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For dementordelta, who prompts: How much do I love you?
Remus Lupin grew up in a normal, affectionate family. He says, "I love you," easily, casually: at the ends of letters and firecalls, when greeting and parting and making love, every night before falling asleep.
Harry Potter was raised in indifference, suspicion, and hostility, but he knew parents' love before that and friends' love after. He says it shyly, awkwardly, but he says it, because he wants them to know.
Severus Snape's past is the darkest of mysteries. He never says the words at all.
"I love you," Remus says as he hoists his battered carpetbag over his shoulder, packed for the two weeks he'll spend clearing all his dead father's things out and selling the old house.
"If you love your life, do not delay your return past the twenty-first. Wolfsbane cannot survive Apparition." Severus' hand gripping Remus' shoulder leaves wrinkles in his robe for hours.
"I love you," Harry says, very grave, looking over the lip of his cauldron.
"I fear you," Severus says, and he dives for Harry's neglected cauldron just as the Moscarepellum base passes beyond the point where adding rose leaves would prevent a nasty surprise. The explosion takes him full in the face, leaving him with a rash that looks like dragon pox but smells like lavender. He bears it with dignity and doesn't scratch at all.
"We love you," Remus says when the Aurors finally finish taking statements from him and Harry and let them go home.
Severus doesn't even pause in his shouting. "And yet you fail to exercise even the most elementary self-protection. Did you expect me to thank you when you expressed your -- the depth of your regard by having your effects owled to me after your funerals?" He sweeps away to his workroom, and neither of them sees him again until next afternoon, when he pours out tea with scrupulous politeness. He never speaks of it again.
"You love me," Harry beams when he wakes up in St. Mungo's and finds Snape asleep in the chair by his bedside with a corner of Harry's sheet clutched in his hand.
"Is that the explanation for my continued tolerance of your utter foolishness? I thought perhaps I had suffered brain damage."
When Remus has eased his difficult way into Severus' tense body and rocked there for long moments, and Harry has laid a hundred kisses on Severus' mouth, each one different, Severus will shut his eyes, and a deep, mottled flush will stain his sallow face. "I --" he'll grate. "I --"
"It's all right," Remus will whisper in one ear, and Harry will whisper in the other one, "We know you do."
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December 27, 2008