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A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 3]

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Severus Snape was fine then, as fine as he had ever been, at least for a little while. The lull did not last long, only a matter of days, really, but it seemed to him a wonderful and restful reprieve. There was no further word from Lucius, for one, and he found he could go for hours and hours without thinking about Flintrammel. When he saw her, or she met his eyes, he immediately looked away, which seemed to suffice in alleviating the situation.

But then, well then he found himself meeting her eyes across the conference table at a faculty meeting later that week. Binns was muttering, wan and ghostly, about the perceived inadequacy of the current history textbook, when he felt her gaze upon him. And this time when he met it he did not look away, could not bring himself to, even when she cast her own eyes down.

So he saw the light flush creep up her neck to tease the lobes of her ears, and bleed just slightly onto her pale cheeks. And he suddenly found himself fighting the urge to slip his foot out of his boot and slide it up the inside of her calf, her thigh, her…Snape closed his eyes at last, feeling the blood course towards his groin, the blessed reprieve only a memory. He realized then, the terrible mistake he had made. He realized as well that he of all people should have known better. Obliviation was a touchy thing—the more physically visceral the experience, the more difficult to completely eradicate. He had Obliviated the memory of the kiss in her mind, yes, but he could not obliviate her body’s memory of it. Jane remembered the kiss in the same way that an amnesiac remembered how to ride a bicycle. There remained some sort of kinesthetic imprint that could not be erased. And it was plain that she wanted him more than ever.

And as he had determined that taking her was not an option (for all manner of logical reasons), Snape took to applying a potent tincture of chasteberry to his wrists and temples morning, noon, and night. It didn’t help very much, but it was better than nothing, and he knew that a regimen of Calming Draughts (a far more reliable treatment) would make him woozy.

“Chasteberry isn’t going to help you, Severus,” Lupin said, the second Friday before Christmas. With a tea laced with cinnamon he had brought some shortbreads, Christmas shortbreads dipped in white chocolate and crushed peppermint candy. “You can run through every anaphrodesiac in Pomona’s herb garden and it won’t be any use.”

Snape gritted his teeth, cursing the werewolf’s nose for the umpteenth time. What would you suggest then?” he grumbled.

Lupin popped a shortbread into his mouth. “I suggest you put yourself into a coma.”

Snape knew he was in desperate straits when instead of responding to what passed for Lupin’s wit with a typical acid reply, he actually found himself briefly considering it.

“Then of course…” Lupin continued, “you could actually stop ignoring your feelings for a change.”

Snape made a harrumphing sound. “Of course you would say that. You have, heretofore, proven yourself as one those oversexed, love-struck types. Even as a boy you might as well have had your emotions painted on the back of your robes.”

Lupin smiled, a bit ruefully. “You know me too well.”

“Your kind are all like that. Come spring every Gryffindor above twelve will be positively addle-brained, all dewy-eyes and perpetually bitten lips. Disgusting.”

“Hrm. Sounds like a Hufflepuff to me.”

Snape shook his head. “No. They remain characteristically cheery…right up until the precise moment that they suffer a nervous collapse. Had one last year melt into a veritable puddle of tears, right in the middle of a lecture on bubotuber pus. Hysterical little twit.”

“Who was she?” Lupin asked, looking up.

Snape smiled thinly. “Nigel. Nigel Winterbourne.”

Lupin chuckled. “What about Ravenclaw?”

“Compulsive masturbators, every last one of them. It’s how they stay so aloof.”

At this Remus Lupin laughed out loud. “And the Slytherins are the porridge that Goldilocks ate, I suppose!”

“What?”

“You’re ‘just right’,” Lupin said, his voice holding just a tinge of sarcasm.

This was not lost on Snape, but he was too exhausted to counter it. So he stared across the room, then, an uncomfortable look on his face, as he sipped his tea, and there was a long silence.

“I just wish I knew why,” he said softly, at last.

Lupin cocked his head. “Why what?”

“Why…”

“Why her?”

Snape looked down into his teacup, as if he would somehow find the answer there. “Yes, I suppose. As opposed to anyone else. As opposed to someone more… convenient.”

“In my experience, love is never convenient.”

Snape frowned. “I spoke nothing of love, Lupin.”

“You’ve been speaking of it ever since you mentioned her name, Severus.”

Setting his cup and saucer loudly on his desk, Snape grimaced. “If I’d wanted advice from an overemotional twat, I would have consulted Trelawney,” he said. “And let me be the first to inform you, you great gelatinous pudding, that one set of gonads calling to another can hardly be defined as love.”

Lupin raised his eyebrows. “I beg to differ. That’s pretty much the standard definition of love.”

“Bah!” said Snape, loudly and with much emphasis.

“And fie and fiddle-dee-dee as well, no doubt,” Lupin teased.

“No doubt,” repeated Snape, again with emphasis.

“Well, what about science then?” Lupin countered. “There’s a great deal of Muggle research involving pheromones. Those…sex chemicals that the human body produces to attract a mate. It’s speculated that men and women are drawn to lovers whose body chemistry signals that they are most likely to produce healthy offspring.”

“And how does that explain your infatuation with the bartender?” Snape said archly.

Lupin laughed. “We’re degenerates, of course!”

