Just Until Friday…
Written for my Remus.
Everyone could tell that Severus and Albus had argued.
It was written on both their faces, in Albus' concerned expression as he entered the dining room and the scowl that was near permanent on Severus' face not lightening when he glanced toward the Headmaster. In fact, if anything, the expression intensified. He narrowed his eyes slightly, folding his arms tighter into his cloak and returning his attention to his book. Albus' gaze lingered on him for as long as he thought sensible before seating himself at the head of the table and smiling warmly at the others present. He cleared his throat to attract their attention, purposefully ignoring Severus who deliberately ignored him. The other members of the Order glanced between them. Sirius leaned forward, "Snape - he's talking to you too - I know you're not technically a member of the Order, being a Death-Eater and all - "
"That's quite enough, Sirius." Albus calmed, "Severus, if you wouldn't mind?"
Severus was glaring at Sirius, but did close his book when asked - as much obedience as he showed, for when Albus started to speak, he continued to stare at a random point far beyond their current world. Sirius rolled his eyes, exasperated, and listened to Albus.
"I have called this meeting because I need to announce a short absence in our number." Albus gestured to Remus, sat to his right. "Remus is going to negotiate with a group of werewolves living in the north of Scotland - according to Severus, Voldemort is very interested in gaining their allegiance. This cannot happen - they are vicious hunters who -"
"And you're sending Remus because - " Sirius interrupted suddenly, "They're vicious hunters who will tear him apart!"
Albus raised a hand, "Remus has assured me he will not take any risks - he has experience with this particular pack -"
"Albus, werewolves aren't exactly trustworthy." Molly murmured, "Apart from Remus."
"I have complete faith in Remus' abilities, my friends. In the end it was his decision, and he has kindly agreed to travel there on my behalf." Albus felt Severus' interruption before it was sounded, "As if you gave him a choice."
Remus glanced at Severus, who by all accounts, looked furious. Even Sirius looked at him twice. "Severus." Albus answered, "I would rather that you did not doubt my abilities in public." His voice had gained a hard edge, a warning to the younger Potions Master who did not seem ready to back down. "It is absolute folly - Lupin will never be able to convince them - the Dark Lord is sending Fenrir Greyback - I think he has more powers of persuasion!"
"And now you are doubting Remus' abilities." That was a pointed weapon, and Severus felt the blade strike. "If you cannot be civil, Severus, I would ask that you leave my meeting." This has been used as a threat before, and it had always been enough to calm Severus down. Not today. The other scraped his chair back and slammed the palms of his hands down onto the table. "Enjoy recruiting new members, Headmaster." With that he was gone, exit emphasised by the door crashing shut, there was silence.
Then Sirius announced, "Must be his time of the month."
Severus was sat in the living room, scrubbing at a wooden table with a dirty cloth, trying to rid the furniture of a non-existent stain. Remus closed the door quietly behind him, leaning on the wood. "I thought you wanted to keep you and I a secret?"
Severus ignored him completely, still attacking the stain on the desk. Remus stepped closer, "With displays like that, Severus, you will struggle. We agreed that you would not argue with Albus in public over I." He knew he was not getting through to Severus, so sat down beside him and stilled his fingers with his hand. "Would you at least look at me, Severus?" He stroked the back of Severus' knuckles carefully and finally the other raised his head. "He did not give you a choice."
"He asked me if I wanted to do it. I said yes. I understand the importance." He leaned forward to look into Severus' dark eyes, "How is this any different to when you go to Voldemort, knowing that you may not return?"
Severus bit his lip, "Because it's not me. It's you."
That was about as sentimental as Severus could be. "Severus - it's only five days - I'll be back by Friday and you will be moaning about me stealing the covers and using the bathroom for too long again before you know it." He tightened his fingers around Severus' gently. "Trust me. As you always do."
"I've heard about this clan - they kill for fun - let the Dark Lord have them - rather than you. Please." Severus seemed rather unsettled and almost frightened. This bemused and confused Remus - Severus was not afraid of anything - not even the Dark Lord seemed to faze him. "Severus. Give me a little credit. I am not going to get myself killed." I wouldn't do that to you. He left that unsaid. "I'll be back before you know it."
Severus watched him. "Be careful."
"Aren't I always? You are the impulsive one. I will not say good bye -"
"I hate good byes."
