Warnings: Teenagers doing wildly inappropriate things in inappropriate places
The Best Christmas Ever
A/N: Gift fic for karasu_hime, written for the Secret Santa Exchange on lupin_snape. Story and characterizations of Snape and Lupin inspired by Karasu's artwork in general, with scenes based on specific pieces.
Disclaimer: Characters aren't mine, but I'll take the liberty of giving them away anyway ;)
The next few weeks dashed any lingering wisps of conscience that Remus' parents had reinstilled in him over the course of the summer, and by the time October's full moon had rolled around, just over a week into the month, Remus had already amassed three detentions, a threat of expulsion and a Howler from his parents, who just couldn't understand why their well-behaved, mild-mannered son turned into such an utter hellion as soon as he boarded the train for Hogwarts. He took all this with a grinning grace because he was secure with the knowledge that, no matter how many detentions he served and how many times he ended up standing in McGonagall's office while she directed stern stares over the top of her square spectacles, he wasn't alone. He was always flanked by Sirius, James, and Peter, who were receiving the same detentions and the same letters home, which were met with similar reactions.
The air buzzed with October. The leaves were changing, making a flashy show of red and gold to mock the dreariness of drizzle and mist, the air was full to overflowing with the crackling excitement of upcoming Quidditch and the impending Hogsmeade weekend. Remus pulled his cloak tighter against the biting chill of the wind as he sliced his way over the grounds, away from Greenhouse Four. His mind held no thoughts except the prospect of finding a warm spot in the Gryffindor common room, and perhaps a warm cup of butterbeer if Sirius had been up to his usual antics. Concentrating as he was on his destination, he almost failed to notice that someone was sitting against the wall, not even wearing a cloak to block the wind.
A few steps nearer, and he could see that the strands of black hair that whipped and danced in the wind belonged to Snape. Without Padfoot and Prongs there to egg him on, Remus felt no desire to hate or to torment the hollow-eyed Slytherin. Instead, he felt an ache in his heart at the defeated expression on Snape's sallow features. His tie clutched in one hand, Snape was studying the ground, seeming as oblivious to the approach of one of his nemeses as he was to the brutal buffeting of the wind.
Remus approached him slowly, the way he might approach a wounded animal, and it wasn't until a twig snapped beneath Remus' foot that Snape even looked up, his hand moving to his pocket to clutch his wand.
For a moment, their eyes lingered, distrustful and mournful black locked to warm and sympathetic amber. Remus didn't reach for his own wand, hoping that Snape would realize he wasn't there as an enemy for once. "Aren't you cold?" Remus asked, kneeling beside him.
A frown creased Snape's forehead and his eyes flickered away from Remus' face, as though noticing the weather for the first time. "No," he replied, his fingers still wrapped around his wand, though his hand resting in his lap now.
The one-word dead end would have been the perfect excuse for Remus to just shrug and keep walking, but there was something in the way the corners of Snape's eyes drooped that made him seem vulnerable. And when he seemed vulnerable, he seemed human. And when he seemed human, he seemed sad, and not the enemy at all. "Are—are you all right?" Remus asked, glancing at the book balanced on the ledge Snape was perched on.
"Fine. Go away."
His second excuse to stand up and leave, and the second time he didn't take it. "What are you doing out here?"
"Trying to get away from nosy Gryffindors," Snape muttered.
That was his third good reason to go, and he was up to no good reasons to stay. Snape obviously didn't want him there, and he had no reason to continue to pursue the matter, but something prevented him from just shrugging and walking away. "You're not doing a very good job of it, are you?"
Snape scowled at him. "What do you want?"
"To know why someone is sitting outside on a day like this without a cloak."
Remus placed a hesitant hand on Snape's bony knee. "I'm not making fun of you. Sirius and James aren't here..."
"I don't give a damn where your friends are," Snape spat.
"You don't have to be afraid of me," Remus continued as though he hadn't just been interrupted.
"I'm certainly not afraid of you. And last I looked, it wasn't against any rules to sit outside alone and—" Snape stopped suddenly as Remus moved to sit beside him, a hand on the back of his shoulder.
"Don't you want to come inside?" Remus asked.
Snape's eyes were wide as coal mines as he looked at Remus' hand resting on his shoulder. "No," he said in a small voice that James and Sirius would have made fun of.
"Are you sure you don't want to tell me what's wrong?"
Snape jerked away from him, sweeping to his feet. "Quite," he snarled, holding his wand to Remus' chest. "Get away from me."
Remus held up his hands and stood slowly. "I wouldn't have hurt you," he said as he took a few steps away. "Actually, I just thought you might need a friend."
Remus stopped mid-step, frowning at an angry red welt on Snape's neck. "Who did that to you?" he asked, lifting a hand to the wound. Snape jerked away from him, but Remus caught his arm and held him in place while he pressed his fingers against the mark. Snape's eyes closed and he turned his head, catching his lower lip between his teeth. "Does that hurt?" Remus asked, moving his fingers away from the abused flesh.
"Go away." It was almost a plea this time.
"Did James or Sirius do that?" Remus doubted that the Stinging Hex had come from Peter's wand; he doubted Peter could produce such a spell if his life depended on it.
Snape said nothing
Remus dropped his hand again, not concealing his own emotions this time. "I'm sorry they're such berks," he said, shaking his head slightly.
"You're no better than they are," Snape replied, reaching for his book.
Remus picked it up first and handed it to him, blinking away how that accusation stung. He supposed Snape was right. "I'm still sorry." He touched Snape's neck again, meeting his eyes. Looking into Snape's eyes was like peering into a tunnel to the ninth ring of hell. Tears brimming in his own eyes, Remus moved his finger against the welt. "They shouldn't treat you like that when you haven't done anything to them."
He gave himself a little shake and removed his cloak, swinging it around Snape's shoulders.
"What are you doing?" Snape asked as Remus smoothed the black cloth over his arms.
"Lending you my cloak," Remus replied. "I have enough sense to go inside where it's warm, but if you're going to stay out here, it's the least I can do." He folded his arms across his chest, rubbing them against the biting sting of an insistent wind. "Don't stay out too long. You'll catch cold."
As he turned to walk back towards the castle, he heard a disdainful voice rising above the crackle of swirling leaves. "You can't catch cold from being out on a cold day."
"Hypothermia then," Remus replied without looking back. "And if you do, I'm not taking responsibility for it."