Title: Home's the Farthest Way

Chapter: 1

Author: ReeraTheRed

Date: November 8, 2004

Rating: PG13

Summary: When Lupin is offered a werewolf cure, he dreams of no longer living in dread of hurting or killing an innocent person. But will things go smoothly? RLSS, romance but NOT SLASH.

Disclaimer: Everything in this chapter and all subsequent chapters is the property of J.K. Rowling. I'm just having fun.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Patti and Michelle for beta-reading

Author's Note: I'm going to spell it out right now: this is a romance. It will NOT be SLASH, but it will be between Lupin and Snape (so you have a pretty good idea of something that might go wrong with the werewolf cure). This is for those of us who would like to see a heterosexual relationship involving either of these guys, but hate Original Character stories. (I have nothing against slash, by the way, and might do a slash story with these guys as well - I'm just tired of only reading slash.)

This is a sequel to a fan novel I've written called "The Wounded", which is a sequel to another one I've done called "Practically Brothers." If you don't want to read them, what's been established is: Lupin and Snape have a strong friendship, it is now Post-Voldemort (the good guys won), Snape has gone into therapy, and has the ability to turn into a rather disturbing looking dog - so this is no longer a true canon Snape, this is OnAntiDepressants!Snape. Or PostTherapy!Snape, take your pick.

This is NOT HALF BLOOD PRINCE COMPLIANT (oh, it is so AU now), but it is compliant up to Order of the Phoenix

This story starts about nine months after the events in The Wounded.
Chapter 1

Lupin peered into the Hogwarts staff room. It was empty. He quickly stepped inside, breathing a sigh of relief. There were entirely too many strangers in the building right now, but they were unlikely to find him in here.

He saw a flash of movement across the room and froze. Then he relaxed. It was just his reflection in the mirror.

He paused for a moment, looking at himself. That can't be me, he thought. The figure he saw made a rueful face back at him.

His hair was neatly trimmed, instead of the haphazard cut he normally gave himself. Soft blue robes fell from his shoulders, not a patch or a worn spot to be seen. On his chest gleamed a circle of gold, the Order of Merlin. The ragged, scarecrow appearance he usually presented was gone, and in its place was a respectable, even distinguished, man.

"I see Minerva got hold of you, too," Snape's voice came from behind, in the doorway.

Lupin sighed. "Actually, it was Molly Weasley, yesterday." He looked behind him, and started.

Snape wore his best dress robes and his hair was tied back; it looked elegantly sleek. There was the glint of Snape's own medal, bright against the velvet black, though it seemed to Lupin that Snape had tried to hide it among his robes.

"Severus, you look good," Lupin said with a smile. "The hair suits you."

Snape scowled. Lupin thought, he can't hide behind his hair when it's pulled away from his face like that.

Lupin shrugged. "It's just for the day. Tomorrow we're both back to normal."

Snape scowled even more deeply, but then relaxed a little, and nodded. "You look very well yourself."

"I hardly know myself," Lupin said. "Probably just as well. I'd rather not be recognized, when it's all over."

Another scowl from Snape. He'd also prefer not to be recognized, thought Lupin, and he's hardly going to manage that. The press will go right for him.

Lupin sat down on one of the many overstuffed chairs that filled the staff room. "So, how's the new flat coming along?" Snape had moved out of Lupin's house a month ago.

Snape sat down close by. "It's empty, but livable. Are you still coming by tonight, after this is over?"

Lupin nodded. "I'm going to need it. Something to help me recover from this." He looked over at the clock. The whole business would be starting soon - everyone had to be back from Hogsmeade by now. "You know, we could just stay here. Say we got talking, and lost track of the time."

Snape looked at the clock, and then back at Lupin. He's not saying 'yes,' Lupin thought, but he's not saying 'no,' either.

"So, the flat is livable?" Lupin asked, his face all innocence.

Snape nodded. "I can sleep, there are places to sit, shelves for my books, and a room that will serve as a passable potions workshop. My potions stocks from Hogwarts were saved, as were all my books," he said, with a cocked eyebrow.

Lupin made a non-committal "Mmm-hmm," careful to keep his face even. Snape had originally planned to leave all his potions stores to his successor at Hogwarts, and he'd given away all his books, but he hadn't planned on needing them again, at the time. Dumbledore must have seen to it that they were held safe.

"And how have you been?" Snape asked.

