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A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 7]

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Snape could not remember sleeping until near eleven a.m., ever. He woke up all at once, and when he saw how high the sun was in the sky, he gave Jane a good shake.
“Get up. It would not do for either of us to miss a meal in the Great Hall again,” he said. Then he quickly slid on his underclothes.

Jane sat up, blinking, clutching the bedclothes to her chest. She looked at him as he pulled on his robes.

“Say nothing to anyone,” he said as he adjusted them. “I will inform you shortly on how I intend to manage this situation.” .

At this she raised an eyebrow. “Shall I expect to receive some sort of prospectus?” she teased.

“Don’t be impertinent,” he scowled, as he sat at the foot of her bed to pull on his boots. (Her guess had actually hit quite near the mark.) Then he stood and stared at her, attempting to look as imposing as possible.

In response Jane put the back of her hand to her temple. “I shall await, trembling, your next communication…” she declared theatrically. Then she fell back on her bed in a mock-swoon.

Part of him wanted to laugh. Part of him wanted to lecture her yet again for not taking their situation as seriously as she ought. And part of him wanted to crawl back in bed with her.

“You do that,” he said severely, “but do not miss lunch.”

Jane pulled herself up onto her elbow. “I shall sit on your lap and feed you strawberry tart.”

Snape narrowed his eyes, and pointed at her authoritatively. “You shall sit at the other end of the table and pretend I do not even exist.”

“Can’t I even undress you with my eyes?”

No.”

“Spoilsport,” Jane huffed.

“Most definitely.” Still frowning, Snape offered her an ironic little bow, and left wordlessly through the fireplace.

Once back in his rooms, he immediately busied himself in digging up a copy of the current Hogwarts safety code, and saying the proper copying spells (which were not difficult but did take a couple of minutes each). Then he sat himself at his desk and composed some necessary owls.

From the Desk of Severus Snape
To: R. Hagrid, Professor, Care of Magical Creatures

I enclose for your perusal the most pertinent portions of the most recent edition of Hogwarts: The Official Safety Code. The first enclosure, a copy of page 274, contains the relevant information concerning dangerous flora.

As you yourself must be aware, the unregulated sale, possession, or transfer of dangerous flora is strictly and unilaterally forbidden. Please note as well, the second enclosure, a copy of page 693, which deals with “Penalties for Infringement of Regulations: Faculty and Staff”. Infractions are punished in varying degrees, from censure to suspension to termination to criminal prosecution by the Ministry of Magic.

I trust that you will endeavor to keep strictly to these rules, no matter how treacherously alluring the specimen that holds your current interest.

Enclosures: 2


From the Desk of Severus Snape
To: J. Flintrammel

In regard to recent events, you will no doubt agree that it is both prudent and necessary to provide some structure and regulation. We will constrain our intimate contact to one night per week: Saturday, and Saturday only. Please limit communication with me during the remainder of the week to professional matters exclusively. As well, I would ask that you refrain from discussion with faculty or staff of any personal matters in which I am involved.

As a last caveat, this missive has been composed on evaporating parchment, and will spontaneously disintegrate within thirty seconds.


Not half an hour later, after he had completed these tasks, Snape entered the Great Hall, the midday meal already in progress. Jane was already there, talking animatedly with Lupin. She did not even look at him as he passed, but he heard her mention something about her mother, after which she and Lupin giggled conspiratorially. Snape pursed his lips. He found that he trusted her not to say anything to anyone (even Lupin) about their tryst, but unless she had showered again (and probably even then), Lupin already knew everything anyway, especially since tonight there would be a full moon. Sure enough, as Snape seated himself at the other side of the table, next to Minerva, Lupin met his eyes just for one brief second, and in them was a triumphant glee that made Snape want to stab him with the meat fork.

Instead, Snape speared a hunk of roast beef with the end of his knife. He was bloody starving, having missed both supper and breakfast, and for a while he merely busied himself with the victuals.

