Disclaimer: Not mine, JKR’s
Author’s Note: This is meant to be a short and somewhat poetic piece; I’ve tried to use language a little differently than I normally do. It doesn’t really have a plot, it’s more of a brief moment in time in Severus and Remus’ lives. A few notes on my Wales – Remus’ hometown, Ebbw Vale, is an actual town that I lived in as a child. It’s primarily wizarding, in my version, and I imagine that people in wizarding Wales actually speak a good deal of Welsh (the language, in real world Wales, has been going through a revival in recent years, but it still is not spoken by a good deal of the population). Cardiff is the capital of Wales, and so I thought it fitting to be home to a Welsh version of Diagon Alley. My Welsh names for things are not particularly original, and they are as follows (roughly!): Rhad Cyrfau – cheap beer (the name of the bar), Gyfaredd Stryd – Sorcery Street, Drwg Llwybr – Wicked Alley.
Coupe poudre is the powder used by Haitian voodoo practitioners to turn people into zombies. “Adustio articulus” is, roughly, Latin for burning fingers.
The title for this story is taken from a song called “Nobody Loved You”, but the Manic Street Preachers.
What Would I Give for Just One of Your Smiles
I never planned on seeing anyone I knew at the Rhad Cyrfau. For one thing, it was in Cardiff, and I rarely came into town. For another thing, it was a bar for Dark wizards, and I wasn’t one of those, only a bloody werewolf. Which sort of explains why I was there in the first place, but not really.
I was in Cardiff because my uncle Gareth needed to pick up a shipment of stuff for the pub, but he was currently recuperating from an accident with my cousin Paul’s wand…and there’s a story I don’t want to get into. Our Gar is a Muggle, you see; our family’s lousy with them, in the best possible way. But of course his wife is a witch, and so are two of their three children…anyway, as one of the oldest of the cousins actually in Ebbw Vale at the time, it fell on me to go to Cardiff and fetch everything for him. I agreed gladly, as I was bored to tears…there’s not much for a 20-year-old wizard to get up to in my hometown. Especially not a wizard who happens to be a werewolf, when everyone in town knows it. I wasn’t allowed at the bar fights, nor in most of the pubs, or most of the stores for that matter. I had no job, therefore I worked for my uncle when I wasn’t spending time mooning around out on the moors.
So that put me here. You see, I picked up the shipment (a couple of boxes of crisp packets, a case of Belgian ale, and two from a local brewery), apparated them to Gar’s pub, then decided I might as well stick around, seeing as how I was still fairly bored. So I stopped into the small wizarding pub in Cardiff’s version of Diagon Alley, Gyfaredd Stryd. I don’t even remember the name of the pub, something generic and in English. But Magan Davies was there, and Magan Davies has a mouth like you wouldn’t believe. She sniffily announced to the whole damn pub, “Well, if it isn’t the little werewolf.” And I was kicked right out of there.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget what I am, when I’m somewhere away from home. No one to whisper behind my back, no one to turn their head away in disgust, or worse, pity. I had rather been enjoying my brief sojourn in the capital, in my anonymous brown robes with my anonymous smiling face. No one looked twice at me in Gyfaredd Stryd, and I was allowed to peruse the shops as I pleased, wander where I liked, talk to whomever caught my whim.
It wasn’t with surprise or anger that I left that little pub, though, more with a sort of tired resignation. It always caught up with me, the wolf, and at twenty I was long, long used to it. Hence the Rhad Cyrfau. Being a Dark creature myself, I knew that at least I wouldn’t be cast out immediately. Drwg Llwybr was an experience in and of itself, strange and arcane deals being done on every corner, and more than its fair share of black robes, hoods, and furtive glances. But oddly, plenty of normal looking wizards and witches as well, doing their business openly, efficiently.
The Rhad Cyrfau was fairly dimly lit, which I appreciated, and the bartender was a stern looking wizard with a bush of black hair that he kept barely in check with a ribbon, tying it into what must be a ponytail, though it more resembled the tail of an enraged cat. I ordered an ale and found one of the numerous shadowed tables in the equally numerous dark corners. I wasn’t quite sure how the rectangular building came to have quite so many corners, but maybe that was a closely-held secret of Dark wizardry.
