Sigh Not So
by Charis

Disclaimer: Nothing here belongs to me, except the story itself. Characters are property of J. K. Rowling.

Notes: For the SS/MG minifest on the closeconstrast community at LJ. Title and opening quote are from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, from the song therein. I just watched it again recently and, being the world's worst title inventor, snagged it; in some very twisted and roundabout way, it seems to fit here. This is extremely rough and unpolished.
Snape's demons are by far the more visible in this pair; one can only wonder what McGonagall's are.

But sigh not so, and let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny nonny
William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, Act II, Scene 3

If there is one rule they never break, under any circumstances, it is the one they set first - the one never spoken of, but tacitly agreed upon: never say good-bye.

It is superstition, perhaps, a fear that if the words are spoken, it will be the end. Neither of them settles for close cousins of the phrase either - no farewells, no see-you-laters, not even a take-care-of-yourself. No words, but the emotions which would accompany them are spoken in a different language, of subtle touch and lingering glance.

He goes off on the errands she does not ask about, and she lets him go as she must, seeing him off with perhaps a kiss or a straightening of his robes. The words are not said, for the same reason that neither of them will ever speak of love. It is not safe to even think of such things right now, in the heart of a war they never asked to fight. Their time together is fleeting, and when he goes off, she buries herself in her teaching and in caring for her students, and in doing what she can for the Order and the school, distracting herself in every way she can so that she is able to pretend she does not worry about him - does not sit up on those nights she cannot drive herself to exhaustion, counting the minutes until his return or (in those worse times) the minutes he is late. Everyone thinks she is a pragmatic woman, and she is; but in some things, the heart wins out. She can only force herself to sleep so often.

She never says good-bye. She knows that when he returns, he invariably goes to Albus first, makes his report, and then heads down to his dungeons and washes away the stains, real and imagined, of his duties. Only after that does he come to her, as though he does not want to taint her with that filth. If he knew some of what she had done in her time, he would not be so kind, perhaps, but they each keep their own secrets.

She never says good-bye. But when he comes to her rooms afterwards, still smelling faintly of the soap he uses, she welcomes him home in deed and - only in this case - in word. Celebrating a return is far safer for her heart than bidding him farewell when she knows that each time he walks out the door, it may be the last time she sees him.

And sometimes, the homecoming is enough.