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 ;)
XI: Reconciling Stories
Remus waited for his friends to arrive in the Gryffindor common room, where the four of them made their joking goodbyes in an attempt to infuse the situation with a bit of the gaiety they'd lost over the last hour and a half. When Sirius, James and Peter were gone, Remus returned to his dorm and collapsed onto his bed, staring up at the canopy as he waited for McGonagall to summon him.
He didn't have to wait long.
A crack announced the arrival of a house-elf, who told him that Professor McGonagall wanted him to report to her office and wait there. He didn't dawdle, but left immediately. When he arrived at McGonagall's office, Severus was already there, leaning against the wall, his arms folded, eyes on the floor.
Remus stopped a few steps away from him and looked up and down the corridor for signs of McGonagall before he said, "Why did you do that?"
"Right," Severus muttered, giving him a brief, withering glance. "I'm solely responsible."
"I didn't say that," Remus protested. "We were all in it. But why did you do that to Sirius?"
"Do what?" Severus asked, cocking an eyebrow in mock query. "Oh, you mean the levicorpus? The same hex he used on me last year?"
Remus folded his arms and leaned against the wall on the other side of the door. "He didn't hurt you," he said.
"And I didn't hurt him."
"But you could have! If he'd dropped you and you fell on your head, it wouldn't have hurt from that height, but you had him—"
"I didn't drop him, did I?" Severus asked.
"You and the others ganging up on him—"
"Just shut up, Lupin. I didn't do a damn thing to Sirius Black that you lot haven't done to me."
Remus frowned at the floor. "You're not even sorry, are you?"
"I'm terribly sorry I got caught," Severus replied, looking down the corridor.
Try as he might, Remus couldn't stay angry with Severus. He knew that Severus was just returning the favor Sirius had bestowed so many times, but for once, they'd been facing even numbers. Four Slytherins were ten times more ruthless than four Gryffindors, and Remus, for one, didn't think he was going to be any part of challenging a group of them again. James and Sirius were out to upstage their adversaries; Remus had the impression that Severus was out to exact revenge in as expedient a manner possible.
"I suppose it could have been worse," Remus said conversationally, making a half-hearted attempt to patch the rift between them. "We could have been expelled."
"What? You'd rather be expelled than serve a few detentions?"
Severus turned towards him again, and there was a shadow of doubt on his face. "I don't expect there will be much difference in the end result for me," Severus said. Remus' brow furrowed, and Severus shifted, looking straight ahead. "My mother said that if she had one more letter about me, she was going to pull me out of Hogwarts herself."
"But it was just an empty threat, right?" Remus said.
"I'm not counting on it."
For several moments, Remus had nothing to say—there was just a wordless sorrow that crept into his heart as he thought about how he'd enjoyed the last few weeks with Severus. "Was it worth it?" he asked finally. "To get the better of Sirius?"
Severus didn't say anything.
"Tell McGonagall that your mum's going to take you out of school and ask her not to send the letter," Remus suggested. "If she wanted you expelled, she'd have done it herself."
"It doesn't matter."
Remus moved away from the wall and moved to stand in front of Severus. "Like shit, it doesn't matter! If it didn't matter, you wouldn't have said anything!"
"It doesn't matter, Lupin!" Severus retorted. "McGonagall already sent the letters. I saw the owls go out, and there's nothing to be done about it now. Nothing is going to change anything, so it doesn't matter!"
Remus had a reply on his tongue, but McGonagall rounded the corner and her voice rang out against the stones. "You two boys aren't quarreling again, are you?"
"No, ma'am," Severus said as Remus stepped back and said, "No, Professor."
She split a suspicious look between them, then opened the door to her office and gestured them both inside. "Have a seat," she said, indicating the two stools in front of her desk.
Without looking at each other, Severus and Remus each sat.
"Now," McGonagall said, "I think we will begin with you two explaining to me exactly what happened."
Remus looked at Severus, but Severus had a closed expression on his face, his lips clamped shut. "We were... er... James, Sirius, Peter and I were going to Hogsmeade for a butterbeer before they all had to leave," Remus said after a moment. "I don't really have an excuse for not going to class..."
"I didn't expect any of you had excuses for not being where you were supposed to be," McGonagall said. "Go on."
"We were walking, and a snowball hit Peter in the back of the head. When we turned around, they were back there."
"And did that snowball come from you or one of your companions, Mr. Snape?" McGonagall asked.
Severus didn't answer right away, but after a moment, he took a deep breath. "Avery threw it," he said at last, and when Remus frowned, he amended, "Avery was throwing it at Rosier. We were just goofing around. Rosier ducked, and it hit Pettigrew."
McGonagall looked at Remus again. "Do you agree with that?"
Remus was busy staring at Severus. He'd never thought of Severus and those Slytherin goons 'goofing around' the way the Marauders did, but a snowball fight sounded like something James or Sirius would start. "I don't know where the snowball came from," Remus said. "None of us saw it. We just knew it hit Peter."
"They turned their wands on us," Severus replied, without a trace of emotion. "Avery said it was just a stray snowball, but they didn't believe it. They turned back around and kept walking, though, and we started the other way. Then one of them threw a snowball at Rosier."
"No we didn't," Remus protested. "It came from somewhere in front of us. I don't know—"
"So two stray snowballs," McGonagall interrupted. "Then what?"
"Then they started firing hexes at us!" Remus said.
"No," Severus countered, "we were disarming and defending. Potter threw the first curse."
"No he didn't! Wilkes did!"
"Enough," McGonagall said. "And exactly how did this little fray escalate to you holding Sirius Black upside down at a height of twenty feet, Mr. Snape?"
Severus folded his arms and looked down for a moment, then raised his eyes to hers again. "I had a chance and I took it, Professor," he replied icily.
McGonagall blinked at Severus' direct answer, looking a bit taken aback that he hadn't even bothered to make something up. "Well," she said, straightening her robe, "you will apologize, Mr. Snape. And you may begin by apologizing to Mr. Lupin."
Severus' and Remus' eyes met for a moment. "I'm sorry," Severus said tersely.
"No, Mr. Snape. You will need to do better than that."
Severus sighed and looked at his desk. "I'm sorry you were dragged into this, Lupin. It is a quarrel between me, Potter and Sirius, and you are only involved by association." Remus thought there was an unspoken piece to the apology, that it was for more than the afternoon's antics.
McGonagall looked ready to chew iron and spit nails, so Remus rushed to fill the silence. "I'm sorry I didn't put a stop to it sooner," he said. "As a Prefect, I should have prevented it from escalating to the point it did." Many times, he added silently.
Severus nodded almost imperceptibly, and Remus extended a hand. After staring at it for a moment, as though it were a live snake, Severus took his hand and shook it. Remus squeezed a little harder than a handshake warranted, hoping Severus took it for as close as he could come to comforting words at the moment.
"Very well," McGonagall said. "Both of you go on. I want you to each write letters to everyone involved, apologizing for your part. You may hand those letters in to me tomorrow, and your detentions will be served. And if either of you sets a foot out of line, I'll not be so lenient in the future. Is that quite clear?"
"Thank you, Professor," Remus said as he stood.
"Happy Christmas," she replied, as they walked out the door.
"Talk tonight?" Remus whispered as they walked down the corridor.
"Where?" Severus asked, putting a bit of distance between them.
"I'll be there." The last was a whisper to Severus' back as Severus hurried down the stairs.