Title: In Silence
Author: Pairing(s)/character(s):Sirius Black/Severus Snape
Word count: 14000
Summary: Sirius is back, in his Animagus form and with amnesia.
Warnings: *Some man/dog action*
Disclaimer:Jo's world, not mine. Alas!
A/N: Cassandra7 turned my writing into a readable story. As always if you like something, she made it better, and if you hate it, the responsibility is mine alone.
Written for the Sirius Black Fest. There are good fics over there to read!
He often wondered if Snape remembered or knew who it had been.
Sirius had been in Hogsmeade one cold afternoon a few months after his escape from Azkaban, scrounging around rubbish bins for something—anything—to eat.
Outside The Three Broomsticks, he'd seen Snape and snarled. The man had stared at the scrawny black dog, gone inside, and come back out with a bowl of warm stew. He'd broken bread into it and called the dog over.
"Go ahead, eat. You look like you need it."
Two years later—warm, well-fed, and imprisoned in his own house—he fought viciously with Snape and remembered the kindness shown to a stray dog and wondered.
He woke and managed to drag himself over to a wall to lean against, smelling that it had been pissed on.
Something was wrong. He could not lean. He lay down, his back to the solidity.
The alley was narrow, and the smells were complex and intriguing.
It was dark, but not so dark that he couldn't see that, instead of the long legs he expected, there were paws. And a tail.
His scream came out as a howl of panic and despair.
He wasn't sure how long he lay there, but eventually he calmed down.
What had happened? How had he ended up in this alley? He wasn't sure. He didn't remember coming here.
His chest hurt, and he didn't remember being hit. Or, he thought, kicked, since he seemed to be a dog.
That was the part he really didn't understand. He was a man. He knew that. His name was...
He slumped down. He didn't remember his name.
He didn't remember his life. Who he was, where he lived, what he did.
He didn't know why he was a dog.
He was a dog. Things were different.
The smells, for example. At least five different people had pissed against the wall recently. He could hear the rats in the large refuse bin a few meters away. The blue door down the alley belonged to a restaurant, his nose told him, an Indian one.
If he was a dog, how would he know the smell of Indian food? The layers of spices he couldn't put names to?
He was hungry.
Slowly he stood and walked over to the bin. When he stood on his hind paws, he could see that it was closed, but his mind was a man's, more or less, and he used muzzle and paws to shove open the lid.
A man would not have revelled in the smells of garbage or been as unconcerned about eating it as the dog was, he thought.
After eating, he trotted down the alley.
He had trouble keeping track of time. Days, he thought, passed since what he experienced as his first memories. He must have had a life before this, but he wasn't sure what it had been.
He panicked when he couldn't remember if that life had been as a dog or as a man.
He met other dogs who lived in the city, some wild, some lost. They seemed eager to communicate with him, but he was missing something, he didn't know what.
"I'm not a dog," he thought to himself. "I'm a wizard."
He was a wizard. A man and a wizard.
He was smarter than the other dogs and managed to avoid getting picked up in the sweeps. He understood human speech, and they did not.
From time to time, wandering through the city, he'd see places that seemed familiar. He'd been there before, but he couldn't remember.
He felt ill at ease, desperate to learn more about himself.
One warm morning he trotted through a park. There was a small pack of male dogs chasing a female in heat. He ran behind them, but it was largely for the company. He wasn't interested, which seemed very strange. Dogs are interested.
His mind was a man's. Maybe his partners needed to be human.
He ate something bad and was violently ill. He lay in an alley behind a dumpster and waited to die.
"I'm a man," he thought. "A dog wouldn't expect death."
He saw him on a park bench. An older man with ginger hair, in a shabby suit, reading the paper and eating a sandwich. He knew him, his smell, and he knew they were alike. They were wizards. Not...Muggles. The word came to him. A Muggle, someone who was non-magical. Most of the people in the city.
The man was back the next day, and he followed him from a distance, keeping out of sight. At one point the man disappeared and he couldn't tell where he had gone.
He didn't see him for a few days, though he waited near the bench. The man finally appeared, in another worn suit, and he sat patiently nearby and hid while he ate his lunch. When the man got up to leave, he followed.
He disappeared into a building, and the dog sat in the shade of a wall and waited for him.
They were alike.
He waited all afternoon. Then people started coming out of the building and many simply disappeared. Some walked off. Most were dressed normally, but a few of them wore long gowns.
Robes. He remembered that they were called robes.
There was no doubt in his mind that these were witches and wizards.
The man came out, now dressed in robes, not the suit. He didn't know who he was, but he knew he knew this man. He could smell the knowing.
He walked over to the man before he disappeared like the others and put his nose on his thigh.
"Harry!" the man shouted as soon as he had the door open, raising his voice above the racket Madame Black's portrait was making. "Molly! Ron!"
Clean water and good food. These people knew him. They called him Sirius.
That sounded right.
He was a wizard named Sirius.
They were in the kitchen, sitting around a table. He'd figured out everyone's name.
The man who had brought him here was called Arthur, and his wife was Molly. Two boys, one called Ron and one, sadder and a few years older, called George. They all had red hair. The girl who started to cry when she saw him was Hermione.
And then there was Harry. Harry who had fallen to his knees in front of the dog, put his arms around his neck, and said, "Sirius," in a tone of love and relief.
He listened as they talked. They were pretty sure he was him. He was a man, a wizard, they confirmed that. They kept saying, "Change back, Sirius!" but he had no idea what they meant. He hung his head, and his tail was between his legs. He was ashamed at not being able to do what they wanted.
