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FIC: D'accord, d'accord (part 1 of 2, complete)

Title: D'accord, d'accord
Author: Mechaieh (aka [info]bronze_ribbons)
Pairing: Snape/Lupin
Summary: After the War, Severus Snape has more to learn. When he moves to Chicago, he finds there are still more choices to be made.
Warnings: Liberties taken with the layout and contents of the Windy City.
Words: 11,300
Rating: PG
My absolutely awesome betas: [info]busaikko, [info]musigneus, and [info]aunty_marion
History: Written January-February 2007 (prior to Deathly Hallows); published in Chocolate and Asphodel. Influenced by François Villon, Dorothy L. Sayers, Francis Cabrel, and busaikko.


Et ça continue encore et encore
C'est que le début d'accord, d'accord . . .


And it goes on, again and again,
That which starts out, "All right, okay" . . .


    - Francis Cabrel


Prologue

Near the end of the Second War, Severus Snape was declared a casualty of Lyolbrake Plain, a small but horrific skirmish from which only two individuals had emerged with their minds and bodies intact: Remus J. Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks. The other two surviving witnesses had become permanent residents of a closed ward at St. Mungo's. Thanks to the overabundance of pyro-amplified spells cast that day, there had been no identifiable corpses on the plain at the end of the battle -- merely a grotesque mess of charred remains that no one had had the time, inclination, or stomach to sift through or preserve for forensic analysis. It was enough that Lupin testified to having gotten his hands on Snape to good effect ("and good riddance!"); as far as both the Ministry and the Wizarding public were concerned, the saga of Severus Snape was now closed.

Tonks herself had passed away soon after the end of formal hostilities. The circumstances suggested that her personal demons had gotten the better of her, given the extremely private memorial service and the reluctance of her parents or her lover to discuss the specifics of her death. Although the Dark Lord had fallen, the Order had not managed to vanquish his supporters: free of Voldemort's reign of terror, the Wizarding populace had elected totalitarian charisma over egalitarian earnestness, and the Order's veterans and sympathisers had found themselves repeatedly targeted for government-sponsored "reeducation."

Remus Lupin's disappearance two years later was a non-event, as almost all of his friends and allies had fled the country by then. The Rookwood regime had seen no need to devote its resources to eradicating werewolves, given how much the general population despised and feared them, and given their short life expectancies. When he vanished, Remus Lupin had had neither a landlord nor employer nor other regular point of contact. No one had been paying attention to the fact that he was alive, and no one noticed when he ceased to be present.


D'abord
(First)


Severus Snape had expected to die on Lyolbrake Plain. He had been on the run and in too many ambushes by then, and both his reflexes and nerves were shot. He had believed it would be only a matter of time before his instincts and training failed him in front of one Unforgivable too many. Instead of immobilising or killing him on sight, however, Lupin had inexplicably dodged and deflected a half-dozen curses in order to slap a portkey against Snape's ankle, one which had whirled him away to a secret enclave in Sussex -- a private laboratory directed by a great-great-great-great-niece of a well-known consulting detective.

Dr. Doren turned out to be frighteningly well-versed not only in the politics and practice of Muggle science, but also in the art of impersonation, and Snape had used the following four years to acquire PhD-level fluency in conventional chemistry as well as a fondness for folk music. Prior to his arrival, Snape had never heard of Dr. Doren or her sanctuary. It had taken him the better part of a year to believe he hadn't succumbed to an extended hallucination, or that the lab wasn't part of an elaborate trap; he'd retired to bed each night wondering if he'd enjoyed his last day of unfamiliar, unexpected happiness. Instead of disintegrating, however, his reprieve had extended into a fellowship in western Illinois, one that allowed him to devote two full years to analyses of apian and poacean compounds and to refine his ability to pass as "Russell Napier," a garden-variety researcher.