Lupin shrugged. "The house feels emptier, since you've moved out. I found I rather liked having you around. But I understand why you need a place of your own. My house wasn't your house."

"I hope that I may still visit," Snape said, very formally. The way he always does, Lupin thought, when he's talking about an emotional subject.

"Of course," Lupin said, "May we each constantly be in and out of each other's homes." He looked wistful. "I feel like toasting with some butterbeer. I'm sure there's some at the reception, but I suppose it would be a bit too much to send a House Elf to sneak some to us."

"Considering that we are forgetting the event altogether," Snape said, with an absolutely straight face.

"Then we must do without," Lupin said. "I suppose we could sneak in, once they've started the speeches, and everyone's sitting down--"

The staff door burst open.

"There you are, the two of you!" came the stern voice of Minerva McGonagall. For a moment, Lupin felt like a tiny eleven year old facing his House Mistress for the first time, and he found himself sinking down in his chair.

"We're hiding, Minerva," he said, glancing over at Snape, whose face was completely blank. I'm not the only one who's feeling eleven, Lupin thought.

Minerva scowled, but then her face softened, and she gave a wry smile. "Can't say that I blame you," she said, and added, her voice dripping with disapproval, "There are press people all over the building."

"You can hide here with us," Lupin said.

There was a momentary light in her eyes, but then she looked sternly at Lupin. "No," she said. Then she sighed, "But it's about to start. Shacklebolt and Moody are holding our seats for us, we'll go straight in and sit down, and hopefully no one will bother us."

Lupin and Snape's eyes met, and both of them sighed.

"Come on, you two," Minerva said, "It won't be that bad. You'll regret not being there."

Lupin and Snape stood up, slowly, and moved beside her. She looked round the door, out into the corridor.

"No one's outside," she said, "If we're lucky, we can make it into the Great Hall without running into anyone."

The three of them walked quickly along the corridor.

"Did you go into Hogsmeade, Minerva?" Lupin asked.

"Yes." Minerva rolled her eyes. "What a load of nonsense. Everyone was all over poor Harry, you wouldn't have been noticed if you'd gone, Remus." She glanced over at Snape. "You, on the other hand, Severus, your name was mentioned rather prominently, holding off the Death Eaters that day. You would have received quite a bit of attention, if you'd been there."

For a moment, Snape looked even paler than normal, though his expression did not change. Lupin thought, in amusement, you like the idea of public praise, my friend, but the thought of actually receiving any terrifies you.

"We're almost there," Minerva said, leaning around the last corner. She frowned, and shrugged. "Our luck has given out. There's a line of press people at the entrance." She adjusted her hat, and stood up straight. "Hold up your heads, we'll walk by them, give them a nod as we go by."

Lupin took a deep breath, and fell in beside her, Snape taking the other side, and they rounded the corner together.

There was a crowd outside the entrance to the Great Hall, and a general buzz of voices that stopped as every face turned to see who was approaching, and then the buzz started again. Lupin could make out quick phrases "--McGonagall, finally--", "--Merlin, it's the Death Eater--", "-who's the other fellow--", "-werewolf--" And then the cameras flashed, making him blink.

"Just keep walking," Minerva said, under her breath, "Everyone else has had to do this, and thank Merlin we've waited long enough that we won't be expected to answer any questions."

But the questions bombarded them anyway as they went through, so many that Lupin had trouble making them out. "Headmistress, tell us about your years with Harry Potter--", "Professor Snape, what was it like serving under Voldemort--" Lupin saw Snape flinch. At least no one's concerned about me, not when I'm walking next to these two, Lupin thought, gratefully, though he immediately felt guilty for the thought. But then, thankfully, they passed through the huge doors and into the Great Hall beyond.

Lupin almost thought they were in the wrong room, until he saw the enchanted ceiling, showing the sky overhead, the dark haze at the end of sunset, with the stars just beginning to show.

But everything below was different. The house tables were gone, and instead, the room was filled with rows of chairs, nearly every one of them occupied by witches and wizards in their finest robes. The walls were covered with bunting and banners, brilliantly colored, with flashing words like "Victory" and "Glorious" and "Remember" running across them. Lupin even saw several that said "Harry Potter" on them. Poor Harry, Lupin thought.