They told him that Voldemort had been defeated earlier that summer and that Remus Lupin was dead. He didn't know who Remus Lupin was. Or Voldemort. They told him Fred had died, too, and the boy called George turned away, and Sirius could sense his pain.
Again and again they asked, they wondered, how he had gotten back from behind the Veil. Veil? He had no idea what they were talking about.
Hermione talked the least. Finally, after dinner—the best food he'd eaten since he'd woken up in that alley—she stirred some sugar into her tea and spoke. "I agree that this is Sirius. But there's something else going on."
"What do you mean, Hermione?" asked Harry, whose hand was buried in the fur at Sirius's neck, scritching his neck and behind his ears. It felt nice.
"Aside from the fact that he can't seem to change back, Harry, he didn't react to your telling him Remus had died."
Remus must have been his friend. His ears perked up, and he listened more intently.
"Well, what, Hermione?" asked Ron.
"I think he's lost his memory."
She looked at him. "Sirius, raise your right paw if you understand me," she said, gesturing toward his right paw.
"All right. Raise your right for yes, your left for no. Got that?"
He lifted his right paw.
"Do you know who you are?"
He hesitated. He knew he was a wizard called Sirius. After a while he raised his right paw.
She nodded slowly. "Do you remember your life as a man?"
This time he did not hesitate. He raised his left paw.
"Do you know who we are?"
They all sat back.
"Now what?" asked Harry. He sounded worried.
"I'll floo Minerva," Molly said. "She'll need to know that Sirius has turned up somehow and that he's in his Animagus form. Maybe she can help."
"Well, she can at least help him transform," said Harry.
Hermione shook her head. "No, she won't be able to, Harry."
"Why not?" he asked. "Remus and Sirius transformed Scabbers back into Peter Pettigrew that day in the Shack."
"Yes," said Hermione. "But there's a difference. He knew—Peter, I mean—who he was. Sirius doesn't. Forcing him to transform back might not bring back Sirius."
Everyone looked as confused as Sirius felt.
"It depends on why his memories are gone, I think. If it was a knock on the head, you know, time might fix it, but, if it was a Memory Charm, who knows? We can't just transform him back and hope for the best."
Sirius lay down in front of the stove. He was safe and fed and very tired. They'd work something out. He'd gotten out of worse scrapes before...hadn't he? Yes, he had. What, exactly, he didn't remember, but he remembered the shimmer of something like that.
They were still talking when he fell asleep.
The next day a woman they called Minerva came. Sirius had been bathed by Harry and Ron, and he felt clean. George had dried and brushed him.
He remembered her. He was a bit scared of her, and he listened carefully as she explained how to switch back into his man shape. He cocked his head and didn't understand. He didn't know how to do magic.
She herself transformed into a cat, and part of him wanted to chase her, but he didn't. Then she changed back, and he wished he could do the same thing.
Eventually she shook her head. "It's no use, Miss Granger, Potter. I don't think he remembers anything about magic."
"But what do we do?"
They all stared at Sirius who stared back. "Try to help him remember," she said.
"Do you think it's a Memory Charm, Professor?" asked Hermione. "That could be reversed?"
"I don't think so, Miss Granger. I don't see any evidence of a Memory Charm. My suggestion would be to take him to St. Mungo's tomorrow and see if someone on Ward 49 can help."
The younger people nodded, and Sirius tried to quiet the despair that was creeping up in him. He didn't hate being in dog form, really. The smells were interesting, but he would rather be, well, himself.
Minerva drank the last of her tea, stood, and said, "I'll go up to see Severus, and then I'll be on my way."
"Do you want one of us to go with you?" asked Harry.
"Don't trouble yourself, Potter. I can find his room. How is he doing?"
Harry shrugged, but Hermione answered, "The same, Professor. He sits and stares out the window. He's...compliant, he changes his robes and all that, and George can get him to eat a bit—"
"Yes. George is the only one he acknowledges. The rest of us seem to be shadows."
"Has he seen—?" She pointed her chin at Sirius who thumped his tail. Someone new to meet?
"Uh, no. We didn't want to mop up the blood," said Harry, shuddering.
Sirius wondered what that meant.
"It might not be a bad idea. Miss Granger, I'm sure you've read about amnesia in Muggle texts?"
"They say a shock can restore memories, strong emotions. Seeing Severus might remind him of something."
"I suppose Snape can only have his throat ripped out once," mused Harry, and Hermione suppressed a snicker.
"How is the Legilimency coming along, Potter?"
Harry shook his head. "I'm not good at it to begin with, and Snape is making no effort whatever. He doesn't want to bother, I think."
"I'll talk to him. He needs a way to communicate with us, and he needs to re-engage with life."
She left the room and they heard her steps on the stairs. Hermione knelt on the floor next to Sirius. " 'Re-engage with life'?" she said. "He wants to be dead. Why bother? He's angry that they saved him against his will."
"I know," said Harry with a sigh. "What do you think we should do to help Sirius?"
Hermione gave Sirius's head one last pat, and he sighed when he realised she was done.
"I think he does need to see Snape. They're the only two left, you know, of that whole generation. It might help. If it doesn't, I think we need to take him to Godric's Hollow, to Hogsmeade, to Hogwarts. The shock of strong emotions." She bit her lip. "If none of that works, I think we need to take him to Azkaban."
Terror. The dark, the hunger, the pain. He howled.
They went to St. Mungo's the next day, to Ward 49, and talked to three healers in succession.
