A/N: Much thanks to Sasha and Juno for their wonderful suggestions and their not-so-wonderful subtleties on the writing of this fic.
To Juno, because this is her birthday present.
Not All That Glitters Is Gold
"If you love someone, you don't want them to suffer.
You want to take their suffering onto yourself."
The bell rang through the hallway. From all directions, lethargic students poured into the hallway, and soon the soft murmurings of the mundane and the mystical overrode the silence from before.
He smiled at her as he walked into the room, wading through the mass of students attempting to leave quickly to their next class en masse. She didn't smile back at him, but the shaking of her shoulders and the amused gleam in her eyes betrayed her as she set the stack of rolled-up essays into a wire basket for storage.
"You let your students out early today," he commented, closing the classroom door behind the last student with a grin.
She waved her hand at the windows, where the bright sunlight poured in, causing some of the hedgehogs to curl up in the shadows. "It's a Friday afternoon in June, and the sun is out. You know it's impossible to keep students here and expect them to learn anything at all."
"Very true," he replied in a cheery voice, moving to the front of the room and leaning against one of the desks in the front of the room.
"You sound happy," she remarked, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. "Don't tell me the sun's made you forget that you're a teacher."
One eyebrow was quirked upward curiously. "Why do you say that?"
"Because, you, my dear Professor, had a class to teach, and yet you showed up here before I let my class out early," she pointed out, gathering the quills up and setting them into a quill-holder before taking a seat with an exaggerated sigh. "Don't get me wrong, because I do enjoy your company, but you aren't the type of person that usually just leaves."
His eyes had temporarily left her and were keenly focused to the windows, where the Ravenclaw Quidditch team was practicing on the field outside. She cleared her throat loudly, not bothering to hide the look of glee on her face when he snapped back with a sheepish look. "Sorry, I…err…dazed off," he mumbled.
Rolling her eyes, she leaned back in her chair. "You're ready to take off, I see," she commented.
"Aren't you? It's been a long year, after all…" he murmured, shifting his weight so that he was mostly on his feet.
She let out a short laugh, soft enough that it wouldn't be heard in the hallway outside. Gesturing to the paperwork on her desk she said, "I'd love to take off, but there's still so much work to do."
"All work and no play?" he teased.
"All play and no work?" she countered, crossing her arms and making an attempt to look stern. Her companion, however, caught the incessant twitching of her lips, and walked over with an open grin, and began to massage her shoulders, as he usually did once the talk swung to her heavy workload.
She sighed, a blissful look on her face as she enjoyed the free massage. "You're wonderful; do you know that? No one else – oh, right there, please…"
"No one else what?" he asked innocently, leaning over and pecking her on the cheek before shifting his hands and massaging her shoulders again.
Laughing, she glanced out of the window. "I was about to say that no one else can make me feel safe like you do," she said after a moment of silence.
He glanced at her with a sad, pensive look; her almost wistful gaze toward the scene outside hit him like a dagger to his heart, and he replied in a soft voice, "I'm glad you feel that way, because you need to relax more often."
"I do too relax!" she retorted, turning around and glaring at him.
"Not enough," he murmured, suddenly looking very grim, "Don't think I don't notice when you stumble into the Staff Room in the morning and down three cups of coffee just so you can stay awake through your first class, or the way that you just collapse on your breaks, because I do. We all do."
She let out an audible sigh. "There's just…a lot that has to be done in such a short amount of time…"
"But you need to rest, or you won't get anything done at all – you'll just run yourself to the ground. I'm worried about you," he replied, furrowing his brow in concern.
She smiled weakly in appreciation, but he noticed the somber look in her eyes when she said, "I can't just sit around and do nothing while everything falls apart; you understand, don't you? I need to do something. Help everyone out."
Leaning over, he wrapped his arms around her comfortingly. "You've done more than your share. Let the others help out too and take some time off."
