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Fortune's Might

By MyMoony

Drama / Romance

Fait Accompli

Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now;Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross,
Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow,
And do not drop in for an after-loss:
Ah! do not, when my heart hath ’scaped this sorrow,
Come in the rearward of a conquered woe;
Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,
To linger out a purposed overthrow.
If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,
When other petty griefs have done their spite,
But in the onset come: so shall I taste
At first the very worst of fortune’s might;
And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,
Compared with loss of thee, will not seem so.

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 90

Icy rain was falling. The coldness that spread over the grounds and up to Hogwarts Castle from the village of Hogsmeade was not of the natural kind that followed in dusk’s wake when the warmth of the sun slowly departed, held only by stone, water, or grass. It was the breathing of the Dementors stationed outside the perimeter walls that spread this coldness, that sucked from the air not only the warmth of the summer’s day, but also all the positive feelings that usually accompanied the many people streaming into the school on the first of September. Everybody in the castle and the village had different feelings about the Dementors, though it was certain that nobody was entirely pleased that they were there, some surely believed to be safer with them gliding about, searching for an escaped convict who was rumoured to be on his way to Hogwarts.

To Professor Severus Snape they meant horrible memories resurfacing, bringing with them guilt, shame, and grief that had been buried in the darkest corners of his mind under the rather less unpleasant memories and thoughts of the past twelve years. It was dreadful how he suddenly remembered the faces of people whose lives he had seen being snuffed out, how he could recall the looks on their faces and the sickening feeling that had filled him when he had cast the Killing Curse for the first time.

Severus Snape was a private man, he would not talk about those experiences to anyone, which, as the Headmaster had pointed out to him, probably made them so hard to bear. Albus Dumbledore did not need Severus to put into words what he felt when the Dementors drew near, he knew the horrors of Severus’s past like no other and understood better than anyone why he wished them gone. Albus, too, harboured a deep loathing for the creatures, had seen things in his past that he did not want to return to him so clearly as they did with the Dementors outside the perimeter walls of Hogwarts Castle.

But other than Severus, Albus could conceal the effect they had on him rather well. Severus, so Minerva McGonagall had said just this morning upon seeing him for the first time after the summer holidays, had turned even more unpleasant and vicious with the Dementors around, but she didn’t blame him, for, she admitted, she herself was in rather a miserable mood. They would have to get used to it, wouldn’t they?

The silence in the dungeons seemed even more absolute than usual, the only sound to be heard were Severus’s footsteps echoing off the stone walls as he walked swiftly up the stairs after having finished the final preparations for the new school year. He was colder than usual too, inside and out. The Entrance Hall seemed emptier, more desolate, and the corridors more deserted than usual. The year ahead of him felt even less promising than it usually did when Severus knew he would not teach Defence Against the Dark Arts, and he thought the annoyed frustration about the unknown new staff member and Albus’s secrecy seemed even more pronounced and powerful than the anger and indignation at Lockhart’s appointment a year ago. He knew those were illusions, but he could not push them away. The moment Severus entered the staff room, he saw that the other teachers felt the same way. Everybody wore miserable expressions, there was no laughter in the room, no cheery conversations after weeks and weeks of not having seen each other.

Severus sat down in his favourite armchair by the fire, a little apart from the others as usual, and stared into the flames, his ears filled with the hushed voices of his colleagues as his mind drifted into the distance, fastening on more negative thoughts about the coming school year. Usually Severus looked forward to the start of term, for he could escape the desolate surroundings of Spinner’s End and return to his much more comfortable rooms in the dungeons. This year though, Harry Potter and his fellow Gryffindors weren’t the only factors that darkened this prospect. All summer, the papers had been full of a man whom Severus had hoped never to lay eyes on again. When Sirius Black had been arrested those twelve years ago, Severus had felt a grim satisfaction that his childhood tormentor had got what he deserved. But fate had never been kind to Severus. Somehow, as the first wizard ever to achieve it, Black had escaped from Azkaban, and was now on his way to Hogwarts to kill Harry Potter, or so rumour had it.