They all agreed with Minerva McGonagall's assessment: that it was not a Memory Charm or spell damage, but possibly a blow to the head that happened behind the Veil. That changing him back might have unforeseen consequences since he didn't really know who he was or had been. For whatever reason, his mind and his body had chosen its dog form, and it was safest to work on getting his memories back. Their suggestions for that were much the same as Minerva's: Bring him to places he'd been, have him see people he'd known.
Discouraged and without a solution, they left and took the dog for a walk in Regent's Park.
That night when he went to sleep curled up on his bed, he was confused and sad. He didn't know if he'd ever get back his human body, his past. He didn't know if anyone could help. He didn't remember his life, and he longed to.
Sirius cringed at having to move his bowels when he was walked on a lead by Harry. He hated it. Ron and George were easier to ignore, but he refused to go out at all with Molly Weasley. He liked the exercise after the long days and nights in the house, but the other was humiliating.
For that matter, he hated the lead, but he knew they had to in Muggle London.
They went to Diagon Alley, Sirius on the lead. They visited Olivander's and Flourish and Blotts, and had an ice cream, giving Sirius a dish of vanilla and strawberry.
Sirius had vague recollections of some people. The man in the wand shop. The woman who took in laundry. A smiling older man in deep burgundy robes. A witch called Hestia Jones they said had been a member of the Order of the Phoenix, whatever that was.
After stopping at Gringott's where Harry got some money from Sirius’s vault to help with living expenses, they were set to leave from the Leaky Cauldron when they met Lucius Malfoy. He sauntered over, pale and thin, to talk to Harry.
Sirius hated this man. He knew it. He smelled him and hated him, and he started to growl, very low, bared his teeth and snarled.
Malfoy backed away, his eyes not leaving the dog.
"Yes," said Harry. "You were saying?"
The growls intensified, and Malfoy backed further away. "I wanted to talk to you about some fund-raising, Potter. Widows, orphans. One of these days, though. Not now."
Sirius didn't relax until the man was out of his sight.
"Whoa," said Ron.
"And Professor McGonagall thinks we should let him in to see Snape?" said Harry. "He's liable to tear him apart."
He knew the man they called Snape was in the house. He had a bedroom on the second floor, and Sirius had sniffed at the door a few times. He recognised the scent and recoiled violently from the feelings it aroused. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Arthur, all of them he'd known he liked. He despised Malfoy. Minerva McGonagall he both liked and feared. Snape he hated.
They'd told him everything they knew about his past and Snape's, and he could see why. The vicious conflict that was not just a series of pranks. More like warfare. That the antagonism between two arrogant eleven-year-olds—brilliant, passionate, badly brought up—culminated in attempted murder (hard to face, but there it was). Humiliation, public exposure, life debt, fear. That they'd pushed Snape into lashing out at Lily, his only friend. That Snape had betrayed James and Lily to Voldemort and they'd died. He could see why he'd hated Snape, and he could see why Snape would hate him.
That didn't feel good, to know he was hated.
It was George who took him up to see Snape. Harry and Hermione had hesitated about it, but Sunday George called to Sirius, "I'm going to bring Snape his breakfast. Do you want to come, Sirius?"
The others froze, but, curious, Sirius padded after George. Halfway up the stairs he heard Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Their voices were full of fear.
George knocked, then opened the door to Snape's room.
"I've brought you a visitor, Severus," he said, and he motioned to the dog to follow him in.
Sirius trotted in, his claws on the floor sounding very loud to his ears.
He knew Snape right away.
The man was sitting on a straight-backed chair by the window, staring out, an empty look on his face. His neck was slashed with scars, and Sirius wondered how he'd survived that injury. He was dressed, as he always had been, in black, and his face was pale.
He didn't move. Didn't turn to look at whoever had entered.
George set down the tray, poured a cup of tea, and took it over to Snape. He set the cup down on the windowsill. "You remember Sirius is an Animagus?"
No answer. Sirius moved closer, wanting to see the man's face.
He sat in front of Snape, not making a sound. He stared at him. George sat on the bed. Snape looked out the window. The tea in the cup steamed.
He didn't know how long it had been when George got up quietly and left. He could hear him talking to Harry and the others in the hallway.
Sirius stared at the man's profile, the beaky nose, the skin like ivory, the thin lips.
The tea was no longer steaming when Snape slowly turned to look at Sirius.
Eyes met, and Sirius felt himself pulled down into a pit of emotion. Pain and fear, despair, terror, regret. No hope, no desire. Darkness. His heart beat faster.
This man needed him. He wasn't alive. If he was going to live, he needed Sirius.
He put his head on Snape's knee. He sat. Snape sat. Neither moved. Sirius stared at Snape and Snape at him.
George came with a tray for lunch, but neither Sirius nor Snape moved. He picked up both of the untouched trays. The daylight was starting to fade. "Do you want me to light the candles?"
He lifted his left paw, and George left them in the growing darkness.
It was almost full dark when Sirius felt Snape move. Very slowly, a hand came to rest on his head. It didn't stroke. It just was.
They just were.
George came to bring a light meal late at night. Harry stood at the door watching as George put the tray down on the table next to Snape's chair, took a dish from it and put it in front of Sirius.
Snape didn't move to eat and neither did Sirius. Snape had to eat to live, and Sirius was going to make him live. It was instinctive and powerful, and he refused to consider the possibility of this man's being more stubborn than he was.
George looked at them both, linked in some new and important way. "Severus," he said. "He won't eat until you do."
Snape looked up, surprised. It was the first time he'd reacted to anything any of them had said. He nodded, picked up the spoon, and slowly took a swallow of soup.
It seemed to hurt Snape to eat.