Snape chuckled, genuinely amused. Then he sipped his tea again. “I’m well aware of the research, both Muggle and magical. And the speculation is quite reasonable, your ‘degeneracy’ notwithstanding. However didn’t…I didn’t.…” Snape’s voice trailed off.

“You didn’t think it applied to you…” Lupin finished the sentence for him.

Snape nodded slowly.

“Well, you’re human after all, Severus. Must be quite a relief.”

“No,” he frowned. “It’s horrible.”

Lupin sighed loudly. “Just take her to bed, Severus…she wants to, you want to…besides, your birthday’s coming up in a few weeks. Don’t you think you deserve a bit of fun?”

Snape thought about this. Just as he was quite sure he had never been happy, he was also sure he had never had fun. Tormenting his students did not quite count, he thought. It was true that he did want Jane. Still, that did not qualify as “fun” either. His lust for her was a very serious business.

To his own dismay he actually found himself considering it. And just as quickly vetoing the prospect.

“Fun?” he said at last. “Fun? As you yourself have proven, Lupin, romance is hardly fun.”

“Well, sex, then! Sex is fun!” Lupin said.

“Perhaps, but it is not nearly worth the effort usually required to attain it.”

“You’ve never had proper sex, then.”

“I beg your pardon!” Snape huffed.

“Oh, no doubt you’ve gone to bed with women,” Lupin said around another shortbread, “and enjoyed it well enough. But have you ever been with a woman who wanted you, really wanted you in the worst possible way, and whom you wanted in the worst possible way in return?”

“Of course,” Snape lied.

“Liar,” Lupin said.

“And how would you know?”

Lupin made a small, self-satisfied sound. “Because if you had, you would never in a million years declare that it wasn’t worth the effort. There is no human experience more worth the effort.”

Snape snorted, waving his arm in the air dismissively. “Your advice might work for someone of your…sort. But as for me, what you propose is intolerable.”

“Why?”

Snape’s eyes narrowed. “Let us take your suggestion to its logical conclusion, Lupin. Let’s say I do as you suggest and I fuck our Miss Flintrammel. Let’s say I fuck her raw. What then?”

For a moment Lupin was dazed by Snape’s language. “Pardon?” he asked.

“Old French surnames, that’s what,” Snape said, disgusted.

“Pardon?”

“Are you interested in Old French surnames?”

“Er, not particularly, no.”

“Well, she is. And if I sleep with her, no doubt I would have to hear about them, and god-all knows what other manner of vapid uninteresting hobbies she happens to espouse. Not to mention her dreary personal history, her likes and dislikes, and political leanings. She’ll bore me to tears simply to prove to herself that she’s interested in me for more than just sex. Unlike men, women do not want to believe that they can have sex simply just to have sex. They’re very protective of their precious virtue.”

“Virtue? She’s thirty two!”

“Never underestimate a woman’s belief in her own perpetual virginity.”

“God, you’re a cynic.”

“I am a realist, Lupin. It would do you well not to confuse the two.”

“You believe the worst about everyone and everything, which makes you a cynic.”

“Save for the fact that the worst about everyone and everything is most often true.”

The two men stared at each other for a time, neither one willing to give way.

“I still think…” Lupin began.

“Your advice leads straight towards a romantic relationship,” Snape interrupted. “My condition, however, as you yourself have pointed out, is biological. Pheromonal. I desire her body and nothing more. Were she a whore she would have my galleons by now. But she is not a whore. And from what I understand, women don’t look favorably upon senior male colleagues who use them for sex. And neither do the bosses of those senior male colleagues, dead though they might be. Though I resisted Professor Flintrammel’s hire, she appears to be a fixture here now, and I have no desire to make my working life any more distasteful than it already is.”

“But it doesn’t have to be that way, Severus! You…”

Snape held up his hand. He would not be silenced. “And barring that unpleasantness, you should know better than to think I would want to end up like some character out of one of your insipid novels, walking about the grounds with her, hand in hand, wind blowing through my hair as students peer at us and giggle.”

Snape shuddered deeply. The prospect of students speculating about his love life was far more upsetting to him than not having one at all.

“You do have a tendency to over think the consequences, don’t you?” Lupin said, sighing again.

“And you have a tendency to not think about them at all.”

These observations, Remus Lupin knew, were perfectly true, on both sides. He was quiet for a bit then, lost in thought. Then after a little while all of a sudden he stood up rather quickly, and made for the door.

“And just where are you going in such a rush?” Snape demanded, a bit startled.

At this Lupin paused and offered him a slow and deeply mischievous smile. Then he moved toward the door again.

“I’m off to find my bow and arrow…” he answered, just as it closed behind him.

Snape sat perplexed for a bit, taking uninterested sips at the last of his now-cooled tea. “Bow and arrow…bow and arrow…what could he mean by a bow and arrow…” he muttered.

Then his face twisted in horrified recognition.

“Bow and arrow! Bow and arrow!” he cried, jumping to his feet, sending his teacup and saucer clattering to the floor.

LUPIN!" Snape yelled, his voice sounding throughout the castle, even up to the Astronomy Tower, where the echo startled a couple of amorous third-years out of their kiss, and sent them fleeing down the stairs as if the very devil himself were behind them.

A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 3]

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