For all Joy wants Eternity

Chapter Fifteen

By katzenhai


The sadness and helplessness that Remus had felt the entire evening gradually mingled with a strange warm, gleaming thread of gratitude and relief - two feelings that he knew were totally uncalled for, regarding the events of this night. Still, watching the man who sat with him in his quarters didn't leave the Gryffindor much of a choice but to give in to those slowly awakening and most encouraging emotions. It had been almost an hour ago when he and Severus had retreated to his quarters in the East Tower, the Slytherin in a condition which had frightened the werewolf out of his mind. More or less exactly four months had passed since he and Severus had shared their first Full Moon night, and even though Remus had been fully aware of the inevitability that lay in the merciless progress of his friend's physical decline, he had to admit to himself that no knowledge, no degree of awareness could have prepared him to witness the totally horrifying development of Severus's condition. Each passing day left its marks, it looked to the werewolf as if each night made the Slytherin fade away a little more, every encounter with Voldemort seemed to gnaw off another piece of the spy's gradually collapsing body - and still, he stood tall and proud as ever. Still doing his duty as a teacher, as well as complying with the demands as a spy. Still refusing to give in, still keeping up the macabre charade he offered the world around him, the world which did not know.

Remus seriously wondered how long the rapidly aggravating symptoms of the ritual would allow the spy to continue leading the mixed up life that he did. The werewolf could watch and sense how being around others became a more and more serious daily challenge for his friend, how the Slytherin let the distance to other persons grow, how he retreated more and more, how the protective wall of sarcasm and arrogance he had once erected grew denser and more impenetrable with each new day. Dealing with physical proximity had been difficult for the spy ever since he had received the third mark that had completed the fatal triangle encircling his heart, but by now it was something more. It had changed in quality, had become an everyday torture.

Like tonight.

With a painful twist of his heart, Remus let his mind wander back a few hours, to another place in the castle. It had been one of the meetings of the Order which took place very frequently now. For the third time this week, they had gathered in Albus's office, and the tension and nervousness that had coloured their most recent sittings had been palpable this time. The air had been thick with a weird mixture of impatience, uncertainty and a special kind of fear, the kind created by a profound and tormenting feeling of utter helplessness. Things were gathering, everyone felt it, and Severus's reports told a clear story of the Dark Lord preparing for *something* - still, the spy couldn't give any more detailed information. Voldemort obviously didn't want to leave anything to chance at all, and as far as Severus could tell, there was no Death Eater who knew more than he or she absolutely needed to - a situation most of them remembered only too well. Except for the Order’s younger members, they could all recall very clearly that it had been like that before. And the last time, this painful feeling of forced ignorance had been followed by one of Voldemort's most terrible attacks which had left too many of them dead, and they all knew who had been among the victims. The fact that then as well, it had been Severus who had not been able to warn them in time, combined with the awareness that something was definitely coming, had stirred up galling frustration among them all tonight.

And as always, much of the tension and unconscious and unspoken reproaches had been focussed on the messenger.

It had ripped Remus's heart apart. With growing agony, he had been forced to watch how those little poisoned arrows of silent accusations and reproachful glances had found their target again and again. He had witnessed how being pressured like that had weakened the Slytherin's defences against the ritual's effects minute by minute, how being forced to struggle to lose neither his physical composure nor his temper had revealed more and more of the spy's own disappointment, frustration and despair in the face of the hopeless situation they were in, regarding the not very useful reports that he had brought home lately. Unable to interfere, Remus had seen the man he regarded as a friend being caught in a futile fight between desperately controlling his body's reaction to the ritual on the one hand and meeting wordless condemnation from too many of the Order's members with as much pride and dignity as possible on the other. A futile fight that went on for almost three hours.

The werewolf knew that, had the meeting lasted only a few minutes longer, that battle on multiple fronts would have made the spy break down, right there, in front of everyone. Remus, who had been able to sense Severus's growing terror and increasing suffering with painful clarity, had no idea where the spy had found the strength to withstand the meeting's last thirty minutes.

Still he had. Until it all had finally been over, until Albus had dismissed them all, without their having achieved anything like a concept, a plan, or even a vague idea of how to deal with what the Dark Lord would have in store for them in the future. And in the swirl of moving bodies, flowing robes and concerned voices that had followed Albus's parting words, Remus had been searching for the Slytherin's eyes.

