~~ If you could read my mind, love…. ~~
Remus sat up in bed as if stung, eyes wild in the dark, breath coming in ragged gasps. He fumbled blindly for his wand, uttering Lumos the moment his fingers touched the smooth wood. Soft, yellow light showed him that he was in his own bed, safe in his own cramped living quarters. Terror still loud in his ears, his eyes searched the shadowed corners for glimpses of hooded figures fading away. He was alone.
He set the wand on the ledge at the head of his narrow bunk and swung his feet over the side of the mattress to rest on the floor. On unsteady legs, he walked the short distance to the kitchen sink, poured a mug of water from the gallon jug on the drainboard and used both shaking hands to lift it to his lips. He gulped most of it, then poured a little into his palm and splashed it over his face.
"Sweet Mother of Merlin." His whisper sounded rough in the stillness.
He didn't dare close his eyes, didn't dare to invite the demons back. He lifted his head and looked out of the tiny window over the sink. The moon was two days prior to full, and the clear light flooded the world outside Remus' little travel trailer. Not fifty feet away, under a tall pine, sat a coyote, staring at him. A big animal, with an unusually dark coat for that part of the country; Remus had seen him before.
"Hello, cousin." He didn't raise his voice, but saw the big ears flick. Remus blinked, and the animal was gone.
Remus shivered, though it was warm in the trailer. Pouring water into his kettle, he touched it with the tip of his wand. Nothing happened. Taking a deep breath to calm his still jangled nerves, he tried again. The kettle boiled almost instantly, and he made a cup of tea. Grabbing his pillow and blanket, he went outside into the cool, moonlit night. Here, on the side of the San Francisco Peaks, north of Flagstaff, Arizona, there was almost always a chill in the night air, even in early August.
To the side of his trailer was a brush ramada, a typical one-sided shelter used by the native Diné during the summer months for everything from cooking to weaving to sleeping. Under the loosely woven roof there was an old mattress covered with a worn wool blanket. Remus plunked himself down and swung the blanket he'd brought over his shoulders. He wrapped both hands around his mug, and looked out through the steam toward the desert to the east.
From where his small rented travel trailer was parked beneath a few towering pines on the side of the mountain, the land fell away to the east; the grasslands giving way to desert that faded into a vastness of shadowy nothing. The moonlight leached the color from the earth and made everything tones of silver, gray and black. At this late hour, there were no lights visible, no cars heading home, no lamps left burning for those yet to return. The land looked completely devoid of life.
But Remus knew this was not the case; he knew his vision deceived him. Overhead, in the dry brush of the roof, there was a tiny rustle; a field mouse moving about. From the big tree at his back came the soft hoot of his great-horned owl, Delphi, letting him know she was there if he needed her. There had been the coyote, and he knew there were rabbits, skunks, squirrels and all manner of wildlife hiding and hunting under the brilliance of the moon. There were even humans, people who, like himself, sat outside and watched.
He had made a mistake during his first transformation in this big country. He had thought the land to be empty of humans at night, thought that they would all be tucked inside the way they were back in Great Britain. Once he had transformed, and with his mind tamed by the Wolfsbane, he had indulged himself in a night of glorious running. Running, running, running under the moon, howling from atop an outcropping of rock, chasing rabbits and trading insults with the coyotes. He had avoided the herds of local sheep, and thought himself unobserved.
He had been wrong.
Two days later, when he stopped in a small local market, he had heard the whispers, the muttered words that were silenced in the presence of a belagaana. The presence of a white man. He had gone to Hosteen Nez, from whom he rented the trailer. The man was a retired Navajo Tribal policeman who, at one time, had lived in the little trailer on the side of the mountain himself. He lived closer to town now, and had rented the trailer with a shake of his head to the thin, pale Englishman who said he didn't care if there was no running water or indoor toilet, or even electricity. He wanted peace to recover from a long illness. Over time, Remus and Hosteen Nez had become friends, of a sort, sitting on the porch of the old man's log cabin, drinking strong coffee and talking.
Nez had been reluctant to elaborate on the things Remus had heard, but Remus pressed him as much as politeness would allow, and so the old man had told him.
There were rumors among the more superstitious people of a Skinwalker. A Navajo witch. An evil man who went about at night in the skin of an animal, frequently a wolf. He caused illness, injury, crop failure, death. He cursed people. The old man said that superstition was the bane of the Navajo police, and that he hoped the so-called sightings wouldn't be followed by some natural calamity or someone might die. When Remus asked what he meant, Hosteen Nez said that sometimes, suspected Skinwalkers were killed.
Remus had gone home that day with a cold lump of fear in his chest. Mostly, it was fear that some innocent would be accused of being the Skinwalker, the huge wolf that several had seen running under the full moon. He had found an empty cave after that and warded it with every protective and disillusioning spell he knew, and he would spend his subsequent moons shivering on the dusty earthen floor, listening to the songs of his coyote cousins celebrating the full moon unchallenged by the wolf.
Remus sipped his tea. Could it be the Wolfsbane that caused the nightmare? The American Ministry provided enough for the necessary three doses leading up to the full moon. That night, he'd taken the first dose of the series. But this was to be his third transformation here in the high desert, and he'd suffered no ill effects before.
Taking a deep steadying breath, Remus let his mind go back over the dream. He recognized the hooded figures as Death Eaters, but that was all. The events were too muddled, too fragmented, to be familiar. He tried to remember a time that might fit into the nightmare, but there was none. But then, he thought, as he pulled the blanket more closely around his shoulders, dreams frequently made no sense.
He set his empty mug aside and lay down, spreading the blanket over his legs and tucking it under his chin. He didn't plan on sleeping, but as the moon dipped toward the west, his eyes closed and his breathing steadied. His owl watched from the tree-top, and the dreams did not come again.
Remus awoke shortly before dawn, his head feeling thick and fuzzy. He returned his blanket and pillow to the trailer, made another cup of tea, grabbed an apple and a couple of donuts, and headed out to his rusty, old pickup truck. The little truck started on the second try, and Remus silently thanked both Sirius and Arthur Weasley for the knowledge of internal combustion engines and the related magic that kept the old vehicle running. He bumped down the dirt road and turned right on Highway 89. A few miles later, he turned left onto the Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments loop road and drew a deep breath of the fresh, clean air that flowed in through the open window of the truck.
Slowing only for the big mule deer that sauntered leisurely across the road, he chugged his winding way past the great red cinder cone of Sunset Crater, through the black lava flows, and snaked his way down to the desert floor.
He tossed his apple core out the window, knowing some animal would find the treat before the sun was fully up, then, a little way past the Wupatki Visitor Center, he turned right on a dirt track. When the track ended at a turnaround in the sage and tufts of coarse grass, he parked and struck out on foot. He slid down one side of a dry wash and scrambled up the other bank, then strode across the gravely sand. A short distance away was a small mesa, and on the top, camouflaged as a jumble of native stone, were the ruins of an ancient Anasazi settlement. Like many such ruins in the Monument, this one was unexcavated, waiting patiently for time to bring new techniques to unlock its secrets.
Remus turned to face the east and sat on one of the low walls. He ran his hand reverently over the stone for a moment. Some 900 years ago, someone had placed these stones here, building a home to shelter his family.
His breathing quieted as the sun rose slowly above the horizon, flooding the area around him with golden light. His heart soared with the birds as he drank in the beauty, and a subtle tingling that started in the core of him spread out along every nerve until his entire body felt alight.
The sky brightened, the tingling subsided, and Remus drew a long, slow breath. It was working.
Remus had come to this place to heal his magic. The physical results of his brush with death had, with the aid of the healers and his own iron constitution, mended rapidly, though he still tired more quickly than he wished. His magical ability, however, was severely damaged, and they knew not what to do. Maybe time, they said, and luck.
Many places in the world contain ancient forces. Remus had chosen this one in northern Arizona because the wide open desert and cool mountains had appealed to him. While he had some of his magic when he arrived, it had been fragmented and unreliable. A simple Lumos might take several tries, but the complex wards on the cave where he spent the full moon, perhaps only one. He didn't Apparate because he never knew when it would work and when it wouldn't.
There were times, mostly unpredictable times, when he could feel the magic flowing up from the earth, saturating and strengthening his own small supply, building it slowly. Sunrise was usually a good time, and the ruins of the Ancient Ones had seemed to be a good place. He had been coming here several mornings a week since his arrival, and knew his abilities were nearly restored, which was good, because as the summer moved through the high country around his little trailer, he grew restless. He felt as though there was somewhere he needed to go, something he needed to do.
On the return trek to his truck, he paid more attention to where he put his hands and feet. It was still a little cool, but he didn't want to chance encountering a rattlesnake that had come out to warm itself. He saw none of the graceful creatures, however, and was soon jolting his way back over the sand and rocks to the monument road. Once on the tarmac, he turned right, continuing on the loop road to Highway 89. The drive was longer than going back the way he had come, but he enjoyed the views, and although he had plenty to do to occupy his time, his schedule was almost entirely flexible.
That evening, when it was time for the next dose of Wolfsbane, he sat staring at it for a few minutes before lifting it with trembling hands to drink it down. He really hoped that the he wouldn't find himself in that tar pit of horror again during the night.
Nothing disturbed his slumber, however, not even the songs of his cousins.
The following night, his transformation passed as easily as a transformation could, and after coming home in the morning and showering, Remus dragged his bedding out to the dappled sunlight of the ramada and slept until noon. He awoke ravenous, heated some stew left over from the previous day, and sat in the sun eating his meal and drinking coffee.
