In the Cottage

“I’m bored,” Remus announced one evening, some time after the dinner dishes had been washed and put away.

Ever since he had found him in his wolf form with a chewed-up shoe, Severus had considered a bored Remus something to be avoided at all costs, but he kept this thought to himself as he answered, without looking up from his book, “Perhaps you should go for a walk.”

Remus’ eyebrows shot up quizzically, as it had been raining all afternoon with the kind of soaking, drenching rain that only farmers truly appreciated and still continued to drizzle in the twilight.

“It’s wet.”

Severus sighed as he turned a page.

“Then perhaps you should take up a hobby. Might I suggest knitting?”

“I’ve darned all my socks already, if that’s what you mean. And everything that can be mended, has been.”

Remus continued to watch what he could of Severus’ face behind his book — Practical Potions and Poisons — and weighed his options. Coming to some conclusion, he abruptly left his fireside chair and knelt at Severus’ feet, resting his head in Severus’ lap without bothering to ask for his consent or permission.

“It’s no use pretending to read that. You already know everything in there by heart. Admit it!”

Severus sighed again and looked down at Remus, who was peering up at him from under his book with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes and letting his hand wander playfully along Severus’ stomach.

“And do I dare ask what your solution is to this perceived boredom?” he asked, with a slight twitch as Remus’ hand came tantalizingly close to his manhood.

“I’ll give you three guesses,” Remus replied, flashing his most charming smile. Severus fought the urge to leer back at him by closing the book and setting it carefully on the table next to the sofa, thinking of his next retort.

“I’m insulted that you think I need three, when your mind is much simpler to read than the proverbial book. Really, Remus, is sex the only thing you can think of?” he asked, somewhat disparagingly.

“I was deprived for a long time, if you’ll remember,” Remus pointed out, pouting ever so slightly.

“So was I, but you don’t find me pushing you into the bushes and having my way with you every time you turn around.”

“I wouldn’t mind if you did.”

“I should think not.”

Remus continued to stroke Severus’ abdomen with one hand while starting in with his other hand to suggestively rub his thigh. He was almost begging for it, but not quite. Severus found it maddening but could not make him stop, for that would be tantamount to admitting how it affected him — although he realised that if he allowed it to continue much longer, the evidence would become too obvious to deny. Not wanting to lose this round due to his own inevitable physical reaction, he suddenly grabbed Remus’ hands and pulled them away, looking sternly into his lover’s face.

“Remus, try to control yourself if you can. Do you realise how much more… restless you become as the full moon draws near?”

This stung, as was evidenced by Remus’ wounded expression, and Severus regretted saying it. Remus despised the part of himself that grew wilder with the waxing of the lunar cycle, hated the beast within, and had of course had realised long ago that his libido was affected by it as well. He tried to pull his wrists out of Severus’ grip, mumbling, eyes downcast, “Well, if you aren’t in the mood…”

Severus refused to release him, horrified that his plan had backfired so badly.

“I–I didn’t say that,” he stammered, frustrated at his own ineptitude with words. Caustic, biting words he could manage; tender, loving words he could never seem to get out at the right time. And as angry as he was with himself at conceding defeat, he wanted Remus as much as Remus wanted him — or at least, had until a few moments ago.

He released Remus’ wrists to place his hands under his armpits and pulled him roughly up onto the sofa with him. Confused, Remus looked into his face, trying to decipher what kind of mood Severus really was in at the moment. He didn’t have long to wonder, as Severus resorted to the one weapon in his arsenal that always worked with Remus. As he was pulled into a deep kiss, Remus realised that this taciturn man, whom he loved so much, actually did want him but was too embarrassed to say it in a straightforward manner.

“I should be used to his teasing by now,” the werewolf chided himself, but he knew that his own insecurities made it impossible to believe in his lover’s affection completely, even though they had been living together for the past few blissful days.

“There!” said Severus, finally drawing out of the kiss, “Are you bored now?”

“Not so much,” Remus acceded, dreamily wrapping his arms around Severus’ shoulders and nuzzling against his neck in his favorite position. Severus shifted so that Remus’ weight was supported mostly by the sofa, not his lap, and held him close. He found it humorous that Remus, who was taller and sometimes heavier than him, still enjoyed curling up on his lap like a giant cat, as he had when they were both younger and smaller. Smiling inwardly, Severus petted this oversized boy, rubbing his arms and thighs as though to keep him warm.

“Sev?”

“Hmm?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to presume… that is, I know you can’t be turned on and off like a faucet.”

“Hmmm,” Severus answered, noncommittally. The sad fact, to which he was not yet ready to admit, was that he could be — by Remus, at least.

“I was just wondering… maybe if there were something that would set the mood… you know, something romantic, something special…”

“Such as?”

“Oh, I don’t know… we already have dinner by candlelight every night… and I try to have fresh flowers on the table every day…. What do you find romantic, Sev?”

Faced with the sudden question, Severus felt a slight degree of panic. What did he find romantic? The thought had never occurred to him before.

“Well… I’m not sure I subscribe to the same, er, popular notions of what constitutes romance…” he began, unsure himself where he was headed.

“Well then, what do you like?” Remus asked, trying to make the question as un-sentimental as possible. “Do you like candlelight and flowers?”

“I’ve no objection to them.”

“How about… back rubs?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Chocolate?”

“In reasonable quantities, yes.”

Remus sniggered, remembering Severus’ astonishment at the amount he had eaten once, back when they were schoolboys.

“What about… moonlit walks?”

“I’d rather walk in the sunlight, thank you, when one is less likely to stumble or lose one’s footing.”

“Oh, all right… What about…”

Remus paused, trying to think of something else he considered romantic, which would not blatantly offend Severus’ sensibilities.