“My goodness, Severus, you’d think you hadn’t eaten in weeks!” Minerva said, as she watched him fold a rather sizable sliver of meat into his mouth.

Snape chewed. Swallowed. Then he poked his fork into another slice. “Pass the potatoes.”

Minerva placed a bowl of boiled potatoes next to him. “Where have you been?”

Snape did not answer this question. Instead, he asked “Do I smell gillywater?” as he gestured with his elbow toward the pewter pitcher near Professor McGonagall’s plate. Then he spooned some potatoes onto his plate and went at them next.

Minerva looked around nervously. Gillywater was only about the strength of very weak beer, but its consumption was frowned upon during meals taken with the students.

“Of course not!” she said, “It’s pumpkin juice!”

“Well, then pass the ‘pumpkin juice’,” he said, proffering her a small, knowing smile.

Minerva poured, continuing to look at him a wee bit suspiciously as he inhaled his food. “Well this is a turn of events. A couple of weeks ago you were eating so little that I thought you would waste away.”

“As did I,” Snape said. “Carrots.”

"What?”

“Carrots! Pass the carrots!”

Minerva blinked, then reached for the carrots. “Oh, of course!” Then she smiled at him, a genuine smile, just short of being motherly, which both pleased and irked Snape at once. Snape had never liked it even when his own mother had mothered him. But he had taken a great deal of satisfaction in knowing she wanted to.

“Never fear, Professor McGonagall,” Snape said, “I do not think I will waste away anytime soon. I fully intend to collect the ten galleons you are going to owe me when Slytherin takes the house cup.”

Minerva raised an eyebrow. “Really? You seem awfully sure about it, considering Slytherin’s performance yesterday.”

In truth, Snape had heard absolutely nothing about Slytherin’s performance the previous day, having been first involved with impossible Chinese characters, and then with Jane. But he did not let Minerva know that.

“Shall we double the bet to twenty?” he asked.

“Done!” Minerva said, with a great deal of satisfaction. “There’s a self-ironing robe at Madame Malkin’s I’ve been eyeing for quite some time….”

Snape chuckled, tearing at a chunk of bread. “Alas that you will be too impoverished to purchase it. But when I am chopping lovage roots with my new silver knife, I will think of you.”

Minerva smiled at him again. “We’ll see, we’ll see.”

After he had stuffed himself, Snape returned to his quarters. His time spent with Jane, though excruciatingly pleasant, had thrown him off schedule. He had work to do. First order of business was the Wolfsbane Potion. He was midway through brewing it when there was a knock at the door. Lupin, of course. It could not be anyone else.

“Enter…” Snape said, as he carefully lowered one petal of monkshood into the steaming cauldron, “but kindly keep quiet unless you wish for me to botch this potion, which trust me, you do not.”

It was indeed Lupin, who moved quietly to stand beside Snape, watching raptly as the Potions master worked. It took quite awhile. Finally, Snape turned toward him.

“It needs to mature for three hours precisely. I will bring it to you then.”

Lupin nodded. “For which I will be grateful.”

Snape folded his arms in front of his chest. “Now off with you. I have grading to do.”

But instead of leaving, with a great flourish Lupin sat himself down in the chair in front of Snape’s desk.

“Tell me everything,” he said.

Snape did not move, but raised one black eyebrow. “Gentlemen do not discuss such things.”

Lupin snorted. “Well, gentlemen might not, but I don’t see why on earth that should stop you!"

Snape stared at his unwanted visitor with icy calm. “I see you’re quite friendly with Professor Flintrammel,” he said, “so why don’t you ask her if you’re so interested?”

Lupin waved his hand in the air dismissively. “Because if I know my Snapes, and I can assure you I do, then you wish for your relationship to be kept hush-hush, and no doubt have sworn her to secrecy. And I like the both of you entirely too much to tempt her into betraying your confidence.”

