May 14, 1976
“The scar is small, at least,” Pomfrey says, pulling the bandage snug around the cleaned wound. There’s a pity in her voice that makes Severus want to throw up again. “It will be easily covered.”
Dumbledore catches him inspecting it, as if mesmerized. “You are lucky to have survived at all,” the Headmaster says.
Severus does not say I don’t feel very lucky because it is stupid and obvious. Instead, he says unsteadily, “I want to press charges, sir.”
Pomfrey stills, tightening the bandage to the point of discomfort.
“Remus Lupin would be executed,” Dumbledore says. “The Ministry takes a dim view of werewolves who infect other wizards.”
“That’s the law, sir,” Severus says with all the righteous pride he can muster. “He infected--he could have killed me.” His voice sounds shrill to his own ears, but he can’t help himself now that the flow has begun; it devolves into something that very nearly sounds like begging. “I want to press charges against Black as well, and Potter, if I can, and I’m sure Pettigrew’s part of it, sir. If you’d only give them over to the Aurors--”
Dumbledore’s eyes narrow, briefly. Dumbledore will not be giving any student over to the Aurors. That hope dies quick enough, but he can’t stop Severus from speaking, can’t stop him saying what happened. The clock on the wall ticks moments away, moments until the next full moon when--
“The case would be public,” Dumbledore says softly. “If you were to press charges, you would be forced to register.”
“Albus,” Pomfrey says under her breath, an oblique horror in her tone.
“It is a hard life, as a registered werewolf,” Dumbledore goes on. “That is why so many avoid it, if they can.”
Severus opens his mouth, and then shuts it. He looks at Pomfrey, who refuses to meet his eyes, and then back to Dumbledore, who holds them steady. “You won’t make me register?”
“We have already accommodated one werewolf who is registered,” he says, folding his hands across his front as if the decision has already been made. “It would be very little trouble to hide another beneath the first. Don’t you agree, Poppy?”
She looks down at Severus’ arm and realizes that she’s pulled the bandage too tight. She loosens it, and then the medical spellotape holds it tight. “It would be better than going it alone, Albus,” she says finally.
“An excellent point,” Dumbledore says. “Lupin’s friends, as you say, are part of it, Severus. Your dear friend Lily Evans may be informed, if you so wish to have her comfort after your transformations.”
Severus cannot imagine anything that he wants to do more than tell Lily what has happened.
Severus also cannot imagine anything he wants to do less than confess himself to be now infected , a monster, a thing--
Seeing his expression, Dumbledore adds, “Someone will have to be responsible for you, during summers, if you would choose another.”
The clock goes on ticking.
June 13, 1976
There are magazines full of advertisements for potions, charms, spells to reverse a werewolf’s bite.
They are all, predictably, complete frauds.
Severus wakes up in the hospital wing with a sound that most would credit to old machinery. The shack, it would seem, had shrieked double last night, what with himself shut away in the cellar and Remus Lupin tearing apart the upper floor. He rolls onto his side, still not opening his eyes, fumbling for a glass of water, and finding instead the warmth of a knee propped up next to the bed. There is the sound of a book snapping shut just to the left of his ear.
With a massive effort, Severus opens his eyes.
The only thing he can think, seeing the person sitting there glaring at him, is that Dumbledore must have told her. That she is here, not out of friendship or care, but pity.
He means to curse, but it comes out so rusty that any words are lost. He tries to clear his throat and Lily thrusts the glass of water he’d been trying to find into his hands. He gulps at it thirstily, uncaring for the moment that she is watching the pathetic display.
But when the glass is empty she’s still there, and still visibly furious.
“What did you do to Remus?” she demands.
He thought he would tell Lily after their exams, after he had done a transformation once, alone, and understood what it felt like. But they took their Defence O.W.L., and what had happened outside by the lake after that had happened, and that chance had been lost.
He had told no one, in some kind of vain hope that if he kept it secret, it would not be true. But the brutal reality that now nails Severus to the agony in his own body is that it is true--he is a werewolf, bitten, infected, a beast --and Lily is now accusing him of creating some violence against Lupin.