His reserved, awkward demeanour was hardly a recessive trait among his peers, and on the occasions he joined them for pizza and beer, he was not required to contribute anything beyond than his share of the bill and the appearance of interest in their gossip. His co-workers knew only that he had fled an executive position at a big, bad corporation after belatedly realising his true calling. Most of his lab-mates were far from thrilled about their collective dependence on corporate and federal funding, and Snape's reluctance to discuss ill-advised professional decisions came across to them as wholly natural.

Moreover, they hardly lacked for juicier mysteries and scandals to chew over. One of the associate professors had served time for statutory rape, the undergraduate biology chair had abducted her own son while waging a nasty child custody battle, and at least four of the doctoral students had merited investigation by the FBI. Snape found himself unwillingly fascinated by the alcohol-extended debates over whether having an FBI file was something to be flaunted or minimised in one's self-presentation.

It was during one such conversation that he realised he no longer cared about being fully in the know, be it about his Muggle colleagues or his fellow Wizarding emigrés. In the past, he would have been greedy for such details, voraciously prowling through every periodical and database available to him, but he had already reached burnout before the first fireball arced through the sky above Lyolbrake. It was not a condition from which he saw a need to recover: his murder of Albus Dumbledore was not a crime in the eyes of the Rookwood regime, but his other activities on behalf of the Order of the Phoenix had become common knowledge at the end of the War. The revelations had effectively rendered him memoria non grata on both sides; were he to re-emerge in Wizarding society, neither faction was likely to welcome his services or expertise, and Snape could see no benefit to reviving his old dreams of power, glory, and other ever-elusive rewards.

Better to lose himself in his research and his Jethro Tull records, and to leave any strategising against Rookwood's imperial ambitions to those too idealistic to cut their losses. During his rare perusals of American Wizarding newspapers, he sometimes spotted hints of cross-continental resistance activity in their accounts of burglarised offices and other acts of sabotage. Some of the acts of vandalism sounded suspiciously like mayhem masterminded by one of the Weasley twins, and Snape had been especially entertained by the swarm of attack flamingoes that had disrupted one of the Minister's recent appearances in the States. More often, however, the signs were more ominous: every time he purchased a newspaper, no matter how much time had elapsed since his last indulgence, it contained the obituary of a younger wizard notable for her or his antipathy to the Rookwood regime and its collaborators.

Snape invariably Banished the paper before he finished reading it; the coverage of The Boy Who Now Lived in New England was both as relentless and banal as it had been back in Britain, and Snape was damned if he'd squander any more of his time or energy on Potters past, present, or future. Let the rest of the expatriate community debate and dither over how to counter Rookwood's reach; Russell Napier was going to keep his own counsel and stay the hell out of the way.

Snape's situation at the university lab had seemed almost ideal, but as his fellowship approached its close, he found himself yearning to move to a city with a credible public transportation system -- one where he wouldn't need to a car to maintain his Muggle-based routines. One with enough commercial traffic to support true specialty stores, where he could inspect the goods and wares firsthand before handing over his cash. One where both dim sum palaces and hot chicken shacks were but a short walk or a subway ride away.

Snape had not informed Dr. Doren of his applications to several facilities in Chicago until she had asked him directly about his plans for the future. After his acceptance to Peacock Hall, a small lab on the south side of the city, he was unsurprised to discover that, while the institution itself was Muggle in organisation and culture, his new supervisor had been a Ravenclaw prefect a generation before him, and had co-authored several papers with Dr. Doren.

A part of him wanted to reject the gift, but it wasn't as though he had asked her for help, he sternly reminded himself. Therefore, it wasn't as if he owed her any new favours, since he hadn't requested one in the first place. It also wasn't as though he could ever repay her for the generosity she'd extended to him right after the end of the War. In his new apartment on 53rd Street, Snape adjusted his windowblinds and sighed. What in the world made me dream I would ever be free of my debts? What does it matter, that there's now one more?