“How noble of you,” Snape said sarcastically. “And it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you wish to pester me, and gloat.”

Lupin raised one smug eyebrow. “Well, that too…”

“You’re an unfathomable creature, Lupin,” Snape said. “Why do you find my sex life so interesting? I am not having sex with a man, you know.”

“Oh, sex is fairly interesting no matter who is involved,” Lupin told him matter-of-factly. “There are whole channels on the telly devoted to it. Humans having sex, animals having sex, birds having sex, insects having sex…”

Snape grunted disgustedly. “Well why don’t you go watch two dung beetles have at it then?”

But to this Lupin only smiled. “Oh, Severus, you sell yourself short! You are quite more interesting than a dung beetle.”

Snape’s already tenuous hold on his patience was beginning to fray. “Lupin,” he began through gritted teeth, “if you proceed any further in this vein, I will be forced to strangle you.”

“So very worth it, Severus,” Lupin sighed with great satisfaction. “Really. Don’t leave out a single thing.”

“I warn you…”

“In fact,” Lupin continued, ignoring him, “I think that your sex life is very likely the most interesting thing in the universe. I mean, you! You! Having sex! If only we could harness the power of the incongruity…”

Utterly exasperated, Snape at last waved his arms in the air. “Go away, you preposterous pouf!” he roared.

“Oh, not likely!” Lupin said happily, putting his feet up on Snape’s desk.

But just then, as he seemed about to take the werewolf by the neck and give him a good shaking, Snape’s face melted and he offered Lupin a sly smile. With a flourish he seated himself behind his desk, and stared at Lupin mildly.

Then Remus John Lupin placed his elbows on the desk, and putting his chin in his hands, he gazed at Snape in mockingly rapt attention. “Now, start at the very beginning. She brought you the cordial, correct? That was my doing, as you probably know. So, what happened then? No, don’t tell me that. First, the juicy parts. Start with the juicy parts.”

A slow, mischievous smile unfurled on Snape’s thin lips. “You don’t really want the juicy parts, Lupin,” Snape said, “I mean, as an avowed homosexual you cannot possibly be interested in anything having to do with…vaginas…can you?”

Remus Lupin blinked a couple of times. “Oh, well not vaginas precisely, I suppose. But anything having to do with you and a vagina sounds positively fascinating. Why, it’s a story with something of interest for everyone!”

Snape drummed his fingers on his desk slowly. “You are a deeply silly person, Lupin. And it will get you into terrible trouble one day.”

“No doubt,” Lupin agreed. “Now, bring on the story of Severus Snape and the vagina!”

But instead of discoursing on his encounter with Jane, Snape merely stared at Lupin for a great long while, and then said three simple words.

“Dionaea Muscipula Iniuria.”

Lupin looked at him blankly for a moment. Then he sputtered a bit. “What?”

Dionaea. Muscipula. Iniuria.” Snape articulated carefully.

Lupin’s face cleared suddenly, and then turned doubtful again.

“A siren plant?”

“Indeed,” Snape nodded. “A siren plant. Far more interesting and rare than a vagina, wouldn’t you say? Especially since Hagrid recently presented one to Professor Flintrammel as a Christmas present.”

Lupin went white, his previous interest in Snape’s sex life a memory. “Was she injured?” he asked at last.

Snape nodded. “Yes. But it was minor, and I have healed her. Thankfully the plant is a juvenile one, about two years old according to my observation.”

“A siren plant…” Lupin breathed. “Astonishing!”

“Yes. Are you interested?”

Lupin nodded slowly. A siren plant was an incredibly rare find.

“Of course,” Snape continued, “the proper precautions would have to be taken, but you might discuss with Albus as to whether you could get special permission to use it as a teaching tool for your seventh-years.”

“It would be an incredible opportunity…” Lupin said, his brain suddenly afire with pedagogical prospects.