“Ask him ,” Severus croaks resentfully. “Ask him what he did, him and his friends.”
“Miss Evans did, and I told her it was not mine to say,” a mild voice from behind Severus answers. “Neither is it yours, I think, though I cannot stop you.”
Severus starts, and turns to see Dumbledore across the room. Then he makes a noise and rolls over, away from her, pulling blankets round his shoulders.
Lily stands up violently, making the chair she’s been on teeter and slam back into the floor. “I thought you were dead when Dumbledore showed me in here. You looked dead. It’s the only reason I stayed.”
Severus curses under his breath with such vehemence that it set off a bout of coughing. Something cold nudges his shoulder; the glass of water, refilled from the pitcher.
“Wish I was,” he mutters hoarsely. He comes up onto his elbow, scowling, and takes the water. She still looks furious.
“Well?” she says finally. “What’s going on?”
“Lupin got me sick,” he grumbles finally into the glass, drinking more.
“You don’t look sick,” she says sharply. “You look like you’ve been eaten and spat back out.”
He extends one thin arm before him; there are a multitude of bruises and one real cut, and a multitude of smaller scrapes. Some are clearly from wood or dirt or stone but others--others are clearly teeth.
His own teeth, probably. Severus feels a deep nausea.
“Are you going to tell me or not?” she demands.
“I’m afraid the time has come, Severus,” Dumbledore says gravely. “I do not enjoy forcing the matter, but someone must care for you during this summer. Lupin’s parents are equipped to do so, but I fear that yours--”
Severus throws up on her shoes.
July 11, 1976
The factory at the end of the river is huge and empty, abandoned twenty years ago for the newer one upstream. It is the place Lily and Severus propose to Dumbledore a week after the school year ends, which he accepts provisionally.
They had only spoken to arrange scouting for this spot. She had been cold, businesslike. He had been rude and cruel and managed to get her to snarl back at him a few times. Then there had been long weeks of nothing until the night before the moon.
“We’re ready for you, sir,” Lily speaks into the pebble Dumbledore had given them both.
It takes a moment, but Dumbledore appears, with that weird pop that Portkeys always create when someone arrives.
“Ah,” he says, looking at them both like he had expected something else. “Well now. Show me the space?”
“In here, sir,” she says, guiding him to the boiler room with its secure iron door that looks better suited to a submarine. Severus follows, sullen.
Dumbledore inspects the door, inspects the walls, and finally expects the both of them. Lily looks up at him, fierce and proud. Severus does not meet his eyes.
“Very well,” Dumbledore says. “I believe this place is suited well enough. I have cast a few spells, just in case; if any are broken I will know. Do you have any questions?”
“No, sir,” Lily says stiffly.
“Severus?” he prompts.
Severus shakes his head, staring hard at the man’s shoes.
When he’s gone, Lily turns to the only person now. “What do we do now,” she asks, arms crossed.
“You shut the door and you wait til morning.”
She looks at the door, and then back at him, and it seems, for a moment, that she might have a fragment of sympathy.
Then she says, “You’re much better behind a door. I hope it’s soundproof.”
August 11, 1976
“I’ve brought you a spare set of clothes,” she says, shoving the cup at him so violently that it sloshes water onto his face. “Since you shredded yours last time and your parents are both awful.”
He groans weakly. Throwing himself at the door all night had been exhausting again. “Next time bring bacon. Rashers of bacon.”
“Finally sympathetic to Remus’ suffering, are you?”
He flings an arm over his face. “ No. ”
“You should be. He’s got it worse even than you do, he’s registered. ”
“And I spend the rest of my life locked in a cellar or shut in the boiler room of an abandoned factory,” Severus says. “How fortunate.”
She isn't listening. “What would I know about being hated for something I can’t help. I’m just a mudblood. ”
“ Go, then,” he snaps, sitting up. “I can shut the door on myself. You’re probably delighted to lord this over me. It’s not like any of the rest of my friends can know about this, they and all their parents would demand I’d be expelled.”
