At the Time
- Story Summary:
- Everything can change in an instant, but that doesn't make it ``easier to hold on to the moment.
- Chapter Summary:
- Everything can change in an instant, but that doesn't make it easier to hold on to the moment.
- Author's Note:
- Sequel to "All Right" and "All True". You won't like this if you can't stand Snape being sentimental; this is definitely not the Snape Harry sees.
The clock by the bed says that it's still an hour until noon. But you wonder whether the enchantment that keeps it wound has been lifted, because it doesn't seem possible that barely twelve hours have passed since you woke Lupin on your sofa, spoke three careless words to him and turned your life upside down. You might even suspect that you had dreamed the entire thing were Lupin not still in your bed, sleeping soundly despite the approach of midday.
Again you catch yourself smiling - something of which you are aware only because your face feels so strange with the muscles in your cheeks pulling back involuntarily - as if someone has charmed your mouth to grin. You've probably smiled more in the past few hours than you did in the previous few months. Or maybe your face feels so strange from the minutes you spent trying to hold in the smile because you thought Lupin might believe you had gone mad, before you realized he was smiling even more widely and was making no attempt to hide it. He kept laughing, too, in that surprised, delighted way, and as he nodded off his voice practically purred with contentment. That is a comfort because you suspect that you were a clumsy oaf. There he was, trying not to rush you, when you attacked him as if you rather than he had an animal within, and you were noisy and greedy and really quite shameless besides.
You suspect that you should be more embarrassed than you are, though you also suspect that Lupin very much enjoyed it. But at the least, you know that you should be more concerned about where this is leading. There is a great deal at stake: your position, the working relationship that the two of you must maintain, possibly even your safety and his. It is disturbing how little these matters worry you for the moment. As soon as Lupin rouses himself from the nap he's taking with his face pressed against your shoulder, you intend to mention the risks and discuss the need for caution. Or, perhaps, you will save the conversation for later and urge him to put his hands on you again, since there will be plenty of time to talk at breakfast...well, dinner, at that point. Or you could wait until tomorrow, when you hope that you will be thinking more clearly instead of reliving the past hours each time you close your eyes.
Another glance at the clock confirms that only minutes have passed. That is not as disconcerting as it was earlier, when you had the feeling of using a time-turner to preserve each second; still, you can't shake the sense that the inner clock which tells you when to sleep, when to rise and when to eat has been altered. Because you have always been an extremely punctual person, this is rather troubling, and you wonder whether it might be related to your thoughtless invitation of the night before. None of this would have happened without those moments of misunderstanding between yourself and Lupin. You might not even have arrived at the idea of it until it was years too late, instead assuming that he disliked you as much as ever. What a waste of time all that anger seems now. How much time did you let slip past because you were so slow to grasp your own wishes? How much time do you have left before you catch up with the destinies that surely wait for each of you?
For the first time since the night before when you realized what Lupin thought you wanted, your head clears. Now you can look further than ten minutes into the future, though you aren't enthusiastic about seeing what lies ahead. On the one hand, this is only the first morning of what might very well be weeks or months of happy revelation. Lupin has known you since childhood; you are already aware of many of his flaws and failings, as he is of yours. There is no need for any awkward period of becoming acquainted with one another's quirks and bad habits. If the two of you have managed to put aside so many years of anger to grasp at pleasure as you did last night, you do not believe that any unexpected discovery will destroy the connection.
On the other hand, you and Lupin are both aging faster than your years. His werewolf metabolism has worn down his body, prematurely graying his hair and putting lines on his face, while the scars from your affiliation with the Dark Lord have damaged yours in ways that are not so easy to see. Your time together might be abbreviated even if your struggles were over, but they are not, and you can see the toll that Lupin's work for the Order takes on him just as you can feel it in yourself each time you return from a session with the Death-Eaters. Time -- which has been in blissful suspension for the past half a day -- is going to become your enemy merely by passing, forcing you to pay for past mistakes, taking him from you whether or not you wish to relinquish...
"Are you all right, Severus?" You feel the words as you hear them, in the warmth of Lupin's breath and the shift of his lips like a kiss against your upper arm.
"Of course I'm all right. I thought you were asleep," you reply shortly.
"I was resting. But you're very tense." Lupin gets up on one elbow to look down at you. "What is it?"
"I just noticed the clock."
"Do you have work that you need to do?"
