For all Joy wants Eternity
For the third time in the past 30 minutes, the unnerving mixture of growing fear and impatience made Remus jump up from the half-broken chair he had drawn to a wall to leave as much free space as possible in the small room, lest he get in Severus's way when the Slytherin Apparated back from wherever he was right now.
*If* Severus Apparated back...
Exhaling on a deep sigh, Remus tried to clear his mind, to drive away the frightening thoughts and premonitions that were attacking him, with a slight shake of his head. None of those burning doubts and fears had been gnawing at his conscience when he had slid under James's, no, Harry's, Invisibility Cloak, when he had left his quarters and once again taken his oh so very familiar way to the Shrieking Shack. The darkness of the tunnel beneath the Whomping Willow had swallowed him, had welcomed him home with a clammy embrace of lightless gloom and humid air, and still he had glowed with the certainty of the rightness of his actions. All he felt was the well-known tingling down his spine as he fought his way through the recollection of his own old fears, despair and foreboding of pain that had lingered here for decades now.
But after Remus had covered about half of the way to his destination, the gloomy atmosphere had begun to have its effect on him, had begun to add to the cold grip of horror his heart had been in ever since he had learned about Severusís not having returned yet from Voldemortís summons last night. And when he had opened the door to the Shrieking Shack, doubt had begun to creep all over his body, like an army of vicious little goblins, and it hadn't left him even now.
Quite the opposite. It had become worse.
Remus knew that right now, several wizards and witches were searching for the missing Slytherin all over Hogwarts grounds and beyond. He was also perfectly aware of Albus Dumbledore at that very moment moving heaven and earth to find out what had happened to his spy.
And during the past thirty minutes, it had become painfully clear to him that there was nothing he himself could do to effectively contribute to their efforts.
He would not be able to do anything for Severus should the Slytherin be in real trouble, should he lie helpless somewhere, maybe unconscious, maybe hurt, maybe both, maybe in an even worse condition. It was the morning after the Full Moon; there really wasn't much he would be able to offer. He was not a Healer, by any means, and weak as the transformation had left him, his skills in Defence against the Dark Arts were rather limited right now. He would not be able to ease physical pain or to effectively protect the Slytherin from hexes and curses.
So what the hell was he doing here, egotistically, arrogantly, irresponsibly keeping his knowledge about Severus's Apparating-place from the others who were frantically searching for him, refusing the Slytherin the professional help he would probably need as soon as he appeared in this dusty room? For half an hour now, Remus had racked his brain for any plausible reason that might justify his waiting here alone, that could explain why he had decided to be the only one who would welcome Severus home, why he was waiting for the Slytherin here by himself without being able to provide any support beyond simply being there.
And why had he been so damn sure that Severus *would* return here in the first place?
With frustration showing in his every move, the werewolf turned and started to slowly pace the small room. Ever since he had returned to Hogwarts this summer, ever since he had accidentally run into the Orderís spy in this very place, he had been forced to make a few too many questionable choices, decisions he was unable to explain only shortly after making them. He had not told anyone, not even Dumbledore, about his unfortunate meeting with Severus the night that he and Sirius had Apparated to the Shrieking Shack immediately after having been informed that Hogwarts would be their next shelter. He had concealed the dark, wooden Death Eaterís mask he had found in the tunnel that same night from Sirius, had not informed anyone about the strange, frightening changes he was able to sense in Severus's aura, nor about how he could *feel* the Slytherin growing weaker and more exhausted with every week that passed. He had been struggling with this load of knowledge for months now, torn between reason telling him that Severus needed help on the one hand and on the otherÖ what?
Only in the very rare moments when he was strong enough to be totally honest with himself was Remus able to admit that he actually knew very well what this other part of his consciousness was, that part which was the source of those strange, indefinable impulses that he had been acting upon so very often recently - and especially when it came to a certain Slytherin...
Both of Remus's hands slowly clenched into fists slick with a cold sweat of fear and nervousness. Yes, he knew. Had known all summer. Had fought this awareness with all the strength his human body had been able to come up with, not ready to realize what he knew. Unwilling to accept that it had been no one other than the wolf acting here, nothing but the animal's distinctive instincts that had made him conceal everything about his encounter with Severus at the beginning of the summer, everything about the alarming state the spy was in. The wolf's instincts that had now forced him to come here, to come here alone, to come here and take the risk of failing the one he was waiting for, should he need medical help or magical support.
The wolf's instincts that he had once learned to follow, to unconditionally trust. There had been a time when he had willingly believed those whispering feelings that were lingering at the margins of his human consciousness. Had waited for them to speak up. Had welcomed their nebulous advice, had admired the infallible truth that lay in their mystical voice. There had been a time when he had been able to accept that animal aspect as part of the human he also was.