“I promised Dumbledore.” Her mouth flattens, unconvinced. “Besides, hasn’t your old friend Malfoy taken up a junior spot on the board of governors in place of his dad? He could get you out of anything, I bet.”
He coughs. “You don’t understand.”
She rolls her eyes, refilling his water and pressing it back into his hand. Severus gulps it down in the space of seconds. “Let me guess. Because I was raised by Muggles.”
“It’s not even a crime to kill a werewolf,” Severus says, unsteadily, wiping his mouth. “Did you know that? I looked into it. The corpse is human even if you kill the wolf, so if you kill the human, all you’ve got to do is wait. They could kill me in my sleep if they wanted and it would be considered a culling .”
“You think they’re murderers?”
He looks at her and doesn’t reply.
Lily lets the silence stretch and stretch and stretch and then says, in a low voice, “I thought they were your friends, Sev.”
“Like this?” he lets out a thin laugh that turns into a retch. He spits on the floor next to him in an effort to stave off the bile. “The best I could hope for is pet. ”
September 8, 1976
“Sir, if Black and Pettigrew and Potter get help Lupin,” she says across the hospital room cot as Severus crams slice after slice of ham into his mouth, “Then I should be with Severus during the transformation, or at least before and after. It’ll be safer if someone is there. Isn’t that why you had me monitor his transformations all summer?”
“I rather thought you were still angry with your friend,” Dumbledore says.
“I am,” she says vehemently.
October 8, 1976
He wakes up with dirt in his teeth and a glass of water next to his face, next to a plate of cold roast. They don’t speak at all, which is fine, as Severus can’t muster much of a real conversation after a transformation anyway, and they would end up fighting. She takes him to the hospital wing on the stretcher Pomfrey taught her to conjure, under the a demiguise cloak loaned by Dumbledore.
November 7, 1976
He wakes up with dirt in his teeth and a glass of water next to his face. The plate of sausages are kept warm for him, which helps. There’s a blanket draped over him and she tucks it around his shoulders to protect him from the violent shivering that the cold air causes. She asks if he’s comfortable in a worried voice that tells him he looks like warmed-over death, and he makes a sound like bad breaks on a lorry. She takes him to the hospital wing.
December 6, 1976
She’s pulling the tangled hair back from his cheeks with a gentleness that still makes his skin scream. There is dirt in his teeth and the sun behind her face streaming through the cellar window and the smell of warm overcooked meat, and he hates it. He hates the moon and the sun and all the stars in the sky, he hates her , he hates it all so much that he claws her hands away from his face and tries to walk on his own two stubborn feet.
He barely makes it two meters toward the cellar stairs before he collapses with a sound that might be better suited to a wild animal caught in a trap. Upstairs, a laugh goes up--Pettigrew and Potter and Black all here to collect their werewolf as well.
Her hand is oozing blood in two long tracts when it reaches to pull him to his feet, and beneath his fingernails lie the evidence that he’s the one who did it. “You’re an idiot,” she says.
“That’s going to scar,” he says sullenly.
“It’ll heal,” she says, sounding exasperated.
“Curse scars don’t heal right,” he says, tongue thick in his mouth. “Werewolves are Dark creatures, I read about it, there’s nothing you can do to heal it right. It’ll scar.” He sinks onto her conjured stretcher. The sunlight streaming through the window still hurts. “I wish you wouldn’t come.”
“I promised Dumbledore. And you don’t deserve to do this alone,” she says, as if to convince herself. “If you want me gone so badly, just ask Dumbledore to tell Mulciber what’s going on. Who knows, maybe he’s a good nursemaid.”
Severus lets out a hoarse sound that could be a laugh if it didn’t turn halfway into a cough. “He’d skin me for my pelt. He’d love me for a rug.”
“You look human enough to me,” she says, and then her pink tongue darts from between her lips to lick the blood from the back of her hand before it can drip to the floor. “Human enough to apologize, maybe.”