Gazing out the window at the raindrops still pattering down the leaves of the lilac bushes, holding Remus close, Severus thought of his own answer to the question — “I like you.”

He was startled by the strength of emotion behind that thought. He examined it as he would a complicated potion recipe, with almost clinical detachment.

“Yes, I like Remus. I like being with him, I like holding him, I like… well… making love to him…”

He was shocked at his own choice of words, but honest enough with himself to admit them.

“I like the way he feels, the way he looks, especially when he smiles… I like the silly things he says to distract me from my work…”

This came as a surprise, for he had always considered interruptions a nuisance, or thought he did.

“I like to watch him cook, or work in the garden… I like to see him content and happy…”

“All right, I have another one for you,” Remus began again, interrupting his reverie. “How about dancing?”

“Dancing?” Severus echoed, rather startled.

“Yes, dancing. You know, beautiful music, swaying softly to the rhythm, cheek-to-cheek…”

“Oh, that kind of dancing! I thought for a moment you meant what the students do these days…”

“No, no! Nothing that exhausting!” laughed Remus, pulling away enough to look into Severus’ face. “I mean the old-fashioned way, where it’s actually relaxing.”

Severus looked long into his honey-coloured eyes and quietly answered, “I suppose.”

“What?”

“If it makes you happy,” was his cryptic reply.

“Yes, it does,” Remus replied. “Remember the time we went to that pub, where my dad was doing his magic show? And the radio played my favorite song…”

“Yes, I remember. ‘Moonlight Serenade,’ wasn’t it?”

Remus’ eyes suddenly filled with tears.

“Y–You do remember…”

“Of course. And the Muggle waitress found us, but promised not to tell your father…”

Remus burrowed into Severus’ chest.

“That… is still one of my happiest memories, Sev. When I need to call up a Patronus, it’s either that, or the first time… we were together…”

“Really?” Severus asked, surprised. “I thought… But I practically…!”

“Well, not that part. Just when… when you said, you liked me… and kissed me, for the first time. My first kiss…. You don’t know how often I’ve relived that moment,” he confessed. “When I was so lonely, with all my friends gone… sometimes, it was the only thought that kept me going…”

Severus gripped his shoulders and pushed him away, more roughly than he intended to, just so he could look into his eyes. His gaze was almost as penetrating as when he was using Legilimency, but Remus did not shrink from it.

“It’s true. I kept thinking that maybe, deep down, you still liked me, even a tiny little bit… and that someday, just maybe, we could be together again… like this….”

Remus’ eyes were flooded with tears again, and Severus wordlessly kissed them away, covering his face with tender, caressing lips. They were locked together like that for a while until Remus regained his composure.

“I–I never really believed… it could happen…. I still wonder, sometimes, if I’m not dreaming this whole thing…”

Severus fiercely pinched one of Remus’ buttocks.

“OW!”

“No, you’re not dreaming,” he informed him glibly.

“I guess not! If I were, you’d be a bit nicer to me,” Remus grumbled, though not with rancor. He nestled against Severus’ chest again, sighing with contentment as he fit into the curve of his arms.

“Remus,” Severus started, then paused.

“Hmm?”

“You asked me, earlier, what I liked…”

“Oh, did you think of something?”

Remus waited expectantly as Severus mustered the courage to overcome his pride. Remus’ comment about his being nicer had, inadvertently, hit a nerve — Severus had always wanted to be nice to Remus, the way Remus was nice to him, but found himself poorly equipped in that area. In the past few days, he had done his best to compliment his cooking, which came out awkward but pleased Remus nonetheless. He had tried to help with the chores around the house, but the small cottage needed so little tending that he ended up disrupting Remus’ regular routine rather than helping. He had fallen back on physical contact as his main means of communicating affection, but in his mind he chided himself severely for not being able to verbalize the simplest things — possibly because they were the most important and revealing them made him feel vulnerable. Above all else, there were three short words he wished he could tell Remus, but he knew that they were still beyond his ability to produce. So he was determined, this time, to at least tell him the answer that had come naturally to his mind.

“The thing I like most,” he started, inwardly quailing but willing himself to proceed, then at the last moment deciding to work up to it, “is to see you smile and be happy.”

Remus looked up at him, a sober expression on his face. He knew a confession like this did not come easily for Severus and felt that a breakthrough of sorts was happening right before his eyes. He waited patiently, silently, as Severus groped for words, allowing him to take his time and get it right.

“I like watching you cook, and dig in the garden, and sing as you hang out the laundry. I–I like the way you walk, so light on your feet, fluid and graceful. I like watching you sleep, when your face is as calm and peaceful as when you were a boy. I even like… when you distract me, sometimes. I know I don’t act like it, but I do enjoy having someone intelligent to talk to for a change. And I like… touching you, and… well…”

Severus blushed furiously but was determined to get it out.

“I like… making love to you!”

Remus lay back in his lover’s arms, gazing up into Severus’ crimson face, trying to absorb everything he had just heard. His eyes were welling with tears again, which slipped out and over his cheeks unnoticed.

“I’m so glad,” he murmured at last, reaching out to gently brush back a lock of hair that was shadowing Severus’ brow. Severus was finally able to meet his gaze.

“Remus… I like everything… about you.”

Remus weighed his response before replying, very softly, “I love you, too, Sev.”

As their lips meshed together, Severus still had a lingering regret that he had not said the exact words he meant, which Remus was able to say so readily. But he knew, as he felt Remus’ arms tighten behind his back, that Remus understood. Of all the people in the world, Remus knew exactly what he had been trying to say. Remus knew that he loved him, and Remus was loving him back.

And that was all that mattered.

 

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