Title: In with a Bang, Out with a Whimper
Author: CrisisKris (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Dec. 15
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Severus Snape/Remus Lupin
Summary: Remus and Severus grieve for what cannot be.
Advertisement: Part of the Slash Advent Calendar of 2003 at http://www.kardasi.com/Advent/2003
Disclaimer: Don't own; don't sue.
Beta: The incredible Gaaak.
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Christmas at Hogwarts began with a large 'boom'. Everyone jolted up in their beds, hearts pounding. There was a moment of silence, and then everyone jumped up, running to their doors or their
windows, trying to find out what happened.
Remus J. Lupin had just entered the Great Hall to deposit the last of his presents under the main tree when the 'boom' happened. Being closer to the point of origin, he knew that it had come from the dungeons, where only Argus Filch and Severus Snape currently resided, all of the Slytherin students having gone home for the holidays. Remus drew his wand and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. He met Argus Filch at the bottom.
"Damn fool's gone and blown himself up," Filch complained, gesturing vaguely down the hallway. "Take weeks to clean up that mess." Remus stared down the hallway Filch had indicated. The walls had caved in, reduced to rubble. The passage was blocked off.
"Where's Severus?" he demanded. Through the corner of his eye he saw Dumbledore and Flitwick hurrying down the stairs.
Filch just shrugged. "Behind the mess, I'd imagine," he replied. "I told you, the damn fool blew him himself up." The caretaker turned away, gone to find a shovel. Remus wheeled back to the mess before him.
"Nothing to do but move it," Dumbledore whispered in his ear. The old man's voice was light, but his eyes were somber, and his face was lined with tension. Severus was like a son to the Headmaster. Remus nodded, a lump in his throat. Flitwick had already moved up to the rubble, charming some of the larger pieces to roll back into place in the wall, and Hagrid's heavy steps could be heard coming down the stairs.
"Argus said you needed some shovels?" he said, ducking into the dungeons. The ceilings were too low for the groundskeeper to be of much help, as he had to bend nearly half over to fit in, but he had with him three great shovels, that Flitwick immediately charmed to start moving some of the smaller debris. Shaking his head, Remus lifted his wand to help.
The wall all the way down the hall had collapsed in on itself, and even with the use of magic, it took nearly two and half hours to clear the passage. At last, however, they'd opened the space that led from the stairs down to the Potions master's office. Scorch marks were evident on what was left of the walls. They dug carefully, looking for the man himself. Remus' heart pounded, and Albus had to leave the room several times. At last they found a hand.
Severus was laying on the floor with his knees curled up to protect his abdomen and his hands covering his head. He was unconscious, but breathing. Once they cleared the debris from his body, the professors stepped aside and let Madam Pomfrey through. She knelt beside the body for several silent, breathless minutes. "I think we can move him," she finally pronounced. "He has a concussion and several broken bones, and some internal damage is likely, but I don't think there's anything life threatening."
Everyone breathed a sigh of collective relief. Albus seemed to come back from whatever place of fear he'd been living, the lines in his face easing. "Well then," he said. "It's time for our morning meal, and the children will be in the Great Hall by now. Let's leave Poppy to her work and go have Christmas breakfast."
Remus trailed along behind, thinking he might slip off to the infirmary just to confirm that Severus was, in fact, all right, but Flitwick appeared suddenly at his arm, asking him about his recent trip to Spain as if it had been a holiday and not a reconnaissance mission, and he found himself swept into the Great Hall quite despite himself.
It was, in fact, two more hours before Remus was able to get up to the infirmary to see Snape. The Potions master was awake, and in true Snape form. "I assure you, I am fine," he was saying coldly
to the medi-witch as Remus walked in. "I hardly think that you are capable of producing a pain potion that is superior to my own. I will return to my chambers and look after myself." Poppy, as usual,
ignored him, gently applying an antiseptic to the cuts on the back of the dark man's hands. Remus cleared his throat and waited politely to be acknowledged. "What the devil do you want, Lupin?" Snape
"I just wanted to make sure you were all right," he replied, coming to sit beside the bed. Poppy finished up and quietly excused herself. "I was worried."
"I am fine. You may go."
"What happened, Severus? I've never known you to be careless…" Snape said nothing, looking away. Remus cocked his head, puzzled. "Severus?" he asked again.