"I know you do. So instead, I'll say see you on Friday. And no kiss - because it'll feel like our last." He entwined his fingers with Severus'. "Trust me."
"Severus. Please can we talk?" Albus sped up his pace to fall into step beside Severus, who was returning to his dungeons, silent and stoic. "You cannot ignore me forever."
"I am going to try." Severus snarled. "Go away."
Albus did not approve of ending conversations with such anger. He followed Severus until they were stood in a deserted corridor, bracing himself, knowing what was coming -
"How dare you? How dare you send him to them? Do you realise what they will do to him?" Severus' very figure trembled with barely concealed rage and fury, and Albus had to take a deep breath before responding softly with, "Severus, I know how much you care for him -"
"No! No, you do not! Otherwise you would not have sent him to his death on your command!" He flinched and turned away. "They will rip him apart, Albus, and it will be your fault."
"How is this any different to when he has to wait for you, at Lord Voldemort's side, Severus? He worries for you too." Albus tried to reason, wanting to grasp Severus' arm, wanting to apologise for what he was doing to the boy.
"Because I know what I am doing! Send Remus to them and he'll come back in pieces if he comes back at all!" Severus stepped further away, breathing fast and uneven as he tried to understand the intensity of his own emotions. "I don't want to lose anyone else." His admission was much softer when it finally came, and Albus crossed to him. "You won't."
Monday was a full day of lessons with few breaks for the strict Potions Master. He deliberately set essays that day so he would have work to do Tuesday and Wednesday. He tried to ignore the empty seat next to him at breakfast, lunch and dinner - not participating in any conversation - staring silently into a bowl of soup. Not that he interacted with Remus at meals, or anything, but his presence comforted him. And Remus liked to play games such as - how far could his hand get up Severus' leg before the other glared at him…
Monday night was harder. He looked at the empty bed and could not bear it. So he sat at his desk and marked essays until the twilight hours, before somehow he fell asleep, head resting on Hermione Granger's latest attempt to be an insufferable know-it-all.
He was grumpy, Tuesday. His neck was sore and his shoulders ached and his stomach was twisting uncomfortably. He snapped at his colleagues and shouted at his students and that did nothing to stop the headache building in his temples. He spent much of his free lessons sat in the staffroom staring out at the Forbidden Forest and beyond, dejected.
Wednesday was the morbid day. Would he know? Would he feel it? If something had happened to Remus, surely he would feel something? Surely he would know. How would it happen? Teeth at the throat? Ripping his stomach open? Each image was worse than the one before and his mind continued to play tricks even when he closed his eyes - and he couldn't stand it - the Firewhiskey left the cabinet and was consumed in copious amounts until he was slumped in his chair, intoxicated on alcohol and misery.
The Dark Lord called for him on Thursday and he was hung over. He took several remedies and went to the Death-Eater meeting practically high on the fumes of the reliever and the number he had consumed. The Dark Lord knew there was something wrong with him, tortured him for his insolence, Severus offered no answers, and the Dark Lord dismissed him with the trembles of both the Cruciatus Curse and the come down from his potions. He slept that night, in the empty and cold bed, but that was because he wasn't aware of it.
Friday, he was twitchy. He was more twitchy than he remembered. He couldn't concentrate - not on the essays he was still struggling to mark, hating himself for having set so many - not on his lessons, and the first years were infuriatingly cheerful - not on the conversation at the staff meeting with the noticeable absence of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher - not on anything. He stayed by the windows, watching, waiting, all through the day, all through the night…
And Remus did not come home.
Albus was watching Severus pace up and down his carpet. The young wizard's face was contorted with pain and trying to fight the pain and trying not to feel the pain and accepting the pain was normal. He was trembling, hands shaking and clawing his shirt. Finally he stopped. "Where is he?"
"Severus. He is quite a way away. I think you are overreacting slightly." Albus could not deny he was concerned, but it would not be wise to remind Severus of this. "Why don't you sit down and have some tea?"
"I don't want any bloody tea!" Albus let the expletive slide, knowing that Severus was not in his right mind, "I want Remus back here so I can see what state he is in!"
Albus raised one hand to calm him. "Severus. Please. Would you at least sit down?"
Severus threw himself into the chair. "I'm going after him."