Chaque bruit de portière
(Each noise at the door)


Five months later, Snape reminded himself he had wanted to settle in Chicago. It was a miserable, blustery morning, and by the time he reached his office, his left foot was damp from some snow that had crept through a crack in his boot and soaked through his sock. The bagel he'd gnawed upon for breakfast was disagreeing with his digestion, a situation exacerbated by his infernally cheerful, perpetually snacking Japanese-American officemate: J. Noguchi "Gooch" Smith was devouring a carton of eggplant stewed in a spicy, pungent brown sauce while skimming the morning Tribune.

Gooch was a fellow wizard, albeit one on duty as an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Gooch was also quietly but fiercely allergic to religious and political proselytising of any stripe, a trait wholly compatible with Snape's own desire to avoid inquisitions into his beliefs and commitments. While most of their colleagues respected such boundaries as a matter of course, Snape had resorted to discreet hexes or outright rudeness to discourage the nosiest of the twits. Gooch was equally quick with jinxes in Wizard-only settings, but among Muggles, his vexation tended to become visible only in the way his smile grew a bit too bright and brittle.

Closing their door firmly, Snape muttered a series of curt charms, making short work of drying his foot and repairing the offending boot. He then sat down at his desk and plugged an ethernet cable into his laptop.

As Snape began reading his e-mails, Gooch set down the food, folded up the newspaper, and slipped his own wand out of his sleeve, waiting.

Five minutes later, Snape violently swore and slammed down the lid of the laptop. He glared at Gooch, who gazed back at him calmly but warily, wand still at the ready.

"Oh, put that down," Snape finally said, irritated. "It's not your fault that I have to redo the whole bloody batch."

Gooch relaxed his guard, but his laugh was cynical. "Two years ago, a student shot at me after he flunked my seminar. Something not being my fault doesn't mean I won't get blamed for it."

"Comparing me with those dunderheads? Gooch, how dare you."

Gooch's smile was sharp. "It is insulting, now that I think about it." He reached for the carton of eggplant again as he added, "You wouldn't have missed."

Snape stared at Gooch. "Was that supposed to be a compliment?"

Gooch responded with a mock salute, disposable chopsticks still in hand. "Depends. Are you going to hex me when you get to my follow-up note? There's an intensive course on reading in French starting up next week; I sent you the link to the registration info."

"I don't have --" Snape stopped himself. The most innovative work in his current area of interest was currently being produced by a pair of chemists who published almost exclusively in French, and the results so far had been both sufficiently obscure and not yet commercial enough to merit republication in English. The Peacock Hall budget included an allowance for translations, but only for major papers relating directly to its contracted projects; Snape conducted his side investigations into poisonous Daucofragaerian compounds at the lab with his supervisor's blessing, but without the support of formal funding.

When it came to scientific papers and forums, so-called translation charms were as exasperatingly unreliable and off-target as their computer equivalents. Gooch happened to be fluent in French, but lacked the time to provide more than an occasional off-the-cuff summary. Snape had employed his wizard's Latin in tandem with Babelfish to glean what he could from Croisset and Cheylard's articles, but he had been all too aware that his inability to decipher their conclusions with precision would eventually cost him. He had received the latest dispatch from Montréal a week ago; although he had recognised its importance from its diagrams -- enough to appeal to Gooch, who had assigned it to a bilingual student in need of extra credit -- he hadn't expected it to scotch a key postulate he had used to define his parameters.

Snape didn't want to make time to learn French. The language reminded him of Malfoys and Lestranges and other people he would have preferred to forget, there was nothing about its literature that appealed to him, and he dreaded how stupid and out of place he was going to feel sitting in a classroom being drilled on elementary verb conjugations with people half his age. He also would have liked to forget, however, that he had just invested too many hours in a series of experiments he now felt obligated to restructure and resume from scratch.

Snape narrowed his eyes at Gooch. It wasn't on, hexing the messenger, but he wanted to hex something. He aimed his wand at the carton, transfiguring the remaining slices of eggplant into a swarm of squirming, dark brown mice.