It was actually quite interesting watching the few people that trickled in as the afternoon wore on. A dark skinned witch with burning eyes and brilliant sage robes floated in and sat down next to a long, lean man with ragged white hair and harried fingers. They began talking to each other with their hands and eyes, mouths jumping with expression, but no words. Shortly thereafter, a short wizard with a greenish cast to his skin that said ‘half-goblin’ sat himself before the bar and began ordering straight shots of whiskey. He knocked back twelve in the course of an hour, and then promptly left, without so much as a sway to his step. A heart-breakingly beautiful young man brushed past him on his way in, nodding familiarly to the bartender before heading upstairs. He wore only a pair of voluminous wine red pants, and as my eye followed him up the stairs, I was delighted to see the tattoo of a clock face dripping over his shoulder and down his back.
There were others as well: the ghoul that kept herself swaddled in thick muslin, endlessly gnawing on an unidentifiable piece of meat; two identical looking hard faced men playing a card game that neither ever seemed to win or lose, money circulating between the two of them monotonously; and most disturbingly, the sweet faced little girl with the hands of a withered crone, peering soulfully over the edge of a table at all of us in her too- large chair. But for the hands, she looked much like my sister as a girl.
With all these characters to catch my eye, I barely noticed the couple that slunk in and sat a few tables to my right: both wore unremarkable black robes and said little. It wasn’t until the twins began growling at each other in low argument that I turned my head to quietly study my nearest neighbors. I gazed openly at them, a little unfocused after my third ale, seeing only two pale men conversing in whispers, one with cobweb hair of silver blonde, the other with twisted ropes of sable.
I took me a full minute to recognize the first, but when I did, I thankfully managed to stifle my gasp of shock. Lucius Malfoy, cruelly aristocratic features shuttered, eyes of dull concrete scanning the bar endlessly, endlessly, softly rose lips moving subtly as he spoke to his companion. The companion was only a mass of hair…filthy black hair, so neglected that it had matted into thick dreadlocks, hanging halfway down the man’s spine. His hands were folded into his robe. If I had seen his hands, I would have recognized him immediately, but I only saw a hunched shape of unrelieved ebon.
Then he turned his head, his face jutting out in profile from that nest of hair, and this time I didn’t muffle myself, though fortunately my horrified half-groan went unnoticed by the pair. Severus Snape, beautiful, agonizing Severus Snape. And my breath left me, as I looked on him for the first time in four years. That long, hooked nose, pointed chin and high cheekbones, and I had been right so many years ago, his dusky olive skin had gone pale and sallow, white with infected golden undertones. My Severus, for he was still mine in my mind, no matter that he sat in this bar for Dark wizards with Lucius Malfoy.
I wished he would turn his head a little so that I could see more than just the shadowed side of his face, but he didn’t, and so instead I drank in his robes, more ornate than those he had favored in school, black on black, yes, but with numerous clasps and buckles and fastenings in silver. Perhaps they were a gift from Malfoy; I know Severus’ family did not have the money for them. If they were, I was fiercely glad, because they were obviously ill taken care of; the hem and sleeves were ragged with wear and small burn holes.
Then suddenly those elegant hands, those nimble, glorious hands danced from their hiding places and began to describe archaic rites in the air as Severus spoke to Malfoy, illustrating something he was saying to the older man, still speaking so low that I could not hear them. But I imagined I could feel the vibrations of his voice, the low voice of midnight silk, whispering through the dank air to me.
It was good that I had been sitting unnoticed for so long; doubtless stares of my length would have been remarked upon even in this place. But my head had gone winging away somewhere when I realized who was next to me, only ten, fifteen feet from me, closer that I ever got in the last months of our 6th year together, closer than Malfoy would ever let me. So I stared, and I sniffed the air like a dog, unabashedly, filtering in the tang of sour sweat and woodsmoke that was Severus, filtering out the sickly tickle of expensive cologne that was Malfoy.
Their two heads, light and dark, leaned in to each other, and then suddenly Malfoy was up, and those courtly long legs of his took him to the bar to murmur with the bartender before taking him upstairs. I wondered if he was abandoning Severus, or if this was merely part of their business here. I found I didn’t care, for now I could focus every particle of my attention on the man I had lost my heart to four years ago. It was only with a huge effort on my part that I thought to pull up the deep hood of my robes; if Malfoy were to come back, there was no guarantee that he’d fail to notice me again.