After dinner Sirius went out with George. Harry followed, and he said to George about how odd it was to see Snape and Sirius, I mean, they hate each other, and look at how they sat all afternoon, and—
Sirius tuned him out. He wanted one thing: to get back to the small room where Snape—Severus—was.
He stopped by the kitchen for water. He could tell Harry was upset, but, even if he could have spoken, Sirius knew he couldn't explain.
Nothing had ever felt right before the way laying his head on Severus's knee had. Nothing.
Nobody stopped him when he went upstairs. He found Severus sitting in bed, emaciated in the blue pajamas. They looked at each other again. Then Severus wordlessly extinguished the candles, and Sirius wondered how he'd done it since any of the others needed a wand and spoken words to do magic. He didn't wonder long, though. He was tired, and he jumped up onto the bed and settled himself at Severus's side.
He fell asleep listening to the other man's hoarse breathing.
The sound of his claws on the stairs must have warned them that he was coming because, when he trotted into the kitchen the following morning, everyone stopped speaking. Ginny stood up, saying she had to go. She had a summer internship she referred to as Quidditch Camp. She left, and Molly got Sirius's breakfast.
"Is Severus awake?" asked George and Sirius indicated yes. "I'll go up and help him, then."
Days passed. Sirius sat by Severus with his head on the man's knee or he lay at his feet. Silent.
He ignored the noise downstairs, Molly continuing on her mission of clearing out the old mansion, Harry and Ron practising dueling in the parlour with Hermione's helpful—or perhaps not—suggestions, George bringing over new products to test out for the shop, often inducing screams or laughter or both from Ginny’s friends from Quidditch Camp.
Upstairs it was quiet.
George came up. He was Snape's caretaker. He helped Snape with the daily routines of living—eating, bathing, dressing—and he mentioned to the others later in the week that Snape was starting to take some initiative. He had shaved himself that morning, careful with the straight razor around the scars. It felt the first time he'd done that, and Molly was pleased. She'd volunteered them to take care of Snape when he came out of St. Mungo's, and the protests had been vehement, but she'd won.
When George came to bring Snape tea one afternoon, Snape glared at him.
"What's the look for?" asked George, setting down the tray. Snape blinked, and George called Harry, who came running.
"Can you figure out what he wants?"
Harry got images of Sirius, and the lead, and anger, but he was confused.
Snape's lips formed the word, though there was no sound. "Write."
"Right? Oh. Write. One sec."
Harry ran to get some parchment and a quill and ink, and set them down in front of Snape who started writing furiously. They'd never tried this before since Snape had seemed so determinedly locked in his silence.
"Get a neighborhood boy to walk him. He's a man, not a dog. Allow him some dignity."
Harry's eyes widened. "Oh. Do you think it bothers him that we walk him?"
Snape's glance was ice-cold scorn. Harry fled, promising to find someone. George turned to Snape.
"Thank you, Severus. You're right, of course, and we should have known."
Sirius jumped onto the bed later that night and stretched out next to the other man, his head on the second pillow. He wished they could talk. He wanted to know why. Why, if Severus hated Sirius Black, did he accept the dog? And why did he, Sirius, why did he feel so close to Severus? He'd hated him. Harry and the others had been clear about that. And yet he'd felt something connect that day, the first time he'd seen him.
Nothing would ever be the same.
In the meantime, he saw Severus pulling together more and more. He'd been weak but seemed to be rallying, and he made a real effort to eat now that George had told him that Sirius needed him to eat first.
That was something else Sirius did not understand. Why did he feel compelled to do these things? Wait for Severus to start eating. Be near him. Protect him.
In silence, they sat. Severus stared out the window and Sirius sat next to him. He could feel Severus attempting to break free of the swamp that seemed to be holding him. He was trying. Trying to change his direction, Sirius felt, towards life rather than death and despair. Sirius could feel Severus's emotions, his struggle, his small successes, and his smaller setbacks. He was winning, Sirius thought. Turning around. He hoped.
George moved back to his flat on Diagon Alley the previous week since Snape was more reliable about eating and getting out of bed without being prompted. He stopped by at midday to check on him, and, before she went to visit her parents, Hermione left a supply of parchment, ink, and quills for Severus to use, though Severus was working on a spell to let him write in the air in small bright letters, something nobody had bothered to do before. Harry hired a boy who lived a few streets away to walk Sirius, and this was better. Timothy also gave him another bath, and it felt wonderful to be clean.
He often felt bewildered and frustrated at not remembering. It felt like the memories were there, just out of his reach, but he couldn't find them, like dreams he couldn't remember the next morning.
Dreams. Or nightmares. Most nights, sometimes two or three times. He could never remember them, only the overall impression of dark and fear. He'd be terrified that he wouldn't wake up and would hear himself scream.
Each time now an arm went around him, pulling his shivering body close, holding him. No voice—that Severus did not have to give—but a soothing rumble from the man's chest. He'd be held close until the trembling slowed and he was able to go back to sleep.
He did not understand the terror. He experienced it.
And there were nights when he was the one to give, when Severus tossed and turned in a panic, the sheets and blankets twisted, and he'd wake up in a cold sweat, bury his face in a pillow, and curl up into himself. Then Sirius would get close, lay his head on the man's shoulder, and nuzzle until Severus would turn his face, and he could lick his cheek. He'd keep nudging and nuzzling until he felt Severus let go, and he wouldn't go back to sleep until he did.
One evening Harry asked them to come to Godric's Hollow the next day. He and Ron would be there, and if Snape wanted to come—?
Severus nodded. He'd go.