Her head leaned against his arm as she let her eyes close for a moment. "Have I really?"
"If I asked someone who they thought was running the war effort, nine out of ten time, they'd name you as the main coordinator," he replied, a huge grin plastered on his face.
"You're not serious, are you?" she asked, turning around with a sharp look. He refused to rise up to the bait.
"M'dear, Voldemort doesn't fear Albus anymore…no, no, he fears you and your inexhaustible drive to carry on this war yourself!" he declared, nodding to himself.
An unreadable expression passed over her face – he wasn't sure what it was - before it was covered up with a forced smile. "Shall I go into hiding, then?" she asked, a touch of irony and bitterness in her voice.
"Only if you want to," he replied neutrally.
She sighed. "It sounds childish, but sometimes I wish that the peace could have lasted. Everyone hailed the fall of the Dark Lord as the next great peace for a long time…I never believed it for a moment, but I wish that I did sometimes so I could stop worrying. Just for one day, I'd like to wake up and not have to worry whether my world is going to crumble today or whether someone I love will disappear today. If I thought that disappearing would help, then bravery be damned, because I'd vanish off the face of the earth before you can say 'Stupefy'. But it won't help. It can't."
He bent over and trailed kisses along her jaw and down her neck, coaxing her tense body to loosen up to a more relaxed position before speaking. "It's not childish – it's just the truth. Besides, I feel the same way," he glanced at her, eyes gleaming mischievous, "and you know they say that great minds think alike, hmm? All the same, I want to live a nice life, maybe teach at Hogwarts…" he trailed off wistfully.
Squeezing his arm, she murmured, "If…this war…weren't happening, I think I'd want to be happy. Maybe with a family or just someone, but I'd still want keep my job. It's stressful, but it's…enjoyable."
"Amen to that!" he exclaimed, sending his lady companion into a fit of uncontrollable giggles.
"Ah, we'll have them in our daydreams…" she sighed in a resigned voice, "and continue living miserably in the present as our forefathers have done before us."
They sat in silence, each lost in their own private worlds, each enjoying the other's company. And in that empty classroom, not a sound disturbed them in this moment of perfect silence.
He withdrew his arms slowly, entwined around her as they were, and with her curious gray eyes following his every movement, he reached deep into his pockets, and paused, hesitating.
"What's wrong?" she asked in a soft voice, eyes imploring him to deny her not of his secret.
His warm brown eyes found hers, met up with them for what seemed like a lifetime.
"I just remembered that I have something for you."
Slowly, his hands lifted up, and a chain – was it silver? – emerged, and then a slim band of pale gold after it with a small crimson-colored gem at an end. A ruby. Her eyes widened as he held it up so that the ring dangled right in front of her.
"You're…you're not serious?" she whispered.
His voice shook only slightly as he said, "I am most absolutely serious. It's yours, under one condition."
"And what would that be?" she asked, narrowing her eyes in suspicion.
"That you'll marry me."
One heartbeat passed, and then another. "That's a silly question," she murmured, allowing a small smile to slip from her stern composure, "I decided to marry you a long time ago."
He burst out laughing and, obviously relieved, kissed her on the cheek as his fingers undid the clasp and brought the two ends around her neck, where they were once against joined together; stepping back, he eyed her in satisfaction. "It looks beautiful on you."
Her slim fingers traced the rim of the ring before sliding up the finely linked chain. "Remus…how did you hold this?"
"What do you mean? I held it in my hands. I think you can do that too," he added with a grin. "Although, your question makes me wonder whether you really can."
She waved him off impatiently. "You know what I mean," she lifted up the chain with one hand and gestured with the other, "the necklace. It's silver. How did you hold it?"
He quirked an eyebrow curiously. "That's not silver; that's titanium."
She laughed softly, pushing her spectacles up and wrinkling her nose at the action. "Of course," she replied dryly, "Why didn't I think of it before?"
"Because, Minerva, you need to sleep."