Two men who lost their youth, health and innocence through two wizarding wars are salvaging what they can of their lives. Remus Lupin finds comfort in his home and garden, Severus Snape in academia. Rated R for past torture and future…something else? SLASH RL-SS.

Disclaimer: Characters and situations be not mine, they be JKR's. I merely toy with them, mwhahahah.

Remus did not like crowds nowadays. Diagon Alley on Saturday afternoon was swarming with witches and wizards, and Remus found it exhausting. So many people stopped him to chat – friends, ex-students, ex-colleagues, and though all of them wished him well, he wanted nothing more than to slink back to his little Derbyshire home to enjoy the silence.

But he shouldn't complain. He was just here to pick up a 21st birthday present for Harry, which would not take long. Christmas and birthday presents to Harry were all the same, a memory of his parents or Sirius to put in the pensieve he had inherited from Dumbledore, more precious than any material thing Remus could afford, and Harry was always thrilled with the new addition to his collection. But this was a special birthday, and Remus had seen a tiny ebony box with running wolves etched around the lid, perfect for giving the young man a solid memory of himself, rather than liquid memories of others.

He adjusted his neckscarf as he entered the antique shop, starting violently when a krup shot through the door and out into the street, accompanied by shrieks from an elderly witch inside.

"Mackintosh! Oh stop him! Please!" On reflex, Remus made a grab for the dog's collar, missed, then chased him into the doorway of Flourish & Blott's, only to collide with someone and send them both sprawling painfully on the floor. A wooden chest which had been levitating behind the other person jolted against the wall and burst open, sending scores of small glass vials tinkling over the cobbles. A handful of people rushed over to help.

"Lupin," hissed the wizard in a harsh whisper.

"Severus!" exclaimed Remus in shock. "Are you all right? I'm so sorry! Did I hurt you? I'm sorry!"

Snape said nothing as he was helped to his feet and handed his cane. A middle-aged couple and a glamorous young witch (Hannah Abbot in make-up? wondered Remus absently) were firing gathering spells at the rolling and apparently unbreakable vials, Mackintosh had started barking at the chaos and a flapping Lottie Blott was trying to usher everyone into the shop to sit down.

"Are you all right?" asked Lupin again, once the two former classmates were calmly sipping tea at the Blott's kitchen table.

"I daresay I will survive," whispered Snape. "Although I must reproach you for bringing chaos to my life whilst capering around with a mangy old mutt. It seems old habits die hard."

Remus smiled at the reference to Sirius, and automatically readjusted his scarf again.

"How have you been?" he asked, genuinely wondering. Remus had heard that, like himself, Snape lived alone, but with considerably less human contact. He had fewer friends after all, and Remus' popularity with the Order members and Harry's contemporaries ensured that he had no shortage of invitations to coffee, dinner, weddings, christenings and every imaginable occasion. He doubted the prickly former spy was in such demand, but perhaps he preferred it that way.

Snape shrugged. "I occasionally contribute to research projects at the Institute of Master Potioners. I have been invited to mentor two of the new Bronze Standard students part-time, but I am undecided. The idea of returning to teaching is not pleasant."

"But IMP is nothing like Hogwarts," Remus assured him. "The students there are dedicated adults. They won't mess around playing pranks like the schoolkids."

"You think so?" Snape frowned. "During my last visit the second year Healing students were distributing an experimental powder which, when consumed with porridge, turns the subject into a pound of brussels sprouts." Remus laughed loudly at this marauderly endeavour.

"And these are the healers of tomorrow? Merlin, I thought the IMP students were a bit more restrained?"

"The healers-to-be are traditionally the wildest. In my day they were always being physically ejected from The Singed Eyebrow whilst blind drunk. They consider their two years studying potions to be less important than the rest of their training," though Severus' voice was a shadow of what it had been, the sneer was as effective as ever.

Abruptly Snape stopped and looked away, suddenly flustered.

"I…ah, I rarely speak this much anymore," he quietly admitted, as Remus leaned forward in concern. "Most people have difficulty hearing my voice now. I find repetition frustrating." Remus grinned and tapped his ear.

"Werewolf," he reminded him.

Snape was momentarily startled, then allowed the smallest twitch of a smile.

"How could I forget?"

Remus was glad to get home. Snuggled in his favourite chair looking out onto his garden he removed the grey silk scarf and folded it neatly over the armrest. His earlier encounter with Severus has rather unsettled him for reasons he did not fully understand. So many casualties, he sighed to himself, reaching for the tub of painkilling poultice he always kept close at hand, and smearing some on the livid silver burn disfiguring his throat. The potions master's involvement with IMP was a good thing, but Lupin had a feeling any correspondence was effected in writing, and there was no compulsion for a mentor to appear at the Institute in person. He would most likely resist any attempts to invade his personal space, but their conversation that afternoon had raised more questions than it had answered. The werewolf made up his mind. He would, for the hundredth time, try to become friends with Severus Snape.

What do you think? I'd love to know! x