They'd had several talks, with Snape writing furiously, about how to help Sirius regain his memories, and Snape had agreed that their plan seemed best. Harry explained to Sirius that Godric's Hollow was where James and Lily had fought Voldemort to their deaths and Lily enabled the baby Harry to damage Voldemort and survive. Harry would have preferred to Disapparate, but Sirius couldn't and, while Severus had indicated that he could easily take Sirius along, he didn't want to chance it. Snape was casting non-verbally, though with a wand, and Harry felt nervous entrusting Sirius's life to him. They took the train.
They walked to King's Cross Station early in the morning and onto Platform 9 and 3/4. George wasn't going with them but had come to the station, and he and Harry picked up Sirius and got him through the wall. Sirius had been frightened as they lunged towards the brick wall, but all had gone well.
It wasn't the Hogwarts Express, of course, but a local Wizarding train that ended in Hogsmeade. They would get off at Godric's Hollow.
George said goodbye and motioned to Snape to follow him. When Sirius tried to join them, George shook his head, and Sirius growled, unhappy at being excluded.
Snape turned and knelt, looked into his eyes, and ran his hands through the thick fur at Sirius's neck. Sirius calmed.
"Severus," said George. Snape raised one eyebrow. "Can you teach Sirius Legilimency?" Snape shook his head.
Snape took his wand from his pocket and used it to produce jet black letters in the air.
"No magic," he wrote.
"But he's a wizard."
"Doesn't know it."
"But think about it. Children do magic without knowing how to control it."
Snape nodded and wrote, "Easy, violent things. For higher magic need intention and to know you can."
"Ah. But you'll try anyway?"
Snape nodded again. "Will try."
"Because I think it would help if we could find out what he remembers, what he knows, to help him regain his memories and then his human shape."
Snape made a slight grimace.
"What?" asked George.
He thought he'd guessed, but was surprised when Snape confirmed it. "Won't like me when he does," he wrote.
"No, he probably won't. But he needs to regain his human form—" He stopped.
Snape was glaring at him and writing. "Will help if I can."
"Of course. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that you wouldn't."
After eating they walked over to the cottage where James and Lily had died. As they approached, Sirius started to whine, and Harry and Ron looked at each other with hope. Was he starting to remember something?
He wasn't. He was reacting to Snape. Snape, whose emotions had chilled, deepened to the darkest black. His step faltered, and Sirius pressed against his leg, hoping his presence would help. They stopped in front of the house, and, while Harry and Ron asked him if he remembered where he was, if he'd been there, and Sirius, do you...he only had attention for Severus. Who was clinging to the fence, his eyes wide, his breath ragged. Sirius whined again, took Severus's sleeve in his teeth, and tugged him away from the place. He resisted at first, and then followed in a daze, and Sirius continued to pull him away.
The place meant nothing to him.
Harry and Ron led them to a plaque. It had some names on it, and Sirius could read them. He'd be surprised about that when he had time. Ron and Harry were subdued, and Severus...
Snape fell to his knees in front of the plaque and hid his face in his hands. Harry came to him, and Sirius turned and growled. He wanted Harry away from Severus. This place was hurting him, and Harry had wanted to come here. His growl deepened.
Severus was crying. His raw sobs hurt Sirius. He growled again at Harry, then turned his back on him and Ron, and went over to Severus. He licked his face and tasted the salt of his tears, saw his pain, felt it.
They ended up Apparating back to London, straight to the kitchen. Sirius had continued to growl any time Harry or Ron came within several feet of Severus. It took Severus a long time to calm down and then to calm down the dog.
They were discouraged. As wizards, they saw the statues of James, Lily, and baby Harry. Sirius had seen only the plaque with names on it that Muggles saw.
Sirius followed Snape slowly up the stairs. Snape collapsed on his bed, his face buried on the pillow, and Sirius climbed up next to him.
He didn't sleep. Snape was lost in the depths of a despair Sirius did not understand, and Sirius could not follow him. Harry had told him that Severus had loved Lily, Harry's mother, but Sirius could not remember loving anyone enough that many years later their memory would still tear at him.
He did not remember his own years spent mourning James.
So he lay beside his man, licked his face from time to time, trying to comfort him and let him know that he, Sirius, loved him.
Because that was what it was, he knew. He loved his man, enemy or not, for reasons he did not understand. His life belonged to this other, his happiness was in his hands, and nothing would mean anything if they weren't together.
Snape sat at the window all the next day and the following one. Sirius did not leave him.
George came in one morning. Hermione was back. She and Ginny were headed to Hogwarts, Hermione having decided to finish her last year and sit her N.E.W.T.s. Ron and Harry would take their exams in three weeks and start Auror training in a month or so, and there was a discussion about Severus and Sirius.
Molly said she and Arthur could stay in Grimmauld Place, but the Burrow was livable again, and she was eager to return. Snape and Sirius could come with— George intervened.
"They can go on staying here, can't they?"
"Well," said Harry, "of course. But who would take care of them? Of Sirius, especially. He can't talk, George. And Snape can't, either."
"They can take care of each other. I think they'll be fine. We'll check on them, but I think they'll be all right."
"I think he's right, Harry," said Hermione. "And maybe you can bring them to Hogsmeade next weekend. Ginny and I can meet you, and we can see if something there, maybe the Shack, jogs Sirius's memory."
"Do you think we should take him to Azkaban?" asked Ron.
"I think we might want to try—what, Professor?"
Snape had appeared next to him, and he was glaring at Harry in a way the younger wizard remembered too well. Snape had his wand out and wrote furiously.
"Don't dare presume that you will take Sirius anywhere. He is a man, not a parcel. If he wants to go, he'll go. You do not decide. He does."