The taste of blood--her blood, in her mouth, on her tongue--the wolf is not so far gone that it doesn’t give an awful lurch in his gut. There is an open hunger for it that he isn’t strong enough to keep off his face.
The nausea is back, too. He coughs again and hopes it doesn’t turn to vomit.
“Human enough to be an ass,” she says. “The elves made you chicken. Eat.”
January 5, 1977
“Happy early birthday,” she says. “I got you something. Had to mail away for it.”
The leather strap is tanned dark red, and embossed with runes that look at least halfway legitimate, and the metal looks like real silver. It was expensive.
None of which changes the fact that it’s a dog collar.
“Get out,” he snarls.
“It’s supposed to help,” she says uncertainly. “They said it’s supposed to help you keep your head, you know, it’s supposed to cut off the connection--”
He can feel the monster that both is and is not the wolf, can feel the violence ready to jump from his hands. “Get out, get out, GET OUT--”
The next morning he wakes up starving, dirt in his teeth and no water.
February 5 1977
He wakes up starving, with dirt in his teeth and shreds of expensive red embossed leather strewn around the cellar. He finds the silver buckle in his mouth.
March 6, 1977
Severus wakes up tied to a tree by a sparking, copper-bright thread that sparks and hisses like bacon in a hot pan. He scrabbles at it furiously until he takes two deep breaths and pulls it over his head; the wolf’s neck and skull are larger than his own, and he slips out easily.
There is no dirt in his teeth. There is instead the sharp, metallic taste of blood. Craning his neck to look through the trees, there is a bright spill of red-- please be an animal, please be a deer, a fox, a rabbit--
It’s Lily’s hair, strewn across her face. She isn't moving.
He wants to run to her, but all he can manage is a crawl. It takes far longer than he wants it to, and he spends half of it whimpering in something between agony and fear, but he does it, stretching his hand toward her mouth as soon as he’s close enough--
Breath stirs, warm and alive on his fingertips.
Her clothes don’t appear to be torn, but for some shredding at the hems--they must have run together--and he pushes her hair away from her face. Her wand is found in a bush nearby. He manages, after a few abortive attempts, to create a crude and lumpy cup of sickly green glass to conjure water into. He downs a sip himself to soothe his throat and then tries to direct a gentle trickle between her lips.
Lily comes to sputtering, rocketing up to bash her skull into Severus’, which sets the entire forest aflame with dancing lights. His nose starts to bleed. Lily curses and reaches up to touch it, but he bats her hand away and clutches his face himself. He demands through the blood, “What happened?”
Lily puts her head back down on the forest floor, frustrated. “I heard you howling.”
“How did you know--?”
“That it was you?” She pushes herself up, wincing. “You sound different than Lupin. I’ve been listening to you howl for nearly a year, you think I didn’t hear a difference?”
He grits his teeth. “How did I--”
“I don’t know. You managed to get out of the shack, that’s all I know.” She rubs the angry welt on her forehead where her face struck his. “Figures if you turned into a wolf it’d be a wolf too smart for its own good.”
Severus pauses. “Lupin?”
She looks surprised to hear him ask. “Didn't manage it while I was conscious, though he tried, by the sound of it. But you both sound like that every month, I think.”
The sinking feeling in his stomach is threatening to turn to nausea. “Did I --”
“ No, ” she says forcefully. “Nobody was out. I managed--” She flushes pink. “I stole Potter’s broom and flew out the window and led you away into the woods to make sure.”
Which explains the pile of matchsticks he’d found around him. Likely it could be reassembled to spell Nimbus 800. There’s no satisfaction for it, though. “Blood,” he stammers. “I woke up tasting blood.”
“You got a rabbit,” she says, shrugging. “It distracted you enough that I managed to get you on a lead, tied you to the tree, but then you swiped at me, knocked me off the broom.” She lifts the hem of her shirt to peer at her side.
A bruise is beginning to purple there, above her hip, next to her navel, in the shape of a huge paw. No scars, but an injury all the same, and one that won’t respond to magic.