But as angry as Black’s face in the papers had made Severus throughout the summer, he also felt a vindictive anticipation when he thought about Black’s target, Harry Potter, because Severus had once sworn to protect that boy and this time it would be his pleasure to stop Black and punish him, face to face, and prove to him who had the upper hand now. But what chance did he have to capture Black when there were Dementors all over the place? Surely Black would not even get close to the castle. The Dark Lord’s right hand – ha! – all good and well, but Severus, who had been close to the Dark Lord, who had been in the inner circle, did not know magic that would help Black break through Dumbledore’s protection.

Severus sighed as McGonagall sat down beside him, giving him a stern look. Working with his former teachers was sometimes tiresome, for they treated him like a student, like a child at times, even though he was Head of House himself. McGonagall would always give him those looks that she usually gave misbehaving students. But he thought she respected him. It was mutual. Severus’s respect was earned, not given, and she had earned it well. But he hated it when she gave him that look that clearly meant to say that he was going to be told something unpleasant.

“Did the Headmaster tell you whom he has appointed Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher?” she asked and he shook his head slowly, quite tired of this topic. It was the twelfth year running now. Albus had refused him the post for the twelfth year running.

“He said he had found somebody else when I asked him whether he would finally consider me for the position,” said Severus quietly, “and he assured me that the new candidate would be far better suited than Lockhart.”

“To which you replied that that only meant that he was not a completely incapable fraud,” said McGonagall with the shadow of a smile. Severus glanced at her and grew slightly suspicious.

“You’ve talked about me?” he asked. McGonagall did not reply. “I hoped that Dumbledore had finally run out of dunderheads to appoint, but apparently he has found yet another sorry soul who’s volunteering to meet a tragic fate at the end of the school year. Another incompetent fool, no doubt.”

McGonagall’s lips thinned. “The Headmaster really didn’t tell you who it is, then?” she asked and was unusually careful. Severus narrowed his eyes at her and shook his head again. “Well, you will find that he – oh, excuse me for a moment,” she added and strode to the window. Severus turned his head towards it and saw an owl sitting outside, carrying a roll of parchment. McGonagall opened the window, letting in the rushing sound of the falling rain, and took the note. She unrolled it and walked unconsciously back to where Severus was sitting, shutting the window with a swish of her wand. A small smile flitted over her face before it was squashed by anger. “Ah, those horrible creatures,” she muttered as she sat back down. “Thank God he was with the children.”

“What?” said Severus impatiently and she looked up, giving him another stern look.

“The Dementors searched the school train and Potter fainted,” she said shortly and Severus raised an eyebrow at her. “It was to be expected, I suppose. Fortunately, our new teacher is on the train, and he sent me this note.” Again that mysterious smile conquered her lips for a moment. “His handwriting still is horrible.” A reminiscent note lay in her voice as she slipped the piece of parchment into her pocket.

“So he isn’t a secret, is he?” asked Severus, now more interested than ever in the new Professor. “Albus only didn’t want me to know who it is? Do tell me his name, then, Minerva, it must be somebody I know, else Dumbledore would not have bothered to keep it from me.”

When Severus had arrived at Hogwarts Castle a few hours ago, he had thought that it would be another one of those years, during which he had to watch another idiot fighting his way through the Defence job, teaching the students nothing at all and annoying Severus immensely, while everyone knew that they would only stay for one year. The Headmaster had long run out of competent volunteers for the position. Lockhart had been the last straw. But apparently Albus believed that there was another person whom Severus would loathe so powerfully that telling him their name before term started meant risking open rebellion and far more trouble than it was worth.

But McGonagall did not yield the information. He saw her lips thinning as she got to her feet again. “The children are about to arrive, please excuse me, Severus, I need to inform Poppy so she can look after Potter when he arrives and I need to give Granger her Time-Turner,” she said and started to walk away.

“Wait a moment,” said Severus suspiciously, “what did that new teacher do when Potter fainted?”

McGonagall turned back to him and this time the smile stayed on her face. “He chased the Dementor away and handed out chocolate,” she said simply and left the staff room. Severus scowled after her and tried to catch somebody else’s eye but it seemed they had all been conditioned by Albus not to tell him anything. Maybe Albus thought he was being clever, but no matter whom he had found to fill the position, Severus would do his best to make sure that they had a very hard time at Hogwarts.