His eyes were dark with anger. Harry nodded. "I'm sorry. You're right. We tend to forget."
"Don't apologise to me."
Harry turned towards the dog, towards Sirius Black, who was standing in the doorway. "I'm sorry, Sirius. I know it's your decision. Ginny and Hermione are leaving for Hogwarts tomorrow, you know. We think we'll visit them in Hogsmeade next Saturday. Would you like to come?"
Sirius looked at Snape and lifted his right paw for yes.
George followed them upstairs, holding a tray with a pot of tea and two cups. He sat down across from Snape, who had taken his place at the window, and poured.
He took a book from inside his robes and handed it to Snape.
"I think you should read this, Severus."
Severus raised an eyebrow and glanced at the book. Being Alpha. He looked more closely. It was about what it meant to be a human and the Alpha in a dog pack.
"It might explain things," said George. "Severus, you'll get in touch with me or Harry if you need anything?"
"Good. I think you and Sirius will do fine here."
They settled down. Timothy came every morning to "walk the dog." When he got back Sirius would eat in the kitchen with Severus, and later they'd sit and read. George asked Severus to brew potions for the joke shop, and Severus, not letting on if he was nervous, went to Diagon Alley to buy supplies with the money George had advanced him. They'd have lunch, Severus would brew for a while, and Timothy would come back to take Sirius out again. After dinner they'd sit in the library. The two of them, in solitude.
Bubbly Burpy Beverage turned out to be particularly popular with the joke shop customers.
Severus was trying to use Legilimency to communicate with the dog. A dog who could read. From a magical standpoint Sirius was a Muggle—a Squib, Snape thought, but didn't mention—so he had no defenses against magical probing of his mind. Responding with yes and no to Severus's questions, Sirius indicated that he had no objection.
It wasn't like he had any memories to protect.
So they tried. It was frustrating. Severus explained that Sirius was a man, with a man's mind in a dog's brain, and the magic wasn't working the same. He couldn't see into Sirius's mind, but he could, with limited success, project his own thoughts to Sirius.
Great, thought Sirius. He can write, and he can show me his thoughts. I can't ask a simple question.
They went to Hogsmeade on Saturday with Harry and Ron and met Ginny and Hermione. Harry was more confident about Snape's Apparating with Sirius so getting there wasn't difficult.
They walked through Hogsmeade to the Shack where Sirius thought for a moment that he caught the faint scent of himself, unwashed and upset, but that couldn't be possible. Then the overwhelming smell of Severus's blood took him—evil and awful—and he whined and growled and twisted on the lead. Severus took him outside and stroked his flanks until he stopped trembling. "It's over," he wrote. "I'm right here." But something had hurt him, and Sirius longed to hurt back.
They had lunch at The Three Broomsticks, and afterwards they walked up to Hogwarts. It was pretty in the golden autumn light, but Severus was nervous and unhappy which meant Sirius was as well. Severus stayed alone in the antechamber off the Great Hall while the younger people walked Sirius all over the Castle. The Gryffindor Common Room felt familiar. Later they had tea with Hagrid, whom Sirius liked immediately. Fang took Sirius to roam in the forest, and Severus seemed ill at ease until Sirius was again as his feet. He buried a hand in the fur at the dog's neck, and Sirius thought Fang looked envious.
After the horror of the Shack, Sirius had enjoyed the day, but little more than that. Some scents evoked memories, but there were no great flashes of recognition. It bothered him how Harry looked at him, always hopeful. The young wizard wanted him to be something he wasn't, that he was no longer, that he might never be again. Severus accepted him as he was.
As they walked back towards the Apparition boundaries, Sirius felt glum. He was beginning to suspect that he wouldn't regain his memories any easy way. Maybe he should find a way to tell them to take the risk of transforming him without his memories. Severus must have sensed his mood because, to Disapparate them, he knelt and took the dog in his arms.
When they got back to Grimmauld Place, he wanted nothing more than to pad upstairs, hop on the bed, and bury his muzzle in the pillow next to Severus's.
Severus, however, had other ideas. He tugged at the dog, and Sirius followed him to the bathroom where Severus turned on the taps in the large manticore-clawed bathtub.
The dog backed away, but Severus shook his head and pointed towards the water.
Sirius understood that it would do no good to protest. He was getting a bath and, he admitted, after the run in the forest with Fang, he needed it.
He climbed in, making a big splash as he did so. The water was warm, and he lay down in it, stood, turned around, working on getting himself wet.
Severus poured liquid soap over him and started to scrub.
Sirius melted into the comfort of it.
The hands were surprisingly strong, working the soap into his thick black coat, and he felt waves of warmth running through him. He moaned, and Severus looked at him in concern, but his expression of contentment must have reassured the man, and he continued to wash.
It was not a perfunctory bath, Sirius felt, like the ones Timothy gave him. Severus was caring for him. He washed him all over, getting his coat clean, and Sirius closed his eyes and let the water, the strong hands, the deep massage transport him to a place where he was not stuck in dog form, which was better than being dead, but wasn't as good as being a man.
He looked at Severus, who was sweating slightly from the effort and the heat of the small room. He sat up and licked the sweat off his forehead and the drop that was dripping down his cheek.
Severus made a noise, and Sirius felt something shift in the room. He wasn't sure what, but he felt a need in Severus that he'd never felt before.
The only sound was the dripping of the faucet. Neither moved until Severus stood and pointed outside of the bath.
Sirius climbed out and promptly started to shake himself while Severus grabbed his wand and attempted to cast a drying spell on Sirius. He succeeded, but not before he himself was soaking wet. Sirius grinned.
