be meeting him. He'd stood by the shore and watched the ducks. They'd looked at him plaintively, and he'd considered that the next week he might bring some stale bread.

"Lupin." Severus had the unnerving ability to suddenly appear at Remus's shoulder without a sound.

"Severus." They'd never spoken privately since Remus's year at Hogwarts. Remus had turned to the man next to him. He looked tense and tired. "You are my contact?"

"If you need, you can truthfully tell Greyback that you are meeting with one of the Dark Lord's servants. It may bring you further into his trust." Severus hadn't looked at Remus, just stared in the direction of the ducks, so Remus had done the same. "Believe me, this was not my choice."

"I wouldn't have thought."

"We are not friends, Lupin." Severus still had stared ahead.

"No, I suppose not," Remus had added. "But I will try not to hold that against you."

He had sneaked a peak out of the corner of his eye, and been surprised to see the corner of Severus's lip twitch. Remus had grinned.

"What's the news?"

Every Thursday, for months, they would meet. At first, the meetings were short, five-minute affairs, and all business. On their fourth rendezvous, Remus had started Severus talking about his interest in defense, and they hadn't stopped for a half-hour. By the time, weeks later, that Remus realized he was spending his week looking forward to Thursday afternoon, the meetings had stretched to hours. He always brought bread, and the ducks knew to wait for them.

Remus wasn't sure what it was. They were like each other, this sour, intelligent man and himself. Remus liked the way Severus thought, crisp and practical, with a ragged edge of emotion. They were both in mortal danger every day. This meeting place was a pocket of safety for them. Remus found himself thinking about them more often than was comfortable.

After his long weeks of werewolf and human politics, the hours at the lakeside were a sanctuary, an unexpected respite from the storm around him.

***

Now he followed the familiar path from his flat to the park. He stopped at the grocery for Dora's sugar, and then let his guilty soul lead him to Battersea, past the bowling green, towards the little point where they would meet.

The ugly truth was that Remus had returned to the rendezvous point every Thursday. Since. He'd never missed one. It made him ill, knowing that he'd done it, and would do it again. He'd explained to Dora that the walk was part of an exercise regimen, a lie that he had repeated so many times now that it felt like the truth.

Severus was never there now, of course. He was a traitor, disgustingly installed in the position of the great man that he had murdered. Remus couldn't explain to anyone, much less himself, why he returned every week, but he knew he was too weak to resist the compulsion that drew him back to the lake.

He'd never even decided if he wanted to find Severus there or not, so he froze when he saw a familiar dark figure standing at the lakeshore staring vaguely out at the ducks. Remus was not sure if the sudden aching in his gut was joy or rage.

He dropped the sugar, drew his wand, and eased towards the figure. He could be stealthy too, if he tried.

"I should kill you," he whispered when he was close enough, his wand pointed at the back of Severus's head.

Severus was quiet, but slowly turned and faced Remus's wand. "You should," he said at last.

Remus met Severus's dark gaze, intense and hard, so like the last time he'd seen him. Before. He looked ill, very pale and drawn, as if he had not been in the sunlight for a long while. Remus was ashamed to see that his wand hand was shaking. He was sure Severus had noticed.

"What are you doing here?" Remus asked, voice weak.

Severus was silent.

Remus pressed the tip of his wand into the soft skin of Severus's throat. "What are you doing here?" His voice was stronger now. A terrifying pressure was building in Remus's chest, and he thought he might scream.

"I did not imagine you would be here as well," Severus said, and heaved a sigh. The pressure in Remus's chest released, and he relaxed his grip for a moment. Severus pushed the tip of the wand away and stepped back.

Remus kept his wand trained on him, but stepped back as well and looked. Contrary to his hopes, Severus had not transformed into a hideous monster. He looked like himself, lean and dark and tired.

"You are a murderer," Remus said coolly.

"I am," Severus replied. "But I never expected you would be one to take my actions at face value. Especially in a war."

Remus let his wand hand drift down to his side. "You expect me to believe you killed Dumbledore for some noble purpose?"

"No, but I would expect you to use what you know of me to make your judgments."

Remus was silent, trying to gather his thoughts.

