A/N: Just a quick word of thanks to readers and reviewers especially. Enjoy!
Two weeks have passed and we yet again find Severus Snape sitting at his desk in the wee hours of the morning contemplating. This time, however, the late hour is of his own free will. He sits staring at a piece of blank parchment which isn't really blank at all, or at least that's what he assumes. After all, why would Potter send Lupin a blank piece of parchment?
After two more minutes of staring, he finally decides to give up. He's been trying to crack this thing for three hours now and he really should get some sleep. What could Potter have to say to Lupin that could be of any great importance anyways? He just wants to get this stupid thing delivered so he can free his conscience and move on with his life. He wouldn't even have this psychological debt if Black hadn't been such an idiot and forced Potter to play hero boy.
Snape raises his hand and pinches the bridge of his nose. He's tired of being a double agent; in fact he's sick of being an agent period. Dumbledore is too righteous for his tastes and Voldemort; well the whole 'I'm going to take over the world' thing is just a little old.
"I'm surrounded by idiots," he mumbles to himself. "Powerful idiots who could kill me at any moment."
He sighs and heaves himself out of the chair. 'I may as well get some sleep,' he thinks to himself, 'if I'm going to be a pawn in this little game I may as well be a well rested one.'
Meanwhile, far away in Godric's Hollow, Lily and James Potter are also awake. They're sitting on the living room floor; Lily is pouring through old tomes for the Order while James idly stares at the enchanted clock on the wall, when James suddenly jumps up and shouts, "I've got it!"
"Got what?" asks Lily as she blearily rubs her eyes. James ignores her question and starts pacing around the room muttering to himself. Lily watches with a puzzled expression, but doesn't interject; she knows from experience that a planning James Potter is not one to interrupt.
A minute and thirty three seconds into his frenzied pacing, James turns abruptly to Lily and shouts, "I know how to find them!"
"When you're ready to talk at a normal volume I'll be more than happy to listen," Lily replies, "but until then would you please cast a Silencing Charm on yourself? If Harry wakes up and I have to sit through another one of your mother's parenting lectures because of your screaming, I swear you'll sleep on the couch for a month."
James abruptly drops to the floor and is deathly silent.
Lily smirks. "Well, what's this idea then?"
James bounces a bit and launches into his explanation. "Do you remember that map I lost in seventh year?"
"How could I? You gripped about it for weeks."
"Well that was no ordinary map. With the right password, you could see the location of every single person in the castle."
"Is that how you always managed to avoid getting caught out of bed after curfew?"
"Well the cloak helped too." She gives him a look of mock disapproval, but he ignores it and continues. "Anyways, I know Remus kept all the notes for that project, and I'm willing to bet a lot of money that they're in those papers he and Sirius sent us. So, if we fuse the concepts of the map with that clock they sent…"
"We could find them," Lily finishes. "Brilliant, yet so simple. How did we not think of this earlier?"
"You must have been distracting me," says James with an air of haughtiness, "I'm a genius, the epitome of intelligence, the prince of…"
Lily whacks him upside the head and says, "shut up you twat."
"Me a twat? Why the mere thought is simply…" Lily pulls him to her and shuts him up with a kiss.
When they finally break apart James says, "Well I may be a twat, but at least I'm your twat."
"Yes, that you are," she whispers as she pulls him in for another kiss.
When they break apart again James says, "Shall we take this upstairs? I think our search for Moony and Padfoot can wait till morning."
"Yes I think it can," says Lily as she allows herself to be whisked away to their bedroom.
A few hours and several miles away, Remus and Sirius are awakened by a guard shouting, "Up! Get up now!" They groggily disentangle themselves from one another and quickly get out of bed. After five weeks in this place they know that now means 'this very second' and the response to jump is 'how high?'
A more recent prisoner isn't as knowledgeable. He earns a sharp kick in the stomach after he is rolled onto the floor from the top bunk. "When I say now I mean now, mudblood," the guard yells at the writhing man on the floor. The other prisoners avert their eyes until the guard marches away to harass someone else. Only then do the man's friends help him up and into line for roll call.
After breakfast, if it could be called that, the prisoners are divided into work groups. Remus is sent to the infirmary and Sirius is sent to the train station along with Will to collect baggage. A large group of new prisoners is expected that day and many hands will be needed to unload and sort through their belongings. The men find it odd that Remus is being separated from their barrack group, but don't question it too much. In an atmosphere of constant fear there's not much room for questioning.
