The Slytherin Common Room was just about explosive with excitement, as it was nearly every Hogsmeade weekend; it was the sort of explosiveness that a powder keg had, as though at any moment someone may just burst. Mostly, the students in the proudest house in the school were good at keeping themselves under control. There was a slight flurry of motion as Bellatrix and Narcissa flanked the escaping Severus from either side.
"Rabastan says you have a study group."
"But you don't take Divinations."
Severus lifted a hand, pinched the bridge of his nose, glared at the girls. "All right, then, fine. You've found me out. I've been secretly reading tea leaves on the side. It's a wretched, horrible habit that I truly must stop, but the lure of the soggy Earl Grey and steaming water is simply too much for my tortured soul to bear."
Narcissa and Bellatrix exchanged withered looks, and then turned back to face Severus. They were truly frightening separate, but together they were a force to be reckoned with. "You're lying," Narcissa said after a moment.
"Very good," Severus said, applauding most sarcastically. "Like a fox, you are, Narcissa. Now, if you don't mind, I've places to go. And, of course, my torrid love affair with tasseography to see to. Good afternoon." That said, he swooped out of the Commons, quite like an overgrown bat, moving toward the staircase; he did have places to go. There was the Apothecary, and then Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop. He tried to convince himself, on the way to Hogsmeade, that he needed another quill. Desperately. Well, the old one did drip sometimes when he was particularly flustered and waved it about, and when he'd dipped it in too much ink anyway. It was obviously faulty. Needed to be replaced right away. Yes.
Because he definitely was not going to Scrivenshaft's hoping to run into Remus Lupin. No, definitely not. In fact, it would be best if he didn't see him there at all, he told himself with a firm nod, sneering at a few Hufflepuff Third Years' as he strolled past Honeydukes. Yes. He'd rather not see that dimwitted Gryffindor anyway. Not one single little bit.
Pushing his way past a Ravenclaw and a Gryffindor, he slipped through the door into Scrivenshaft's, making his way back toward the quills. He pondered for a few moments over a raven-feathered one before he moved on down the row. Severus held back a snort at a peacock feather - who on earth would use that sort of quill? - and was quite proud of his own ability to not look over his shoulder at all, even though he got the urge to every single time the bell at the door chimed, signaling another customer's arrival.
"Oh, come off it, Moony..." Sirius leaned heavily on his friend's shoulders as Remus tried his best to compose a short letter to his parents. "You know it's not the same when you're not with us."
"Sirius, please, I already told you that I won't be able to help with this one." Remus chewed the end of the offending quill, not noticing it drip ink steadily onto his robes. "I have some things I need to do today." He added a few words, sighed when the quill scratched empty on the paper, and reinked it impatiently. Sirius was making puppy eyes at him; he felt a deep and sudden need to bare his teeth, to make Sirius back down and show his belly in submission...
He shook the wolf down with a sharp flick of his head and a firm period at the end of his words which quickly transformed into a small black lake on the much-abused parchment.
"You know, mate, one of these days you're going to sit out, and the three of us will pull the most brilliant prank in the history of Hogwarts. Our names will be recorded in the annals of glory, and you will mourn having turned us down, oh yes..." James quietly dragged the raving Black away, nodding a silent 'see you later' to the unimpressed werewolf. Remus set down the quill, threw the thoroughly ink-blotted and near-illegible letter into the fireplace, and followed Peter down the stairs and out the doors to the crisp autumn air and the leisurely walk from school to town.
Sirius stolidly ignored Remus on the walk there, choosing to loudly plot with James instead. Peter lagged behind a little; Remus started a very short conversation that ended abruptly when Peter fished the last Arithromancy assignment out of his pocket to show off both a fair score and a very inept and unflattering sketch of Professor Median, whom Remus quite respected. After that, he saw no need to hold back his pace; he sped past the milling students and made it to Hogsmeade a few hundred meters ahead of the rest of them.
