Chapter 26 – Wolf and Serpent

Albus dressed in a blur, grabbing his wand from his bedside. It distressed him to see the mirror flashing slightly with Severus's pain. No doubt earlier during the night it was stronger. He hesitated briefly before asking the mirror the location of the watch, not certain he wanted to see. As he looked into it he could barely see the landscape it showed as thick black clouds filled the sky. A lightening flash chased away his doubts. If he was to apparate into a circle of death eaters then so be it. Severus needed him. He used flu powder to take him out of the castle and then disapparated from Hogsmead.

To his surprise and horror he found himself standing at the base of the hill from his dream. The wind and rain swept back his robes and beard. And there was the dark figure, already kneeling in the mud. He ran up the hill towards him but stopped suddenly. An irrational fear gripped him that if he turned around, it would not be the Severus he knew but the pale wraith from his nightmare. Severus seemed to feel his presence though because he stirred. Looking over his shoulder, down towards Albus with pain and fear in his eyes. Albus was frozen in place no longer and scrambled upwards, coming to rest on his own knees next to him. Severus was clutching at his left arm, his fist a tight ball.

"Severus! I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!" Severus looked up at him with damp eyes.

"No I am. I should never have- I was a fool!" Severus moaned before fearfully returning his gaze to his arm. Albus gasped at the implications. He tried to speak but emotion constricted his throat like a snake.

"Severus..." He croaked.

"Wulfric," Severus said softly. "I've done a very bad thing..." Albus felt a pang of love and shame at the use of his assumed name. He took the arm gently in his own hands.

"Please call me Albus, I do not wish to trick you."

"You never meant to trick me, I understand that now. You were my friend and my- and I-" Talking became too much for him as Albus pealed down the sodden sleeve to reveal the dark mark like an ugly wound on the pale skin.

"Severus... I caused this," Albus shivered with guilt.

"No, I did. But I will atone for my actions," Severus said hanging his head.

"There is nothing to atone for! It was a mistake and it is Voldemort who will pay and I who should fix this mess!" Albus said fiercely.

"Not without me." Those simple words warmed Albus like nothing else. But there was something stopping him from celebration. "I know I can't ask you to have me back now," Severus said.

"Whatever do you mean?" Albus asked in surprise.

"I am tainted."

"You are wonderful! It is I who cannot possibly ask for your forgiveness. I caused you to be here, clutching at that mark, regretting..." Albus trailed off sadly.

"It wasn't that I was regretting," Severus said as he opened his fist to reveal the watch digging into his palm. "I left this in my pocket; I assume that's how you found me? It wasn't until after that I realised that I had it with me.

"I was afraid that you might have thrown it away, I wouldn't blame you," Albus admitted. There was silence between them as the wind whipped at the long grass.

"I said I didn't know you. And it's almost true. I barely know anything there is to know about you." Albus hung his head. "But... I'd like to," Severus finished, placing a hand on his. The rain soaked both of them to the skin as they hugged desperately.

"I thought I'd lost you forever," Albus said, tears of relief running down his face.

"I thought I'd lost myself." Severus murmured. "I was the only one to regret it, the rest are with him now. I escaped but what about all I've done and the ceremony and-" Albus shushed him gently.

"Let's not speak of the past for now and concentrate on the future," Albus said a smile breaking out on his face as he took his hand and pulled the both of them to a standing position. Mud covered their robes and wind messed their hair. And then Severus smiled back at him.

The clouds should have parted, sunlight should have flooded the landscape with flowers blooming. All should have been right with the world as the rain cleared and the darkness fled.

It didn't of course, life isn't made like that. They had a long way to go for sure. There was still so much strife in the world. There were still dark times ahead. But somehow, standing with Severus's hand in his, it didn't look like anything they couldn't face.