"Putain!" Gooch exclaimed, dropping the carton. After a moment, though, he burst into laughter. Two wand-flicks later, the carton had become a cage, the mice neatly corralled inside.

"You should take them to Zuke's," Snape drily suggested, naming a bar popular with their colleagues. "They can't taste any worse than last week's barbecue sandwiches."

Gooch snorted, but before he could reply, a young man pushed open their office door and stepped inside. "Mr. Smith?" he said to Snape.

"I'm Dr. Napier." Snape tilted his head toward Gooch. "He's Dr. Smith."

The young man regarded Gooch sceptically. "You don't look like a Smith," he said.

"Appearances lie," Gooch said blandly, taking the packet addressed to "J. N. Smith." His tone of voice still pleasant, he added, "You don't look like an idiot."

Their visitor gaped at Gooch as the insult registered. He then looked at Snape as if to ask, You put up with this every day?

Snape curled his lip. He sneered, "He's being polite to you. I think you're a blithering idiot."

The young man's expression changed from bewilderment into hostility, and he left in haste. Not looking up from the packet, Gooch quietly said, "I don't think that helped matters, but I appreciate the backup."

Snape leaned against the corner of his desk. "What just happened? Imbeciles like that don't usually get to you."

"They do, actually, but I'd rather get along with people." The frown lines that had appeared at the corners of Gooch's mouth made him look much older than usual. "Sometimes I just get tired of having to play teacher all the time. Especially to the unrepentantly clueless."

Snape shifted his gaze to the mice. One of them was gnawing at a section of wire, as if to create an opening in the cage.

"I don't miss teaching," he said.

"Lucky you," Gooch said bitterly, tossing his chopsticks into the wastebasket. "Must be nice, having a name and a face that doesn't scream 'half-blood' every damn day."

Snape was speechless, his head suddenly crowded with the echoes of old taunts and feeble fantasies. He doesn't know, he reminded himself. He's had better things to do --

Gooch aimed his wand at the mice and turned them into a heap of feathery brown quills. A second flick of the wand Transfigured the cage into a coffee mug.

Snape found his voice at last. "Where do you think we are, a Wizarding library?" He aimed his own wand at the plumes and altered them into a cluster of mechanical pencils.

Gooch rolled his eyes. "You're hopeless! Where's the romance in your soul, man?"

Snape said, "You want flowers for your girlfriend, you take care of it."

Gooch's mouth tightened. "Not her style. And not my girlfriend, as of two days ago."

Damnation. How was I supposed to know --? "I'm sorry," Snape mumbled.

"Wasn't your business," Gooch said. "Not yours to apologize for."

One of the very few -- Snape cut off the thought before it materialised on his tongue. Instead, he paused in the doorway. "Coffee?" he asked.

"Sure," Gooch said. He Summoned the mug and dumped the pencils onto his desk. "Here, use this."


Le vent se déchaîne
(The raging wind)


On the following Monday, the first night of the French class, Snape was truly in a good mood as he walked the six blocks from the bus stop to Cobb Hall. His supervisor had commended him that morning both on his diligence and inventiveness. The reconfigured side experiments had generated a plethora of fresh, intriguing mysteries to investigate. The pad Thai he'd ordered for lunch had been excellent.

And, the wind was blowing hard. Although Snape disliked dealing with rain and snow, he actually enjoyed the bitter cold and the breath-stealing forcefulness of Chicago's legendary gales. He liked leaning into them, savouring how they tugged on his clothes and scoured his face, and it pleased him how the same winds sent lesser mortals scurrying indoors, freeing up the pavements from their conversation-paced dawdlings. He relished how ruthless the winds were with anything overly trivial or insufficiently grounded: they ripped through photocopied flyers and glossy posters without mercy, and impudently snatched away unknotted scarves and half-read newspapers. The only thing he disliked about the wind was how it rattled the branches of the trees: the noise reminded him of too many nights on watch, straining to distinguish the hints of approaching danger from the ordinary rustle and creak of his surroundings.