It's a long and tedious day for everyone. Remus is set to work cleaning various potions and medical equipment for Snape with other men he doesn't know, but who all turn out to be werewolves. Through an overheard conversation, he learns that they're all there for observation. Around lunchtime (or what would be lunchtime if they were fed a mid-day meal) Snape slips Remus a tightly folded piece of parchment and Remus doubts they're there strictly for observation.
The work day finally ends, and Remus sets his sponge down with a sigh of relief. His arms ache slightly from a day of scrubbing, but it was fairly light work compared to other days and he's thankful for this. He hurries to clean up his supplies, eager to get back to Sirius.
Remus finds him in line for their evening rations with Will, looking very pale and upset. While Remus wants to go to him immediately, he knows that drawing attention to their relationship isn't a good idea, so he forces himself to wait. When Remus finally gets through the line, it takes all his effort not to run to Sirius, but he manages to restrain himself. They eat silently and quickly. Remus knows that Sirius will tell him what's wrong when he's ready, so beyond squeezing Sirius's shoulder upon sitting he makes no gestures of comfort.
After dinner, the prisoners are left to their own devices until evening roll call, so Remus pulls Sirius aside into a secluded corner. Before Remus can ask what the problem is, however, he finds himself shoved up against a wall with Sirius's tongue in his mouth. The kiss is rough and needy, and while Remus is surprised at the sudden onslaught he kisses Sirius back with just as much desperation.
When they finally break apart, Sirius buries his head in Remus's neck and lets out a small sob. This surprises Remus even more than the kiss; Sirius isn't prone to tears. Dramatics and an occasional tantrum, sure, but this is completely new. So he just holds him, stroking his back and his slowly re-growing hair.
Eventually Sirius calms down enough to raise his head and say, "I don't know how much more of this I can take Moony. We're supposed to be soldiers. We're supposed to protect people. But all we do is watch them die; we do nothing!"
"Sirius, Padfoot," says Remus, "look at me." Remus takes him by the shoulders and stares straight into the other man's eyes. "We are doing something; we're surviving. We have to do that right now because that's all we can do. To try and do anything else would be suicide and right now we just need to stay alive. Harry needs you. James and Lily need you. The Order needs you. I need you." Remus's voice softens with his last sentence and some of the tension he can feel in Sirius's shoulders dissipates.
They stand staring at each other for several seconds until Sirius breaks the silence. "I watched them kill a baby today. She was screaming and screaming and her mother was trying to make her stop when one of those bastards lost it and grabbed the kid. He… he threw her on the ground a…and silenced her before he used Crucio on her. The mother… she tried to get to her but someone else held her. They made her watch while they tortured her baby to death and then they killed her too. And I just stood there and watched. I just fucking stood there." Sirius breaks down again, while a horrified Remus holds him tightly.
"Oh Sirius," he murmurs as he kisses the top of Sirius's head. "What could you have done? They just would have killed you too."
"Then maybe I should have died."
Remus grabs his shoulders again and shakes him a bit. "Never ever say that. Death is their way a winning. Our part of this war right now is to stay alive." He looks into Sirius's eyes fiercely before kissing him soundly.
When they break away he says, "This is why you stay alive. Love is why we fight to stay alive."
Sirius nods and hugs Remus tightly. They stand like this for a while longer, until Remus says, "Oh, I almost forgot, we got a message from James and Lily today."
Sirius stands up straight immediately and says, "well, what do they say?"
"I don't know," answers Remus, "I haven't read it yet."
"Well get it out!" Remus pulls the tiny slip of parchment from the inside of his shoe and unfolds it. Just like Snape, they find it blank. Unlike Snape, they know how James's mind works and quickly say 'I solemnly swear I am up to no good' to the parchment. These words appear.
M and P,
Greetings from P, L and H. Received your note and the rat is being watched, although not by us. We're well here and hope to find you soon. When you finish with this, the oldest Professor suggests you eat it so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands. He also hopes you are well.
We love you,
P, L, and H
"Well that's one thing we don't have to worry about anymore," says Remus when he finishes reading. "I suppose we should get eating?"
"Yeah," Sirius says unenthusiastically. Both men look at the parchment with regret, before tearing their tie to home in half. Each takes a half and eats it quickly, expecting the taste of parchment. Instead, they are pleasantly surprised to taste lemon. They share a quick and somewhat painful laugh before a guard's voice breaks in.
"All prisoners report for evening roll call immediately." Remus and Sirius hurry off, but not before sharing a quick kiss. It sustains them both through the long evening of standing at attention.