He had pulled a notebook from somewhere, and a quill from somewhere else, and he was scratching his way relentlessly across a page already filled with scrawling, scribbling numbers…and his fingers were moving so fast, too fast, frantic rat’s claws scrabbling at escape. I noticed now that his head would sometimes list to the side, and then he’d pull it up with a sharp jerk; his feet shuffled endlessly under the table, making his robes whisper crass rumors and unspeakable innuendo in the secret language of cloth and metal.
A drink sat untouched before him, clear liquid in a delicately smudged cup, water? It didn’t smell like anything much, and suddenly his hand darted out snake-quick, to snare it and drown him in its contents. He shoved the glass aside irritably, and finally I heard that darkling voice, a small snarl as he snatched up his quill once more, then threw it down again angrily. “Too bloody hot in here.”
Actually, I found the temperature rather on the chill side, and the other patrons seemed to agree with me, most still wearing their heavy outdoor robes as they went about their undoubtedly nefarious business. But under the pungent stench of old, I could sense the rich musk of new sweat; Severus seemed to be overheating indeed. And suddenly he was shrugging out of his robes, letting the top portion fall carelessly to his waist, puddling there thickly and leaving his torso bare. Yes, bare, completely bare…he wore no clothes under his robes, something I had never known him to do in our time at Hogwarts together. And the only thing I could think was, god, but he’s gotten so _thin_.
Severus had always been lean, but there had been a padding of muscle over his long bones; now, that was all gone. All that was left were the bones themselves, barely encased in flesh, and it seemed to me as though he had been burned, refined, purified somehow, leaving only the essence of himself, all hard angles and jutting points, ragged and defiant. It was as if his whole body now echoed those dexterous hands, beautiful in their intricacy, frightening in their purpose.
He rolled his head bonelessly on his neck, lips still moving as he muttered aimlessly to himself, and the angle allowed me finally a full glimpse of his face. His inky eyes, normally like depthless pools, wells of darkness that drowned hapless children, now glittered fiercely, reflecting the light, like the shells of long-dead beetles. I could read nothing in those orbs that spoke so eloquently to me in the past. High spots of hectic crimson flushed his cheeks, and his mouth worked endlessly, endlessly, muttering incantations or prayers, or merely the ramblings of a madman, I didn’t know.
He had picked up his quill again when Malfoy returned, with a newcomer in tow. The blonde spared me not a glance, but the other man with him looked over at me curiously. I ducked my head hastily, turning my eyes to my glass until I felt safe enough to sneak another peek over to their table. Severus and the new man were now deeply engaged in a low conversation that I could only catch snatch bits and pieces of.
The newcomer had deeply black skin rarely seen on these isles, and did not wear robes, but rather a wrinkled linen suit, a rich cream in color. His head was shaved, and glimmered dully in the candlelight. His large hands gestured slowly as he talked, and his eyes looked as though they were ringed with kohl. He had towered above Malfoy when they had walked over, and the paler man was not short. What bits I could hear of his conversation, I noticed his odd accent, a little French, a little something wilder. West Indies? Maybe Haiti. I closed my eyes, trying to focus my ears to their conversation, but it was frustrating, despite their proximity.
Severus, “It’s extremely difficult to….yes…we can get…if you…I insist…make more of the…won’t…_yes_…will do that to…”
The other man, “You see, I…very little…illegal in…you like I can…coupe poudre, for the…yes, zombies…perfect for your…”
Malfoy said nothing, listening with slightly glazed eyes as Severus and the dark man spoke, exchanging scattered remnants of information, feeling each other out on the basis of need and want and have-to-have. Finally, the stranger pulled a small pouch from an inner pocket of his suit, and placed it on the table. Severus’ eyes flickered madly as he gazed upon it, and his tongue darted out to wet his lips with lust. Grinning, a death’s head smile in that too-thin face, he gestured imperiously to Malfoy.