When he arrived at the classroom, there were already a dozen students seated around its tables, which had been arranged into a large rectangle. Snape was pleased to see the format, since it meant he would not be forced to sit with his back to anyone. He selected a seat opposite the blackboard, which provided him with an unobstructed view both of the windows and the doorway as well as the front of the classroom.

Several of the students were reading newspapers. One was munching a hot dog, and another appeared to be playing a game on her cell phone. Two were dozing, half-slumped in their chairs. A pair of women were exchanging opinionated notes about a seminar concerning novels written in reaction to fascist regimes. The dark-skinned man to his left was sketching one of the cat-nappers. A woman with messy hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and stooped shoulders was browsing ahead in the textbook; Snape instantly pegged her as the pupil most likely to attempt monopolising the teacher. He had loathed dealing with that type of student during his Hogwarts days; their lack of subtlety had offended his sensibilities, and their unslakable thirst for special treatment invariably increased his already unmanageable workload.

However, Snape mused, he might do better to view the woman as a potential ally. If she was keen to become the star of the class, it would improve his own odds of remaining in the background. He was all too aware that, in spite of his new modus operandi, he had never fully conquered his own craving for recognition. Maintaining a low profile was a small price to pay for remaining alive, but it was so contrary to his core personality that the effort often left him feeling utterly wrecked, even though the thought of returning to active duty remained both unpalatable and unlikely. Remember, no one wants you. They'll only want what they can get from you . . .

He sometimes caught himself wondering whether any of it was worth the exertion -- why he was going to such lengths to live a life no one would remember. The most he could expect from his current career was his name appearing in other people's bibliographies for a generation or two, and even those traces would eventually evaporate. The journals would become obsolete, becoming of interest only to historians of science, and there would be no room in their annals for an obscure, journeyman chemist --

Snape mentally shook his head at himself. The yearning for immortality hadn't done anyone any good, ever. Given his history, it was a lesson he ought to have mastered long ago. The difficulty, of course, was that recognising what needed to be done wasn't at all the same as actually being able or willing to do it.

Even for a chore as trivial as learning to read French. As if rank even matters here! He forced himself not to glare at the woman, even though he was now thoroughly irritated at how her presence had nudged his mind toward such unwelcome reflections. Could I have picked a more utterly useless way to squander the past five minutes? I could have been reading ahead myself -- Snape squelched that thought. He had no desire to appear the swot to his new classmates. As someone ten to twenty years older than most of them, his mere presence was peculiar enough, and it was likely he would be older than the instructor, too; introductory language classes were the province of graduate students, not tenured professors.

The dark-skinned man had extricated a rubber eraser from his backpack, apparently dissatisfied with his attempt to render his model's baseball cap. More students had arrived, some engrossed in conversation with their companions. Others deliberately surveyed the remaining spaces around the table before deciding which spots would best suit them. The rising level of chatter in the room was accompanied by the soft noise-clutter of the students shedding, shuffling, and arranging parkas, hats, scarves, bookbags, and other accoutrements.

Snape twisted around in his own seat, momentarily wishing he had been the first to arrive; it was aggravating, how impossible it was to keep a coat neatly draped on the back of a classroom chair sans sticking charm. Snape scowled at the grimy floor before turning back around, schooling his features back into a neutral expression.

It was 6:59 p.m. -- one minute left before the start of class. He couldn't shake the feeling that there was something important he'd failed to address -- something he ought to have concentrated upon instead of allowing himself to indulge in self-pity. He couldn't think of what it might be, however, and he had no desire to dwell upon his earlier reflections, so he amused himself by observing the other occupants of the room more closely. Territorial mini-negotiations were taking place as the classroom filled: on the tables, with notebooks, pens, and purses automatically shifted for some neighbours but not others. There were also different degrees of intensity and intimacy among the various conversations in progress, and Snape couldn't help curling his lip at a couple who were showing off: their entire dialogue about Samuel Beckett radiated self-aware sophistication, and their postures declared the exclusivity of their connection -- they were not interested in anyone else's potential contributions to their "discussion." Read-Ahead Girl is going to have competition, Snape concluded. Perhaps I should bring popcorn.