"Oh, of course, that would go down well with the Dark Lord. You suddenly arriving!" Albus leaned forward, "Come to your senses, Severus. I did warn you - I did tell you that war is no place for love -"
"I am not in love with him!" Severus sat straight up in his chair. "Whoever said I was in love with him?"
Albus smiled slightly. "I never said anything, Severus. You are putting words in my mouth now…"
Severus exhaled loudly and stood up again, frustrated with both himself and Albus. "I'm not in love with him. I just don't want anything to happen to him." He watched the door, and then crossed to the window, got tired of the view, moved back to the chair, and then finally faced Albus. "Does he love me back?"
Albus met his gaze, "I think he is very much yours, Severus. Has been for years. I won't say I told you so -"
"No, you damn well will not." Severus interrupted. "You and your constant meddling, bringing him back here to be Defence teacher again."
"But I was right." He was pleased for Severus. "I am extremely happy for you, Severus, but you cannot afford to show emotion - if Voldemort were to sense any of this - any of the love you have for your Defence counterpart - "
The door opened and Remus stepped into the small office. Severus whirled to face him, hesitated for a moment as if disbelieving that it was him. Remus smiled slightly at him, and without any of his usual reserve, Severus crossed the office in an instant and hugged him. Remus' smile grew slightly as he wrapped his arms around Severus and tightly embraced him, "Well - I should go away more often - I like these hugs…"
Severus did not answer, too busy thanking anything and everything that watched over him.
Remus realised quite quickly that Severus was more than a little relieved to see him. "I'm sorry I was late, I had some trouble coming back - but I'm here as I promised, Sev…" He drew back to look at him, "Are you all right?"
Severus nodded once, averting his eyes and examining Remus' figure instead. The werewolf was badly bruised and bleeding, his clothes ripped and torn, and Severus could feel lingering exhaustion and hurt. "Sit down - " He helped Remus to the chair, the hand on his lover's elbow shaking, glaring at Albus as the older wizard welcomed Remus home.
"Severus." Remus intoned gently, attracting Severus' attention, "I need a Firewhiskey, if you please…" He shot Severus a look that clearly said, "We'll talk later", and the Potions Master swept from the office, leaving Albus and Remus alone.
"What happened?" Albus asked instantly, taking in Remus' condition.
"Precisely what we expected. Albus, Severus cannot know what happened - he would be extremely angry and I would not put it past him waging war on the entire clan."
"He'll know as soon as he looks at you, Remus." Albus interlocked his fingers and watched Remus closely, "He's very much in love with you in his own unique way. That, for Severus, is protectiveness to the extreme. He trusts you, Remus. Do not lie to him about what has happened."
Remus looked at him, "I will tell him one day. But I don't think now is the right time. I want him to stop worrying about me as much as he does." His expression darkened, "For if he does not, it will be his end."
Severus returned to break the soft, suspenseful silence. He placed the glass of Firewhiskey into Remus' hand, curling the bruised knuckles around the cold goblet. "Are you all right?" He had calmed a little now, face back to its usual mask, and only Remus could see the concern burning in his irises and underlying his simple words. He stroked Severus' hand with his, the most affection he ever showed, even in front of the approving Albus, "Yes. I'm fine. And you?"
What Severus said surprised both Remus and Albus. "Yes, I'm fine. Now."
Remus was lying on top of the sheets because the pressure was exacerbating his injuries, which were many and deep. Severus had done the best he could with dittany and healing potions, but Remus would have more scars to add to his impressive collection. Severus sat next to him, propped up against the pillows, trying to decide what to say. "Rem…I…" Missed you? Don't want you to leave again? I have never been so frightened in my life? I love you?
Remus looked at him. "I already know, Severus. You don't have to say anything." He didn't want Severus to be uncomfortable.
"But I should say something!" Severus argued, "Just in case one of us does not come back tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next…"
Remus pulled Severus down next to him and looked at him for a long moment. "Severus, we cannot live life like that, or we'd never enjoy ourselves. I know we're both in danger, but we'll cope. We always do." He graced Severus' lips with the lightest of kisses. "Now. I haven't slept for five days. Stop your worrying and come curl next to me."
Severus relented and moved next to Remus, feeling much more comfortable when Remus' thin arms wrapped around his waist. Despite his injuries and his tiredness, Remus was still the protective one. He soothed Severus' hair gently before pressing a kiss to his forehead. "We're back, that's all that matters."
And Severus couldn't bring himself to say, For how long?