Severus sighed and dried himself off. He picked up a hairbrush and beckoned to the dog.
In the bedroom, Severus knelt in front of the fireplace and started a fire. He motioned to Sirius to sit, and Sirius did.
The brushing made him want to cry and moan and laugh. It made him happy as the massage had, but there was something different about Severus, and he could not figure it out.
And then, suddenly, he did.
Severus was enjoying this, too. He was enjoying the touching, the brushing, being near Sirius, and this filled Sirius with joy.
He put his head down on the man's thigh and sighed.
The petting felt so good, and he wondered if he'd had sex as a man. They'd told him he was thirty-eight so he probably had, and that he'd been training to become an Auror, whatever that was, and then gotten locked up in Azkaban. Maybe he hadn't had time as a man. Dogs, he thought, probably started young. Why did the name Azkaban make him feel so cold?
But, though he remembered about sex, he didn't remember if he'd actually done it. Hermione had said he was gay, which felt right though he wasn't really sure what it meant, and Molly had protested, blushing, and Hermione had said that he needed to know.
He shouldn't have thought about sex.
His human mind and his dog's brain and body were at odds. While the human Sirius was cringing in shame, the dog was rubbing his penis against Snape's ankle. Soon he was leaking fluids, and the feeling was indescribable.
Severus made a strange noise again, and Sirius hung his head and tried to override his body, but instead thought about sex even more. He rubbed faster.
Severus had stopped brushing him and didn't move away. He placed his hands on the dog's head as if to steady him, to calm him, and, when Sirius looked up, Severus nodded at him.
He moved faster, and it felt good. He was panting and felt dizzy, and he wasn't sure what was going to happen. How did dogs have orgasm? He felt he should know, but maybe his dog form had never had sex. His human mind was telling him it was going to be good, good, good, and his body was confirming that.
He changed his angle slightly and buried his muzzle in Severus's crotch. The man was hard, something Sirius had not expected, and he moaned and rubbed his face there, and he expected to be shoved away, that this liberty with Severus's leg and crotch would not be overlooked, but the man didn't push him away. Sirius pressed and tried to do—what?—something to get Severus to open his robe and trousers, but the wizard did not, though he let Sirius nuzzle and rub.
Looking up at him, Sirius saw his head was thrown back and he was panting. Whatever was happening, it was happening to both of them.
But then he saw something else. Panic on Severus's face. And shame and a shadow of horror.
The dog took a deep breath and moved away from Severus's ankle. It was difficult. He did not stop rubbing Severus's crotch.
Severus shook his head, and suddenly Sirius realised that to him, no matter how fond he was of the dog, he was, after all, a dog. As a man, he knew the prohibitions. An animal cannot give consent.
But he wasn't an animal. He moaned and moved further away. Severus fumbled for his wand and wrote in the air, his hands shaking. "Go ahead," he wrote and extended his leg.
Sirius shook his head. The joy was gone, the pleasure at being touched, and he whimpered again. The recoil had been at taking without giving. Unless it was both of them, he did not want this.
Severus dropped his head into his hands, and they sat in silence for what seemed like hours until it was time to get ready for bed.
Their routine did not change, and Sirius, as he did every evening, hopped up on the bed next to the man.
Severus turned his back to him. Sirius buried his head in his paws and attempted not to growl. It hurt. It felt like a hole had opened inside him and was pulling all his happiness, all the good things of him and Severus, into it. He got off the bed.
Tail between his legs, he padded downstairs to the kitchen. There he curled up next to the stove on the flagstone floor. It was cold and uncomfortable and nothing compared to how he felt inside.
Severus came down early the next morning. He made himself tea, then got breakfast for Sirius. He took a few swallows of his tea and looked at Sirius. This was his cue that he should start eating, but he didn't. He was too unhappy. His muzzle was between his paws, and he didn't want to eat.
Severus put his tea down, walked over to the dog, and knelt. Slowly Sirius inched forward. Severus put a hand on his head, and he crept forward a bit more, and then more, until his chin was on the man's thigh. Severus stroked the silky ears, very gently, for a long time.
Then he pulled out his wand and wrote in the air. "I'm sorry. It was my fault."
Sirius tapped with his left paw for "no," repeatedly, but Severus shook his head and continued to write. "I am not accustomed to wanting."
Sirius cocked his head, puzzled.
Severus sighed. "Wanting affection," he wrote.
The words shimmered and melted away. Neither moved, though Sirius knew the man was uncomfortable.
They sat for a while, feeling each other's presence and knowing that this mattered, this affection, whatever it was, between man and dog. It was real and it mattered.
That night they stayed close. Severus moved his leg, indicating clearly that he was willing to allow whatever Sirius wanted, but not opening himself, so Sirius didn't consider it. He wanted...whatever he wanted for both of them, not only for him.
Even without the possibility of sex, the closeness of affection felt good, and it allowed him to look at the future with less dread. Even if he was never able to regain his memories, his human form, there was this, and it was something.
Harry said one evening that he'd gotten them special permission to visit Azkaban. They could go with him and Ron and Kingsley Shacklebolt from the Ministry the next day. There were no Dementors there anymore, and maybe the place would jog Sirius's memory.
He was trembling and sick. He did not want to go. He did not remember this place, Azkaban, this island prison, yet the name evoked horror, dread. Terror.
With Severus's hand on his head, he managed to seem calm, but, when Harry left, he curled up on the ground and whimpered.
Severus guided him upstairs and pushed him until he jumped onto their bed. He sat next to him and started rubbing, deeply in some places, gently in others, touch that grounded and calmed him.