When some time later the buzzing voices of the arriving students reached the staffroom, everybody got ready for the feast and Professor Flitwick went to fetch the Sorting Hat because McGonagall was still tending to Potter and Granger, it seemed. Severus was just making to get to his feet when the door opened again and his colleagues all looked round to greet Dumbledore. Severus did not look round. He wanted to show Albus that he was still angry that he hadn’t got the Defence job. Even though really being angry was becoming increasingly difficult, too much time had passed. It was merely a stubborn indignation now. But when the other teachers all approached the door, it was not Albus’s voice that spoke to them but another man’s. A voice that Severus could not seem to recognise despite its faintly familiar sound. He got to his feet, turned slowly round, and to his horror he found the reason why Albus had not told him the name of the new Defence teacher.

Just inside the door, looking rather astonished at the warm welcome he received, stood werewolf Remus Lupin. Albus had his hand on Lupin’s shoulder, smiling behind his beard. Severus blinked to make sure that his eyes weren’t playing a trick on him, but this was definitely Lupin, though Severus had not seen him in over twelve years, he knew his face well. True, he had changed rather strikingly, looking extremely shabby in his darned, threadbare robes, even more so because all the other teachers were wearing their very best. Lupin had grown older, his hair was greying, and he had a tired air about him, as though he hadn’t slept in days, dark rings under his eyes – Severus registered briefly that last night had been the night of the full moon. Lupin was unhealthily thin, that much was evident even with the roomy robes that hung loosely round his frame. It was probably his condition taking its toll. But Severus could not care about such details now, when he finally had proof that Albus had gone mad.

Lockhart had merely been a desperate choice, there had been no one else who would have wanted to subject themselves to what was obviously a curse that ejected every DADA professor after a year of teaching, with more or less grave consequences. But employing a werewolf as DADA teacher, a werewolf, on top of everything, who had almost eaten Severus alive once, was not only questionable, it was outrageous and surely on the brink of being illegal! If the parents or the board of governors found out, Dumbledore would lose his job, no doubt. And Severus just couldn’t believe that the other teachers had agreed to this, some of them having been teachers in Severus’s time, like Flitwick and McGonagall, and therefore knowing full well what that man in front of them was. Had nobody objected to his employment? Had nobody been concerned about the children? Had nobody believed that this person might help Black into the castle, his old friend, possibly his accomplice? Had nobody remembered that this man had once been part of the gang that had made Severus’s school days hell?

But judging by the way they all greeted Lupin interestedly, they were either unaware of his condition or they did not care. Severus strongly suspected that Albus had not told everybody about Lupin’s lycanthropy, for he could not believe that so many of his colleagues were free of prejudice or fear. True enough, Lupin did not look remotely frightening. In fact he looked positively amiable the way he smiled mildly at everybody who shook his hand. Severus could have strangled him with his bare hands right then and there.

He did not care that it was obvious that life had not been kind to Lupin. No life could be unkind enough to atone for what he had done to Severus, no punishment would have been hard enough to erase Severus’s bitterness. How dare he walk in here with that nonchalant smile and that self-confident air and snatch away Severus’s job? Had he no decency? Had he no shame? Momentarily, Severus’s anger about Black, Potter, and the Dementors was wiped away by a wave of loathing as Lupin’s tired eyes turned on him and his smile twitched as he cocked his head to the side and his greying hair fell into his forehead. For an instant, Severus thought that something about this was unusual and he realised that Lupin had never looked at him directly at school, never met his eyes, always averted his own. But now he seemed bold, unafraid of Severus’s wrath. Perhaps Albus had told him that Severus wouldn’t make a scene in front of the other teachers, but that had been a big mistake.

That was typical of Albus. He hadn’t even asked Severus for his consent, knowing that he wouldn’t receive it. But he couldn’t do this to Severus. Severus deserved respect, he deserved to be informed of such decisions as this, he ought to be consulted like the other Heads of Houses when a werewolf was appointed to teach his students and live under the same roof as them! What was Albus playing at, summoning this man out of nowhere? Surely he just wanted to annoy Severus thoroughly, he would think it amusing. Perhaps he had merely forgotten that Lupin had almost killed Severus, had played a lethal prank on him with his good-for-nothing friends and found it unnecessary to live up to his prefect’s badge and stop them tormenting Severus. In Albus’s memory there was only room for his precious Gryffindor favourites, who had assured him that they felt sorry for almost killing Severus on purpose.