For a very brief moment, the Gryffindor marvelled at how tuned the two of them seemed to be to each other now. All it had taken was a short glance, a quick eye contact, to wordlessly voice the invitation to his rooms which had been understood immediately as well. If the werewolf was honest with himself, he had to admit that he had been surprised, though not unpleasantly so, when Severus had accepted with a weak, barely noticeable nod. Remus had expected the spy to want to retreat to the solitude of his own quarters, to the place where he would be alone, where he would be able to recover from the agonizing strain of the past hours in the loneliness that he now needed so very much. That the Slytherin had chosen his company instead aroused a very special kind of warmth inside the werewolf, one he had missed for a long time. One that had filled him quite often recently when it came to a certain Slytherin.

They had made their way up to the East Tower in complete silence, and the only sounds audible had been the spy's ragged breathing. As usual, Remus had followed his friend at a certain distance, never taking his eyes off the slim figure in front of him. He could only watch helplessly the unsteady movements with which Severus dragged his body forward and the violent shivering cramps that shot through the other man's frame with frightening regularity. The spy's hands had been trembling badly, and each time the Slytherin had grabbed for the railing to support his swaying climb up the stairs, it had taken him several seconds to finally loosen the fingers that had clenched into tight talons around the wood.

Remus had hurt for his friend with every step up to his quarters, had silently shared Severus's agonized weakness, had sensed how torture had inexorably eaten its way through the Slytherin's shaken consciousness, had suffered with the spy until he had felt tears running down his own invisible cheeks...

Returning from his memories with a soft sigh, Remus leaned back in his seat, never letting the other armchair next to the fire out of his sight. The distance between their chairs had constantly grown over the past weeks, but even if he had not still been able to make out the other man's features in the dim light of the fire, the clear change in Severus's aura would have been enough to tell him how the spy was feeling. And what Remus saw, what he received was the reason for the relief he had felt earlier, for the gratitude that gradually began to break up the hard lump of fear and sadness that had been building all evening.

The warm light of the dancing flames painted its ever changing tattoo on the Slytherin's clearly defined features, illuminating a calmness and serenity Remus hadn't seen there in a long time. Severus's hands, which were now slackly lying on the armrests had completely stopped shivering, his breathing was deep and even. With his eyes closed and his head turned slightly to one side, every part of his body radiated peace and unconditional trust onto his companion so as not to stir up the ritual once more, and Remus, who knew what a rare gift moments like this had become for his Slytherin friend, was overwhelmed with the hot urge to do whatever would grant this kind of perfect tranquillity to the spy forever.

Only the painful awareness that this was impossible was equally strong, was knifing through his thinking and feeling at the same time, mockingly reminding him of what eternity had in store for Severus instead. What the rest of the spy's life would look like. How he would have to spend his time before it would all be over in the end. The entire rest of his time. All of it. To the full. Every single minute. Each day. Every night...

But not tonight!

Only when Remus felt the fingernails of both of his hands digging deeply into his palms did he become aware of his tightly clenched fists which were trembling with frustration, but with fierce determination as well.

Not tonight!

This night would be one of peace and calmness. Nothing and no one would disturb Severus, not now that he had totally entrusted his well-being to Remus's care and responsibility.

The werewolf straightened in his seat, eyes gleaming, body tense with resolution. This night would mean nothing but safety, some precious hours without terror, fear, pain or suffering. A night of peace. A night of calmness. Disturbed by nothing and no one. He himself would see to it. And a curse upon him if he failed!

He would not. Not tonight.

Slowly and very carefully, Remus started to lift his body out of his armchair until he stood. With deliberate steps, always concerned to keep as much distance as necessary between himself and the Slytherin, the Gryffindor moved over to the small table where he had lain down Harry's Invisibility Cloak about an hour ago. He needed to see Albus to let him know where Severus was, in case the Headmaster would try to contact his spy. With one swift movement, Remus had thrown the Cloak over his shoulders and was already on his way to the door. It was rather unlikely that Albus had not noticed the horrible state the Slytherin had been in tonight, and even though Remus was also absolutely positive that Albus knew Severus had not returned to his own quarters after the meeting, the Headmaster would expect his spy back in the dungeons sometime tonight. It was unthinkable that someone like Albus Dumbledore would not at least check on a member of the Order in a condition like that.

Disturbed by nothing and no one.