Then the instructor walked in, and Snape's scattered thoughts coalesced into a sudden, stunned flare of disbelief.

It isn't him. It can't be him.

"Bonsoir," the instructor said. "Bienvenue. Je m'appelle Jean Lupin." The man wrote his name on the blackboard as he spoke. To Snape's untutored ear, it sounded like Shaun Lu-pan. The man underlined the second syllable of his surname and continued, "The vowel in pin is the same one in vin, plein, thym, and prince, but lucky for you, this isn't a class on pronunciation. I'm not going to mind if you call me Lu-pin."

Snape stared at the man, transfixed. Had that been aimed at him, the word "prince"?It can't be you, but who else would know . . . and would this be insurance, in case I slip up?

Lupin stood at the head of the table, unlaced an interdepartmental delivery envelope, and drew out the copies of the class syllabus. He divided the stack in two and passed the halves to the students on either side of him. He resumed speaking. "Let's get right down to business." Midwestern American accent. Has he been living in Chicago all this time? "You're here because you have some sort of language requirement. For most of you, the future includes an open-dictionary exam. I'm here to help you pass it. This class will focus only on reading. If you've any interest in speaking or writing in French, you should register for a standard class instead." He paused, as if to allow such students their opportunity to leave.

"D'accord. Let's begin, then. Please turn to page ten of your books . . ."

Snape obediently opened his own copy of Les Connexions, but his mind was not on the charts of pronouns and verbs Lupin had begun to explain to the class. Instead, it was insisting on sifting through his memories of his post-War studies -- of all the times he had wondered about Lupin's role in his rescue. At times, he had even wondered if he'd dreamed it -- if, in place of whatever had actually happened, his subconscious had substituted his secret, shameful fantasy of Lupin coming to his aid as a gesture of unspoken love. It was an absurd and pathetic little vignette -- one that had germinated with his crush on Lupin during their fifth year at Hogwarts -- but it had stubbornly refused to be dislodged from his psyche over the decades, even as his feelings for Lupin repeatedly ricocheted among revulsion, disdain, frustration, and attraction.

Even when he hadn't wanted Lupin, he had wanted to matter to Lupin. Lupin's cool gratitude and cordial indifference toward him during their work for the Order had been maddening, reassuring, and tantalising, especially after the evening Snape overheard Lupin defending Dumbledore's trust in him to one of the Aurors. It had the tinge of a speech Lupin had delivered before; there was an odd, glib quality to Lupin's intonation as he insisted, "I neither like nor dislike Severus . . ." to his companion.

Being trusted was not at all the same as being loved, of course, but the knowledge that Lupin was willing to argue on his behalf had sustained Snape for weeks. It was too much to hope that Lupin's faith would outlive Dumbledore, but Snape had believed he would never have cause or opportunity to interact with Lupin again, except at wandpoint; what harm, then, to allow himself the fantasy of a Lupin who knew the truth?

"Je suis, tu es, il est, nous sommes, vous êtes, ils sont. I am, you are, he is, we are, you are, they are . . ."

Even if his memory of Lupin's involvement was true, it proved nothing: Lupin might not have known the function of the portkey. There had been not a single allusion to Lupin at the lab, and Snape's guarded inquiries had not yielded any results. Moreover, it wasn't as though Snape could do anything with the information. Even if it was indeed Lupin who had saved his life, and even if Lupin had done so on purpose, what could Snape do to repay him? Except, Lupin was now here --

"Jean" Lupin had moved back to the blackboard, writing out more conjugations as he spoke. "Now, falloir is a funny one. It's known as an 'impersonal' verb and you'll only see it in third person, but you'll see it all the time, since it means 'something that has to be done.' So, roughly speaking, il faut means 'it must' or 'one must,' il fallait means 'it had to be,' il faudra means 'it'll have to be," and il faudrait means 'it would have to be. Donc, 'Il faut faire attention en classe' translates to 'It's important to pay attention in class.' If you want to pass your exams, anyway . . ."