Minerva led them to the front of the Hall, where a section had been roped off, nearly every seat full. Lupin knew every face there. Harry sat in the front row, Hermione and Ron beside him. Lupin couldn't see Harry's face, but he could see tension in every line of Harry's body. The rest of the Weasleys were nearby, a row of bright red hair. Others as well, the older wizards and witches, as well as the students Harry had recruited. What remains of the Order of the Phoenix, Lupin thought. We get special seats. And then the thought hit him, not for the first time, I am a war hero. It felt very silly.

He followed Snape and Minerva along the seats, reaching three empty ones, and sat down. Lupin found himself between Snape and Moody. Moody gave him a dark grin and growled, "Good try, you were almost able to miss it."

The dais at the end of the room was filled with various dignitaries. Madam Amelia Bones, who was the new Minister of Magic, sat to one side of the podium, and Dumbledore sat on the other. Lupin saw other familiar faces along the table, faces he knew from the newspapers, though none he'd met personally.

He heard the room hush, and looked back to see Dumbledore standing up, and moving to the podium. Ah, it was starting. They'd get the speeches now. He settled back in his chair, this was going to take a while, and he'd better get comfortable. He'd heard far too many speeches lately.

Dumbledore gave a very reserved and formal welcome, not one of his more amusing speeches such as he'd give the schoolchildren. Lupin found himself not listening, but just watching. Albus looked so tired these days, though perhaps a bit better than he looked just a year ago. How much longer will we have him, Lupin thought. Albus was old pureblood, he could live for many years longer, or he could die tomorrow. He'd already lived longer than most wizards of average power, but the ones like him, the ones with great power, could live extraordinarily long lives. We think he'll live forever, Lupin thought, and he can't.

Dumbledore sat down, and Minister Bones took his place. This would be the main speech, and, while he liked Amelia Bones, Lupin didn't like her enough to pay attention to yet another speech about all this. It had been bad enough when they were all awarded their medals. He remembered standing with everyone else in the Order for what seemed like hours. He still had the group photo; Harry at the front, completely embarrassed, Lupin's own face looked stunned, Severus looked ill, and all the figures kept trying to hide behind each other. Only Dumbledore's face would smile out at him, and wink.

Now Minister Bones was describing the events of that last day, exactly a year ago, when Harry Potter had destroyed Voldemort in the village of Hogsmeade. Lupin listened now. He'd spent most of that time unconscious after Bellatrix had blasted him with silver, but he'd gotten the account from everyone who'd been there. Amelia Bones seemed to have the facts correctly, at least, and she wasn't as flowery as most politicians. She won't last, he thought sadly, she's only Minister because Dumbledore has enough influence now to get her appointed, but she's not the kind of leader people choose. They want nice speeches and someone who makes them feel good, and that's not Amelia. We can only hope she'll put the Ministry back together again so that it can run no matter who's in charge. The Daily Prophet was already putting out critical pieces against her; there'd been a completely insulting cartoon just the other day. But then the Prophet was rebelling, after all those years of being the Ministry's lapdog.

And then Minister Bones began reading the list of the dead, and Lupin sat, frozen, while he heard the names being read, one by one. Every one who had been killed by Voldemort and his followers, the ones in the recent war, and those from twenty years ago as well. This is why I did not want to come, he thought, I know too many of these names, and it still hurts to hear them. He could feel the others around him go very still, and he wondered how many more seats they would have needed, if everyone who was dead was still sitting with them - at least double the number. He snuck a glance at Severus; his face was absolutely blank, and his black eyes were staring into space, unseeing. How many people do you know who are dead, Severus? Lupin thought, and their names won't be read here. He felt a wave of resentment on behalf of his friend, why make him come to this, why put him through this? It's bad enough for the rest of us.

Because he has to be seen as a member of the Order, Lupin thought again. Whether he hides his medal or not. It has to be shown that people from all backgrounds were part of this. For the sake of anyone who came from Slytherin House who did not become a follower of Voldemort, and that was most of them, though people seemed to forget that. The persecution of anyone from Slytherin House was quite open these days.

It seemed an eternity until the last speech was made, and the Hall thundered with applause. Lupin breathed a huge sigh of relief, and he could see similar movements in those around him, as chests heaved, robe-covered legs stretched and straightened out.

Everyone stood up, slowly, and the chairs they had been sitting in discretely slid back and lined up against the walls. Tables popped into existence around the room, covered in food and drink. Lupin felt his feet gently sliding along the floor to make room as a table appeared where he had been standing. The crowd moved around the tables, and the hall filled with the rumble of voices.