Albus would have to wait until tomorrow to see for himself that Severus had recovered from the strains of this night's meeting. Somehow, Remus needed to convince the Headmaster that the spy was taken care of tonight, and even though the werewolf had no clear idea yet how exactly he would achieve this, he had a feeling that Albus already knew *something* about the growing relationship between the Gryffindor and the Slytherin anyway. He probably already knew more than Remus could imagine, and maybe it would have been enough to use the Order's own ways of communication to let the Headmaster know. Still the idea of not informing Albus personally made the Gryffindor feel most uncomfortable. This was a very personal matter, and he'd rather deal with it in an appropriate way. Drawing his wand, Remus lowered the wards to his rooms in a low, whispering voice, his free hand already on the door handle.

"It's not necessary to take all that trouble treading softly like that, Remus. I'm not asleep." Closing his eyes, Remus let go his breath, which he hadn't even been aware that he'd been holding, with a deep sigh.

"I'm truly sorry, Severus. If there was anything that I didn't intend to do, it was wake you up." Unable to fight back the bitter taste of failure in his mouth, Remus slipped the Invisibility Cloak from his face and turned around to face his friend in the chair by the fire, whose eyes were still closed, who still gave the impression of being totally relaxed.

"You haven't." For all the disappointment and anger at himself raging inside, Remus couldn't help but notice his heart warming up at the unexpectedly rich sound of the spy's voice that even the sleepiness in his tones could not drown. "I've been awake for quite some time. All the time, to be exact."

Slowly, gradually, the spy's eyes opened, searched for the werewolf's glance and held it, while the corners of the Slytherin's lips, usually tightly pressed together, started to lift slightly, to form one of Severus's very rare smiles.

"But I'm afraid that any further attempts on my side to successfully fight back sleep will be futile."

Remus felt the tense muscles of his face relax into a soft smile of his own.

"There's no need to fight back anything, Severus. I think if there's something we found out during the last four months it's that these rooms are absolutely adequate for two persons. So please, feel free to stay...only if you want to, that is."

About to bite off his tongue after he had hastily added those last words, the Gryffindor mentally closed his eyes, cursing himself in all the tongues there were. Why in Merlin's name was he not able to learn from the mistakes he had made in the past? Why was it apparently impossible to *not* act on this most impulsive intuition of his? There had definitely been enough opportunities during this friendship that he and Severus shared to show him what his rash actions could provoke. What in the Slytherin's words, by the gentleness of all the unicorns in the world, had given him the idea to simply assume that Severus was so much as thinking about staying overnight? Since when had he begun to project his own wishes onto the other man who had most likely just intended to hint that it was time for him to leave now and return to his own quarters? What had he been thinking to risk that wonderfully peaceful evening with another one of his thoughtless suggestions?

But to his surprise, all that he saw when he finally dared to look at Severus again was the still smiling Slytherin who was just about to close his eyes before he answered.

"Can it truly be that you do not know how very much I had hoped for exactly that offer, Remus? I really thought I'd been suggestive enough."

For some seconds, the Gryffindor was not able to think of anything to say. Momentarily silenced by the wild explosion of joy that had followed the Slytherin's statement, all that Remus knew was that he must have been beaming by now, that he’d better come up with *something* to say before his friend finally fell asleep for good - and that something must have changed. Something had happened. Right now. Right in front of his face. Not able to name it, not even able to roughly outline it, he only felt this new aspect, this new quality that had just been added to their relationship leaping all over his heart like a gleaming spark. The burning urge to walk over to the other man, to hug him, to physically manifest the mental and emotional connection Remus felt singing within every part of his consciousness was stronger right now than it had ever been before. Stronger than any wave of compassion for Severus's suffering had ever been able to raise in him. And it was growing, becoming more important with every single moment, getting stronger until the fierce wish to touch the Slytherin was all that seemed relevant anymore.

Never had it been more difficult to hold back.

With one violent toss of his head, Remus called himself to order. A night of peace. A night of calmness. Disturbed by nothing and no one. He himself had sworn to see to it. Forcing his hands to put the Cloak back over his head and taking one step back towards the door, the Gryffindor felt the powerful emotional storm inside him calming down, until all that was left was that brightly gleaming spark. Still racing all over his heart.

"Make yourself at home, Severus." Was it possible that even his voice was coloured by, was vibrating with what had just crept into his feelings for the other man a few moments ago? "I'll be back as soon as I've informed Albus. I guess he'd like to be updated about your whereabouts."

All the Gryffindor was answered with was a low, barely audible sigh.

When Remus returned only half an hour later, still in awe about the Headmaster's infallible awareness concerning the events inside Hogwarts, he found the spy still sitting in his armchair by the fire, his face so very close to looking like the features of those deeply and peacefully asleep. Incredibly soft. Incredibly young. Almost untouched. Almost innocent.

Almost perfect.

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