Severus turned back to the ducks, and Remus was relieved to be free of his gaze. "I hear I'm to congratulate you," he said, "on your wedding." It was like he'd stuck a knife in Remus's chest.

"I don't need your congratulations," Remus replied. Suddenly the ducks took on added interest to him as well. He couldn't look at Severus.

"Indeed not. I'm not sure I'm offering them," Severus replied.

"She's having a child…so I…" There was no good way to end that sentence, so Remus fell silent. He had a strange urge to throw bread to the ducks. It would make this all much easier.

It was silent for a long while. In the growing darkness, lights were coming on and reflecting off the dark water. They stood side by side, and for a moment, Remus wished that it was still a year ago, and that they were just settling in for another long debate on the use of charms as weapons. In fact, he'd never wished for anything more.

"I'm not what you think I am," Severus said at last, very quietly.

"I don't know what I think of you."

"Nor I you."

Remus turned to Severus in the fading light. "I've come here every week."

Severus nodded. "This was the first I could get away."

Without another word, Remus stepped in and grabbed Severus by the back of the head, bringing their faces so close he could feel Severus's hot breath on his cheek. They paused there on the precipice for an agonizing moment before their mouths came together, hungry and needing, too long in the waiting.

Remus didn't realize how many times he'd imagined kissing Severus until he was actually doing it. The real thing was very different from his imagination, as all things are, far more frantic, with more teeth and clumsy hair pulling, but also with far more depth and meaning that he had anticipated. They drew their bodies closer together, Remus pulling Severus in to him, clinging on to him like a lifeline, with Severus trying to press all of himself against him through their layers of winter clothing. Knees touched, and bellies, then cocks, now noticeable beneath the woolens. Their tangle of arms resolved itself into the two of them grabbing on to each other and holding tight.

The kiss went on and on, with only short pauses for breath. After the initial onslaught, Remus softened his lips and began a gentle exploration with his tongue, which Severus responded to with his own, slower ministrations. Severus's hands crept along the belt line of Remus's trousers, and the electrical charge of the touch on his bare skin made Remus's cock throb.

"We can't…" Remus muttered into Severus lips, "…here in the park."

Severus pulled back then, his eyes dark and heavy lidded, his fingers just under the edge of Remus's trousers, and pulling him forward. "No, indeed, we cannot. I know a…"

In the months after, Remus imagined so many different things Severus might have been about to say: places, people, spells. But he didn't say any of them. Instead, he cried out in pain and let go of Remus, grabbing wildly at his arm.

"What is it?" Remus asked, reaching for him, needing to regain contact.

Severus turned away, his arm held stiff before him, his hand in a fist. "Damn, damn, damn!" he yelled. A few ducks took offense and flew a short distance away.

"Did I hurt you?" Remus asked, putting a hand on Severus's shoulder.

He shrugged it off. "I have to leave. Now."

"Leave?"

"I've been summoned."

Remus's body went cold. He'd forgotten, in the heat of one kiss, that Severus was the enemy. He stared out at the placid lake, ripples reflecting the lights of the city, and tried to remember that he was Remus Lupin, husband, almost-father, and Order member.

"You'd best go then," he said.

"I must."

Severus turned back in a swirl of black cloth, closed the distance between them in a long stride, and kissed Remus again, this time not holding anything back. Remus's knees turned to jelly. He tried to catch up with Severus and regain some control, shove him away, or pull him closer, but he found it was impossible.

"If I am able, I will come here again," Severus said, breaking the kiss and leaving Remus's standing breathless. Then he turned and walked away, his pace rapid and final, and never looked back.

Remus returned, every week, and the ducks were there to greet him, but Severus never came again.

***

He bought more sugar on the way back to the flat. The diversion gave him time to let his body settle, his mind calm. He had to gather himself for Dora, for the guilt and the lying. She was such a good woman, and look what he was doing to her.

When he pulled open the door to the flat, she was in the midst of stirring an enormous bowl of batter.

"Sugar? I hope?" she asked, smiling at him over her shoulder. He placed the parcel on the counter. "How was your walk?"

"Fine," he lied. "Everything is fine." He sank onto the couch, closed his eyes, and wished again that he could turn back a year of his life and free them all from this hell. In fact, he'd never wished for anything more.




***
End

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