Until it had failed him.
Remus could still feel the incredible shock reach for his heart, remember the smashing impact of sheer horror and merciless realisation with an intensity that still made his hands shiver, that still threatened to make his legs give way. Just as it had that other night. That other night at Hogwarts. That other night only a little more than a year ago. Another Full Moon night.
Oh, it had been so close, so damn close...Their terrified eyes were still on him, Harry's, Hermione's and Ron's, watching the first, terrible signs of his transformation...Sirius's desperate gasp still filled his ears, ears that had already been lengthening then, and his hands, his hands had already turned into claws, ready to tear, to rip, hungry to feel warm, soft flesh beneath them, flesh that would easily open under the slightest touch of his teeth and release a glorious, gushing fountain of shining ruby liquid running down his thirsty throat...
...oh Merlin, it had been so damn close!
Wide-open eyes stared into nothing, into the hazy darkness of the Shack, and Remus was neither aware of his trembling lips nor of his slightly quaking body. Totally engulfed by horrible memory, he cursed the animal that had betrayed him, cursed it with all his heart. Had he used his brains then, had he not listened to those *instincts* that had told him to act, to act fast, as soon as he had discovered Sirius and Peter on the Marauder's Map, he would not have endangered the lives of three children, of an unconscious Severus, maybe of the entire school. He would not have been the reason for Sirius having been caught, for Sirius almost having received the most far-reaching and devastating ďkissĒ upon this Earth; he would not have enabled Pettigrew to escape, and Voldemort would not have come back this summer...
But there was no sense in dwelling on ifs and buts. He had trusted the animal inside him then. He had accepted its unspoken advice, had been misled by the wolf. Thinking about the violent chain of events this misjudging himself had initiated tore Remus's heart apart, but there was absolutely nothing he could do about it - except put all of his strength in a lifelong attempt to prevent history from repeating itself.
And ever since that summer night a little more than a year ago, he had sworn to himself to never let his wolfish instincts take over his human intellect again.
And gradually waking from his trance, slowly returning from his mental journey into the past with the realisation that he had broken his oath over and over again, that he had followed the animal's advice during the entire summer where Severus was concerned, Remus was violently pulled back to reality by the soft sound of someone Apparating, which seemed to rip the silence inside the Shrieking Shack that was still heavy with horror and fear.
With the first breath he took Severus was positive that he was exactly where he was supposed to be; he didn't even need to open his tightly closed eyes. No other place he knew seemed to sweat the emotions that had been experienced there as intensely as this former werewolf shelter did. The walls breathed despair, the ceiling groaned with angst and the air quivered with hopelessness...and the spy was keenly aware that he himself had distinctively contributed to that terrifyingly dense atmosphere during the past months. He also knew that he should be grateful to still be able to add his blazing fear and pain from the previous night to the roiling emotional melting pot that this room was to him. What a way to leave oneís mark for the future!
Opening his eyes with a start, Severus called himself to order. His voice sharp and hard with impatience, the whispered words that summoned the mask into one of his hands sounded like the crackling of an open fire. Angry movements freed his hands from the black gloves. He found the strange thoughts that recently seemed to suddenly pop into his mind most distracting, if not to say downright annoying. The way he had lost control over his mind along with the loss of his body was alarming, and if...
The sudden, forceful feeling of dejŠ vu hit him without the slightest warning.
Severus drew his wand at the same time he heard the well-known voice.
"Severus...oh, Merlin, I can't tell you how..."
An unbelieving gasp broke from the spy's throat.
"Tell me that itís *not* you, Lupin!"
But of course he already knew it was. With some part of his mind remarking dryly that it apparently was impossible for him to detect the werewolf's presence in Lupin's former realm, Severus saw how the slim figure appeared from one of the shadows in a corner of the room, took another mental note concerning the dark rings around the Gryffindor's reddened eyes, the pale face and the bloodless lips and watched the other come closer.
*Felt* him come closer.
It was so hard to fight this violent flood of panic, so absolutely impossible to keep calm. His palms were sweaty already; he could feel how the wood in his fingers had become wet with salty, liquid fear; he heard his heart pounding in his head, the blood slamming against the inner walls of his skull...
With an abrupt turn, so very unlike his usually very smooth and elegant way of moving, the spy made one large step towards the table on the other side of the room, where he watched his shaking hands put down the wand and mask. Following the urge to put even more distance between himself and Lupin, he took one more step that carried him closer to the wall opposite from the liberating door to the tunnel. Away from the werewolf's threatening approach. Away from the werewolf's sensitive perception. Away from that intense gaze that was screaming with realization, with questions, with the need to know.
