Title: An Eye Toward a Precious Gem
Author: Raven StarFire
Email: raven_starfire12@yahoo.com
DISCLAIMER: Don’t own. Don’t ask.
CHALLENGE: (Based loosely on) 177) Remus decided a long time ago that Snape's life was worth more than his because of Snape's work for the Order.

***

I wake to liquid clouds with clear wine colored stars. The window pours this toxic combination into the room, and the carpet eats it up. This house could swallow silence. Merlin knows; it buries everything else.

But, I know when he arrives. It is always the same tired feet dragging a beaten body. I know he comes back to a place he can never call home (but really, who can call this place anything but base, headquarters, the safehouse, the fortress?). He never says it, but I can read his eyes. This old, grim place is better than the pain, and the screams, and the voice and face of malice.

These things beat the life and breath out of him. Who can judge his bitter tongue? Even I am not as jaded. And, it’s sad to look into old haunted eyes full of regret, fear, anger, horror, and sorrow.

We have asked far too much from him, but he’s the most valuable gem we have.

And, the only one with the strength and cunning to play the spy. Everyone knows they would have cracked.

He said to me: “The children don’t understand cruelty and bitterness. They see a mean teacher of death beating life into them.”

I remember smiling my polite smile, watching him dead eyes, and wondering if he ever wasn’t like this.

Yes, during school. Before the trials of the first war. And, before the endless waiting and double playing of the second.

Later, because we never relate, and only just realizing he was reaching out to me in his unique Severus Snape way, I told him: “You are the mage of silence and the wizard of strength. There are few who can hear your words. You speak in a tongue unknown yet to humans, but it is full of strength.”

He looked at me with black phantom eyes. And, spewed at my feet, “You are a unmistakably stupid poet, Lupin.”

With this, I knew I had been too late to make that crucial connection. He had shut his impenetrable lead doors.

That was four weeks ago yesterday. I play the scene in my empty head in the dark hours of hopeless dawn. What could I have said to keep the door open? Would he have let me in anyways? No. We both are too wary, and we guard our words with thorns.

I hear Dumbledore now awake and speaking in hushed wind tones. Yes, now I think, after dying a little over that memory everyday. I think I understand.

I rise from my warm cocoon and walk through dark passages to lukewarm chilled light. He stands stiff, tall and unbroken in the shallow yellow-brown of the kitchen.

I say without thought, because to think is to hesitate, “Did you wish someone had taught you the hard cold lessons of life?”

Dumbledore in the background forgotten, as hollow liquid brown eyes turn toward me.

“But when you did, I hated you for it.”

Yes, we have reached an understanding.