“I’m sorry,” he says hoarsely. “I didn’t--I wouldn’t --” Almost without meaning to, his own hand settles over the bruise. The paw that made it is twice the size of his own palm. It’s only Lily’s sudden intake of breath that makes him pull his hand away, as if he’s been burnt.
He can feel her watching his face, but he doesn’t meet her eyes.
Lily lets out a long breath, and then grunts, rolling away from him. “Come on,” she says, wincing as she comes to her feet. “You need the hospital wing.”
“ You need the hospital wing,” he objects bitterly. “You’re probably concussed.”
“I’m in better shape than you are,” she says, holding out her hand for the wand. “I don’t know how you got so far under your own power to begin with. I tied you over there.”
“I thought you were dead,” he says, and there’s a thread of the panic he had felt there that he wish he could pull free. “Or that I bit you.”
“I could have done.” He puts her wand back into her hand and tries to come to his feet under his own power; as his panic ebbs, though, every ache makes itself known, and his feet refuse to stay under him. “You shouldn’t have followed. You shouldn’t have come at all.”
“I am getting tired of hearing that,” she says, sounding tetchy. “I came. I made my own choice, because you didn’t get to make yours. Get on the stretcher.”
April 4, 1977
“If I get out again,” he says, “I want you to kill me.”
“No,” she says, crossing her arms. “Try again.”
The previous month had been their friendliest since before last summer. She had been checked thoroughly for bites and none had been found. She had said she will stay outside the cellar door all night, which he did not ask for, and let him copy her notes, which he had. Severus does not think he is asking very much further, considering. “If I get close to anyone else,” he says, “I want you to kill me.”
“No,” she says. “It’s nearly sundown, are you going to waste your last moments as a human on this? Get someone else to do your Dark magic.”
“I've had my fill of Dark magic,” Severus says. “I’d just rather die than infect someone else.”
Something strange happens on her face, something very nearly sad. “And you think I’m the one who hates you enough to cast the killing curse?”
“You should,” he says. “I cracked two of your ribs.”
“Which Pomfrey and I healed the Muggle way just fine, and that stuff you brewed to help with the pain was excellent, so stop fretting,” she replies. “Kill you. Honestly. Have you run that brilliant idea past anyone else?”
“Don’t be stupid,” he snaps. “There isn’t anyone else.”
May 4, 1977
The glass is pressed to his lip and he swallows as the water is gently tipped into his mouth.
“Seems like a particularly bad one, this month.”
He makes a gurgling, half-dead noise in reply from where his head is propped on her thigh.
“How are you planning to manage this, once we graduate? We’ve only got one more year left, after this.” Lily asks.
“Wasn’t,” Severus croaks. Any dream of joining the Dark Lord’s army is thoroughly well and dead. Even if it weren’t patently obvious to anyone paying attention that his monthly illness had to be lycanthropy, being so sickly had a certain chilling effect on any interest in his abilities, not to mention his marks. His days had been filled with trying desperately to keep up with his classes, to hide his secret, and any thoughts of the future were given over to dread the coming moon.
“Slughorn still wants you for a Potions apprenticeship,” she says.
“Can’t,” he says, interrupted by a coughing fit. She presses more water to his lip and he gulps gratefully, eyes still shut. “No Potions Master would tolerate absences. Not like this. McGonagall barely does. I’d have to register or be found out.”
“You can’t register with the Ministry when you graduate,” she says. “I’ve looked into what the restrictions are for werewolves. You’re barely allowed to live anywhere but in the middle of nowhere, you’re not allowed to hold most jobs--you’d be homeless and you’d have nothing.”
Severus coughs again, and it liberates a bit of slime from his throat, clearing his voice. “Should be.”
“You mean that you should be? Homeless, unemployable? You don’t honestly think that.”
“The regulations--” he coughs, spits, and she presses more water into his hands. “--they are ridiculous for muggleborns, but they make sense for us. We are monsters.”
“You’re not a monster,” she says forcefully.
He opens one bleary eye and looks up at her. “I am, though. I could infect anyone. I could kill anyone. Even you.”
