Severus didn't know what possessed him to decide he ought to take a walk in his old neighbourhood, because it wasn't like him to be nostalgic, especially about a place he'd never liked (although he did have some memories that had been happy at the time, but now he looked back on them and realised what an idiot kid he'd been). Remus had liked his idea for a walk, though, and Severus was spending most of the trip watching Remus, who seemed to find every aspect of his decrepit old neighbourhood interesting.
They were walking down the hill towards the river now, with the closed mill his parents had both once worked at looming behind them like a brick spectre, casting a long shadow over them in the setting sun.
"Used to play down on the bank a lot," Severus admitted, hands in the pockets of his trousers and glancing at the river they were approaching from under his long fringe. "The idea kind of horrifies me now, because it wasn't any cleaner-looking back then, but me and the group of lads I hung about with were always under that bridge there." He nodded to a bridge down further a ways from a road that had branched off at the top of the hill and passed over the river not far from the bank they were approaching. "When we weren't getting into trouble, anyway. When we got older, we spent more time in the pub near my house, but last I knew, the lads were still hanging about under that bridge."
Remus smiled. "Things like that don't matter as much when we're eight. I spent most of my childhood with scraped knees and a snotty nose and mud under my fingernails, so..." He shrugged. He hadn't spent much time really exploring the area, and was finding it fascinating to see the remnants of Severus' childhood. "What were they like, your friends?"
"Well..." Severus glanced around doubtfully. "Nasty little gits, just like me." He chuckled. "We used to get into all sorts of trouble. Mum hated it. She only wanted me playing with Lily."
Remus laughed "Of course she did." He stuck his hands in his jeans pockets and looked around, too. "At least you had friends. My mum kept me in the house whenever she could, and in the back garden when I had to be outside."
Severus frowned a little, watching Remus. "That doesn't sound very fun. Of course, I drove my mum crazy, she was always tossing me outside on my ear, didn't want me about."
"Yes, well, I'm certain I did drive Mum crazy, but she was a very patient woman." Remus thought of how every kitchen in every house had always had to be yellow, and smiled faintly. "She always did everything she could to keep me from being bored, but when it was time for me to go to Hogwarts, I didn't know anything about other boys my age, you know?" He chewed his lower lip, wondering if their lives would have been different, had he met Severus on the train before he met Peter and Sirius.
Severus nodded, stopping when they reached the bottom of the hill and looking out over the dirty river. "Well, I only knew what it was like to play with Muggle boys. Everything was very different at Hogwarts. Mum told me about a lot of stuff, but there were things she just didn't know about, being a girl."
Remus had a strong desire to lean against Severus, but he didn't think his lover would appreciate it, out in the open as they were. He looked along the bank of the river. "It must have seemed very exciting to a young boy," he said. "A place to be explored."
"Oh yes," Severus agreed. "We never ran out of games to play."
Remus smiled wistfully. "Did your going to Hogwarts change things?"
"A bit," Severus said, thinking back to that time. "Of course they gave me a hell of a time over going to a public school, so every break when I came home it seemed like I had to re-prove to them that I was still the same lad I'd been when I left." He chuckled dryly. "And up until mum chucked me out, I still hung about with them when I wasn't with my school friends. It was quite the precursor to my duplicitous role now. Even down to my accent...you might have noticed it's not very Tyke. I picked this one up for school."
Remus' smile grew more affectionate. "I had noticed," he agreed. "Sometimes it slips. I always like it when it does. Shows me another side of you." His gaze was warm as he watched his lover.
Severus snorted, amused by how odd Remus was. Still, it was a nice sort of oddness. He really wanted to kiss Remus right there in the street, but it wasn't very good manners.
Remus' gaze softened a little. "I love you," he whispered.
"Love you too," Severus murmured, reaching out covertly to take Remus' hand. "Want to go down the pub for dinner tonight?"
"Yeah," Remus said, warmed by that. "Yeah, that'd be great."
"Good." Severus smiled a little. "They've got pretty good food. Better than my cooking, anyway. Or at least they did; I haven't been in for a few years."
Remus didn't care. He just wanted to be out with Severus. But he smiled and nodded. "Sounds brilliant."