Honeydukes was still quiet when Remus entered. The shopkeeper looked up in alarm, expecting a rush of noisy and awkward children instead of the one quiet boy who made his way over to the chocolate display. He fished the reminder he'd written himself out of his pocket-- '2 bars dark choc., 6 bars milk choc., 4 bars white choc.'-- and gathered the appropriate sweets. The left pocket of his robes had the cost of the chocolate counted out to the Knut; he emptied it onto the counter and replaced the coins with the candy bars.
"Have a nice day, dear," the shopkeeper called after him, sighing as several loud and notoriously clumsy Hufflepuffs entered in his wake.
The streets, quiet only a few minutes ago, were now crowded with laughing, chattering students. Remus crossed the street and walked to the Apothecary alone, rubbing the torn shopping list between his fingers. Kneazle hair, and maybe running into someone worth talking to instead of someone who'd rant incoherently at him for not going along with all his plans... Anyhow, kneazle hair to replenish what he'd lost with a sneeze when cleaning up after Potions on Monday, which shouldn't be more than a sickle, and then he absolutely had to get a new quill. The apothecary door chimed softly when he pushed it open; the gentle sound was lost under a loud crash and a curse as someone toppled a barrel full of dried scarab beetles. "Kneazle hair and asphodel," he murmured to himself steadily, and avoided the mess by ducking into a near aisle.
The door kept chiming. Severus wanted to cast Silencio on it just so that he wouldn't have to twitch and want to turn every single time he heard the sound. It was like The Telltale Heart - Poe - driving him slowly and surely insane. And every single person who stepped into the store was babbling inanely with someone else; he didn't see the boy he was waiting for step into the shop across the street, he was too intent on appearing like he wasn't waiting for him at all.
Raven quills or crow quills - what was the difference? Black feathers.. he sighed, shaking his head slowly to himself and starting back down the aisle. The shopkeep, apparently Scrivenshaft, was looking at him as though he was either crazy, stupid, or both. Which he probably was.
The door chimed again and he jumped a bit, gritting his teeth and focusing on invisible ink. This was utterly stupid.
He'd just wait a few more minutes.
The asphodel was simple-- students weren't even allowed to scoop it, it was sold prebagged by the ounce. One ounce covered both Severus's loss due to prank, and the use from the potion they'd made twice. It was the kneazle hair that gave Remus problems. He'd got it measured out to the exact gram he needed twice already, and sneezed just as he was about to sweep it into the paper bag. It was driving him insane.
"Need a hand?" Remus turned, catching a glimpse of long black hair and dark eyes-- he started to smile-- which quickly resolved themselves into the slightly vacant, cheerful look of Amos Diggory. His smile wilted a little, then reformed into a less stupid, more friendly look.
"If you don't mind... I've never had a problem with kneazles before, my aunt got me one when I was younger but it--" Oh dear. He cut himself off abruptly. Amos just nodded.
"That happens, with them. Kneazles tend to get into spots of trouble..." He quickly measured out six grams and a bit more, got it in the bag with only a little lost off the edge, and folded it over before handing it to Remus with a smile. "There you go. Thanks for helping me out in Herbology, right?"
Remus just nodded weakly; Amos didn't even notice, swept away in a cluster of his friends. Looking down at the paper bags, Remus sighed. Severus said he needed to stop at the Apothecary... so where was he? Not in the back, not by the front displays, and not in any aisle he'd checked... maybe he'd just check the rest, then pay for the ingrediants and go to Scrivenshaft's, one way or another.
This was just getting dumber and dumber by the moment. Severus was staring at the same bottle of ink for about six minutes; he heard a snicker behind him, and turned a bit. There was a moment of hope! He straightened a bit, eager - and then rolled his eyes with a sigh as he saw who it was - just Regulus Black. Shaking his head, he turned back to the shelf he was looking at before.
"It's ink," Regulus' voice filtered through the din, from a few feet to the side. "In case you haven't realized it yet."
"I'm quite aware," he muttered, looking over his shoulder with a sneer. "But thank you, Regulus. You are quite astute. Amazing how you're related to Sirius Black at all." Of course, Severus Snape knew exactly which wounds to rub the salt into.