“Wallowing in self-pity won’t solve anything,” she says. “Muggleborns will be in the same situation by the time we graduate, I expect, and I’m making plans. Going to Slug Club meetings. Making connections as best I can. There’s always a need for Healers at St Mungos and if that goes off, private healers can do as they please. Once I’m licensed to practice as a mediwitch, they can ban me from wherever they please, but they can’t say I wasn’t certified.”
“It’s different for you,” he groans, pressing his hand to his forehead to shade his eyes. “You’re good at everything and your head doesn’t get stuffed with cotton wool once a month.”
She bats his hand away. “So that’s it, then? Full time monstering? Hiding under people’s beds? That’s what you’ll do when you graduate?”
“No,” he grunts. “I’ll be a rug.”
“You’d make an awful rug,” she says, working her fingers into his knotted hair with surprising gentleness. She smooths the tangles, and it feels so nice he does not think to protest. “You’ll have to think of something else.”
June 1, 1977
Scars have collected on his body like dust in the corner of a room. The newest one, though, is not teeth or claw or broken wood; it is a burn around his wrist. It is also Lily who has done it.
“I thought you were going to break the door down,” she says, gently applying a salve to the tender flesh. Pomfrey had allowed her to slowly stock the shack with enough materials to treat an entire army of werewolves. It is only on particularly bad moons he ends up in the hospital wing anymore; it’s easier to rest up for the day here, in a half-shredded armchair.
“At least you didn’t open the door,” he grumbles.
“Hm,” Lily says, not meeting his eyes.
“You opened the door?” he asks, horrified, and too loud--Potter, Pettigrew, Black, and presumably the limp and stretcher-bound body of Lupin can be heard descending the stair on the floor above. They both go silent for the time it takes for the other party to pass.
Lily starts back up, quieter now that the door has shut. “I know how to handle you, Severus.”
“You don’t,” he says, unmollified. “You can’t. I barely know how.”
“I’ve been talking with Peter and Remus--”
“What do they have to do with it?”
“Remus has been doing this since he was a kid, Severus, he gave me a lot of great advice.”
“Like what? Like how to leash me?” he snarls.
“ Yes, ” she says forcefully. “Like how to leash you, which is how I knew to manage you when you got out. Peter taught me that, and you would have eaten me without it, so I’ll thank you not to argue.” She inspects the burn again and then wipes her hand on her trouser leg and begins bandaging it. “And Remus told me to do the meat up rare to settle your stomach, and how even soft blankets and things can hurt, but sometimes it can’t be helped when it gets too cold. Do you think I’ve just managed to figure out what you need by sheer luck?”
“Next you’ll tell me you’ve been hanging about with Potter,” Severus says.
“As a matter of fact, I have. James is an excellent flyer and I wasn’t quick enough on a broom when you got out. I need to be faster, if there is a next time.”
“Probably made all his dreams come true,” Severus mutters.
“You’d be shocked to hear it, but they’ve all shaped up admirably. I think Black’s the only one who’s said that awful name to my face in the past year. The rest of them know Remus owes you his life, and most of the time they remember it.”
His scowl deepens. “I should have pressed charges and been registered. At least I'd have the Ministry cages to transform in and wouldn't have to suffer you listing the virtues of the werewolf who infected me and his group of friends.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.”
He wrenches his wrist from her grasp. “You like him so much, go nursemaid him , then.”
“Remus is my friend, and he has an entire posse to help him,” she says, impatience building, trying to pull his wrist back to her. “And he’s helped me help you. I don’t particularly care if you like it.”
Severus musters at least an imitation of his customary sneer. “So it’s all been an excuse to chat with your werewolf boyfriend upstairs.”
“You are impossible.” She gives up trying to grab his wrist and stands, looking completely out of patience. “If I had a werewolf boyfriend,” she snarls, snapping on the lid of the burn salve with more force than is necessary, “It wouldn’t be him. ”
July 1, 1977
“James lent me his spare broom for the summer,” she says. “Just in case.”
“Spare? I won’t bother trying not to shatter this one, then.”