The intensity of the emotional turmoil he perceived from Severus abruptly blocked Remusís throat. Momentarily sidelined with problems of his own, it was not possible for him to isolate some of the feelings that were tightly circling around the Slytherin, cladding him like heavy chain mail, always in motion, swirling, throttling, an impenetrable, rotating armour that warded off any attempt of getting through to the man mentally in the eye of that tornado of wildly howling emotions. But the bright panic that was the ground of it all shimmered through with great clarity and could not be overlooked.
Remusís eyes, which were used to the semi-darkness of the room by virtue of his having waited there for more than half an hour, saw panic mirrored in the spy's shivering hands, the tension that gripped the entire lithe body, visible even through the heavy clothing of the Death Eater. A thin film of sweat covered the white skin that stretched over the bones of Severusís face like an almost transparent sheet of wet paper. Once again, the werewolf felt the same unbelieving bewilderment in the face of the tortures his former schoolmate was obviously going through that he already knew all too well. A few minutes ago, he would have been satisfied to see that the Slytherin apparently hadn't suffered any severe physical injuries, at least none that were visible upon first sight. But now that Remus was thunderstruck again by the profound mental and emotional torment he could sense the spy struggling with, he was once more filled with the overwhelming need to ease whatever it was the Slytherin had to suffer.
And once more when it came to Severus, Remus listened to the cryptic speech of the wolf inside him. Again, he couldn't tell for the life of him why he did so.
But he stopped. Came to a halt in the middle of the room and began to speak.
"Would you believe that you couldnít begin to imagine the load you took off my heart by finally coming back, Severus? Your delay worried half of the Order out of their minds...Albus is looking for you by contacting his informers all over the country, and there's a search party turning every stone on Hogwarts grounds. Even Sirius is with them, right now, at this very moment."
He had not expected Severus to actually perceive anything of what he was telling him. All he had intended was to soothe him somehow, to give the Slytherin a chance to calm down, to show him that he, Remus, was not focussing on Severus's alarming emotional state anymore, but on giving him this little report instead. He had wanted to create some atmosphere of normalcy, as far as was possible under these more than shocking circumstances. So the Gryffindor had not really expected the other man's voice to answer him.
"But you are here."
Severus could feel the werewolf's surprise, but for once it didn't bother him at all whether he had managed to leave the Gryffindor speechless or not. With a little astonishment of his own, he realized that his remark had not been meant to gain advantage over Lupin. For once.
Denying his mind the opportunity to ponder on such a rare event any longer,as well as on the reasons for his brief reply, the Slytherin forced his attention back to his slowly recovering body. He didn't know why the werewolf had suddenly stopped approaching him, and to be honest, he didn't care. The only important thing was that he had to get out of the room as soon as possible. Severus had no intention at all of extending the the risk that Lupin's presence posed to his weak self-mastery, and furthermore, there was a report he had to make (not that he had been able to follow the meeting last night, and it was still a puzzle to him how he was supposed to explain his ignorance to Dumbledore), and there were classes to teach...
Yes. It was past time to finally end this transit from one of his two lives to the other.
He straightened up and carefully moved back to the table, where he took up both mask and wand. One glance in Lupin's direction told him that the werewolf had not moved from his position in the middle of the room and that he still stood between him and the door.
The burning glance Lupin was watching him with boded no good. Neither did his voice.
"Where else did you expect me to be, Severus?"
Every word dripped with urgent intensity, asked for an answer with a kind of verbal emphasis Severus knew too well. He had just escaped a similar kind of force that had claimed answers to its questions equally irresistibly. Had escaped it only a few hours ago.
["Tell me, what kind of choice do you leave me, my lovely Snow White?"]
Severus couldn't help the memory gathering around him like storm clouds around the peak of a mountain. Desperately, he fought the first squalls of wind that were carrying only fragments of sound thus far. His fingers that were curling around the mask begun to twitch slightly.
Lupin was speaking again; it was only a whisper this time.
"Do you think I don't know about the unbelievably precious gift you gave me last night?"
Severus had closed his eyes, trying to listen to the werewolfís words while struggling with the events that had taken place only a few hours ago at the same time; keeping the terror of last night out of his head brought every remnant of his strength to bear. But the storm grew stronger, the sounds it was carrying clearly audible now.
["I hope you don't think I could ever enjoy the fact that you force me to make my warnings come true, my dear, unfortunate Severus. And let me tell you once more that it's no one but you yourself who is responsible that it had to come this far."]
No. No, he did not want to go there, not again, not yet, not when he thought he had just managed to leave it all behind, at least for the time being. This was not the right moment for this, actually there would never be a right one, but not now, please, not now...