"All right, then." Severus smiled again and released Remus' hand, turning back up the street. "Shall we walk there, too?"
Remus nodded again, feeling suddenly as if he couldn't be any happier than this. He curled his hand closed, trying to preserve the warmth of Severus' hand for a little.
Severus led the way back up the street and past their house, then on down Weaver's Place and out of the neighbourhood entirely on Cauthland Street, where there were some businesses and pubs. He wished they could be out as a couple as he led Remus to the Fox And Horn, and since he knew it wouldn't be smart, he held the door for Remus to make some sort of gesture.
It felt strangely exhilarating to be out together like this, Remus thought, even if they were just two mates going to the pub. He brushed carefully against Severus as he went inside, certain to make it look accidental, and then moved towards the bar to order.
Severus smiled after Remus and followed him to the bar, glancing around and taking in all the changes that had happened in such a short time. There were less people than he remembered, though that might just be for what night it was, and here and there decor had been added or removed. He was startled to discover that he did recognise the barman taking Remus' order.
The man, who Severus thought was called Cliff, moved away from Remus when he was done to take Severus' order, then blinked in obvious surprise at him.
"Ey up, Snape. Haven't seen thee in a long while."
Severus nodded, hesitating a moment over picking up his old accent in front of Remus, even though Remus said he hadn't minded. It just felt strange to have two lives clash like that. "Living in the area again," he said. "Come in fer dinner with me housemate," he added, nodding to Remus. "Yorkshire pudding still good?"
The barman scoffed as if he'd been insulted and left his towel to rest on his shoulder. "Course, our Jimmy's still cookin'."
It felt strange, as if that was from another life entirely, and all these people should have moved on since then. Severus just nodded with a smirk, and paid for both of them.
Remus listened in fascination as Severus spoke, liking the way he'd been greeted like an old friend. He sipped his beer and tried not to look awkward or out of place, both of which he rather felt.
Severus took his beer when it came and glanced at Remus. "Bar or table?"
"Whichever you like," Remus said, feeling suddenly self-conscious knowing that he sounded nothing at all like a local.
Severus noticed he looked awkward. "Table," he said, though he used to sit at the bar. He thought Remus might relax a little at a table. He led the way to one that was in a cluster of empty tables and sat down.
Remus nodded and followed, settling down and trying not to rearrange his posture six times or twitch every time the door opened. He sipped at his beer again, relaxing enough to appreciate the taste.
"You all right?" Severus asked quietly, watching Remus.
Remus drew in a slow breath. "I feel as though I rather stand out," he admitted. "But it's not that I'm not all right."
Severus shrugged. "Just go by Lupin if anyone asks and slouch a little bit. There's nothing to be done about your accent, but if you don't act like a prat, you should be fine."
Remus did rearrange his posture and glanced dubiously at Severus. "If you say so," he said.
"Well, and you're with me. I do fit," he said, a touch bitterly. "If anyone tries to start anything, I'll back you up."
"Nnh, you'll protect my honour?" Remus teased, his voice low. His gaze was warm as he looked at Severus, but he thought his expression was safe enough.
Severus gave him the barest wink. "Course."
For some reason the exchange was enough to let Remus relax, and his slouch suddenly felt more comfortable.
"Barman's brother's a bookie," Severus said, voice low. "Me and the lads used to do a bit of work for both of 'em now and then, so he likes me. We got our drinks free."
"Really?" Remus blinked for a moment, then said, "What's a bookie?" in equally low tones.
Severus blinked a moment, just barely stopping himself laughing. "It's someone who runs a betting shop."
"Ohh." Remus nodded and took a sip of his drink. "Is that legal?"
"Yeah," Severus said. "At least, they're only supposed to take bets on legal things, legal fights or races or what have you, but they don't always. Jack usually had lots of illegal betting going on in his shop."
Remus smirked. "So you weren't joking when you said you could help me get started on a life of crime."
Severus gave Remus a half-smile. "Not at all. It was a bit dangerous, I suppose, but it didn't seem that way, since I was, you know, me. Last I heard, one of the lads got into organised crime. Don't know if he's still alive."
Remus raised an eyebrow. "You continually surprise me, Severus," he murmured.