"Not yet. But I will. We do not have all the time in the world."
The sigh in your voice sounds mawkish, but your declaration makes Lupin grin, and you wonder how long it will take before you stop feeling the world tilt when he smiles at you. Instinctively you reach out and he rolls toward you, so that his side presses along the entire length of yours. His hand moves onto your shoulder, squeezing.
"Then we'll make time." Lupin's voice is warm and steady, like his palm against your skin. "I had no idea you wanted this. I'm still having trouble believing it." He peers at you sideways, the angle making him look shifty. "How long?"
"How _long_?" Because of his expression, your tone sounds suspicious, which gives your words a crude implication. Lupin laughs and slides his arm across your chest, leaning his chin against your collarbone so that his moustache tickles your face and you squirm as you answer truthfully. "I never considered it before last night. I would not have suspected that there was a reason to pursue it." You angle your head to try to meet his eyes. "And you?"
TO your surprise, he blushes. The heat on his face seems to travel through your body straight to your groin, and the pressure of his arms around you changes. "I've thought about it on and off since we were in school. I thought you hated me, but I thought about it anyway." You wonder if you knew - if the shameful part of your mind prone to sentiment and nostalgia, which you ignore lest it should weaken you, had figured it out months ago, and that's why all of this hasn't shocked you into panic or rage. You think, perhaps, that you are gloating, though you also think that if pride played no part in this admission, it might make you more uneasy than it does.
When you tilt your head up to meet his eyes, Lupin leans forward to kiss you, dragging his chest over yours. The kiss does not end when your head falls back, for he follows you down, sliding more fully on top of you and allowing you to feel how much he wants you, again. For a few minutes you lie under him, letting him touch you, familiarizing yourself with the sensation of his weight on you, the stickiness and pressure and warmth and itch and places where he's bumpy and scratchy and smooth. You imagine the transformation that will turn the prickly sparse hair on his body into fur and twist those gentle fingers into claws, but the notion seems abstract - nothing that makes you wish to escape from him now.
As you push up against him, rolling him onto his side so you can get your hands on him, he rolls obediently and moans softly. You decide that words are unnecessary while there are other ways to use your mouth to communicate with him, more quickly, so much more directly, with no possibility that he might misunderstand.
Afterward, when you're lying quietly, thinking that you can spare perhaps five more minutes before you need to clean and prepare yourself for work - no more delays, no matter what you might wish - you are still disturbed by the realization of how easily it could have become too late. How it will be too late, one day not far in the future, when one of you fails to return from a raid or a meeting with Death Eaters, or perhaps merely when the lies and deceptions that have become so vital to you both in protecting yourselves creates a barrier that you dare not breach. You believe something like that happened between Lupin and Black, so many years ago when you all knew there was a spy within the Order and not even you could give the name.
You turn so that you are looking into Lupin's eyes, and when he grins lazily, you feel time stretching out again. You're aware of every heartbeat, the slow constraint on your breathing and movement. It is still a strange sensation, outside your control, and you wonder whether you will have learned to master it before it becomes a burden you can no longer risk.
"What is it?" he asks. You take a deep breath, then let it out without replying. His hand flutters on your arm; he leans in to press his forehead against yours, so that although he hasn't broken eye contact with you, he's so close that his face is blurred. "Do you need to slow down?" he asks.
"No. Don't slow down. Neither of us can know how much time he has left."
"We won't run out of time," he promises, looking at you like he's trying to understand what is troubling you. He should know, you think: you saw what he was like after Black fell, you know that he understands loss and regret, and you wonder that he sounds so certain. "But I don't want to rush things, either, and you're already watching the clock."
It feels selfish to want to stay in this moment, with Lupin draped over you, rubbing his nose against your cheek, but you think that if this is what he wants - to take his time, and to take yours - you will have to learn to accept that. You want to learn to accept that, because you suspect that there will be plenty of time for regret later.
"We could take a bath," he murmurs wickedly, making you smile again like a helpless fool. The rest of your body responds so quickly that you wonder if he has used some whispered spell to reverse the effects of aging and make you feel young.
You know what will happen if you attempt to share the tub with him, and you doubt that you should postpone even further the work that must be finished. But Lupin laughs, unburdened by the clock, and you realize as you hear the delight in his voice that you will make certain you have all the time you need, even if you must turn time back on itself to do so.