She eyes him, crossing her arms. “We’ll try not to let you escape, you mean.”
“I said what I meant.”
“I’ll be here all night,” she says, reaching for his shoulder and running her hand down his arm to the elbow. “And I'm a better flyer now so even if you did, you probably won't get me.”
The touch makes him shiver, and sharpens the strange hunger inside him--but no, that’s not new, that’s not the wolf at all. He pulls at her hand and she laces her fingers into his own anyway. She has been doing that lately, lounging in the grass by the river, walking her hand into his own. He tries not to read anything into it. Friendship is strange, and he has little basis for comparison anymore. And Lily has always been the exception.
“I talked to Slughorn about a Potions Master by the name of Damocles Belby,” he says carefully.
“Never heard of him. What’s he up to?”
“He’s working on something called Wolfsbane. ”
She looks shocked. “Severus--”
“It’s not a cure,” he says quickly. “But it could help. The goal is to help the--afflicted--keep their mind, during.” He swallows heavily. “The trials look promising. It would make it easier to live with, if it works. If he took me as an apprentice. Slughorn isn’t so sure about the recommendation yet, but I’ve been writing him. If my marks stay up.”
“You could get an O on the N.E.W.T. right now, in your sleep, with both hands behind your back and Sluggy knows it,” she scoffs. “You just need the recommendation.”
“You’re just as suited to the position as I am, you know,” he says, arguing from instinct more than anything else. “You’re the one going about worrying about werewolves.”
“I’m sorry, will you be very occupied with your position as a rug? I’d rather be a healer, and you have indispensable first-hand experience with the condition he’s working on.”
“If I told him what I am, he’d turn me in to the Ministry.”
“You can’t know that.” She looks very nearly heartbroken, and earnest as sunrise. “Not everyone is against you, Sev. It’s a brilliant idea. You’d be helping so many people. Even Remus.”
He huffs breath through his nose, then tilts his head back and looks up into the darkening sky. “Very nearly moonrise, isn’t it?”
“You can tell?” Lily asks, interested, palm rotating in his as she comes to his side to peer at the fragment of sky visible through a high, broken window. “What does it feel like?”
It feels like being hungry and turned on and so angry you’re going to break something and I think the wolf knows you apart from everyone else on earth, and I can’t tell if that’s because he’s hunting you or because I am.
“It feels like I’m about to throw up,” he says sourly.
“Liar,” she says, and she must have turned toward him, because her breath is hot on his shoulder.
July 30, 1977
“Blue moon,” Lily says from where she’s perched on top of a rusted-out piece of machinery.
“Lucky me,” Severus says bitterly coming toward her, hands shoved deep in his trouser pockets.
She leaps down to meet him. “Is it different?”
“Is what different?”
“What it feels like, knowing it’s coming twice in one month? Or is it like usual?”
“Like usual,” he says, scowling. She leans in closer, making him feel taller--he’s shot up over the past year and she’s stayed the same height and all the hunching in the world won’t change the fact that his trousers are too short.
“What’s that like, then? You never say anything about it.”
The rest of the month she doesn’t ask, they don’t talk about it, he can’t . There’s enough other things to argue over; Slughorn’s given them both a peek into Belby’s research and it’s miles beyond anything they’d ever seen. But the night before it is baldly obvious how keyed up and sick he’s feeling. His pupils are dilated and eyes are glassed with fever of the coming night. He’s unable to stay still; one foot’s twitching or he’s fiddling with his wand or scratching at his oily scalp like some kind of fleabitten stray. She knows the look by now, with or without a calendar.
“You have a scrape on your ankle,” he says finally, gesturing with his chin to her foot. “I can tell, it--blood, I can always tell with blood from a wound.”
“Is that all?” She sounds disappointed.
“Not what you were hoping for?” he says, a little cruelly.
“They way they talk about, it’s more than that.” And then she goes a bit pink, from the end of her nose to the tips of her ears.
“What did you read, ” he asks, utterly bewildered.