“I suggest you remove the Invisibility Spell, and substitute it with a blurring charm, after which you should levitate the plant to a place you see fit, so long as that place is heavily enchanted and warded. But it needs to be removed from her classroom as soon as possible.”

“Yes, of course, yes…” Lupin nodded. “Where is it?”

“On the highest, northeast corner shelf of Professor Flintrammel’s classroom. If you do intend to lay claim to it, you’d best see to it before the moon rises.”

“Yes, I’ll do that…” Lupin said, standing. “I should go then, and see about it now…it’s getting late. The sun sets very early this time of year.”

Snape smiled to himself, entirely pleased at the way he had distracted Lupin from bothering him about Jane.

“I’ll see you at about half-past four or so then, will I?” Lupin asked.

“Yes. The potion will be quite seasoned by then. But don’t make me come looking for you, or I will be very cross.”

“And you are no fun when you’re cross,” Lupin said. “Though you can be quite amusing.”

“Oh get out already, you intolerable pest!” Snape bellowed, and as Lupin chuckled and removed himself, the Potions professor bent his gaze to yet another pile of ungraded quizzes.

Three hours later he was at Lupin’s door. Lupin opened it wordlessly and the two of them said nothing at all as Snape presented him with the full goblet. Without being told, Lupin knew that Snape would not take his eyes off him until the potion was gone. Snape had never mentioned the series of events at the Shrieking Shack four years previous, but Lupin knew instinctively that Snape would never again trust him to remember to take the Wolfsbane, at least so long as Snape was brewing it. For this Lupin did not blame him.

The potion was not pleasant, but Snape watched patiently, until with a small shudder, Lupin drained the last of it. “I need a bit of a treat after that…” Lupin said. “It’s about time for tea, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Snape said, making himself comfortable on an overstuffed chair as Lupin took his time about brewing the tea. Earl Grey, from the smell of it, with a hint of lavender. Snape inhaled approvingly, and nodded his thanks when Lupin offered the tea. Of course there were biscuits as well, Lupin being Lupin. For a change they seemed quite plain, save for a sprinkling of sugar crystals, of which Snape approved as well, and several minutes passed in companionable silence as the two men enjoyed the tea and biscuits, until Snape finally spoke.

“What on earth is wrong with Potter?” he asked.

Snape watched Lupin’s reaction carefully, knowing that what people didn’t say in answer to such unexpected questions was often far more instructive than what they did. Lupin did not move for a couple of seconds, from which Snape gathered that he was collecting himself, and thinking. Lupin obviously knew exactly what was wrong with Potter. Now Snape only needed to find out what.

When Lupin looked up, he affected innocence. “I don’t know what you mean,” he said, popping half a biscuit into his mouth and practically swallowing it whole.

Snape raised an eyebrow. Lupin had a tendency to stuff his face when he was lying. “He’s become positively schizophrenic. Before the beginning of term he seemed resentful as ever, which was quite a relief. Then, all of a sudden he was intolerably cheery.”

“Probably he was just doing that to annoy you,” Lupin said, inhaling another biscuit.

“It worked. But now, for the past month he’s been completely distracted. He mistook mugwort for rupturewort on Friday, a mistake so inept for a seventh-year that I thought even Potter incapable of it. Monday will be his seventh detention in the past three weeks, a record even for him.”

Lupin was silent, having grown suddenly even more interested in the biscuits. He was staring intently at one of them, alternately picking at the sugar and putting his fingertips to his mouth.

Snape stared at this behavior, growing increasingly frustrated. “For god’s sake, Lupin, stop making love to that biscuit and answer me!”

Lupin looked up at last. “Ah, what then?”

“Potter! Harry bloody Potter!

Lupin frowned. “Just employ your skills as a Legilimens, if you want to know so badly,” he declared, more than a bit petulantly. Snape smiled inwardly. Obviously, whatever was wrong with Potter was a delicate sort of secret that needed protecting. Interesting.