Regulus just glared for a moment, then sniffed. "Heard you're getting close with my dear brother. Or at least one of his mates." Snape just narrowed his eyes, glaring at the ink until the little brat moved on. Regulus Black was annoying, but mostly harmless.
This was getting ridiculous; he grabbed a raven-feather quill and slunk toward the cash register. Lupin had probably decided to spend the day with Potter and Black, he realized, with a bit too much disappointment for his own liking. He paid for the new quill, and turned toward the door, figuring that he would just go back to the school, call it an early night, and enjoy the quiet of the Common Room with most of the student body out.
He wasn't there. He'd probably stayed in, Remus thought morosely, handing the coins to the skinny witch behind the counter. She had a sparkly smudge on her cheek that took him a second to identify as beetle eyes.
"Cheer up, it can't be all that bad..." He looked at her blankly, shook his head, and walked out of the store. Of course it wasn't that bad. He'd been a fool to get his hopes up at any rate. Sirius would laugh his tail off if he'd known just why Remus had split off from the Marauders today. Just one more stop, and he could go back, write a real letter to his parents, and hopefully find something to do before James and Sirius and Peter got back with their dungbombs and grandiose plans.
When Severus opened the door, the bell above it rang again, and he got the strongest urge to reach up and tear it down. Of course, he didn't do that - instead, he stepped back outside into the dusk, new quill in a bag in his hand.
And the first thing he saw was Remus Lupin. Blinking a bit, he shifted his weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other, only stepping forward again when a very rude Seventh Year Slytherin jostled him aside.
"Lupin," he said the other boy's name quietly, with a slight nod. He made himself ignore his heart suddenly skipping a beat.
He heard his name from across the street and looked up into a dark, dignified gaze. Remus blinked. Oh.. he'd said he needed a quill as well. Of course, he'd been in Scrivenshaft's... He shook his head slightly and smiled, unfolding the smile he'd crumpled back with Amos Diggory's false alarm. "Severus. Um, I got the asphodel to replace what they replaced..." He lifted the paper bag awkwardly, suddenly blushing for no good reason.
It was an odd feeling, the smile that Severus felt almost twitching at the corner of his mouth. He pushed it aside, of course, and pursed his lips to hide it. Gaze darted downward to the bag offered out, and he reached to take it, entirely aware of the fact that half an inch of his thumb touched half an inch of Lupin's forefinger. "Oh." Brilliant. That was just utterly brilliant. He paused, looking downward. "Er. You didn't.. have to." Oh, he was just full of sheer brilliance today. "Er. Here. I got you a quill."
It was the world's biggest lie, but Severus suddenly felt the need to give something back to Lupin. Besides, he didn't really need one himself. "You said that you needed one, and I was in there anyway. Um. Browsing."
"Ah, thank you!" The exchange of bags was swift; Severus's fingers were cool, yet the paper they'd been clutching was warm from his grip. Remus wondered at the contradiction, all the contradictions-- the slightly sour look that had crossed his lips when it had almost seemed he would smile. He realized they looked utter fools standing in the middle of the street, holding silly practical items and not meeting each other's eyes.
"D'you... Do you still need anything from the apothecary? I didn't know what else you'd be going for, so..." He slid his hands into his pockets, nestling the quill in its paper bag securely between two chocolate bars. "There's still a bit of time before we're supposed to go back to the school." The two hours that had seemed like a fair time away from the rest of the student body, now seemed too brief a time to linger in town. Another contradiction.
Drawing himself up after a moment of looking like an utter idiot, Severus lifted his head a bit and then gave a single nod. "Yes. I needed some ingredients. Er, bezoar and.. ashwinder eggs, and.. er, hang on," he reached into his pocket, fishing out his shopping list of sorts; normally, he had a very good memory, but he was feeling especially awkward at the moment. "Ah. Dragon horn and essence of toad." He read off the list, then glanced back up to Lupin.
