Disclaimer: The inhabitants of Hogwarts are the property of JK Rowling.
Games of Skill and Chance
Part 9 - Othello
Jarveys made of jelly were chasing him across the sloping roof of the great hall. The grey slate tiles tinkled tunefully beneath his fleeing feet. Giggling dementedly, the creatures kept up their pursuit. He ran out of roof and started to climb a thick metal drainpipe, but the jarveys were gaining…
"Severus!" There was a hand on his shoulder, shaking him gently.
"Quick, Lupin! Hex them, they’re catching up!" He blinked. The roof of Hogwarts had gone and he was lying on the sofa in Lupin’s homely sitting room. There were no novelty desserts pursuing him.
"It’s okay," said Lupin, still leaning over him, hand resting on his shoulder. "It was just a nightmare." He paused then crouched beside the sofa. "Death Eaters, huh?" he asked.
Snape gnawed on his lower lip. It really was too funny – Lupin looking all kindly and concerned that his unwanted houseguest might be reliving some wartime trauma in his dreams.
"Not exactly," he said. A small bark of laughter bubbled out and Lupin’s frown deepened. "I was being chased by jarveys…" -- the frown vanished, replaced by surprise – "made of jelly."
"No!" They both started to laugh.
"Across the roof of the great hall!" gasped Snape through his laughter.
When they eventually stopped laughing, Snape was uncertain what to say. All those years of being laughed at and mocked by others and he’d had no idea how good it might feel to laugh at himself.
In the end Lupin spoke first. "I’ve made a little dinner," he said. "I’m afraid it’s corner shop surprise."
Snape raised a quizzical eyebrow. "Well, it always surprises me the things you can buy in that corner shop," added Lupin. "Not the least of which is some half-decent red wine."
Dinner turned out to be pasta shells in a slightly over-sweet tomato and pepper sauce, while the wine was a drinkable Chilean Merlot. Propped up with a stack of cushions, Snape remained on the sofa while Lupin pushed aside some books and papers to make a space to eat at a dark wood table on the other side of the room. Not that the other side of the room was far away – the sitting room was small and was further shrunk by the book cases which lined the two walls not occupied with fireplace or window.
They ate in silence, although it was a surprisingly easy and companionable silence, given all the history, both recent and long past that they shared. Then Lupin mentioned that he happened to have a local delicacy for dessert.
"How do you prefer your tarts? With custard or with cream?" Lupin made a decidedly comical leer at the double entendre.
"Ahem," said Snape, acknowledging the dreadful pun. "A little custard please."
"Ah, custard," mused Lupin. "I always suspected your tastes ran to the kinky."
Snape snorted so hard it made his ears hurt. Honestly, he thought as his host pottered back into the kitchen, one glass of wine and already I’m feeling decidedly silly and easily amused.
Rattles and clunks emerged from the kitchen as Snape flexed, then wriggled, his toes and was pleased to note that the pain had faded back to a dull ache. He was just making the effort to sit up properly when…
Thud! -crash!-splat! "Shit!"
In a few strides Snape had reached the kitchen. There was shattered pottery and a splash of thick yellow custard on the floor. Lupin stood staring at blankly his hands, which were shaking so hard that they were a pale blur. His breathing was shallow as though he had just received a terrible fright, but there seemed to be nothing fearsome or out of place in the old-fashioned kitchen.
Eventually he seemed to notice the other man’s presence. His mouth quirked into a rueful half-smile. "Stupid tremors," he said, flatly.
"Damn it, Lupin," said Snape. "You should have told me you were suffering side effects from the potion."
"It’s n-not the p-potion," stammered the trembling man as he allowed Snape to guide him back into the sitting room and over to the sofa. "It’s just me, Remus Lupin, slowly falling to pieces."
"Aren’t we all?" It was said under his breath, barely out loud at all, but it was clear from Lupin’s sharp, surprised look that it had been heard. Two pairs of eyes met and held each other, half in challenge, half in understanding.
It seemed to Snape that in that moment an unspoken agreement was made. An agreement not to speak of their fears and weaknesses. An agreement not to mention their shared sense that the supposed forces of good had used them until they were worn to almost nothing, then abandoned them in lives they couldn’t understand. An agreement that a great many things were past and they were just two tired veterans who knew – and therefore didn’t need to talk about it.
Of course, reflected Snape even as he thought it, it was entirely possible that Lupin saw something quite different in the moment.
They ate the Bakewell tart with cream.
"So," said Lupin eventually, leaning back in his chair and holding the wine glass loosely in his now-stilled fingers, "how’s that games club of yours coming along then?"
You did read my note then? Snape wanted to ask, then wondered whether that was one of the things not to be talked about under his imaginary tacit agreement. Fine, he thought, polite conversation it is then.
"There’s ten of them now – at least one from every house…" he began.
"Bloody hell! How’d you work that miracle?"
"I didn’t, they sort of did it themselves. They just keep turning up on a Thursday night," said Snape.
Lupin looked incredulous. "So do you play?" he asked.
"Not usually. Normally I mark, although I did have an interesting game of chess with one of the Slytherin boys."
"Hmm, I don’t have a chess set, but I think there’s an old Othello board around here somewhere."
Rain continued to rattle the window. Wine gave way to a glass or two of firewhisky Lupin had stashed in his sideboard. And two damaged veterans put aside ancient grudges and enjoyed the peaceable silence as darkness and light vied for dominance of the board.
To be continued.
A/N: It’s probably worth mentioning that my high school chemistry teacher taught me to play Othello… My occasionally grouchy and widely feared chemistry teacher who let us play chess in the potions chemistry lab on a Wednesday lunchtime. Ahem.
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