"Yeah, I know, rotten to the bone," Severus lamented with a smirk.
"I like it," Remus said, and took another, longer drink of his beer. No one was talking to them, now, so it was easier to relax.
"Glad one of us does," Severus sighed. He watched Remus, wishing he could touch him.
"Mm, I like you a great deal," Remus said, and then wished he hadn't, since the bloke from behind the bar appeared just then with their food.
Severus closed his expression off quickly and glanced to Cliff as he set their food down, hoping the other man hadn't heard that. Cliff gave them both an odd look, but didn't comment, and left quickly.
Remus blinked after him. "Erm. Sorry." He turned his attention to his meal, hoping the man hadn't heard, and that he hadn't embarrassed Severus.
Severus shrugged. "It doesn't really matter anyway, does it?" he asked quietly. "They're just Muggles. It's not as if I have reason to care what they think." That had always been the defining factor, after all, why he'd fallen in with a bad element and done so many dangerous things. They were just Muggles. When he was in their world, he felt as if he were still a boy playing a game of pretend, that none of it was really real, and none of it could really affect him. He supposed that was why he could kill them so easily, as well.
Remus stared at his food, surprised. "I...well." He decided to take another bite of food, rather than answer.
Severus blinked, wondering if that had been the wrong thing to say. "You disagree?" he asked, suddenly feeling uncertain.
"Never thought about it, either way," Remus said honestly.
"Sorry, wasn't thinking. You probably care, though, ey?"
"The only opinion I really care about is yours," Remus said. Well, he did care about his friends' opinions, too, but Severus' opinion was the only one in this pub that mattered.
"Well, I don't care," Severus said. "I'm not involved in that life any longer, anyway. They aren't important to me. You are."
Remus ducked his head so the entire pub wouldn't see the way he was smiling at Severus' words. Though of course, even if Severus said he didn't care, they were sitting carefully across the table from each other, not touching, weren't they?
Severus watched Remus, enjoying his expression, then remembered his food. He dug in, pleased to find that their Yorkshire Pudding was just as good as he remembered.
After a while Remus lifted his attention back from their table to glance at the pub around him. No one seemed to be paying any attention to them, though he wasn't going to look over his shoulder for the barman.
"Do you like yours?" Severus asked, glancing to Remus' plate. He hoped it was good.
"Yeah, it's great," Remus said, smiling. "You were right."
"Oh good, I'm glad," Severus said.
"Yeah, I'm glad we came here," Remus said. "We ought to do this more."
Severus wasn't certain if that was such a good idea, but he thought that going out and doing more with Remus, that was. He nodded, smiling, and went back to his meal.
When Remus finished his drink, he went back to the bar and ordered them both another drink.
Severus watched Remus go, not caring if the barman was looking at them oddly again or not. He was lost in thought when he heard a very surprised voice from the doorway.
"Ey up! Snape?"
Blinking, Severus turned to look, and saw Dickie and Ed, two of the lads he'd been talking of so much tonight, standing just inside the doorway, staring at him.
It was Dickie who had spoken, and he led the beeline straight for Severus' table. "Well fuck me, where's tha been, ya dirty Wezzie?"
They dropped into the two extra chairs at the table, Ed glancing over Remus' plate.
Severus chuckled, though inwardly he wanted to cringe. Splendid, just bloody great. "Darn-in't Smoke," he said with a shrug. "Back in 'Fax now, though."
"Tha's workin'?" Ed asked in surprise.
Severus shook his head. "Not steady. Had a job up there but not no more."
"What, all that fancy schoolin' not got thee anywhere?" Dickie demanded sarcastically.
"Got ta finish, first," Severus said negligently. "Mum kicked me out when I didn't bring home no O levels."
The others laughed. "Wondered what happened," Dickie said.
Severus glanced up as Remus came back. "'S me housemate, Lupin," he said, meeting Remus' gaze. "Lupin, this were Dickie Peterson and Ed Grate."
"Ey, Lupin, ain't seen thee round before," Dickie greeted amiably.
Remus set Severus' beer down in front of him, then nodded at the others. "Met Snape down at school, and he said Halifax was the most beautiful city in England. Believed him, didn't I?" He glanced at Severus, hoping he was being friendly and casual enough. And that he didn't sound like a stuckup public school boy. "Get your drinks?" he offered.