To my surprise, Malfoy complied with the gesture quickly, taking a slim envelope from inside his robes. He passed it over to the black man, who peered inside leisurely, a slow grin spreading in the darkness of his face to answer Severus’. I could not see the contents, but there were odd bulges in the envelope, and I didn’t think there were papers inside. The man held out his enormous hand, and Severus shook it quickly, almost distastefully, irritated that his attention was drawn from the pouch sitting before him. The man left the table and returned upstairs.
Severus teased open the knotted string threaded through the mouth of the pouch with manic-sharp fingers, then sat gazing down at the contents with gleaming avarice. He jerked his finger into his mouth, wetting it before flicking it into the pouch, coming out with some sort of residue dulling his shiny-slick spit. I could smell the sharp tang of whatever it was: a sticky-sweet herbal sort of bite underlain with the creeping odor of decay. Severus’ darted his tongue out, an angry red snake tasting the residue. His too-bright eyes fluttered briefly back in his head, and he began laughing.
It was a hitching bark, his laugh, and it brought with it a terrible wash of memory and pain and deep, deep mourning. I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the wall, letting the fetid water of despair close in on me, if only for a moment. Burning black eyes locked on mine, watching me with desire, and fear, and more; spare lips quirked up ever-so- slightly in a mind-numbingly beautiful smile; those agile fingers dancing along my spine, then slipping down to entwine with my too-clumsy, too-thick ones; voice of hissing velvet, whispering my name, heated breath bringing the words to me, tickling along the line of my jaw; one expressive eyebrow arched in wanton abandon as he laughed next to me at some stupid joke I’d made; the soft brush of black robes against the back of my hand as he leaned in to murmur some wry comment into my ear; the perfect drop of sparkling ruby at the corner of his mouth, licked neatly away.
When I had graduated from Hogwarts, I had made a conscious decision to leave Severus behind, to drown myself in the lives of my friends and family, move on from my hopeless obsession. And it had worked, for awhile; Sirius frequently visited with embellished tales of exotic locales, and I was a regular guest in the Potter household. Peter I saw rarely, but he wrote often - long, rambling letters full of helpless little details that I loved. My family itself was enough to keep me busy for ten lifetimes, and my little sister made sure to come moaning to me at every failed romance and slight from a friend, of which there were _many_.
But all of that had not built even the flimsiest wall with which I could hold back the force of Severus’ laughter; it all fell away in shuddering mess as I opened my eyes again to look at him, and I opened my mouth to speak to him.
Ironically, it was Malfoy who saved me. “Are we done here?” he asked, voice full of boredom and restlessness. I waited for Severus to flinch away, or to jump to his feet, the way he always used to when his beloved Lucius opened his mouth.
Instead, Severus snapped his mouth shut, and turned slowly to look at the blonde. I could almost hear the tendons in his neck creaking. With no warning, his hand flashed up, and those fingers that had wrapped so fluently around my cock, ghosted over my lips, smoothed through my hair, now they gripped his companion by the jaw, pressing deeply into the soft flesh and wringing an involuntary squeak out of the older man.
I was spellbound. Severus leaned in and whispered something only Malfoy could hear. And Malfoy…oh, he was riveted. Those pale grey eyes glittered with excitement, and a pink tongue darted from his mouth to wet his lower lip. I saw him squirm and shift anxiously, no longer the proud lord of Slytherin that I remembered, all composure and perfect breeding extinguished in that one brutal gesture.
“Adustio articulus,” Severus said clearly, and suddenly those widely excited eyes tinged with real fear, and then pain. Malfoy being twisting in earnest, letting out whimpering little moans, though never actually attempting to pull away from Severus’ hand. He bared his teeth in a grimace of agony, and though I could not see my ex-lover’s face, turned from me, I could hear his wicked little chuckle. Finally he released his captive, wiping his fingers off fastidiously on his filthy robe. Where he had gripped Malfoy’s skin, brilliant scarlet weals were forming, like burn marks.
Completely ignoring his companion, he lazily pulled the strings of his pouch shut, then slipped back into his robe, tucking his notebook and quill away carelessly. Standing, his made his way to the door, and Malfoy quickly leapt to his feet and scurried after, all dignity gone. I watched them disappear through the door with hooded eyes and a reeling mind.
I left myself not long after, paying my bill distractedly, and wandered the streets of Cardiff until long after midnight.
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