There was a faint wave of nervous laughter in response. Snape was intrigued by the undercurrent of mockery in the instructor's delivery: the Lupin he remembered from Hogwarts had taken far more pains to appear friendly and patient. Then again, these were graduate students, none of them in the classroom willingly, and Jean's resemblance to Remus was notably different in a number of respects. Remus had been clean-shaven; Jean wore a neatly trimmed moustache. Remus's hair had been shoulder-length and streaked with grey, whereas Jean's was closely cropped and uniformly brown. Remus's robes and jumpers had been shabby, faded, and threadbare; Jean wore a crisp white shirt, a silk waistcoat, and impeccably pressed black trousers. He had arrived coatless and unruffled -- presumably his office was in the same building.

All things considered, it was possible Jean was a different person entirely, but the more Snape studied the instructor, the harder it became for him to breathe. Was it only coincidence that Jean looked as though he too was in his forties? That made him older than a typical graduate student, but not unheard of, particularly among those individuals trapped in All But Dissertation purgatory. Jean was gaunt, and his voice was hoarse, and the way he held the chalk -- This class is going to be impossible. Even if he isn't Lupin, it's too damned distracting, and I do have alternatives. I'll find something at Loyola, or one of those "Teach Yourself" books . . .

". . . and that's enough for tonight, I think. So, first two chapters for Wednesday, and I'll see you then." Snape remained in his seat as the students around him gathered up their belongings and put on their coats, pretending to look up words in the textbook's glossary while the messy-haired woman (Ha! I knew it!) walked up to Lupin and asked him several questions about the syllabus. By the time he finished answering them (a process during which Lupin appeared to scribble several recommendations into the woman's notebook), the classroom was empty except for Snape.

After Read-Ahead Girl finally left, Lupin began to collect the handouts left behind. As Snape looked up, Lupin acknowledged him with a tentative, interrogative smile.

"Mr. Lupin," Snape began.

"Just 'Lupin' will do," the man responded. "I believe we're about the same age."

"Lupin, then," Snape said. "You . . . you remind me of someone I used to know."

"Funny, that. I could say the same about you." Lupin paused. "He died about seven years ago."

Is that how this game will be played? "Did he? I don't know what happened to the man you remind me of."

Lupin seated himself on top of a corner of the table-square, a few feet away from Snape. "That could be a shame. Or not. Depending on your memories."

Snape glanced at the series of conjugations on the blackboard. Je tombe, tu tombes, il tombe. I fall, you fall, it falls. "It could be both," he said. "Depending on which memories."

"True," Lupin acknowledged. "My memories of Severus Snape are very mixed indeed."

The room was utterly still as Snape and Lupin stared at each other. As Snape began to slide into Lupin's mind, Lupin leaned forward and placed a hand on Snape's wrist.

"Don't," he whispered. "Let the dead stay dead."

Snape caught his breath at the sudden contact. Lupin's hand was warm. What would it take -- Focus! "Wise advice," he said. "But what should I do with my memories of Remus Lupin?"

Lupin drew back, his expression sardonic. "You haven't heard from him in seven years? Then what good are those memories to you?"

Nous tombons, vous tombez, ils tombent. We fall, you fall, they fall. Snape reached forward and clasped Lupin's ankle. "'Good' is irrelevant. What matters is honouring Severus Snape's debts."

Lupin shook his foot loose from Snape's hand and stood up. "Those people no longer exist," he said, his voice cool. "There is no debt."

Snape stood up as well, his eyes flashing. "Do not mock me, Lupin. To do the right thing --"

Lupin held up a hand. "I do not mock you, Napier," he said, lightly stressing the name.