“I would, but I am actually afraid of what I might find in there,” Snape answered.

“You should just admit that Harry’s learned by now to avoid your baleful, probing stare,” Lupin said. At this the werewolf bugged his eyes out, and stared at Snape unblinkingly. Then, he crossed them.

"I happen to know a spell that will make them stick that way…” Snape chuckled. “And you are correct. Potter is indeed avoiding my eyes, for any useful length of time anyway. All I have managed to discover is that he is quite fond of chicken in aspic.”

“Bleargh!” Lupin pulled a face.

“So you see why I don’t want to muck about in there,” Snape said, cradling his teacup in his palms, and tapping his index fingers together thoughtfully. “No doubt the boy has a weakness for all manner of things odd and disgusting. Now are you going to tell me what’s bothering Potter or not?”

“Honestly, I don’t know what you mean,” Lupin lied, “but have you seen what Hermione has done with her hair? Had it straightened professionally. Quite glamorous I think, don’t you?”

Actually, Snape did. Hermione was looking very pretty indeed these days. It was obvious that Weasley boy, repellent as he was, was putting a flush in her cheeks.

But that was beside the point. “Stop trying to change the subject, Lupin,” Snape intoned, “or I will place Potter on permanent detention until he graduates.”

“You wouldn’t.”

Snape put his empty cup down and implacably folded his arms across his chest. “Try me.”

“Albus wouldn’t allow it,” Lupin insisted.

“Potter is many things, most of them unpleasant. But he is not a tattletale.”

Lupin knew the truth of this, and he hemmed and hawed for a bit. It was obvious he didn’t want to say anything about the matter, and he was carefully avoiding meeting Snape’s eyes.

“Well, it’s…it’s…at least from what I can tell, anyway, it’s…”

Then, suddenly, it all made sense. Snape was absolutely dumbfounded that he had not realized it before.

“Potter’s in love!” he interrupted, with more than vague disgust in his voice.

Lupin nodded slowly. “Quite infatuated, from what I’ve observed. But he won’t admit it, at least not to me. And he’s having a devil of a time coping with it.”

Snape rolled his eyes. “Christ. It usually doesn’t start this early in the year. Normally they wait until spring.”

“I think it’s romantic, actually,” Lupin said, stirring two lumps of sugar into his second cup of tea.

“Well, spit it out. Who is she? Wasn’t he padding about after that atrocious Weasley girl last year?”

Snape had been teaching girls like Ginny for the better part of two decades. She was beautiful. Willful. Prone to fits of temper. And very, very proud. Such women, Snape knew, would always attract a bevy of ardent admirers, but to Snape she seemed to demonstrate all the most annoying Gryffindor characteristics taken to their extreme. As such he found her extremely unpleasant.

“Yes,” Lupin nodded, “but that ended before school did. He did try and get back with her, I think. But Ginny was a bit angry that he waited until the beginning of term to approach her again. By then she’d found someone else.”

He made a disgusted noise. “He’s well rid of her.”

“Why on earth would you say that?”

“Roundest pair of heels at Hogwarts,” Snape huffed. “They’ll have to tie her ankles together to get her in her coffin.”

Lupin narrowed his eyes. “That’s an entirely irrelevant observation.”

“Completely relevant,” Snape asserted. “She’s obviously indiscriminate in her affections. Now, who is the current object of Potter’s yearning?”

“Why do you care?”

“So I can keep the two of them as far apart as possible,” Snape lied.

Actually, Snape thought that such knowledge would be of considerable use to him. It certainly would provide an easy way to continually embarrass Potter, which Snape thought would break the fog in his brain. Snape had always been a master at keeping his students completely focused on their studies, and he was not above exploiting their personal weaknesses to achieve this. He did not care if he terrified them, or if they hated him. In fact, he preferred it that way. It kept them on their toes. The fact that tormenting Potter would also provide Snape some measure of entertainment only added to his interest.