Dickie and Ed broke into raucous laughter. "Most beautiful city? 'Fax?" Ed demanded incredulously, which set them off again. He thumped Severus' shoulder. "Thee was badly taken in," he said.
"Nay, we get 'em free here," Dickie said to Remus.
"Ey, so do I," Severus protested.
"True?" Dickie asked, "thought maybe you'd been away too long. Right, then, Lupin, two pints of bitter, mate."
Remus went back and got two more pints and another odd look from the barman, and hoped all the way back to the table that he wasn't acting like a bloody poof. He handed the beers down and took his chair again, slouching into it and taking a long sip of his drink.
"What of the other lads?" Severus asked, though he really just wanted to go. He could tell Remus wasn't comfortable.
Dickie and Ed exchanged looks. "We're the only two left aside thee," Dickie said. "Big Al and Terry bought th' farm, th' rest're in prison now."
"Bugger me," Severus muttered. "S'only been four year."
"Yeah, they reckon Terry was done by a Yardie gang he did bad business wif," Ed said. "Big Al...he got in too deep wif dat crime ring, tried ta get out an' couldn't. It's reckoned he tried ta go ta th' coppers an' someone found out."
Severus glanced at Remus and back to Ed. He shook his head, hoping he seemed properly unsettled.
Remus frowned a little, trying not to look disapproving. He didn't know what to say, though. Probably they wouldn't really care what some outsider had to say, anyway. He sipped his beer and tried to make himself relax.
"Half expected to hear th' same bout thee," Dickie added, eyeing Severus. "Felt like I was seein' a ghost."
"Not dead yet," Severus said.
"If thou were needin' work, we can probably get thee in with us," Ed offered. "Still doin' jobs fer John and Cliff, sure they'll give tha work."
"I'll let thee know if me current prospects don't work out," Severus said, privately wanting to add that it was bloody unlikely. "Thanks." He looked at their plates and decided they were done. "Gonna head out now, mate, sithee," he said, and stood, glancing at Remus.
Dickie and Ed threw up a hand. "Al sithee," they echoed.
Remus decided Severus standing up meant they were leaving, so he stood, too, and hoped Severus hadn't just announced he was going to have a slash. "See you around," he told the others, and drained his beer in two long gulps.
Dickie laughed, watching Remus. "Thou's real, Lupin," he said, and Ed grinned.
Severus glanced at them one last time and then headed out into the street.
Remus waved a hand at them and followed Severus. "What--I'm real? What?" he asked, when they were well away from the pub.
"He liked the way you drained your pint," Severus explained, glancing back at Remus with a smirk.
"Oh." Remus blinked, then smiled. "Oh, good." He rather liked the way he'd drained his pint, too. He was actually feeling rather pleasantly fuzzy at the moment. "Those were some of your old mates, then."
"Yeah, apparently the only two left of our old group," Severus said, frowning. "Not that I really expected much different, but it seems so long ago and yet at the same time as if it were last week."
"I know the feeling," Remus said, thinking of Marlene McKinnon and the Prewetts.
"Oh yeah, I guess you would," Severus agreed quietly. He fell silent.
"Doesn't seem to make much difference, does it?" Remus asked, shoving his hands back into his pockets. "Wizards are being killed off by the Dark Lord, but your Muggle mates don't seem to have done any better."
Severus blinked, wondering what Remus meant by that. "No, guess not," he said, with an air of unconcern.
"Life is depressing."
"Yeah," Severus agreed, as if that was a point he'd been trying to get across for a long time and Remus was discovering it for the first time. "The bits with you in are really good, though."
Remus turned his head to beam at Severus, feeling his chest tighten with emotion. "Yeah? Same for me."
"Good," Severus said softly, moving until they were only a few inches apart. "Merlin, I can't wait to get home."
"Me, too," Remus agreed, letting his arm brush Severus'. "I want to kiss you."
"Yes, that," Severus agreed. "As soon as we make it through the door."
Remus grinned. "Then hurry," he suggested.
Severus chuckled and hurried.
Once they were inside the door, Remus put himself in Severus' arms with a hungry kiss.