He had just risen to take his things back inside when it hit. Off balance in the sudden swirling darkness, he dropped to his hands and knees. He had no idea where he was. There was a burning building, screams coming from everywhere, someone with their clothes aflame, and above it all, a high, cold laughter.
Remus vomited onto the dirt between his hands as his world suddenly came back to him. He rolled onto his backside and held his head in his hands, sweating and shaking. It took him a few minutes before he could drag himself to his feet.
He was hardly upright when the pain exploded inside him. Worse than a transformation, as searing as Cruciatus, he was back in the dirt, writhing and screaming until his voice was raw. Finally, merciful darkness came to envelop him.
The first thing Remus noticed was the snap and crackle of a fire, then the smell of pine smoke mixed with tobacco. He jerked awake, the memory of the afternoon's vision still burning in his brain. It was only a campfire. He was lying on the ground with a blanket tucked around him, and a small fire crackling merrily a few feet away in his fire pit. He looked around and saw Hosteen Nez sitting cross-legged not far from where he lay, smoking an unfiltered cigarette. At some point, it had gotten dark.
"How do you feel, Young Wolf?"
Remus pushed himself into a sitting position. "Like shit."
Nez nodded. "I'm not surprised."
Remus combed a hand through his hair, then accepted the bottle of water the old man passed him. He was thirsty, but drank sparingly.
"That didn't look like a seizure." Hosteen Nez' tone was conversational. He would not pry.
"No." Remus took another drink. "It was pain. Like I've never felt before." This was, he thought, true. He had experienced Cruciatus before, but only for bursts of a few seconds duration. This had been stronger, longer. He noticed that the mess he had made earlier was cleaned up. "How long have I been out?"
"I found you about an hour ago. I was returning from gathering wood higher up the mountain and thought you might have some coffee. You did. I drank it. You went still shortly after I arrived."
Remus nodded. "Sorry I wasn't a better host."
The corner of the old man's mouth twitched. "I've had worse."
A snort of laughter escaped Remus. "I'm sorry to hear that."
The old man shrugged. "The coffee was hot."
They sat in silence for a while, staring at the fire, the old man taking an occasional deep drag on his cigarette.
"I don't know what it was," Remus sighed at last. "A few nights ago, dreams woke me. Hideous, terrifying dreams. Then, this afternoon, more visions came at me in the daylight. They'd only been gone for moments when the pain started."
The old man blew a smoke ring. "Not been chewing peyote buttons, have you?"
"No." Remus shook his head. "Lord, no."
The silence settled again. This time it was the old man who broke it.
"If I were superstitious, I'd say you'd been cursed." He picked a bit of tobacco off his tongue. "You haven't been hanging around any witches lately, have you?"
Remus tried to cover his sudden nervousness with a laugh. "Not lately. I thought you weren't superstitious?"
"I'm not. But some people are, and belief is a powerful thing."
Remus studied the fire. "I'm not superstitious."
Nez flicked the burning ash of the cigarette into the fire, rolled the stub between his fingers to be sure it was out, and put the butt into his pocket. He rose gracefully for a man his age and dusted the dirt from the seat of his jeans.
"I have found," he spoke casually to the fire. "That often the correct answer is the most obvious one." He nodded good night.
"Good night, Hosteen Nez." Remus used the title of respect for an older man. "And thank you."
The old man grunted. "Take care of yourself, Young Wolf." He climbed into his rattletrap truck and left slowly, so as not to stir up the dust in the yard.
Remus shivered, went into the trailer for coffee, and returned to the fire. It wasn't really needed for warmth, but it was comforting, and he sat close to the flames. He drew a deep breath and thought about the images he'd seen.
Death Eaters. There wasn't a doubt in his mind that what he had seen were Death Eater raids. But they were in the past; Voldemort was defeated for good, and most of the Death Eaters rounded up and imprisoned. Those that were still free were certainly not going to be drawing attention to themselves by staging raids. Therefore, these must be memories. But they certainly weren't his.
"Severus." The name whispered out onto the night air. But he was dead.
Years ago, when Harry had first started Hogwarts and rumors of the return of Voldemort began to circulate, Dumbledore had called Remus and Severus to a meeting. He wanted, he'd explained, to establish a mind link between them; a way of communicating that wouldn't entail owls, or floos, or face-to-face conversation. Something completely private and safe. They had both protested vehemently, each for their own reasons. It hadn't done any good, of course – arguing with Dumbledore never did – but neither was happy about it. Mutual mistrust and suspicion made each of them leery of allowing the other access to their mind, but Dumbledore assured them that the link would only open by their mutual consent, that either could shut it down at any time, and that the only information that passed was what they wished to pass. He made them practice, and after an hour, they had parted on mutual insults, but with a working mind link.
It had worked brilliantly. After a while, they had come to a grudging sort of respect for each other and their abilities, though it was never voiced. It was there, however, not just in what information they entrusted to each other, but in the way they came to voice their thoughts and speculations. They came, in a way, to value each other as members of the same team.
Not to say that they liked each other. Although, if forced to admit it, Remus had grown rather fond of Severus' acerbic wit, even if he was too often the target of it. The mere fact that Severus indulged himself in snarking at him gave Remus a little hope that the man at least no longer hated him.
Truth be told, Remus had always found Severus oddly attractive, even when the short, skinny, ugly, bad-tempered man had been a short, skinny, ugly, bad-tempered adolescent. He supposed stranger things had happened. He'd almost married a woman, hadn't he?
When Severus had killed Dumbledore, Remus had tried repeatedly to contact him, but to no avail. At first, he thought the link had broken when Dumbledore had died, but on further consideration and study, he had come to the conclusion that it wasn't likely. Severus had shut him out, for whatever reason, and Remus had felt the bite of disappointment. He hadn't wished to condemn, he'd wanted answers. Cold-blooded murder of a trusted friend did not seem like something Severus would do, and if it were part of some plan, Remus wanted to know. But Severus had not trusted him, or could not.
Then Severus had died: an ignominious, stupid death. Remus had been in hospital himself, unconscious for days, then incoherent for many more, and it was all over when they released him; all the funerals, the celebrations. The trials were just beginning for the captured Death Eaters, as the last were being rounded up. They were a mockery, most of them, though Kingsley did his best to see that there was a modicum of fairness.
Harry had told him the whole story: how Severus had died, his memories, all that had happened. It all seemed very dreary and tiring, and Remus had only wanted to get away somewhere to rest and let his magic heal – if it ever would.
Remus shivered. The fire had died down while he sat and stared at the coals, and the stillness of midnight was upon the land. He rose stiffly, carefully extinguished the fire and returned with his blanket to the trailer. He drank a cup of water and fell, fully dressed, onto his narrow bunk. Sleep was quick in coming, and mercifully blank.
It was far later than the usual hour when Remus awoke the next morning. He was feeling shaky from the previous day's experience, especially as it had come so soon after the full moon, but he made himself a good breakfast, then sat down with a cup of tea, paper and pen. He thought for several moments, then took a deep breath and just asked the question that was eating at him. Addressing the letter, he went outside and whistled for Delphi.
The big owl floated down from the tree tops and held out her leg. Securing the letter, Remus gave her a couple of treats and sent her on her way. Not sure exactly how post owl magic worked when the flight was trans-oceanic, he thought it might be several days before he heard back.
It was only two.
He gave Delphi a handful of treats which she gulped hungrily before retiring to rest high in the branches of a big pine. Remus opened the letter from Minerva anxiously.
The letter went on, but Remus didn't take in the words. His breathing was ragged, and his palms sweaty.
I'm well, thank you for asking, and hope you are the same.
As to whether or not Severus Snape is really dead, I was going to assure you that he is. However, strictly speaking, I can't say for certain. This is not to raise any hopes you may have, it is simply the truth. Once Voldemort fell, and the dust had somewhat settled, a group of us went to see to Severus. We didn't hurry. Harry had assured us that he had exsanguinated, and we took him at his word. When we got there, his body was gone, and we assumed that Death Eaters had taken him away to bury as one of their own. Kingsley tried to find out where they had taken him; we worried that when the truth of his loyalty was known, they might desecrate the body, but no one knew – or would tell – what had become of him.
No, he admonished himself. This proves nothing.
Dashing inside, he sat at his tiny table to write another letter, this time, to Arthur Weasley. While he took the time to ask sincerely after the entire family, he still hurried through to the reason for his writing.
Rousing Delphi, he gave her more treats, and sent her on her way.
This time, the answer took four days. He scanned quickly over the family news until he found the information he sought.
The hand clutching the letter fell to Remus' side. The Malfoys?
You ask if Severus is really dead. My reaction was, of course he is, but I realize you wouldn't be asking if you didn't have reason to question the accepted intelligence. I did a little digging, and… well, I can't tell you where this came from, but I was told that you should ask the Malfoys.
"Right," Remus muttered. "That'll work; we're on the best of terms."
He paced the packed earth in front of his trailer, thinking, then with a deep breath and a stiffening of his resolve, he went inside to write another letter.
This one, to Andromeda Tonks, he took more time with. While Minerva might appreciate the bald, straightforward approach, and Arthur was easy going, Andromeda would expect at least a show of the social niceties. Not that she was snobbish, far from it, but she did insist on manners. He had become friends with her, and remained that way even during the engagement debacle with Dora. He had plenty of respect for her and always treated her with deference. Besides, he wanted a favor.
He hadn't talked with her for more than a few minutes during his illness. She had come to see him, even while she grieved for her daughter and husband. He had felt inadequate for the task of consolation then, and he felt no less so now, but it had been an inexcusable amount of time since he had contacted her, and he needed to face up to the task. She was, after all, a friend, even though they hadn't been extremely close.