"Do you.. I mean, would.. er.." Severus paused, letting his attention drift to the tedious and amazingly difficult task of slipping the list back into his pocket. "Mind coming with me, then?" he asked finally, raising his eyebrows. "If you didn't have any other plans, that is." Spending an hour with Lupin definitely sounded like a very, very good idea.
"Hm... other plans..." Remus pulled out his own shopping list from his pocket, glanced it over, nodded firmly, and said, "My secretary has just informed me that I do, in fact, have the rest of the afternoon free. If you're looking for a bezoar, you might want to hurry up; I think I heard a Ravenclaw prefect muttering something horrid about cyanide and the Halloween feast, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who heard." He offered another smile, this one a little less sure than the first, and turned back to the Apothecary, holding the door open for Severus with a gentle chime. "Maybe we'll have time for tea or something before we go back?" Stupid, he chided himself, where had that come from? He glanced down at his feet, waiting for the other boy to pass.
"Bezoar.. I'll be sure to stock up." Could it have been something friendly and playful from the mouth of Severus Snape? He offered a slight nod, murmuring a word of thanks and stepping inside. The offer for tea sunk in belatedly, and he turned a bit, blinking at Lupin as though he was confused, or as though the other boy had suddenly grown a third arm. "Oh. Er. Tea." He said, quite dumbly, then shifted a bit. "Well, Puddifoot's is right down the way," he said, wincing mentally. "I don't necessarily care for all of the.. pink." He moved through the apothecary as though he knew precisely where every single thing in the store was, as though he had the entire thing mapped out in his head, ticking off ingredients to his list, gathering everything expertly.
PUDDIFOOT'S? Remus shuddered internally, and verbally backpedaled. "It's very pink. Too pink. Almost overwhelmingly pink, actually, and the tea is frankly substandard..." Following a step or two behind the other boy, feeling like he should be burying his face in his hands, he added weakly, "Although there's a rather nice variety at the Three Broomsticks, sort of cinnamony and vanillaish... if you like cinnamon and vanilla. And spice. Er, not that everyone does, but I thought I'd suggest it..." Remus reached out for a unicorn's horn beside the dragon's horn Severus was sifting through, wondering if it was a suitable implement for putting an embarassed young teenager to a merciful death in a swift fashion.
Stupid, Severus groaned inwardly, adding a new Dragon Horn to his armful of potions supplies. How stupid to suggest Puddifoot's. What kind of normal person went to Puddifoot's, anyway? It was for girls and disgusting pink people. Well, the people weren't really pink, but they liked pink.
"Right. Spice. I like spice. It's.. well, spice is a good thing, that.. spice is." Severus was just going to march to the back of the store, find some belladonna, and do himself in. It would be a spectacular death, what with the retching and the turning purple and all. "I'm finished," he added, after he picked up a little green pouch of the essence of toad. Right, then. To the Three Broomsticks-" he was cut off by the bells above the door chiming, and the sight of the three people he least wanted to see stepping into the shop. On pure instinct, he ducked his head a bit, behind one of the shelves.
When Severus ducked, he gasped a little-- just enough to warn Remus that he might want to follow suit, which he did quickly, not even looking at the door. "What--?"
"Looks like your mates decided to join us," Severus muttered, feeling a swell of hatred stronger than usual toward the boys near the front of the store. "What are they going to do, blow up the apothecary?" As the boys turned down another aisle, he pushed Remus on, gently - his hand set between his shoulder blades, pressing carefully. "That would be my cue to leave." He wanted to ask if Remus wanted to follow but he couldn't; he just ducked a bit more and rushed out the door, the bell chiming behind him.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake..." Before the anti-theft charms could kick in, Remus threw a Galleon onto the counter and slipped out the door behind Severus into the hazy almost-twilight. He'd been wrong the first time. Severus's hand was warm enough to burn through his robes and leave a print above his spine. He shivered a bit, found the dark-haired boy a couple meters ahead, and followed, feeling inordinately cheerful about ducking out on his best mates.