Part One

Remus spent the majority of his life alone. First because of his affliction, and then because his friends were dead, years spent scrounging and living hand to mouth had been alleviated for a few short months during his sojourn at Hogwarts. Then, with the miraculous escape by Sirius, he wasn't alone. Not anymore. With Sirius, he found a home again. Granted, Sirius was a wanted man, and he wasn't exactly welcomed in better quarters, but the Order found him useful and Sirius was once again becoming the man he was.

And then it ended.

In one swift encounter at the Department of Mysteries, Sirius was again taken by the fates and Remus was alone again. Only this time, he found he didn't mourn alone. With him was Harry. Harry, on the brink of manhood, who spent the summer in seclusion and alone, his anger growing with each passing day, Harry who was making it very obvious that the only thing that would make him happy would be the death of Severus Snape.

And there was Snape, who day by day moved in and out of Grimmauld Place with the air of a man who was a step away from death. Perhaps he was. Snape walked an ever shrinking divide between Dumbledore and Voldemort, bringing valuable information back to the Order, yet never again asked for dinner after Sirius' death. Whist Harry might have been the most vocal in blaming Snape for the events that had taken place the previous May, it seemed the rest of the Order had taken his lead and also heaped the lion's share of the blame upon Snape's head. Remus couldn't really bring himself to care, not until the night that Snape failed to report.

With the start of the approaching school year, Snape's summons to Voldemort had become unpredictable by the hour. He spent longer periods in the Dark Lord's company. As often as not, Snape would return looking worse for wear, but not one member of the Order, especially upon Harry's joining them after his birthday, not one of them lifted a hand in assistance. Snape would limp in, deliver his reports to the chill of the room, and leave. Remus really didn't give him much thought, he was preoccupied in mourning the loss of his best friend.

As things do, Remus began to slowly lift his head from the veil of darkness that had surrounded him for so long. One morning it didn't hurt to open his eyes. His porridge didn't taste like curdled milk and the abundant bouquets that Molly had taken to leaving in front of assorted portraits of the Black family didn't overwhelm him with their odor. So Remus hated himself for it. How could he start to enjoy life once again when there was so much darkness that surrounded him? The next week things seemed back to what they had once been, but the week after, and the one after that, while it hurt to remember Sirius, he smiled at a prank the twins sprang on Snape.

That was of course his undoing.

It was two weeks before the start of classes and Remus was at a loss. Grimmauld Place would be empty and he would be left to rattle around the place alone, with only the occasional visits from Tonks to keep him company. Fred and George had taken it upon themselves to cheer Harry up. Harry who lurked around the dark corners of the house with an air that would do Kreacher proud, who growled at most of the adult members of the Order and seemed only one step away from cursing Snape with an unforgivable, the twins decided to lighten the mood. It started slowly, almost unnoticed. When Snape reported, there wouldn't be a chair available for him to sit in. The water turned brackish at Snape's first sip and then, well, the final one was what did Remus in. As he had so often in the past, Remus watched as Snape felt the brunt of others' disdain. He'd known about the trick the twins played on the glasses, making any glass that Snape picked up leak all over his robes. He'd watched silently one night as they charmed the chairs to rearrange themselves to disappear when Snape entered the room and as he'd done while in school, he'd done nothing as Snape slid down the front steps as they mysteriously turned into a ramp the moment he'd laid foot upon them.

Slowly the apathy began to lift from Remus and he started to see the pettiness of it all. Snape continued to report after each summons. He kept on showing up despite each and every humiliation, but it was the last that was each man's undoing. Snape had been gone for seven days. A week that saw Albus grow wearier by each passing minute and Harry begin to walk with a semi-malevolent glee that worried even Albus. Harry and the rest of the Gryffindors within the house started to look vaguely ashamed with each snide comment directed at the absent Potions Master. Somewhere around day five, they all began to look at the various doors around the house as if their glances could cause the appearance of Snape, the man they both hated and needed.

On the sixth day a particularly bedraggled owl appeared at the window bringing a scroll of the Order. It spoke of an attack upon a small village to the South and the family of an Auror that resided there. The Order hastily arranged a counter-attack, whist keeping the illusion that the family was slaughtered. The next day, Snape arrived back, one day before the start of classes.

He'd lost kilos he could scarcely afford to lose, had a week old beard that did nothing for his appearance, and by the odor coming from him that one could smell from ten paces away, Snape hadn't bathed in over a week. He walked into the house as though he wasn't a week overdo and seemed not to notice the instinctive steps everyone took to keep their distance from him. His report of Voldemort's activities and the Death Eaters was as succinct as it was complete. An hour after he'd arrived, still standing because the chairs still rearranged themselves to prevent Snape from finding an open seat, and he was done. His voice already hoarse when he'd begun his report was almost gone by the time he'd finished and despite the odor coming from Snape, Remus and the rest of the Order leaned closer to catch every word from Snape, who seemed one step away from collapsing. After Snape finally seemed to run out of words he pushed himself away from the wall he'd been leaning against and staggered into the kitchen. The Order had already begun to absorb the magnitude of Snape's report when they heard a loud crash from the kitchen. Given the state Snape had been in when he went in there, Remus could tell that, along with himself, everyone thought that the man had finally collapsed, from the look on Harry's face it was clear that he hoped that Snape was dead. It seemed an eternity, but no one moved towards the kitchen, until another loud crash was heard. At that Remus got up and walked into the kitchen, wand drawn and ready for everything except the sight that befell his eyes.

Snape was bent over the counter and every glass within the room appeared to have been shattered. As Remus entered the room Snape spun around, his wand also out, his movements were fast enough to bring Remus into full dueling stance. Gradually both men relaxed and Remus tried to take in the destruction that encompassed the room.

Oddly enough, it was Snape that relaxed his guard first.

"I simply wanted a glass of water before leaving." Snape said, his raw voice piercing the room like a knife.

With that Remus too lowered his wand. He had no idea what to say. Obviously the glasses were still charmed as was the water. Snape's attempt at getting something down his parched throat had only succeeded in wetting his robes further and his throwing up what ever it was that the Weasley's had charmed the water into.

"Severus-"

"Save it Lupin." Snape replied. And with that, he limped out of the room and out the back door.

Remus slowly began reassembling the glasses. Later, he often thought that it was the resigned nature of Severus' gait that caused him to finally feel some regret for heaping all the blame for Sirius' death upon Snape. Severus always seemed to expect that at some point the pranks would end, but resigned to the fact that they would not. And that no one would put an end to them. Yet he kept coming back, he kept going to Voldemort and kept reporting to people that cared little to nothing about his well-being. Snape was like a puppy that had been kicked around so much he expected nothing else from his owners, yet kept hoping that at some point someone would show him love, or at least care enough to allow him to drink clean water. Remus allowed himself to smile at that, Severus would hate to be compared to a canine. Sirius would have loved the idea. And at that, Remus' gloom lifted just enough for him to see some future possibilities in life, and one such road lead directly down the path to Severus. He'd just have to wait and see.

----End one