The first lines of the letter were written over and over: painfully stiff, too casual, too formal, not formal enough. Finally, the words started to flow, and he recaptured some of the ease with which he used to chat with the formidable, but down-to-earth woman. His affection for her started to come through his writing, along with his genuine concern for her wellbeing. He had written three pages before he got around to his request for help, and he found himself just asking straight out.
Andromeda had suspected, he was sure, that his inclination was more towards men than women, but she had never shunned him for it. She actually seemed relieved when he and Dora broke their engagement, smiling as she shook his hand and saying she agreed that it was for the best, and was genuinely glad that they were remaining friends. Whether or not she liked him well enough to champion his cause remained to be seen, but he knew of no better way to approach the matter than through her, so he trusted to their friendship and poured out his heart.
And in the process, he discovered something that was in his heart that he hadn't recognized before. It was more than curiosity that made him want to find Severus. His hand trembled as he wrote as honestly as he could, trusting Andromeda with all the reasons for wanting answers to his questions. He sent the letter off with the tired Delphi.
It took almost a week for a reply to come. He held his breath as he opened the letter.
Alive! Severus was alive!
It was such a pleasure to hear from you. I'll not even scold you for writing largely because you wanted a favour. I do know that you care, and it was wonderful to hear that you're doing well. I'll not bore you with chat, as I know how desperately you wanted the information; you never would have asked, otherwise.
Cissy was reluctant to answer, at first denying all knowledge of anything and everything, but I finally persuaded her to tell me one thing. Yes, Severus Snape is alive. More than that, I couldn't pry from her. She was absolutely adamant about that, and made me swear that the information wouldn't be used against the man. I promised her that it would go no further than you, so be aware that if you have misrepresented your reason for wanting to know, and make this information public in any way, I will hunt you down and punish you. And so will Cissy. I don't think I need say more.
Good luck on your quest, and I hope to see you soon. You may take me to lunch.
The letter dropped from nerveless fingers and Remus stared unseeing into the distance. Severus was alive, and the mind link was not broken. It was behaving in unknown ways, but it was there, perhaps only accessible when Severus was asleep, or unconscious. The pain. How badly injured was he? Was he in danger of dying, even after all this time?
Remus shook himself. He needed to know more. He gave Delphi a whole pile of owl treats, climbed into his truck, and set off for Sedona and the Wizarding community there. His magic was almost completely reliable now, but he was still hesitant to try Apparation, and he could use the driving time to organize his thoughts. He planned on visiting the library, researching everything he could on mind links, and he needed his mind to be calm and orderly.
But Severus was alive.
A flood of previously unknown, or perhaps just unacknowledged, emotions, hopes, feelings, and desires flooded him, and he found he was grinning like an idiot as he drove through the sweet morning air. The things he had hinted at discovering in his letter of appeal to Andromeda came back to him with a full blown certainty. The impossibility that this was Severus Snape he was feeling giddy about didn't escape his sense of humor, and he laughed happily.
As he turned south on the winding back roads – his old truck wasn't fast enough for the highway – he sobered, and started to think like the scholar he was. By the time he parked behind the supermarket in Sedona and walked casually into the trees and the Wizarding world, he had a plan of study mapped out in his head.
Six hours later, as Remus drove home under darkening skies, he was convinced he knew just about all there was to be known about mind links, and it wasn't much. Not only that, but the link Dumbledore had forged was different from any that were documented. Not that that surprised Remus; Dumbledore was a genius, and a law unto himself. All the information said that mind links allowed thoughts only; not visions, not dreams, not feelings, to pass through. Of course, none of those had passed through before Dumbledore had died; before both he and Severus had sustained such traumatic injuries. Injuries that on his side, at least, had also effected his magic. He had tried to find information on how a near-death experience might affect a mind link, but there was none. He had confirmed what he had suspected though, that there was no reason for the link to break when Dumbledore had died. Severus had shut him out. Given the circumstances, totally understandable, but it still made Remus a little sad.
The next morning found Remus once more seated on the low wall of the ruin, waiting for the sun to flush the world with light, and hoping for the surge of magic to infuse him once more. When it did, and when the sun finally cleared the distant horizon, he took a deep steadying breath, closed his eyes, cleared his mind and reached out as strongly as he could with the pass phrase.
"Severus, are you there?"
The pain slammed into him so hard he fell back off the wall with a cry. He curled into the fetal position, shaking and cursing and terrified. He felt as though his insides, his very veins, were filled with shards of swirling, red-hot glass. He was sure he would die. After about fifteen seconds, the pain suddenly faded away, and Remus lay twitching and crying in the dirt.
"Fuck, oh fuck!" Remus' voice was a raw whisper as he clawed his way upright. Could that pain have been Severus'? Could he have caused it? Remus sat back down on the wall and held his head in his hands, trying to still the pounding of his pulse in his ears.
They weren't supposed to be able to feel things through the mind link, nor was it supposed to open without the express intention of both parties. This mind link of theirs was clearly morphing into something new.
Severus was certainly injured. What if he'd made it worse? What if he'd… killed him?
Remus shook his head, then stood, dusted himself off and headed unsteadily back to his truck.
Severus was alive. Since someone knew that, then he was obviously being taken care of somewhere. If he had survived this long, it wasn't too likely that Remus could have killed him. Was it? The pain had been so intense.
Perhaps I woke him up? Maybe he's drifting in and out of consciousness? Remus pondered as he drove the winding Monument road. He sighed, at a loss as to what course to follow.
For several days, Remus vacillated about he should proceed, or even if he should proceed. He didn't want to exacerbate Severus' injuries, but he did want to contact him. There was no more pain, no more dreams, but Remus refused to accept the possibility that Severus had suddenly died – why would he have? Remus clung to the idea that the lack of thought transference was instead due to Severus healing.
Finally, Remus could stand it no longer, and decided he would try to contact Severus again.
The next morning found Remus sitting on the low wall of a different ruin, high on a mesa, where the sun would strike even earlier.
Remus wiped his palms, wet with nervous sweat, on the thighs of his jeans and took a deep breath. Closing his eyes, he reached out with his mind, clearly, but gently.
"Severus? Are you there?"
Seconds ticked by. There was no pain, and no answer but the distant cry of a hawk. He took a deep, calming breath, and tried again, a little more forcefully.
"Severus, are you there?"
Nothing. Remus frowned and shifted indecisively on the rock wall, then shook his head. He was being pathetic.
"Severus, I know you aren't supposed to be able to hear any more from me until you acknowledge me, but I don't believe the mind link is working as it was designed to.
"I'm in a very magical place, maybe that's what's doing it, I don't know, but I've had dreams, visions, actually, or memories. They were… horrible, and they weren't mine. A few times, there was pain. Unbelievable pain, like one of my transformations and Cruciatus combined. I hope that wasn't yours, too. But I think maybe…. Oh, gods, I hope I didn't cause you pain when I called to you a few days ago. I've discovered that you're alive, and I… I wanted…. Severus, if you're there, please respond to me."
Remus listened to the echoes in his mind; there was no answering voice.
Of course he won't answer. Remus gave himself a mental kick. Severus would hate sentimental drivel even more than he had ever possibly hated him. He could hear Severus in his memory, admonishing him to be concise, orderly, because didn't Remus realize that he had better things to do than listen to his inane babbling? Remus tried again.
"Severus, are you there?
"I know you're alive, Severus. I want to talk to you. I want you to talk to me. I don't mean about the past; that's over with, and no accusations or explanations will change what is done. There is no point in rehashing old injuries and injustices. I want to move on.
"We both survived. I think that, at the least, warrants a conversation.
"I'll let you rest, now. I hope you heal quickly."
Remus gently closed the link and looked around, seeing his surroundings for the first time in several minutes, so complete had his concentration on the mind link been. Feeling as weary as if it were the close of the day instead of the dawn, he trudged back to his truck and went home.
He worked hard that day helping Hosteen Nez repair the roof of his garage, and by nightfall he was exhausted. He had eaten dinner with his friend, then driven home before full dark; the lights on his truck being unreliable.
Using the solar shower in the yard, Remus scrubbed the day's dirt off his skin, then, dressed in clean clothes, he sat outside with a cup of tea to relax for a while before retiring for the night.
To the east, the sky was a deep midnight blue, the last of the day's clear light not yet faded. There were stars; many, many stars, such as couldn't been seen from Great Britain. He could well believe the Navajo tale that when Coyote had become impatient with the slow, careful placement of the lights in the heaven by First Woman, he had grabbed the corner of the blanket on which the stars were scattered and flung it skyward, creating the thick band of the Milky Way. Some said that the Milky Way was the path the spirits took from earth to heaven, and that each tiny pinprick of light was a footprint.
Remus only knew that it was beautiful.
"Severus, are you there?" Remus whispered the words in his mind without really thinking. There was no response.
"Is it night where you are? It's just becoming full dark here, though I swear the stars are bright enough to cast shadows. 'Here' is the American Southwest. Did you ever visit? It's amazing. I'm north of Flagstaff, in Arizona. I'm letting a little caravan low on the east side of the San Francisco Peaks. The Yellow Mountain, one of the borders of the land of the Diné. The People, as the Navajos call themselves. There is so much space here, space seemingly without end, but it's not empty.