“Well,” she says, reaching around the back of her neck to pull her length of hair over her shoulder. The motion exposes a flushed length of throat and a heartbeat there beneath the skin, which, disconcertingly, Severus can see. “They’ve said you should be able to tell what people are thinking, or feeling. Pheromones or whatever.”
“Sounds like rubbish.”
“Oh, come on. It’s worth a look. You know that’s where the cutting edge is, where Muggle science meets up with magic.” And then she goes a bit pinker. “You’ll have to come here.”
“I am here.”
“Closer, I mean.” She taps a finger on the side of her throat, where her pulse makes itself known. “If you wanted to, I mean. It could tell you--something.”
She’s insisting, so he shuffles a little closer, shoulders tensed around his ears, feeling thoroughly ridiculous. “I don’t know what I could possibly tell you that you don’t already know,” he says gruffly. Then bends over her, to where her finger had tapped, and breathes deep.
Nothing, precisely, happens. But he can see the freckles at the top of her shoulder, disappearing beneath her shirt collar. He can tell that she hasn’t washed her hair today, and there’s that scent of unwashed-scalp at this close of a distance, both like and unlike his own, and the salt of summer sweat on skin. There’s red lines where she’d scratched her arm a moment ago--arms that loop around his neck now--and all the while there is the steady and strong rhythm of her pulse there, hypnotic and quick, compressing the air between them in time with its throbbing.
He has gotten very close. So close, in fact, that when she turns her face toward his, her cheek presses to his and her eyelashes flutter there, against his cheekbone. There is a not-quite-alien-enough impulse to move half a centimeter more forward and press his mouth to her throat.
There is also another competing urge, equally compelling, equally alien, to bite .
He jerks away, half of the word-- sorry --on his mouth before she catches him by both cheeks and presses her lips to his. Halfway through the word and off-center, she catches the corner of his lips and not the center. It is clean and chaste and lasts only a second.
“Well?” she demands breathlessly.
He stares at her flushed face, her heaving chest, her hands on his arms. “I think you should shut me in the boiler room,” he says numbly.
“I think you should do--something else. Before the moon comes up.” She looks like she’s about to shout, or burst into tears--or both, she always is more inclined to both at once. She pushes her hair out of her face. “I’m about to feel very, very foolish, Sev, if I’ve read everything completely wrong.”
“No, you--you haven’t,” he says unsteadily, because it needs saying. Of course he wants to kiss her. The fact that he had not, until now, let his imagination run so far as to picture how it might happen says more about how much he gives into daydreaming than it says about the nature of his desire; the abstract event of already kissing her is one very compelling thing, but the idea of being encouraged to start it is entirely insurmountable.
It occurs to him all at once that she had wanted him this close. Had, in fact, invited him. There is also the sick, woozy feeling of hunger, compelling him forward.
Her pulse is still there in her throat, quickening, he can still feel it even though he’s pulled back. That’s what draws him; without even knowing it, his hand reaches up to touch it, to feel it under his fingertips. There is no difference between the creature and the person; there is one self, and he wants to swallow her whole.
Has wanted, for quite some time now.
When he bends again, it is not toward her mouth. It is for her throat, her pulse, that vital affirmation of life that he can press his lips against, and then trace with the tip of his tongue. She lets out a long breath like a wind through church rafters. The teeth, though, that makes her draw a breath so harshly he jerks back up to scrutinize her face.
“You are impossible,” she gasps. “You are absolutely--”
There are altogether too many teeth for it to properly called a kiss, and it takes some time to work out how their faces fit together, but that is what they call it, later, for lack of better terminology. Benevolent devouring would be entirely ridiculous.
The next morning, Severus can see a purpling bruise on her neck when she bends over him to lift his hair from his face and pull him from the floor.
“Sorry,” he croaks once he’s finished bolting back the water. “You’ll have to wear turtlenecks until it heals.”
“I’ll have to wear turtlenecks all summer,” she corrects. “It’s so hot, I'll be miserable. And probably turn my collars up at school or something. It'll be a great scandal.”
Which turns out to be most wonderfully true.