Positively fuming with those thoughts, Severus strode towards Lupin and Albus, who were still standing at the door, chatting with the other teachers, and knocked a few of his colleagues out of the way as others retreated, noticing the murderous look on his face. As he drew nearer, he attracted Albus’s attention and the Headmaster’s eyes twinkled annoyingly as he spoke.

“Ah, Severus! May I present you with our new Defence Against the –”

“So this was your brilliant plan?” Severus cut across him angrily, jerking his head at Lupin. “Telling me nothing about him until it was already too late for me to object? While everybody else was informed you kept me in the dark! Do you consider this a proper way of treating one of your Heads of Houses?”

“Do you think your objection would have made a difference, Severus?” asked Albus pleasantly, surveying him over his half-moon spectacles, and Severus was very close to jinxing him. He must look dangerous, too, since the sparse rest of his colleagues backed off now, knowing how unpleasant he could be.

But all the while, Lupin showed no sign of intimidation or caution. Though he seemed mildly surprised, he did not move an inch but merely raised his eyebrows, glancing at Albus as his face gave away a trace of dawning comprehension and disapproval. “I take it you did not tell Severus about my appointment, Headmaster?” he said hoarsely. He sounded different, too, much older, and his calm resolution in the face of Severus’s anger bore no resemblance to the boy he had once been. “I thought he had been informed. You said he had agreed to –”

“How daft must you be to think that I would ever agree to your appointment?” snapped Severus, whose anger was only multiplied by Lupin’s calmness. Lupin raised his eyebrows higher and the corners of his mouth twitched, but he did not respond. Severus thought he detected amusement in the wrinkles round Lupin’s eyes and found him an impertinent dunderhead.

“Severus,” Albus said in a warning tone. “Neither of you would have agreed if you had known the truth. So I – ah – warped the facts a little.”

Severus wanted to make a retort but then something popped into his mind. During the summer holidays, Albus had approached him about a new discovery made in the field of lycanthropy potions that Severus had tried to ignore stubbornly because it had been made by the show-off Damocles Belby and earned him an Order of Merlin: the Wolfsbane Potion, that rendered a werewolf harmless at the full moon when drunk during the week preceding it, having the effect of keeping the werewolf in his right mind even when in the wolf’s body. Albus had asked whether Severus had heard of it, for it was quite sensational, and if he thought he could brew it, since it seemed quite a complex potion to make. Severus had, of course, shot him a venomous look and replied, “Brew it? I could improve it to ten times the quality it has now. Whatever Belby thought he was doing, presenting the world with this piece of imperfect brewery …”

In other words, “Whatever Belby can do, I can do better!” But really, how could he have foreseen that Albus was asking him that question for such a purpose as this? Moreover, Albus obviously expected him to dedicate his precious time to the well-being of a werewolf who had not only been part of Black and Potter’s bullying gang but also knowingly tried to kill him as a teenager. He could not possibly believe that Severus would take it just like that.

“I am astounded that you did not even warn me, that you did not even ask me if I’d be willing to sacrifice my free time to –”

“Quite frankly, Severus,” interrupted Albus, his voice rising slightly to drown Severus’s, “I had no interest in being badgered by you all over the summer with complaints, threats and reproaches merely because I did a Headmaster’s duty and appointed a new teacher for a vacant post. I much rather wanted the two of us to enjoy a quiet summer without ill feelings. For you must believe me that, though I do value your opinion, none of your objections to this particular choice of staffing would have changed anything about my resolution to appoint Remus.” He paused, smiled at Lupin, who was looking between Albus and Severus with raised eyebrows and twitching lips, apparently unsure whether to smile or not in the face of Severus’s indignation. “And I would consider your extraordinary skill wasted if you didn’t use them benevolently at least once in your life, my boy,” added Albus when Severus took a deep breath to argue again.