"It's so beautiful now. There isn't a lot of ambient light, so the stars are easy to see. They seem so close, so bright. I don't remember ever being able to see the Milky Way as a child, but here it arches across the sky like a giant, diamond-strewn roadway. All the Constellations that we read about in Astronomy, and hunted so hard to find, are right here! They leap to the eye, and even some double stars and nebulas can be seen without a telescope. My eyes are becoming more accustomed to the night now, and I can see far to the East. I can see the silhouettes of some of the rock formations, and the slight glow that is Shiprock, New Mexico, about 250 miles to the east. At least, I think it's Shiprock.
"The air is soft and warm. It smells of pine and dead grasses, and a little bit of dust. That will fade, and it will become much cooler. Someone has a fire going; every now and then, there is a whiff of pine smoke."
Remus sipped his tea.
"There is magic here, ancient forces older than time. When I was injured – they say I almost died – my abilities were damaged. A combination of spells, all at once, they think. It robbed me of much of my power, and left what I had erratic and unreliable. That's why I came here; to see if the ancient magic would help heal me."
Remus shifted position on the old blanket.
"It worked, the magic. My abilities are almost restored to what they were. I was going to leave in a few weeks, but now…."
Remus drained his mug and rose somewhat stiffly.
"I'll say goodnight now, Severus."
He waited a moment, listening to the stillness, then with a sigh, went inside to his bed. He slept deeply that night, undisturbed by horrors or pain.
Remus didn't try to establish contact with Severus again in the following days, at least not deliberately. He found, however, that sometimes while driving the winding local roads, or when he sat with his evening cup of tea, he would reach out to Severus. He always paused after the initial pass phrase, but didn't really expect an answer. Then he'd just ramble, carrying on a one-sided conversation about what he was doing, his day, or just describing the world around him.
As September arrived, he wondered what he should do. The full moon was at the end of the week and originally, he had planned on moving at the end of the month. The little travel trailer on the side of the mountain was not suited for winter occupation, and he had thought that by then he'd have a plan for his future in mind. His learning of Severus' state had put all plans on hold, and he now found himself with no plan at all. He would not beg Andromeda to try and get more information from her sister. He had no idea what argument she had used with success the first time, but was quite certain that she would not try again. That she had pried any information out of Narcissa at all amazed him.
His transformation came and went, as uneventful as one could be, and the next day, after showering and sleeping 'till noon, Remus drove into town to see his friend and landlord.
The old man was sitting on his porch, drinking coffee.
"Yeh'eh-teh'." Remus tried not to stumble over the syllables that formed so strangely in his mouth.
"Ah-hah-lah'nih." The old man grinned and indicated the chair next to his. He poured a mug of thick coffee from an electric pot that sat by his feet and passed it to Remus. It was piping hot.
Remus sipped cautiously; the old man made his coffee strong enough to dissolve paint. "I didn't just call you a three-legged goat or anything, did I?"
"No, no." Hosteen Nez chuckled. "That was quite good, actually."
"Hm." The Navajo language was extremely complex and often the slightest change in inflection would give a word an entirely different meaning. Their speech was rich with puns, their humor being dry and frequently racy.
The old man laughed aloud. "What brings you here today, Young Wolf. Are you still thinking of leaving at the end of the month?"
Remus nodded. "I was going to go traveling, but…" He shrugged. "I'm not sure anymore."
There was silence; the old man seemed to be waiting to be sure Remus had finished speaking.
"That camper is cold as a witch's tit in winter."
Remus choked on his coffee, then sputtered into laughter. "I can see how it would be. No, I'll follow my original plan of leaving the mountain – although I'll miss it! Just not sure where I'll go."
"Things have changed for you."
Remus rubbed a hand on his thigh. "Yeah."
Hosteen Nez offered him a cigarette, one he had rolled himself. Remus declined. The old man lit up and inhaled deeply, then blew the smoke out through his nose in a long stream. "My wife used to say these smelled like burning lizard shit. She never let me smoke in the house." He flicked ash over the porch railing. "Seven years gone, and I still don't smoke in the house." He smiled sadly. "Her tchin'dih would probably haunt me if I did."
Remus frowned. "Isn't that an evil spirit? Surely your wife wouldn't be an evil spirit?"
The old man laughed. "If I smoked in her house she would be."
They looked out across the sloping field in front of the cabin. They were on the outskirts of town, and there was plenty of empty space. The silence stretched. Whether it was the former Detective Inspector's training, or just the way of the Navajo, the old man was comfortable with long silences during conversation. Remus, not so much.
"I've discovered that someone I thought was dead is not. I want to find him, but don't know how."
His friend offered more coffee, and when Remus declined, filled his own cup. "Are you looking for advice?"
"No." Remus sighed. "It's complicated."
The old man shrugged. "If you say so."
Remus gave him a sharp look.
"I find things are generally far simpler than most people think." He stubbed out his smoke.
"Why do you call me 'young wolf?'" Remus blurted the question out before he could stop it. He's always wondered, but wasn't sure he wanted to know. Now it seemed like a good way to change the subject.
"Because of your name, of course." The old man gave him a level look. "And it just seems to… suit you."
Remus felt the skin crawl on the back of his neck. He stood abruptly. "Thanks for the coffee." He smiled, trying to ease the situation. "I've got laundry going in town; I better get back before someone hauls it out of the machine and throws it away."
Nez just nodded. Remus was walking away when he spoke. "You'll find him, Remus. The wolf is an excellent hunter."
Remus turned and waved acknowledgement of the comment, then climbed into his old truck. There were times when he wondered if Hosteen Nez was related to Dumbledore.
The days passed peacefully for Remus. He continued to carry on his one-sided conversations with Severus, musing as to where he might be and how Remus might find him. He "discussed" his options for when he left at the end of the month, and rambled on about the things that caught his interest in the world around him.
There was work to do around his little camp to prepare it for winter. He wasn't obligated to do it, but he enjoyed the satisfaction that the physical labor brought him and liked seeing things tidy. He cut, split, and stacked a small pile of firewood, repaired the trailer door, and painted the outhouse.
He was up on a ladder, weaving brush into the roof of the ramada, and recounting to Severus the history of the structure when it happened. He had trailed off in mid-sentence to struggle with a particularly stiff branch.
"For gods' sake, Lupin. Do you ever not talk?"
The voice was so clear, so recognizable, that Severus might have been standing right beside him. Remus let out a yelp and fell backward off the ladder. Fortunately, it was only a few feet to the ground, and he rose from the dust shaken but unhurt.
"You have a mind link with someone else?"
"No, of course not." Remus couldn't help grinning. "How are you?"
"Mending." Remus could actually hear him sigh. "Though how I'm expected to get any rest with you going on all the time I don't know."
"You've been listening?"
"I don't seem to be able to not listen unless I actively shut you out. Which, of course, I can't do while I'm sleeping."
"Oh. Um. Sorry."
"I doubt it. I do rather enjoy your descriptions of the world around you, though. You have an observant eye, and the ability to convey the mood and beauty of a place without being overly flowery."
Remus felt his face warm pleasantly. "A compliment, Severus?"
"Just being honest. I'm finding honesty a refreshing change. It also tends to shock people." Remus could hear a smile in Severus' voice.
He moved to sit on the pine stump on which he split wood. His eyes drifted over the desert view, but all his thoughts were inward.
"It's about four in the afternoon here. What time is it where you are?"
"The middle of the night, sometime. I don't sleep well."
"Sorry to hear that. Did I wake you?"
"Not this time."
"Oh. I don't suppose you'd like to tell me where you are?"
"No. How did you know I was alive, or were you really just talking to yourself?"
Remus closed his eyes for a moment, weighing his words. "The right person."
There were several ticks of silence. "Fair enough."
Remus sighed. "We used to trust each other."
"Things have changed."
"Yes, but have we?"
"I believe I have. It seems that nearly dying, followed by weeks of unconsciousness can do that. I thought… I'd heard you had died."
"Almost did. Perhaps whoever told you wished I had." Remus winced at the churlishness of the remark.
"Perhaps." Severus seemed to take the statement at face value.
"But you're a hero; why are you hiding?"
"I am not a hero, Lupin. I am… a murderer."
Remus considered this. "All right. Perhaps there are those who would hold that against you. For the record, I do not, and your secrets are as safe with me as they ever have been."
There was a rather long silence this time. "I'm going to try and sleep now, and would appreciate a little quiet."
"All right. Rest well."
After a second, Remus consciously closed the link. He didn't know if it would stay closed, but he would make a distinct effort for the rest of the day to not think about Severus. But… Severus! Alive, and actually talking to him! Remus hummed happily as he went back to his task of reinforcing the ramada.
The next morning, Remus went outside with his coffee to watch the sunrise from his own yard. As the sun broke the horizon, he felt a shiver, though whether it was magic or anticipation, he didn't know.
"Severus, are you there?"
This time, the response was immediate.
"I am here, Remus."
The exchange of the old pass-phrases sent a thrill through Remus. The fact that Albus had keyed the phrases to their given names had infuriated Severus, but Remus never tired of hearing the way his name rolled off Severus' tongue. This time, he reminded himself, they were not spies trading information.
"Did you sleep well?"
"I did, thank you. Do you always get up before the sun?"
"Usually. Haven't I told you about that?" Remus couldn't help grinning.
"You have. At length. I can't imagine what possessed me to ask."
Remus laughed aloud. "So tell me, how do you spend your days?"
"Lazing about. Regaining my strength. I walk a little, a very little. I've only been out of bed for a short time, and the house where I am staying is on the side of a steep hill."
"What's the weather like there?"
"Moderate, at the moment. I was unconscious until mid-August. It was quite hot when I awoke. They say the winter is very wet, and that I should think about going elsewhere when I'm a bit stronger."