He helped himself to a goblet of wine, while eyeing the food on the table, trying not to appear too obviously hungry. Pickings had become quite slim since Severus moved out. Severus had insisted on paying rent while he was there, and the Hogwarts elves had quietly filled the cupboards while he was there as well, along with doing some surreptitious house-cleaning. Lupin allowed it while Severus was there, saying to himself that it was for Severus's sake, but when it had continued after Severus left, he'd written a quiet note to Dumbledore, requesting that it cease. For the most part, it had, though Lupin suspected someone was still cleaning - there was far too little dust on his books. But the food had stopped. Lupin had already regretted writing to Dumbledore more than once, he'd forgotten what it was like to go hungry, and going back to the way he used to live had been excruciating. But this is how it must be, he told himself. To do otherwise would be to live with no pride, and he still had a little of that.

He saw Snape watching him. Don't jump for the food yet, he told himself, Severus will worry. Lupin smiled and raised his goblet. Snape frowned back, but nodded.

Snape came over, and opened his mouth to speak, then froze. Lupin followed his eyes, and saw a person who was clearly a reporter heading in their direction.

"I'm going to make myself scarce, Lupin," Snape said, quietly, "I'll come back when the banquet starts."

"I'll save you a seat," Lupin murmured back. Snape stepped back, and vanished into the crowd, not an easy feat for someone as tall as he was, dressed all in black among the brightly colored figures around him. Poor Severus, Lupin thought again, and again felt guilty at the gratitude he felt, no one knew him, no one would be interested in speaking to him. Thank Merlin.

But the reporter was still heading in his direction, he noted. He looked behind him, was the fellow looking for someone over there? Lupin couldn't see anyone who looked interesting. Must be my mistake, he thought. And indeed, the reporter had slowed down now. He must have been after Snape, Lupin thought, taking a sip of wine.

"Ah, Remus," he heard Dumbledore's voice. He turned. He hadn't expected to talk to Albus tonight, he'd expected Albus to be surrounded by reporters and Ministry people. But there he was, walking towards him. A small group of witches and wizards followed him. One was Arthur Weasley, and Lupin thought two or three others looked like Ministry people as well. But there were three others he didn't recognize at all, though something in their appearance made him think "academics" immediately, the way they seemed to be uncomfortable in dress robes, the scholarly look of their faces. Foreign, too, he thought, by the cut and decoration of their robes, and as one spoke to a fellow, he caught an American accent.

"Remus," Dumbledore said again as he reached Lupin's side. "I have some people I want you to meet, I think you'll be very interested."

"Albus, Arthur," Lupin said, and he nodded politely to the others. Dumbledore introduced them - some were Ministry people as he'd guessed, and the others were all introduced with the honorific of Professor or Master. One fellow who interested Lupin in particular was introduced as Professor John Begay, a broadish man, with dark brown skin, a wide face, and black hair shot with silver, done up in some kind of bun at the back of his head. Dumbledore mentioned him being from one of the American schools, in Arizona.

Lupin made a polite greeting to each as they were introduced, then he turned his eyes to Dumbledore.

"Professor Begay and his associates have been working for the past twenty years, dealing with werewolves," Dumbledore said. Lupin caught his breath and looked at Professor Begay.

"There's a long history of werewolves where I live," Professor Begay said. "I have family who've caught the disease, so I have a personal interest."

Lupin nodded.

"The Wolfsbane Potion was a tremendous breakthrough, of course," Professor Begay continued, "But we've been able to take it a step further, I don't know if you've heard or not."

Lupin shook his head.

"Remus," Dumbledore said, "They've developed a cure."

Lupin blinked, stunned.

"Not entirely a cure," Professor Begay said, "Our patients still have to take wolf form during the full moon, and they can still take wolf form any time they choose. But they don't go mad. And they are no longer contagious."

"Oh my," Lupin said. He looked at Professor Begay. "This is amazing. I never thought such a thing could happen, not in my lifetime."

"We've been using it for three years now. We've had the cooperation of all the local werewolf packs, and we've been very successful," Professor Begay said. "No sign of any reversion, no ill effects."

"We've had two children born from werewolf parents, and they show no sign of the disease, although they're natural Animagi," said one of his fellows, a thin, bird-like witch with earnest eyes behind wire spectacles.

"The Ministry is very interested," Dumbledore said, "They wish to start a program here, providing the cure to our local werewolves."