“You are making a severe mistake, Headmaster, in appointing this man,” said Severus forcefully, pointing at Lupin and shooting him a look of deepest contempt that he deflected with a calm smile. “And if you think that you can force me to –”

“Severus,” Albus cut in, now applying a tone that was dangerous in its coldness. Severus fell silent at once, but glared at Lupin relentlessly. “I chose the one man that I thought best for the job. It was my decision and if I remember correctly I am the Headmaster of this school and that is why you will accept my decision and do what you are told, I think I deserve that much respect. And now enough of your complaints!”

Severus was fuming. He hated being told off. But he did not dare say anything more on the topic. “You spoke to the other teachers, then?” he pressed and now Lupin did look a little apprehensive as he, too, looked round at Albus. Apparently he feared that Albus had “warped the facts” concerning this detail, too.

“I spoke to the other Heads of Houses,” said Albus with a nod to Professor Sprout, who was watching the scene, and Professor Flitwick, who was just passing the staffroom with the Sorting Hat, “and with the assurance that I would take full responsibility, they agreed to let him have a try. I told them and Remus that you would brew the Wolfsbane Potion for him, to the best of your ability if I know you, to keep Remus safe at the full moon. That is the sole condition Remus set for coming here and since I have full trust and confidence in you, Severus, I also have full trust and confidence in Remus’s ability to teach here, as one of us. As for most of the other teachers, as well as the students, I must ask you to remember the promise you once made to keep Remus’s condition a secret. Needless to mention that I would find it rather extraordinarily tactless if any of us addressed the topic in any kind of public conversation anyway.”

Severus looked from one to the other of them in stubborn silence for a few moments, taking in Albus’s demanding gaze and Lupin’s expectant look, then he jerked his head in defiant consent, seeing no way around it. Lupin looked relieved and smiled all the more warmly at Severus, who gave him his coldest, most scathing glare. But it had no effect whatsoever on the werewolf. Even Lupin’s mere sight made Severus sick. The kindness in his eyes in the face of Severus’s anger was plainly provocative. Severus was sure it was meant to be. He wondered how Albus imagined this to work.

“Excellent, Severus! Naturally I shall provide you with all the ingredients you need and of course you will be relieved of certain other duties to make time for the brewing of Remus’s Potion. I do hope that you two will be able to work alongside each other in peace,” added Albus sharply and Severus gave him an incredulous look that Albus did not miss. “I do rely on you, Severus, and I hope that you will not disappoint me.”

Severus stared daggers at him for this aside. He knew that it was a warning of the Dumbledorish kind. “I shall do my best, Headmaster,” Severus pressed between clenched teeth and with balled fists.

“I never doubted that, Severus,” replied Albus nodding, but though Lupin’s face gave away no doubt, his eyes flickered towards the Headmaster, and Severus knew that he had not been so sure about Severus doing his best until a moment ago. In an instant, though, Lupin had covered this up and looked at Severus with gratitude quite plain and disgusting on his face.

“Well, then I thank you very much, Severus,” he said hoarsely and with a familiarity that Severus found highly inappropriate when it was so clear that contempt was radiating from him. But Lupin did have the sense not to extend his hand to shake Severus’s. So he must be able to read the situation but was stubborn enough to keep up the friendly politeness.

“I am not doing this for you,” said Severus coldly, looking him straight in the eye, finding an amber colour that he had never noticed there nor seen in anybody else’s eyes before. “I am merely doing my duty,” he added in a snarl and now glared daggers at Lupin instead of Albus. But Lupin seemed entirely unaffected and merely raised his eyebrows again with that amused light playing around his eyes.

“I thank you nonetheless,” he said mildly, and for a moment Severus wondered if this really was the boy he had known, for he seemed so different.

Lupin was relaxed and self-assured, he did not avert his eyes when Severus looked into them, he did not back down. But at the same time he was not offensive or aggressive, the provocation lay in his unwaveringly calm smile itself, not in his behaviour, which was friendly and quite at ease. He did not attack, he merely stood his ground come what may, or so it seemed to Severus, he was steadfast and would bend to nobody. Like a rock in the middle of a stream would not budge when water rushed towards it, no matter how wild or strong. It commanded a strange kind of respect in Severus that he could not fight. People who would not back down when he confronted them always had that effect on him. But it was not the same defiance that McGonagall sported. It was quiet and gentle, surreptitious and taciturn. One less attentive than Severus would miss it. But to him it was clearly visible in that determined smile, never changing, that was curling the werewolf’s lips so mysteriously into a silent mask that was much less obvious than Severus’s, much less obtrusive. And despite himself, Severus wished he could prise it off and see what lay beyond it.