Remus felt a quiver of possibility.
"I'm moving at the end of the month, too. I haven't decided where I'll go yet, however."
"I know." Severus' tone was dry as dust, and Remus laughed.
"I don't remember you being such a babbler." Severus didn't sound overly annoyed, Remus was happy to note.
"Oh. Well. I wasn't. No more secrets to keep, I guess."
"I will concede that the need to measure and consider everything one says to everyone can be a constraint to easy conversation."
Remus smiled. "And you were a master at it. I can't begin to imagine…."
"I won't talk about it." Severus' curt reply cut across him.
"All right." Remus' tone was soft, but not condescending.
Severus sighed. "Gods. I was supposed to die; I'd planned on it actually."
A chill ran down Remus' spine. "But you didn't, and it's too late now."
"Perhaps. These potions they keep pouring into me are muddying my head. I'm going to rest now."
"Than I shall be quiet." Remus took a deep breath. "Should I wait for you to contact me?"
"I doubt you can shut off your thoughts. It was considerate of you to ask, however, though I believe it was really a question as to whether or not I want to communicate with you enough to initiate contact."
"Do you always look for hidden meanings?"
"Am I right?"
"As it happens…."
"We shall see."
Remus felt the link close and grinned.
He was putting the finishing touches on a pot of his favorite stew that afternoon when Severus called.
"Remus, are you there?"
"I am here, Severus."
He heard an aggrieved sigh. "I used to cherish the times when I didn't have to speak to anyone. I'm finding it quite displeasing that I now seem to desire it."
"And with me, of all people?"
"You are my only option. The healers speak only enough English for medical purposes, and the nurses none at all."
"Glad to be of service."
"Why are you always such a doormat? You always agree with everyone about everything." Severus sounded as though he was working up a real head of steam.
Remus set the spoon down carefully on the cooker. "Let's get something clear. I want to talk with you. I understand that you are injured, drugged up with potions, most likely depressed, and have reason to be more than a little cranky. I will put up with a lot, but I will not be your whipping boy." He clapped the top on the pot. "Now, if that's settled, why don't you tell me how you're feeling."
There was a long silence. "I misspoke."
Remus smiled; this was as close to an apology as he was likely to get, and more than he expected, to be honest.
"I feel like shite, truth to tell. I'm weak as a kitten, and I'm tired of it."
"Didn't you say you'd only been conscious for a short time?"
"Almost a month; out of bed for only two weeks."
"Well then, of course you're weak. It'll take time to regain your strength. Frankly, I consider your impatience to be a good sign. Means you want to get better."
"Why would I want to remain sick?"
"This morning, you were saying you should have died."
"And so I should have. But I didn't, so I might as well get on with things, which I can't do if I'm forced to convalesce."
Remus laughed out loud.
"Did I say something amusing?" There was frost around the edges of the question.
"No. But you sounded so yourself. It was good to hear, is all."
"I was never under the impression that I was someone people looked forward to hearing from."
"I did." The statement was out before he could stop it.
"Yes. Well. Drat, here comes that insufferable nurse with another potion."
Remus felt the link close, and he smiled as he dished up his stew.
A few days later, Remus was sitting outside with his evening cup of tea, watching the darkness advance from the east as the sun set behind him, when Severus spoke.
"You don't talk to me any more."
Remus smiled into his mug. Not even the standard greeting; the mind link must be expanding considerably.
"I thought my babbling annoyed you?"
"Sometimes." An irritated sigh. "I can't sleep."
"The sun is setting here, and the shadows are growing longer and merging. Would you like me to describe it to you?"
"I wouldn't mind."
So Remus did, just as he used to do. He told Severus about the deepening black of the sky, about how first the constellations became visible, then the smaller stars. He told him about the coyote trotting across the field below him, and the owl that floated on silent wings hunting mice. When he finally rambled to a stop, there was silence inside his head.
"Good night, Severus," he whispered softly.
At sunup the next morning, Remus hastily chomped down a bowl of granola, fixed a thermos of tea, grabbed an apple, and headed into town to help Hosteen Nez put up a new fence line. When he arrived back at his home around 2:30 in the afternoon, he was hot, sweaty and filthy dirty. His whole body was sore, and he was exhausted. He shook his head as he headed for his outdoor solar-shower; he wasn't as strong as he thought he was. The old man had worked him into the ground.
He shucked boots and clothes, leaving them in a pile in the dust, and stepped into the small, barely screened space. Pulling the handle that turned on the water, he moaned at the soothing feel of the gentle cascade of hot water. He didn't linger to enjoy it – there was a limited supply – but he got wet all over, then shut off the flow. Taking the bar of soap out of the little wooden box where it was kept to prevent the magpies and jays from eating it, he lathered all over, using a small bucket of rainwater to re-moisten the soap when needed. Now he took his time, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the feeling of the dirt and sweat being scrubbed away. He lathered his hair last, then rinsed off, wishing he could spend more time than the partially-filled, five gallon tank allowed.
Finished, he squeezed the excess water out of his hair and sighed; he'd neglected to get a towel before stepping into the shower. Knowing he was alone, he decided he might as well air dry as it was a lovely afternoon with just the hint of a warm breeze. Padding over the dead grass to the ramada, Remus stretched out on the blanket. A nap would be good, he thought, closing his eyes and relaxing, and the dappled sun shining through the brush of the ramada roof wasn't likely to burn him.
He was in the odd state between waking and sleeping when he felt a warm hand fondle his genitals. He sighed and spread his legs, then jerked awake. He was alone. He settled back down, frowning in thought, and felt a hand slide down his chest, over his belly, and wrap around his cock.
OK, fine. Remus gasped and arched his back as a second hand cradled his bollocks. Either the mind link was really expanding, or he had his own incubus. He considered reaching out to Severus, but when the invisible hand started stroking his cock, he stopped thinking all together.
Whoever belonged to those ghostly hands – distant hands? imaginary hands? Severus' hands? – they were in no hurry to get off, or get him off, if that was the desired effect. The strokes were light and languid, the other hand roaming leisurely over his torso, returning frequently to fondle and squeeze his bollocks. Squeezing *gasp* perhaps a little more firmly than Remus liked, but that detail notwithstanding, it was a very pleasant sensation.
Remus was writhing and moaning with need by the time the hand on his cock finally tightened its grip and got down to the serious business of bringing him off. Unfortunately, the fingers around his nuts were firming up their grip as well, and Remus whimpered as that grip continued to tighten. When he was finally on the knife edge of too much, he came, arching up and shouting just as the grip mercifully loosened.
He lay panting and trembling, eyes screwed shut, and tried to think.
"Severus, are you there?"
"What?" The baldness of the reply caused Remus to smile. He had his answer already.
"Severus, did you just jerk me off?"
"… Don't be ridiculous. The mind link is for thoughts; it is not possible to see or feel anything over the link."
"You're sure? 'Cause someone just gave me a pretty nice wank."
"Of course I'm sure. Now if you don't mind, I'm trying to sleep."
Remus could almost feel Severus slam the mind link closed. He knew, and he remembered telling Severus – though he didn't know if Severus had heard him – that he had felt pain through the link. So if he could feel pain, why not other things? He felt a bit like a voyeur, horning in on Severus' wank session like that; he'd have to apologize.
He sighed, his eyes drifting shut in anticipation of his delayed nap when it hit him.
See? Severus had said you couldn't see through the link? What the hell…?
Remus laughed. "Severus Snape you are the voyeur here."
Still chuckling, Remus drifted off, already planning his next move.
The next day, Remus went into town to do laundry and shop for groceries. While his clothes were in the machines, he read an article on how to make fake snow from white plastic shopping bags that he found in an old copy of Good Housekeeping someone had left behind, and tried to think of only the most mundane and boring things when not actively working to keep the mind link closed.
Back home at roughly the same time in the afternoon as the day before, Remus put his things away, stripped off his clothes and lay on the scratchy wool blanket under the ramada. He stretched, then wiggled his arse a bit to get comfortable, taking a deep breath and slowly relaxing, letting his eyes flutter shut. He cleared his mind and thought of Severus, picturing his face as clearly as possible.
One more deep breath, and with Severus' face sharp in his mind, he reached up and trailed the fingers of his left hand down his right cheek and along his jaw. Pausing, he ran his thumb over his lips while his right hand wandered from under his ribs, down his belly to his navel. He circled his bellybutton with two finger tips, then stroked downward, lacing his fingers through the curls at the base of his dick. His lips parted slightly, and he gripped the end of his thumb gently between his teeth.
The image in his mind seemed to shimmer, then settle back into place.
Remus smiled to himself as his fingers danced over his cock; feather light touches up and down the shaft, then trailed over his balls, teasing them lightly. The fingers of his left hand stroked down his neck, pausing at the dip at the base of his throat before wandering on to circle one nipple. As he lightly pinched his nipple, his other hand caressed his inner thigh, occasionally bumping his balls or nudging his cock.
He raised his right hand to his face and slipped two fingers into his mouth, hollowing his cheeks with suction as he withdrew the wet digits. He then used his spit-slick fingers to gently pull back his foreskin, swirling them around the head and under the rim of his now leaking cock. He smeared the precome with his thumb, then set about lazily stroking himself while his other fingers traced patterns over his chest and belly, and back to his nipples. He pinched and tugged each in turn, then licked a finger and wet them. The afternoon breeze made them pebble hard as his hand abandoned them and slid leisurely down between his legs. The hand on his cock sped up some and he firmed up his grip, occasionally swiping his palm over the leaking tip for lubrication. His left hand fondled his balls, rolling them gently between his fingers, then stretching the sack slightly.