"We know we can reach the lone people, like you, Remus," said Arthur Weasley, "But we don't have the trust of the werewolf packs."

Lupin's face fell. "I'm not exactly on good terms with the local packs, if you're looking for an ambassador."

"We don't expect you to be a go-between, Remus," Arthur said. "But you are known to them all, and you are respected. Voldemort was very cruel to the werewolves, and they know you're one of the people who helped bring him down."

Oh yes, Lupin thought, ruefully, I am a war hero.

"We need someone to be our first patient, Remus," Arthur went on. "Someone who, by example, can show the packs that the Ministry can be trusted, and that we truly mean to help them."

"We also need someone we can present to the general public," said one of the Ministry people, a younger fellow with a keen expression Lupin recalled being introduced as Charles Willoughby. "Someone who can make the people understand and sympathize with the plight of the werewolves, someone who can give the whole thing a human face."

Lupin swallowed uncomfortably. "You mean this would have to be in the public eye?" He looked over, and almost started as he saw the reporter fellow, standing by, watching. It was me he was after, not Severus, Lupin thought.

"It would have to be, Remus," Dumbledore said, "This has to be shown. It has to be done in the open, everyone has to see it."

He's right, Lupin thought, if it's to be successful, it can't be done quietly, or discretely. He felt the walls closing in on him.

"You would be the perfect candidate," Willoughby, the keen young Ministry fellow went on. "A decorated war hero, a member of the Order of the Phoenix, a friend and associate of Harry Potter himself."

"I fear I make a very shabby figure," Lupin said.

"We can take care of that, Remus," Dumbledore said, "You hardly look shabby now."

Lupin's eyes flashed towards Dumbledore. Dumbledore looked at him sternly, but there was a twinkle in his eye as well.

"Think of how many people will benefit from this, Remus," Dumbledore said.

Lupin closed his eyes. He's right, I know he's right. Just the thought of being cured, that alone is worth more than anything. And I know, even better than they do, what it would mean to the other werewolves.

He took a deep breath. "I confess, the thought of public exposure terrifies me. But the idea of a cure, that it even exists, is wonderful. And I agree, this must be done, and advertised." He sighed. "I wish there were someone else, who would be a better spokesman. But even I know, there isn't."

"So you agree, then?" Arthur smiled happily, and not without relief.

Lupin nodded. "I agree."

There were smiles all round, and shaking of hands, and exchanges of words, "Delighted to be working with you," and "Knew you were the right one."

Willoughby, taking Lupin's arm, said, "We need to start now, get a picture, while Dumbledore's here with you, a few words. . ." He beckoned to the reporter, who beckoned in turn, and other people began to approach them. Dumbledore moved to Lupin's side.

And so it begins, Lupin thought. And then he thought, I'm going to be cured. And that thought alone sent a wave of such joy through him. It's worth it, he thought, anything I have to go through.

"Just need to get the Ministry official in charge of the program into the picture as well," said Willoughby, "If you'll just move a little to one side, Professor Lupin . . ."

The Ministry official in charge? Wasn't that one of the people here? Lupin thought, as he took a step to one side.

"Hem, hem," he heard a voice from beside, and a little below, him, and he turned to see a very short, squat figure at his side, a mass of short, curly, mouse-brown hair, topped with a little pink velvet bow that matched pink robes. A broad, flabby face turned to look up at him, a face he was very familiar with, if only from the newspapers.

"Professor Lupin," said Delores Umbridge sweetly, "I'm so pleased to meet you at last."

Lupin looked in panic at Arthur and Dumbledore.

"Madam Umbridge is in charge of the Werewolf Registry, in the Ministry's Department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures," Arthur stammered. "She's responsible for setting up this new cure program."

Lupin took a deep breath. He turned and bowed. "I am most grateful, Madam Umbridge." So, she was still with the Ministry, though in a very reduced position. She had fought against Voldemort, once the Ministry had acknowledged his existence, after all.

Umbridge simpered. "Oh, I'm sure we're going to work together very well, Professor Lupin. We must do anything we can to take care of this nasty werewolf problem."

She turned to face the cameras being aimed at them, a bright smile on her face.

Lupin turned as well. It's worth it, the cure is worth it, he told himself, think of the cure. And then the thought came into his head, I can teach at Hogwarts again.

And he gave a truly genuine smile for the cameras.