“Ah, Remus, Minerva told me about the Dementor on the train and that you fought it,” said Albus pleasantly into the stretching silence and Severus noticed that he was staring at Lupin, who was gazing back quite steadily. Severus averted his eyes before he could stop himself, scowling around the room in the attempt of making it look as though he had merely been unable to bear Lupin’s sight any longer. But something told him that Lupin knew he had just gained a first small victory.

“Yes, but unfortunately Harry had already fainted, and he was quite shaken when his friends woke him,” said Lupin, sounding grim for the first time. “Of course I had some chocolate on me, just in case. But the damage had been done, the children were quite shocked, and I believe you know as well as I what Harry must have felt when that wretched creature entered the compartment. It is irresponsible to let them loose on the students, Sirius Black on the run or not.”

“I quite agree,” said Albus gravely and Severus looked round at them, two Gryffindors in greatest worry about the bloody Potter brat. “But I could not refuse. At least I managed to prevent them coming into the grounds. I am glad you were with the children, Remus, who knows what would have happened if you hadn’t been there to help. I trust Minerva has already thanked you?”

“Oh, yes,” replied Lupin and looked both abashed and pleased, “I met her right inside the castle, just briefly. I was very pleased to see her again.”

“And she to see you, trust me,” said Albus, his eyes twinkling. “She was very concerned about the safety of her students –”

“Student,” interjected Severus and they both looked at him, Lupin amused, Albus scolding.

“Well, now that we have resolved this,” said Albus with a significant look between Severus and Lupin, “I believe we could all do with a good dinner. Let us go to the Great Hall,” he added loudly to the other teachers and he led the way through the doors, followed by the staff.

But Lupin did not move, he nodded at the teachers passing him, all of whom seemed rather fond of him already, but stayed put himself, standing opposite Severus with his smile back in place. Severus stayed where he was, narrowing his eyes at Lupin, and expected him to have something more to say to him. Curiosity had got the better of him now, and when he searched the werewolf’s amber eyes, he found that his mind was rather tightly closed, impossible to penetrate for Severus without the werewolf noticing. It awoke his interest. What lay hidden behind that smile, those eyes? When the last of their colleagues had left the staffroom, something odd happened to Lupin’s smile. It changed quite suddenly, became so different that it startled Severus for a moment. In an instant it had changed so entirely without any real physical change to it that Severus wondered if he imagined it.

“I hope we will get along well,” said Lupin, inclining his head in an amicable way that made Severus snort.

“Hope can be treacherous,” he retorted silkily, folding his arms tightly over his chest.

Lupin’s smile widened and he shrugged. “And it never dies,” said he and his voice was soft. Then he chuckled and again Severus had the impression that he was quite at ease and enjoying himself. At Severus’s expense no doubt. His chuckle was quite husky and Severus wondered what it was that made the man so hoarse. Underneath the premature lines and grey hair Lupin looked young and handsome. But he appeared very tired indeed, worn, like a miner at the end of the day, a miner who had not eaten in days.

But Severus was far from pitying him. He felt positively livid. Lupin could not possibly be labouring under the delusion that Severus could just forget what had happened between them. The fact that Lupin would almost have had to remove what remained of Severus from between his teeth was too serious to just push it aside and act as though nothing had happened. It was unimaginable that Lupin actually believed that they could “get along well”. Severus would pay him back with contempt for every single second that he had to spare for brewing that highly complex Potion, which prevented the werewolf destroying his rooms. Besides, Severus didn’t like the fact that there was now yet another person at Hogwarts who remembered him as a helpless, worthless boy.