His breathing quickened and it became harder to maintain the clear picture of Severus in his mind. When he slid his left hand under his balls, pressed firmly on his perineum and squeezed his cock, he came.
Remus arched into his orgasm, crying out his pleasure with abandon. He finally shuddered and relaxed as he milked the last of his come from his quivering cock. With a deep sigh, he used two fingers to slowly scoop up a glob of come from off his belly and bring it to his lips. He licked at his fingers, then slipped them into his mouth and sucked.
His body bucked and shuddered, almost as though he was having another orgasm.
Remus gasped, then blinked, and let a sated smile play over his lips as he pictured Severus' face once again in his mind.
"So, Severus. Was it good for you?"
"Ow!" Remus jumped at the force with which the mind link slammed shut; it felt almost as though someone had smacked the back of his head. He laughed, and waited. Nothing. He sighed.
"Severus, are you there?"
"Come on, Severus." He tried coaxing.
Remus yawned and folded his hands behind his head. He might as well nap.
"Lupin, I will not be played for a fool!"
Remus started awake, grabbed for his wand and yelped as he rolled off his bunk to land with a thud on his arse.
"Good morning, Severus." His voice was a little shaky as he climbed off the floor, lit his wand, and looked at the clock. "Er. It's three a.m.. Sorry, what was it you said?"
"I said I would not be toyed with."
"Yes. All right." Remus fumbled into a pair of sweats and poured water into his kettle, the gears of his mind trying to get traction. Oh. "Is that what you think I was doing? Taking the mickey?" He boiled the water and made his tea.
"Are you telling me you weren't?"
"No. I mean, yes!" He sighed. "I was not making fun of you, no." He took his tea and, as was his habit, went outside. "You gave me a really fine wank the other day – though I must say, I prefer a gentler grip on my privates, thank you very much." He settled comfortably under the ramada. "I just thought I'd return the favor." He sipped the hot liquid. "Did you enjoy it?"
"… It was… satisfactory."
Remus grinned, then thought for a moment. He mind was starting to focus. "You said – when you were busy denying everything – that it was not possible to feel or see through the link. I have felt your pain before, and I certainly felt your touch. I've also 'seen' some of your memories, or nightmares, but what did you mean by see?"
There was a few moments silence. "I have, on occasion, been able to see through your eyes. Before the other day, it was always when you were talking to me, describing the scene around you. I could see it in my mind, as clear as a photograph. Then, when you were in the shower…. Well, I could see what you were looking at."
Remus smiled. "I'm glad you liked what you saw."
"Why not?" He sighed. "Oh, Severus, yesterday was not the first time I've wanked to thoughts of you."
"I… don't understand."
Remus laughed. "What's not to understand? I find you… arousing, if you will. Sexy. Alluring. Hot."
"Lupin, I warned you…"
"I am not making this up! Gods, Severus. Is it so hard to believe that I find you sexually attractive?"
"Well get over yourself, because you are not some rare animal that is devoid of sexual appeal." Remus felt his face warm as he expressed his private thoughts. "You have the most amazingly intense eyes – in school, I used to pretend that they were burning with something other than hatred for me – you are stunningly graceful, and your voice could melt glaciers. Has no one ever flirted with you? I find it impossible to believe that no one has ever come on to you. Why, the year I taught at Hogwarts, there was more than a few on the faculty – me being at the head of the line – and a rather distressingly large number of students who would have been happy to shag you senseless. Male and female, by the way."
"I… never noticed. And I'm sure you're mistaken about the students, for Merlin's sake; they hate me. As for the faculty, that's just… ridiculous"
Remus bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing, even as he felt his face grow hotter with the growing audacity of his words. "Oh, gods, Severus. I wish you were here now; I'd show you how desirable I think you are."
"It would probably kill me. And I must say, I'm not entirely comfortable with this conversation; that was extraordinarily forward of you."
"Well. It was, wasn't it. Not the least bit proper." Remus tried, and failed, to feel chastised.
"We have no standing."
"Yes, well. I'm concerned about this mind link. It seems to be changing in heretofore unknown ways."
"Severus, did you just say, 'heretofore'?"
"Will you please at least try to concentrate."
"I've been doing some reading…."
They talked for a while about the mind link, compared what they had each read on the subject, and only came to the conclusion that they didn't really know much. Dumbledore, it seemed, had taken the standard link spell and modified it. That didn't actually surprise them, but the fact that it was changing was unprecedented. One thing they both agreed on was that in order to terminate the link, all opinion on the subject said that they would need to be in the same place if they were to have any chance of success.
"So." Remus thought he could see a faint lightening of the Eastern horizon. "Shall I come to you?" The question, innocent as it was, set his heart racing.
"I think that would be the most practical, if you are willing. I'm going to be moving elsewhere in a couple of weeks. I feel I've imposed on… my hosts long enough, and as I mentioned, this place – which, if you are still interested in knowing, is the Douro wine country of Portugal – is not considered a good place for my continuing convalescence as it's soon to become cold and rainy.
"I have let a place on Crete for the winter. They say I shouldn't be alone, but I absolutely refuse to have some nurse living in; that would drive me insane. Just having one stop in daily will be bad enough."
"What about me?" Remus held his breath.
"What about you?"
"What about me living with you? I know I'm being forward again, and I'm not suggesting anything untoward, but what sort of assistance do you need? Clearly you're not bedridden."
"I don't need assistance." There was a heavy sigh. "All right, I can't stand for long periods, so doing my own cooking is the biggest problem. I can hire someone to come in and clean."
"I don't…. Sometimes I collapse. My body doesn't always do what I want it to. It's very annoying."
Remus nodded. "So, essentially, you just need someone to cook and clean, fetch and carry, and be there if you require help." He let his smile show in his voice. "I'm not offering to be your house elf, but I can cook a bit, and am also good at staying out of the way and entertaining myself."
"Why would you offer?"
"Oh, I don't know. The pleasure of your company?"
Severus snorted. "A free place to live in a warm climate?"
Remus felt a flash of anger and reacted without thinking. "Fuck you. I was making an offer of friendship because for some unknown reason, I actually like you. I can pay my own way, which I was planning on, and don't need your charity, but if you're going to be a giant arse about it, you can come to me to break the link." He slammed his mind closed.
The sky to the East was definitely lighter now, the stars fading and only Venus remaining a brilliant point of light low on the horizon, waiting for the sun.
"Lupin." Remus ignored him.
Remus clenched his teeth and glared at the rabbit who was just coming out of its burrow fifty yards down the hill. It ducked back under cover.
"I know you're there. Which actually is a pointless statement because of course you're somewhere, but I know you haven't moved. I can see the sky, Lupin. I can see it getting lighter, see the lights coming on in the houses below you.
"I saw that poor rabbit you terrorized.
"I didn't mean…. A lifetime of pushing people away, of suspicion, of always looking for ulterior motives, is a hard thing to overcome. I am not used to kindness, and am not very good at accepting it, or even believing in it."
Remus remained stubbornly silent, though he felt his ire melting away with the last of the shadows of the night.
"I know you tried to shut me out. It didn't work. We are losing what little control we have over this link, and we need to deal with it." Severus took a deep breath. "I don't foresee being able to travel very far for some time, and would appreciate it if you would come to me on Crete. There is room in the little villa I have secured, and you will be welcome there, as a guest, not a servant, if you choose to come. If you would prefer, I believe there are other places in the area where you could stay for as long as this takes."
Remus sighed. "And I am a bit touchy sometimes myself. All right, Severus. I must say the Island of Crete is somewhere I've always wanted to visit, so I will agree to meet you there. If you like, we can try sharing a house – as long as I get to pay my way. And, by the way, I appreciate that you trusted me with your present location."
"Consider it privileged information. My hosts have gone out of their way for me, and I don't want their privacy compromised."
"Of course. Two weeks, you say?"
"Fifteen days, actually, is when I plan on taking up residence." He gave Remus the exact location. "Shall we say sixteen days then?"
"Mm. That'll be the day of my transformation. How about the following day."
"You'll be up to traveling?"
"By that afternoon I should be able to. That will be… oh, a bit after midnight for you. How about…" Remus squinted as he thought. "Do you get up early?"
"If I leave from the International Portkey Center in Sedona at around 9pm, I should get there… I'll probably have to transfer in Athens… six or seven in the morning, maybe?"
"That will be satisfactory."
"Good." Remus couldn't help the smile that was threatening to split his face. "Severus?"
"I really am glad you're alive."
"Humph. This mind link is going to be a bit tricky for us until you're here."
"Indeed. Do me a favor, would you?"
"Before you have a wank, check in? I'd hate to end up having an orgasm among the aubergines at the local market." Remus heard a sound it took him a moment to recognize as laughter. He didn't think he'd ever heard Severus laugh before.
"That might be entertaining to watch."
"What goes around, comes around, Severus." He tried to sound stern.
"Oh, all right."
Remus stretched and yawned. The sun was just clearing the butte to the east. "I'm going back to bed for a couple of hours."
Remus did sleep well, with no dreams or ghostly hands to disturb him.
The intervening days before he was to travel passed quickly for Remus. He visited Hosteen Nez to let him know the date of his departure, and while the old man didn't say anything, he smiled in a knowing way and wished Remus well.
The Ministry had awarded Remus a modest stipend as a "War Hero", and given that his needs were few, it had allowed him to live comfortably. He could access his Gringotts account by way of the Wizarding Bank in Sedona, and he withdrew funds enough for travel and securing a place to live, if staying with Severus proved too problematic. The necessary Portkeys – he had to transfer in Paris as well as Athens – were easily obtained, and given his "War Hero" status, he was given free access to the First Class lounges.