But the first flashes were striking his mind, loaded with visions, enlightening the horror he had experienced during part of last night.
The soft tone this word was vibrating with didn't fit into what occupied the spy's mind right now at all, which was humming with the violence and the mental and physical cruelty from last night that once again had encircled him. Opening his eyes from a strange need to face the source of this unexpected gentleness, he found himself still standing in the Shack, still ready to leave, still holding the mask and wand, and with the werewolf still standing between him and the door.
"Sweet Sirens, Severus, what have they done to you?"
And that was all it took. The last dam protecting his still very weak conscious being broke, and his head was flooded with a spring tide of images and sound. Leaving Severus no choice but to helplessly accept them.
The spy shook his head, automatically gathering his composure for mastering the reflex to speak, the attempt to be coherent, for the desperate attempt to not give away too much of what was going on inside him, in the only way he knew to keep anybody out of his totally twisted inner life.
He had to try, even though it was the werewolf he was facing here. Even though he knew that Remus Lupin would be able to see right through any defences he was able to come up with now.
"It's nothing, Lupin, really. Nothing worse than the usual treatment you get for disobedience."
[There had been no preparation at all this time. The Dark Lord had entered him with two violent thrusts that had left him with no will at all to fight either the harsh cry or the tears of pain...]
"It all... the meeting simply took a little longer than the others have so far."
[Three times, he had been taken horribly three times and each time had seemed to be infinite to him. That hated cock had switched from his ass to his mouth and back again, had relentlessly driven in and out of him with horrifying force...]
Putting all the restraint he could momentarily muster into his voice, Severus went on.
"As...grateful as I am for your...for the Order's concern, you see that fortunately, thereís no reason for it. I'm perfectly fine."
[Being pushed against that cold, rough wall of undressed stone while the Dark Lord raged inside him from behind had left the entire front of his body bruised and bleeding. With every flesh-rending slam that had penetrated his ass, his chest, cock and thighs had been driven across the rough blocks, and small, razor-like edges and ledges had sliced his skin open...]
When Severus felt strong enough to finally meet the werewolf's glance, he knew after the first split-second that he had looked into those expressive eyes that Lupin didn't believe a word of what he had just said.
Remus had no idea why the Slytherin was keeping the true events of that night a secret, why Severus was lying to him like that. He could feel that something horrible had happened to the spy, something he was still struggling with, that still had a strong and firm grip upon him.
But those black eyes were telling him just as firmly that there was no way to push any further, that this was all the Slytherin would reveal. Those short, concise sentences, those lies were all Severus would tell him right now, and not a single word more.
And after holding the spy's gaze for a moment longer, Remus silently accepted the Slytherin's decision.
With a slow nod and the beginning of a smile lingering around his mouth, he stepped aside and thus opened the Potion Masterís way to the door.
"I'm really glad to hear that, Severus - and I guess it's time for both of us to return to the school and pass the good news on to the others, isnít?"
He could see how relief was literally dawning in the other man's eyes. Moving with his usual grace and swiftness now, the Slytherin was already on his way to the door, without one more word or glance at Remus, who once again felt gnawing uncertainty as to whether what he had just done was right. If listening to his instincts that had more or less been screaming at him to leave the Slytherin alone had truly been the right choice... Struggling with irresolution, he almost missed his chance.
Only when Severus had already been more than half swallowed by the tunnel's darkness was Remus hit by another spontaneous inspiration.
"Severus, I still have that mug from yesterday evening up in my quarters."
The spy stopped dead in his tracks and turned around to face the werewolf one more time. Remus held the gaze that clearly questioned the Gryffindor's common sense effortlessly.
"Of course you doóas always, Lupin. I don't see what this has to do with..."
The werewolf flashed his most cheerful smile in Severus's direction.
"Nothing, Severus, nothing. I just thought that it was time for us to change our habits a bit, all right? So no house elf will return the mug to you this time. Iíll drop by later today myself, let's say after dinner. What do you think?"
An unspoken 'one good turn deserves another' hung in the air between them, waiting for the Slytherin to accept or to refuse. The spy's face didn't give anything away; he could just as easily have been wearing the mask he was still holding in his hands. But Remus perceived every nuance of the play of features on Severus's soul, felt the conflict the spy was caught up in. And not before the irritated sigh escaped Severusís mouth did the werewolf know that giving in had defeated the Slytherin's pride and defiance for once.
"If you really must, have your way, Lupin. I will not waste my energy on fighting you over such a trifle."
And with those words, Severus had left the Shrieking Shack.
Struggling with his suddenly wildly beating heart, Remus reached for the Invisibility Cloak to follow his former schoolmate back to the castle.
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