I hadn't told you my name, Snape thought, his heart racing. How much do you know about me?

Lupin continued, "We are not those people. I do not want us to be." He stepped up close to Snape -- so close that their bodies were almost touching. "I will admit to an interest," he murmured, "in becoming better acquainted with Dr. Napier. I'd propose dinner -- but not if you will see it only as a chore."

Snape felt dizzy, both from Lupin's proximity and from the suggestion that they restart their acquaintance as strangers. Can it be this simple and easy? Can . . . "How often do you ask your students on dates, Mr. Lupin?"

"I don't. You're no student."

"And you are?" Snape gritted his teeth. It's Lupin. No such thing as 'simple' with him. "What are you really doing here, Lupin? And how much should it worry me?"

Lupin frowned at Snape for an instant, then walked to the classroom door and yanked it shut. He whisked out his wand, and the remaining handouts flew back into the folders and envelopes he'd brought with him.

Task accomplished, he folded his arms and looked directly at Snape once more.

"Do you really need to learn French, Dr. Napier? Or do you just need access to a competent translator? If it's the latter, I would be happy to assist you. The investment would be simpler and faster than forcing yourself to endure this class, and the returns will be more accurate. No matter how hard or how diligently you might practice, your proficiency isn't going to match mine within eleven weeks, and I'm certain you would rather spend your time in your lab rather than hunched over a dictionary."

Snape said slowly, "What would be your price?"

Lupin's smile didn't reach his eyes. "Wolfsbane."

Snape said, "Have you done without, all these years?"

"Hardly. There's a master brewer right here in Chicago."

Snape raised an eyebrow. "His formula doesn't work as well?"

Lupin shrugged. "It works fine, but it tastes even worse than yours. The natives call it buffalo piss."

Snape couldn't help himself. "I'd like to know how they can tell."

Lupin bestowed on him a small but genuine grin. "I haven't dared to ask. Some things I just don't need to find out." His expression became self-deprecating. "A lesson I've never really learned, but sometimes the boundaries are obvious."

Lupin looked at directly at Snape and continued, "If nothing else, understand this. Translations for Wolfsbane? That's an offer, not an order. I don't need you and you don't need me."

Snape stared at Lupin, taken aback at the other man's intensity. After a moment, he murmured, "There being a difference between need and want?"

Lupin nodded, as if relieved to be understood. "Exactement." He gathered up the files and stepped toward the door. "That was something I liked very much about Severus, by the way. Very, very swift on the uptake. Something that made me wish again and again we could have been friends."

His hand was on the knob when Snape finally managed to speak again. "Lupin? Yes."

"To dinner, or the translations?"

"Both."

Lupin said, "You know how to reach me -- my information's on the syllabus. Send me what you want converted into English, or stop by."

"And dinner?"

"How about Greek?"

"Greek's fine with me."

"I'm fond of The Parthenon, downtown. After next class, perhaps? It's open late."

"Why not somewhere nearby?"

"I teach here. Do you really want to appear in the rumours about my love life?"

That would depend on whether you -- "A dinner isn't always a date," Snape pointed out.

"No," Lupin agreed, a hint of uncertainty dimming his smile. "But there will be speculation no matter what. And . . . should we end up discussing some people we used to know, best intentions notwithstanding, I'd rather we not be overheard by my students."

"Fair enough," Snape conceded. "The Parthenon, then. I do like baklava."

"So do I," Lupin said, turning to go. He opened the door and he stepped into the hall, but before he walked away, he glanced at Snape one last time. "I have a weakness for many-layered pleasures."


Part 2

Comments

It's always so much fun seeing old friends, and I'm talking about this fic. I think it was the first SnuSa I ever read!

Still gets me, all the buried emotions, the verbs that draw out and play on them. Magnifique!
Oh my goodness -- I'm so glad it didn't scare you off the pairing for life. ;-)

This story is very dear to my heart, so it means a lot to me that you find it worth revisiting. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know!