His few things were packed; the work around his trailer was complete. Finally, Remus gave his old truck away; he wasn't sure it would run without the magic spells he'd placed on it, but it could be used for parts. Well, a few parts, he supposed. His magic seemed to be fully restored, and he now trusted it enough to Apparate to the Portkey Center.
During this time, he was almost constantly aware of Severus as a shadowy presence in his mind. They would speak frequently, and the conversations became easier and more casual. Almost, Remus thought one afternoon, as though they were becoming friends.
Almost, Remus thought after a half hour of flirting with Severus while chopping wood, as though they were becoming lovers.
And the sex was blistering.
Remus tried, he really did, to abstain from thinking about sex and Severus, or sex with Severus, or Severus during sex, as it felt too much like an invasion of the man's privacy. Severus, however, didn't seem to have any such qualms, though he made a point of waiting until Remus was alone, and usually in bed or resting.
Remus lay panting under the ramada one afternoon, having just been brought to another brilliant orgasm by unseen hands.
"Are you always this horny, Severus?"
"What? Are you so old and decrepit that three times a week is too much?"
"Not at all, but I thought you were in a… delicate state?"
"I seem to be mending satisfactorily."
"I'd have to agree. Perhaps I'm just used to getting myself off."
"Not at all. I feel as though I'm falling down on my end though. Should I wank more often?"
"Suit yourself. I find the echo effect of your arousal feeding mine… quite stimulating."
Remus grinned. "It is that." He sobered as he voiced a growing concern of his. "Severus, what about when we're together?"
"What about it?"
"For Merlin's sake, you have to have thought of it. Together? In the same house? The same room? The same bed?"
"Aren't you being a bit forward?"
Remus gave a desperate sounding laugh. "Severus, you've had your fingers up my arse!"
"I certainly have not. I can't help it if you have a vivid imagination."
Groaning, Remus rolled onto his stomach. "I have far fewer objections to being your sex toy than I do to being your house elf, you know."
"Clearly." Remus had his face buried on his arms.
"No, I mean physically."
"How so?" Remus propped his chin on his forearms.
"I'm thinner, for one. And… they say it's due to the fever… my hair is white, and… short. They cut it off when I was unconscious."
"So?" Remus was puzzled. "Your appeal is not tied up in your appearance."
"Given how rebarbative it's always been, I suppose that should be obvious."
"Severus, I've told you…."
"Yes, yes. But as my personality is not much better, I find it hard to believe that you… anyone… would desire my company for any reason other than as a means to an end."
"And what do you figure that end is? Do you think that if you ply me with fabulous sex before we meet, I'll want to stay? Do you really think that's all you have to offer?"
"I don't know that I'll want you to stay."
"Gods, you're impossible! Look," Remus settled himself more comfortably. "I'm taking a nap now. You've worn me out." He closed his eyes with determination. There was silence in his head.
His transformation was harder than it had been of late. Remus assumed it was stress, and the excitement of starting the next phase of his life. Regardless of how things turned out with Severus – and he sincerely hoped they turned out well – this was clearly a new beginning for him. After a rather tepid shower – the nights were getting colder – he spread an extra blanket on the bunk and fell asleep without bothering to eat. He was exhausted, and his shivering made him ache even more.
He awoke later than usual, and after making coffee – tea just wasn't strong enough that day – he heated the last of his black bean chili and went outside to sit in the afternoon sun. The food finished, he rewarmed his coffee with a spell, and wrapped his hands around the mug, his gaze wandering over the desert below him.
"I experienced your transformation."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Remus blew on the coffee; he'd made it too hot.
"Are they always like that?"
"Not usually, not any more. They used to be worse, but a breakthrough in the Wolfsbane last year has made them much more tolerable. I think it was nerves that made this one difficult."
"How long have you been a werewolf?"
"Since I was six."
"That's… a lot of transformations."
"It is indeed."
"I may have… misjudged you. Albus always said you were far stronger than you appeared."
"Suicide is a big problem among teen werewolves, and the currant restrictive laws and general bigotry don't help." Remus felt his ire rising. "The Ministry is so blind on the subject; they should be leading the way toward the acceptance of werewolves, not trying to marginalize them in society. They don't even provide Wolfsbane, for gods' sake, yet they expect young werewolves to be polite, cooperative members of a society that rejects them, can fire them at will, even kick them out of their lodgings, just because of their condition."
There was a few minutes of silence, and Remus used it to gain control of his temper.
"Not that you don't have good points and all, but what happened to the even-tempered, well-reasoned façade that you always presented?"
Remus felt himself baring his teeth. "You were not the only one playing a part."
"I see. Curious, it's not like me to misjudge people that badly."
Remus shrugged. "You dismissed me in school. Early impressions are hard to change sometimes."
"Are you suggesting I'm not perfect?"
Remus choked on his coffee. "I hope not. I'm not that fond of perfect people. And since when did your humor become self-deprecating?"
There was a heavy sigh. "I am British, in spite of it all."
Remus laughed aloud. "I can't wait to see you. How are you settling in?"
"Passably well. The house is comfortable and the setting is stunning. Close your eyes, and I'll try and show you the view. It's night, but the moon is brilliant."
Remus did, clearing his mind and waiting. Prior to this, he had not been able to 'see' the way Severus had through his eyes, but gradually, a picture swam into blurry focus. It became clear as Severus described what he was seeing: the white house on the hill, the sea below, the tiny village with fishing boats riding at anchor. A stone windmill, its white canvas sails furled along the stationary arms, a river of dark olive trees washing against the low, whitewashed wall of the grounds. The smell of the sea, of the ripening olives, of a blooming jasmine vine.
He saw the moonlight shimmering on the water, and Severus told him the tale of the Moonspinners, the goddesses who spin the light of the moon onto their spindles as they walk the earth, then, when the moon is gone, they go to the edge of the sea each night and wash the strands of light. It unravels and stretches across the water to the horizon, where it rises as the moon once more, growing nightly until it is full, and they start the cycle again.
The picture faded as Severus stopped talking, and Remus drew a deep breath, blinking in the sun and feeling rather disoriented.
"That was amazing, Severus, thank you. At least I shall know when I find the right house, and you're right, it is stunning. I hope we get along well so you won't throw me out; I think I'd rather like to live there."
Severus snorted. "It's late. I'll see you in the morning."
After pacing the small area of packed earth around his home for several minutes, Remus decided to go for a walk. He filled his water bottle, clipped it to his belt and set off up the mountain. He hiked to a ragged outcropping of rock, a favorite place from which to view the land below, and sat sipping his water and scanning the countryside for the last time. He could see the cone of Sunset Crater, the red of the cinders and black of the lava flows; his eyes followed the road, and using it for a reference point, found all the places he had gone to greet the dawn. Though he knew he was looking right at them, the ruins were invisible to him, they blended into the natural world so well. He would miss this place.
He made his way down just before dark, checked the little trailer one last time and locked the door. The key, he hid on the hook placed there for it under the bench in the outhouse – who would look for it there? – and made one last assessment of the grounds. Everything was in order. He called down Delphi, gave her his new location and sent her off. She should arrive in a couple of days. Finally, he closed his eyes, and with his wand in his hand, turned into the Apparation vortex.
He arrived in the First Class Lounge of the International Portkey Center in Sedona looking far less elegant than the rest of the travelers. He smiled to himself at the looks they cast his way, ordered a bottle of Dos Equis, and made himself comfortable on the leather couch. He had over an hour to wait.
Paris provided a flaky pastry and strong coffee during his half hour layover there, then it was on to Athens, a quick dash to the local Portkey Point, and directly to Heraklion. Feeling vaguely nauseous, but unwilling to rest now that he was almost there, Remus Apparated to the location Severus had given him: a small ruined chapel about a half a mile from his home.
Remus stepped out into the sunlight and squinted. It was fiercely bright, and already quite warm. He hoisted his rucksack to his shoulder.
"Severus, are you there?"
"I am here, Remus. And so, it would seem, are you. Take the path leading east, follow it to the dirt road, then turn uphill."
Remus couldn't help smiling in anticipation. "I'll be there soon."
He followed the directions, looking all around as he went. At first, he walked through a grove of olive trees, but on the road, the view opened out, and he paused a moment, staring wide-eyed. The setting was even more beautiful in the light of day; the bright whites of the houses, the deep green of the olive groves, and the ocean! It was the most perfect blue Remus had ever seen. He found himself grinning as he climbed the hill.
The little villa was at the end of the road. Long and low and eye-smartingly white in the sun, it had gently arched windows and doors, a red tile roof, and a wide veranda shaded by a ramada that was covered with a majestic bougainvillea ablaze with blossoms a shade of fuchsia he didn't think existed in the natural world.
And standing half way down the gravel walk was Severus.
He wore jeans and a white dress shirt. He was thinner than thin, and his hair, which was about an inch long all over, was pure white. But it was his eyes that captured Remus, just as they always had: black, intense, watching Remus as if he could see his very thoughts. Which, Remus thought a bit giddily, he probably could.
Severus stood squarely, as though ready for either battle or flight, his arms hanging loosely at his sides. There was tension in his shoulders, though his face was perfectly passive. Remus searched his own mind for Severus' thoughts and found… nothing. Severus was obviously using his considerable Occlumency skills against the renegade mind link. Remus let his happiness at seeing Severus flow freely and felt a small, well-hidden thread of uncertainty whisper past the closed doors of Severus' mind. He went through the gate without hesitation, and, never taking his eyes off Severus', he walked on until he was toe to toe with the other wizard. Reaching up, he touched Severus' cheek, then slid his hand back to the nape of his neck and pulled him in to a kiss. Remus did not try to overwhelm, simply put all his certainty, all his confidence into that kiss.