Snape studied his hands for a long moment, before replying so softly that Remus had to lean in to hear him. "I fell asleep," he said. "I was starting on a potion for my - for Vol- for… and I fell asleep. The potion, left unattended, of course exploded." He looked up hesitantly to meet Remus' surprised gaze. "So there you have it, Lupin. The Potions master himself, falling asleep before his cauldron. Go ahead and laugh, you might as well get it all out now."
But Remus didn't laugh. He moved over to sit on the edge of Severus's bed, his face serious. "Why were you making a potion if you were that tired?" he asked.
Severus snorted. "It's not as though I have the luxury to determine my own schedule," he said bitterly. "I was making the potion because it had to be made - Albus expected me up for Christmas breakfast, I was called last night; Malfoy is coming by to pick up the potion later this afternoon. It has to be made." He sighed, his eyes bleak. "What time is it?" he asked.
"Nearly noon," Remus replied. "Severus, does Albus know you were summoned last night?"
"Of course. That was why he expected me at breakfast - to hear my report." He cut off whatever Remus was going to say next with his hand. "I have to go," he said, rising stiffly out of the bed. It was obvious that he was in considerable pain. "Malfoy will be here by three."
"How do you know you won't just fall asleep again?" Remus called after him.
Snape smiled mirthlessly. "Now I have pain to keep me alert," he replied.
Three o'clock came and went, and if Malfoy appeared, Remus didn't know about it. Just to be on the safe side, however, he waited until nearly four before heading down to the dungeons. Severus was
cleaning his cauldron, fairly leaning on the sink. His office was mostly put back together, but there was clearly much more work to do rebottling the salvaged potions and sorting out the cupboards.
The Potions master turned slightly when Remus walked in. "What do you want, Lupin?" he asked tiredly.
"Leave that for the house elves, Severus. Come to bed," Remus replied. "You're exhausted." Severus shrugged, but abandoned the cauldron and let Remus lead him to his bedchambers. The werewolf looked away politely as Snape lowered the wards around the door and whispered the password, and the two men stepped in.
"Can I offer you a drink?" Snape said, gesturing at the liquor cabinet. He was swaying on his feet.
"Thank you for observing proper etiquette, but no," Remus replied. "If I desire one, I will pour it for myself on the way out." Gently, he took Severus's arm and led him to the bed. The Potions master fell upon it, sluggish.
"Why are you doing this?" he asked as Remus unlaced his boots and removed them. "Why are you being nice to me? I'm the greasy git."
Remus pulled a coverlet over the man, brushing back his hair. "You are an important member of the Order. You survive work that most men would kill themselves over. You protect students that hate you. That's why I'm doing this." He leaned over and brushed a kiss across Severus's brow. "And I told you before, I love you. I know you won't believe it, but it's true."
"It's not safe to love me right now," Severus replied, catching hold of one of Remus' hands. "Please try to understand that. If the Dark Lord ever found out… he'd kill you. He'd make me kill you. And I'd have to, do you understand? Because the Order is more important than either of us. And I couldn't kill you." Severus's eyes were shining, desperate. He halfway sat up, gripping Remus tightly.
"Shhh," the werewolf replied, gently pushing the other man down. "I understand. But I want you to understand that all of this will be over one day. And you must survive, because one day I will act on my feelings." Snape smiled faintly. "Severus, promise me something," Remus continued. At the other man's nod, he said, "Just come to me when you're tired. Let me do this one small thing for you. Please let me help you."
"If I let you do one small thing, Remus, the next thing you know you'll be right where I can't afford to let you be." Severus sighed, rolling away.
"We can be careful."
"There is no such thing as careful around the Dark Lord. He knows all my secrets, Remus. He suspects that I am spying on him; he knows that I am in love with you. He knows, but he believes that my fear of him keeps me loyal. That is the only secret I can afford to have. If he finds out that you… you've become more to me than something I dream of, he'll take it away just to show me who has the power. Don't you understand?" Severus' voice cracked. "You have to go now, Remus. I'm sorry."
Remus stood, his heart heavy. "Happy Christmas, Severus," he said. Severus did not reply as Lupin slipped out of the doorway. "Happy Christmas, Remus," he whispered to himself, walking away.
Inside the bedchambers, Severus Snape fell into an uneasy sleep, dreaming alternately of the Dark Lord's looming face, and Remus Lupin's gentle hands. He whimpered in his sleep, out of fear and
then out of need, and far above him, Remus laid his head in his hands and wept.
Christmas day ended with the soft near-silence of a light snow and the sound of two men crying.