But most shocking of all was perhaps that, despite his hatred for the man, Severus could not help noticing the curve of his jaw, the unwavering smile and the twitching in the corners of his mouth, but most of all the magnificent amber colour of his eyes, twinkling much like Albus’s, shining golden in the candlelight, as more than merely agreeable. He appreciated this kind of handsomeness, enhanced by the lines the past years had carved into Lupin’s skin and the silver streaks it had painted into his light brown hair. It was the kind that would have caught his eye had he passed the werewolf in the street, unaware of his identity. Notwithstanding the shabbiness of his robes, the tired expression, the unhealthily thin frame, the dark rings under his eyes. Lupin was the kind of man who looked nonchalantly, effortlessly handsome even when ill. Whose smile captured Severus’s eyes and would not let them go again.

Severus wanted to make it disappear, he couldn’t bear it. “Life hasn’t been kind to you, has it, Lupin?” he said smoothly as Lupin made to turn away. Lupin stopped but made no reply. He seemed to be waiting for more to come. “I would have thought that you’d at least buy yourself a new set of robes for tonight.”

Lupin turned slowly round, his smile still twitching mysteriously. He met Severus’s glare quite steadily with his astonishingly amber eyes. Yes, amber, indeed, not usual brown. But that was neither here nor there. Still there was something in them, some strange light that almost made Severus back off. “It means nothing to me,” said Lupin, cocking his head to the side again. “It surprises me that it does to you.” He said it quite calmly but Severus couldn’t help feeling uneasy.

As Lupin turned, his smile widening still, Severus thought he looked as though he wore those patched robes like ermine and purple round his shoulders and that impression did not cease when he glanced at him at the High Table, sitting rather far away from him. Even though he looked even shabbier in the Great Hall, with its gold plates and everybody in their best robes, he had an air about him like a weary king, surrounded by his noisy entourage. One could have thought he was wearing the most magnificent robes of all, for all it seemed to matter to him. Remus Lupin seemed to be looking past such sordid matters as appearance, had learnt, perhaps, that it made no difference how expensive or handsome one’s clothes were if they concealed a rotten character. And maybe it was what people called “inner beauty” that enhanced his outer appearance. Severus shook his head at the thought. Ridiculous.

Lupin looked as though he was quite happy where he was, sitting beside Flitwick, chatting with him rather animatedly. Severus found that he was insolent for showing so openly that he relished the position that should have been Severus’s when it was Severus who enabled him to work at Hogwarts. Shooting loathing glances down the table at Lupin, Severus wondered how he could manage to get rid of him without actually laying hands on him. Albus would know if he did. But having to associate with Lupin for a whole year, not least of all because of the Wolfsbane, was promising to make this year an especially unpleasant one. Not even the prospect of catching Black could lighten Severus’s mood. Dementors, werewolves, and murderers everywhere. It couldn’t be a coincidence that Lupin turned up now of all times, when Black was on his way to Hogwarts. Albus must see this connection, he could not be so blind, this werewolf could not be trusted, Albus had seen what he was capable of even at a young age.

After the feast, Severus returned to his rooms, frustrated and tired. He shed his robes on his way to bed and fell into the sheets with a heavy sigh. What if Lupin helped Black to kill Potter? How would Albus feel then about his decision to appoint Lupin instead of Severus? Not that Severus didn’t approve of any plan that involved Potter’s untimely death. He sighed again. No, this wasn’t about Black or Potter, this was about the fact that Albus had appointed a man who had helped making Severus’s adolescence the most unpleasant and humiliating time of his life. He felt betrayed. He would have to talk to Albus. First thing in the morning.

He pulled the blanket over his head and closed his eyes. And thought of Lupin’s face. He couldn’t help it. This was something irrational that couldn’t be suffocated by his dislike. It was inexplicable. There was something in those eyes and that smile, in that mild face that made Severus feel … no, impossible, he shouldn’t even think about that. But it was there, no doubt, a feeling he couldn’t suppress, fueled by that involuntary respect Lupin commanded. It was inappropriate and unwanted. But something about Lupin had Severus see him even when his eyes were closed. And his mere sight made his anger cease, replaced by a burning curiosity and a wish to figure him out. He had felt it before, at school. And yet he hated the man, he loathed him for it. And now he had to bear his terribly relaxed behaviour and his annoyingly mysterious smiles. There was nothing he could do about it. But as he lay there, drifting off to sleep, his last irrational thought was that he might not want Lupin to go away at all, at least not before he had unraveled the mystery behind those defiant smiles.

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