After a moment, Severus' hands came up to rest on Remus' hips, and he leaned into him, though his response was guarded.
When Remus drew back, he could feel the warmth of a flush on his cheeks, and was pleased to see responding color on Severus' otherwise pale face. He leaned his forehead against Severus' for a moment, then tilted his head and kissed him again. This time he projected firmly. "Want." He felt his own cock leap to full attention as he poured all his pent-up need into the kiss.
He felt Severus shudder, and then the thin arms were around him, the long fingers were tangled in his hair and their hips pressed together. Remus dropped his rucksack and transferred both hands to Severus' arse, which he squeezed as he pulled Severus against him, leaning back and almost lifting the shorter man off his feet. Gods, to finally feel Severus, solid, in his arms! Severus responded by growling into his mouth and frotting against him, and Remus almost came where he stood.
Pulling away, Remus gasped and adjusted his aching cock. "I thought I was the forward one."
Severus smirked. "As I said, I am finding straight-forward honesty a refreshing change." His tentative hand brushed a lock of hair out of Remus' eyes.
"Right then." Remus drew a deep breath. "At the moment, I'd honestly like to fall into a large, soft bed with you, and after we have pleasured each other blind, I'd like to take a nap."
"I think I can arrange that." Severus' voice was low and husky, and the tidal wave of desire that crashed into Remus' own nearly overwhelmed him. He grabbed his bag and they walked to the house together.
The rucksack was dropped just inside the door, shoes were kicked off in random directions, and strewn clothing marked the path to the bedroom. Rolling Severus onto his back, and propping himself on an elbow, Remus kissed Severus deeply, sliding his hand down the too-prominent ribs as he did so.
"I see I'll have to practice my cooking skills."
"I hope you're better at cooking that you were at potions." Severus nipped his throat.
"I got an E in potions!" He stroked the concave belly and teased the bellybutton.
"I'm a picky eater." Severus gasped and arched into Remus' hand as he cupped him and squeezed.
They touched each other hesitantly, not from timidity, but because of the intensity of the experience. It was, Remus decided, like having two sets of hands touching him, as everywhere he placed his hands on Severus, he could feel them in the same location on himself. Their mouths and hands were greedy for each other, and soft moans were soon replaced by more aggressive growls and desperate panting. They came, together, with their hands wrapped around both their cocks, their come mingling between them, and their shared orgasms nearly making Remus weep.
Remus flopped over on his back with a groan. "I'm not sure I can survive much more of this."
"It was… quite… amazing."
Remus chuckled. "The possibilities make me dizzy." He sobered. "But we do need to at least be able to control the link. And barring that, we'll need to break it." His fingers found Severus' and he laced them together. "Won't we?"
"If we're going to spend any time out of bed, I'm afraid so."
"That is an option…."
Severus snorted. "Are you entirely comfortable with someone always in your mind? I find, in spite of the undeniably fantastic sex, that I am not."
Remus could feel the uncertainty behind the confident tone. "Severus, I'm not here for the sex. Well, not entirely. I'm here because I want to be close to you, and because while I love talking to you, I'd prefer to be doing it face to face. Having you in my mind all the time was starting to drive me a bit bonkers."
"Indeed. You have the most inane thoughts at times."
"And you don't?"
"Of course not." Severus tried to look dignified and failed, his face relaxing into a tentative smile as Remus laughed.
His laugh was overtaken by a huge yawn.
Severus waved a hand, drawing the bedsheet over them. "Sleep. It is your night time."
"Mmm." Remus wrapped an arm around Severus' waist and buried his face in the crook of Severus' neck. "Will you stay with me?"
"For a little while." Severus' hand stroked Remus' hair and he slept.
Remus woke slowly, the smell of something wonderful enticing him to consciousness. He found the loo, had a quick shower, and discovered that his things had been brought into the bedroom. He dressed minimally in jeans and a tee-shirt, and padded with bare feet out to find the source of the wonderful smells.
Severus was seated on the veranda, reading. He smiled when he saw Remus, and Remus felt a trickle of pleasure dance through his mind. He leaned over and kissed Severus soundly.
"What smells so good?"
"The woman who will be doing the cleaning for me left a big pan of moussaka and some fresh bread. I made a salad."
"What time is it?"
"You waited for me?"
"I wasn't going to wait indefinitely, so don't get cocky." He set his book aside and rose. One knee buckled and he grabbed the back of the chair to steady himself. Remus' arm came around his waist as Severus swore.
"It's OK. It'll take time. You were very badly hurt."
"I don't care; I'll curse about it if I want."
Remus laughed. "I'm sure you will."
They ate on the veranda, heaping plates of moussaka with crusty rosemary bread, and a salad of tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, olives, and feta cheese. All the ingredients were locally grown, and the food burst with flavors not found in store-bought meals.
"There's Retsina if you wish to poison yourself." Severus filled his glass from the pitcher of iced water on the table.
"Not today. No ouzo?" He grinned.
"Not with the meal," Severus looked scandalized. "Later."
Remus laughed and helped himself to more bread. He munched happily, looking out over the splendid view. "Do you think you'll ever want to go back to Britain?"
Severus pushed back from the table, tossing his napkin next to his plate. "I notice you didn't say 'home'."
Remus set down his fork. "No." He felt a deep sadness. "Too many bad memories. To much… grief."
Severus nodded. "I'll never go back. I am dead to them, and they to me. Never."
Remus raised an eyebrow. He could feel nothing from Severus but a wave of cold resistance. He looked away, feeling as though he'd intruded. "We do need to break this link. We are all entitled to our private thoughts without the necessity of guarding them constantly."
Severus threw him a surprised look. "I have ordered some books that might be helpful. They should arrive tomorrow."
Remus nodded, then rose to clear away and do the washing up.
They passed the following weeks studying, arguing points of theory, exploring some of the local ruins, eating and making love. Remus didn't think of it as just 'sex' any more. Their shared experience in giving and receiving pleasure, the way it resonated like an echo, spiraling upward till it peaked in glorious crescendo was so intense that it could never be just 'sex.' He felt he knew the innermost corners of Severus' mind, and knew just where and how to touch his body to bring them the most pleasure. For Severus' pleasure was his, and his was Severus', and so it went, 'round and 'round until they lay panting on the verge of exhaustion.
Severus seemed to thrive on a regimen of Remus' cooking and lovemaking. He put on weight and gained color, his sallow skin darkening to olive under the intense sun, hinting at an ancestry that wasn't entirely Northern. Remus felt himself grow stronger, and he found that he thoroughly enjoyed cooking and trying local recipes and foods. Severus claimed that he was teaching him to be an excellent cook, not by example, but by complaining if he didn't like something, but in truth, he had few complaints. Although the stuffed squid was not too well received.
Almost three weeks after Remus had arrived, they stood facing each other in the open, airy living room, their wands in their hands.
"You think this will work without Albus?" Remus was less sure than Severus.
"I think it's the only thing that will work."
"All right. It just seems… too simple."
"We don't have to try."
Remus looked into Severus' eyes, and the complete and utter trust he felt moved him deeply, but there, at the edge, was a whisper of fear.
"Let's give it a go then."
They moved close, touching their foreheads together, and draping their arms over each others' shoulders, their hands each holding one end of their wands. Carefully, they recited the memory link spell that Albus had created, but in reverse. When finished, they stood, foreheads together, for several seconds, then as one, they straightened up and dropped their arms.
Remus took a deep breath. "Severus, are you there?" There was nothing. "You try." His voice was tight.
Severus' eyes remained focused intently on his, but there was no voice in Remus' mind, calling to him. He raised his hands to cup Severus' face, and kissed him deeply. The emptiness echoed in his mind.
Seemingly at a loss for words, Severus nodded. He cleared his throat. "Will you be leaving, then?"
Ah. Could that have been the source of the fear? "Not right away. Dinner's planned." When Severus didn't smile, he knew that he was right. "I would like," he said carefully, "to stay here. With you. For as long as you'll have me."
Severus lifted his chin a bit. "Are you certain? I don't take promises lightly."
"And I don't give them lightly. This is what I want. You are who I want."
Severus searched his eyes. "Very well." His voice was soft. "I, too, wish for you to stay."
A surge of emotion passed through Remus that was so strong he trembled. "I would like to go to bed with you now. Right now."
A single eyebrow rose to Severus' hairline. "In the middle of the afternoon?"
Remus advanced, growling. "Yes."
"All right then." Severus' smile was positively sultry.
"I don't believe I'm saying this, but I think I like the sex even better without the mind link." Remus buttered his toast.
Severus finished pouring the tea and looked out over the sea. "I can certainly last longer without the double stimuli." He dipped a toast point into his egg yolk. "It's different, but no less pleasurable." He nodded. "I think even better, yes."
They had made long, leisurely love that morning, and were just now, at the indecent hour of ten, having their breakfast.
"This villa is for sale, you know." Severus passed the marmalade.
Remus paused in the act of spooning some onto his plate. "I think it's is a bit out of my price range." He sighed. "Though it is perfect."
"If you'd allow, I can afford it. We could work out some sort of budget between us."
"We could?" Remus felt a rather silly grin spread over his face.
"We could." Severus smile was teasing.
Remus set the marmalade down and looked out over the olive trees and the sea. "Home."
"Home." Severus echoed.