“I have my suspicions,” Lupin said truthfully, “but voicing them, to either of the interested parties, could possibly do far more harm than good. Really, Severus, don’t make trouble for him. He’s at a very sensitive age.”

Snape made a noise that sounded distinctly like a “harrumph”. “Of course. We must coddle him. Why don’t we require that the entire faculty pat him all over with fluffy towels, and massage his feet?”

“Because that would be a violation of our ethical code,” Lupin said primly. “Especially the ‘all over’ part.”

Snape made an even more disgusted noise.

“But speaking of love lives…” Lupin began.

“Don’t start.”

“What about you and Jane? Really?”

Snape looked at the werewolf carefully. It seemed that he was asking now out of a genuine interest and concern, not a desire, as before, to pester and gloat. So, after a deep breath, Severus Snape answered him.

“Not much to tell, other than what you have already surmised. But if our association is to continue, we will have to employ the necessary regulation and discretion.”

“Of course…” Lupin nodded seriously, but with a hint of suppressed mirth.

“This will be no problem for me, obviously. And while she understands the need for discretion, I am not sure she will be as willing to accede to my requirements for regulating our contact.”

“That’s because you’re bloody irresistible.”

Snape glared at Lupin and said nothing.

“I mean it. From her perspective anyway. What do you propose?”

“That we see each other once a week, on Saturdays.”

At this Lupin laughed. “Oh, you’re a fool to think she’ll keep to that, almost as much a fool as to think that you will! She wants you, Severus. And in the end she will no doubt have you, as often and as much as she likes.”

Narrowing his eyes, Snape stood. It was getting late. Long shadows were falling across Lupin’s couch, and there was a slight hoarseness to his voice that had not been there before.

“Some of us actually take our responsibilities seriously, you know,” Snape said. “I cannot thrash about in passionate abandon every night of the week, no matter what you, or she might think. For one it’s distracting, and I have work to do.”

Lupin drained the last of his tea. “Oh, keep telling yourself that!” he said, laughing again. His face was a bit ruddier now, his eyes brighter. Snape could swear as well that his hair seemed suddenly a bit thicker.

“If I did not impose some structure, Lupin,” Snape said severely, “the woman would no doubt attempt to mount me at every available opportunity.”

Lupin stood now as well, brushing the crumbs from his robes. His hands trembled, but only slightly. The sun was down, and the moon was beginning its rise. He moved closer to Snape now. Already the irises had been almost swallowed into the blackness of the pupils, and a tic was starting to build at the bridge of the nose. A curious mix of pity and fear welled up in Snape. To be in the presence of a werewolf during the change was a frightening experience, no doubt, and Snape found he had no desire to stay one moment longer than absolutely necessary. But to be that werewolf must be more terrifying still, even considering the solace provided by Wolfsbane.

Lupin slowly placed a hand on Snape's shoulder. Up close the tremor was more apparent, but the hand was friendly enough. Snape looked into Lupin’s eyes with as much dispassion as he could muster.

“My dear Severus,” Lupin began, attempting a lightness of tone that belied his current situation, “I sympathize with your need for structure and regulation, but your plans are entirely useless. There is only one thing that a man can do with a woman who wishes to mount him at every available opportunity.”

Snape was not entirely sure that he wanted to know. But finally he asked: “And what is that?”

Lupin leaned in close then, his breath right at Snape’s ear, and Snape stood as still as stone.

Let her,” the werewolf breathed.

Snape did not say anything to this, and as for Lupin, he said nothing more at all, but made his way toward his bed and then lay himself down, covering his eyes with his arm. Snape watched him for a moment, caught between a flicker of fear and pity and now, an even stronger fascination. Suddenly he found himself wanting to stay. But no doubt the werewolf wanted his privacy, and Snape turned toward the door.

“Goodnight, Professor Lupin,” he said quietly. Then he closed the heavy door behind him.

A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 7]

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