When the dog finally relaxed, Severus pulled out his wand. He dimmed the candles, and the writing was luminescent in the semi-darkness. He moved Sirius so that his paws were on his thighs.
"Do you want to talk?"
Sirius lifted his right paw for yes.
"Do you remember Azkaban?"
"And yet it scares you?"
"You remember that?"
He did not move. It was not memory, at least the way he thought of memory.
"You sense feelings about Azkaban?"
"All right. Do you want to go?"
"I'll tell Potter."
The dog sighed and lifted his left paw. "No."
"No?" Severus thought for a moment. "You mean you don't want to go, but you will?"
"Do you think it will help?"
The dog sighed again. "No."
"Do you think anything will help?"
Severus made a pained sound and leaned over to hug the dog and held him close.
"You know I'll do anything to help you get back your memories?"
"Is there anything you think I can do? That I haven't done, I mean?"
Sirius hesitated. "Yes."
"What?" Severus shook his head, impatient with himself. "A spell?"
"Ah, but which one—? Do you want to be transformed back?"
Severus made a panicky sound in his throat. "I don't think that is a good idea, Sirius."
The dog looked up at him in the darkness. He tried to put everything into that look. The despair of his silence, the fear of being trapped as a dog forever, the knowledge that he understood that the transformation might go wrong.
Severus closed his eyes for a long moment. "Can we give this a year? If we haven't managed to get back your memories by next June, I'll tell Minerva, she'd be the best person, that you want her to do the spell."
"Yes. Yes. Yes."
Sirius cocked his head.
"Of losing you."
That night, man and dog slept close again, and a barrier had been crossed, something said that changed things. For Sirius it was, he thought, that Severus had acknowledged his humanity by allowing him to make a decision about his own future. For Severus, it was admitting that he might lose Sirius. A Sirius with his memories intact would not see Severus as his alpha, but as someone whose throat he wanted to rip out. A Sirius with his memories back would feel what had always been between them, and this closeness wouldn't exist after that.
But that night was real and close, and they slept in each other's warmth.
They took a Portkey straight to the island, outside the main gate on a piece of land jutting out into the sea. Sirius shivered, realising that a small mistake could land a witch or wizard in midair, suspended for a breathtaking moment before falling on the rocks or into the ocean, the surf pounding the base of the cliff.
Sirius's tail was between his legs as they walked towards the fortress, and Severus kept a firm hand on his head or shoulder and made sure his leg was always in contact with the dog. Ron walked on his other side. Sirius liked Ron. There was calmness around him, not an absence of fear, but a conviction that they'd deal with whatever came up. Harry was not that way. He worried.
They walked through the gate of the fortress, and any calming effect Severus and Ron had on him disappeared.
He ran straight into a wall. He sobbed and wailed and heard was his own howls, so like those of a wolf. The smells! Oh, Merlin, the smells! He'd never forget them. The smell of despair, of the loss of hope, of sickness, of emptiness, of death. Of Dementors.
He ran, slamming his body into another wall, trying to make the pain go away.
Someone tried to approach him, but he howled and snarled, he didn't know who it was, he launched himself and bared his fangs at Severus. No! Not him! He backed off, and there was someone else, and he snapped and snarled, but it was Ron, not some monster he didn't remember, but who haunted him in spite of that.
Ron shoved Severus out of the way. "I'll hold him," he shouted, and he and Harry did, they managed to immobilise the panicked dog, and Kingsley and Severus followed as they half-carried, half-dragged him back outside, and Kingsley pulled the Portkey from his cloak and activated it.
They were back in the kitchen in Grimmauld Place. They'd been gone less than six minutes.
He was shaking. Darkness pressed around him. Panic. Death. Fear. He howled and launched himself at the old stove, slamming his body against it, rolling back. He spun around, oblivious to the pain, to anything but making the darkness recede.
Then Harry and Ron were lying on him again. He could only move his head. He raised it and howled, and he felt them tense on top of him.
Severus was close to his face, his eyes dark, scared and worried. He looked up at Kingsley, who said, "Severus has something for you, Sirius. A potion. You need to take it."
He howled again, though the sound was muffled by Harry's and Ron's weight on his rib cage.
Kingsley knelt next to Severus. "We can force you. Severus doesn't want to, but we will. Do you understand?"
He managed to look at Severus, and their eyes held. He let himself go still, no longer fighting Harry and Ron.
Severus poured the potion into his water bowl. He lay down on the flagstones next to the dog, and Kingsley, Harry, and Ron exchanged a glance. Severus wrote with his wand. "Drink. It's Dreamless Sleep and a pain potion. I'll stay with you."
He groaned, but moved to drink, Severus at his side. He hoped it would work on the dog's body as well as the man's mind inside him, but he was sure Severus would do nothing to harm him. It was that knowledge that he clung to as he fell asleep.
Severus was next to him when he woke. Their bedroom was dark except for Severus's reading light. The man's hand was resting lightly on Sirius's head, and, when he shifted slightly, Severus looked at him, and smiled.
"Better?" he wrote, and, languidly, Sirius raised his right paw. He was warm, his body was weary and in pain, but his mind was alert.
"That did not work," wrote Snape.
Sirius didn't bother lifting his paw, but instead rolled his eyes. Severus made a sound that Sirius knew was laughter.
"Are you hungry?"
He considered that for a bit. He was hungry, but was more tired than hungry, so he indicated no.
They lay back together on the bed, and Sirius's heart ached with longing. He desperately wanted to change shapes, to be a man again, to be able to show his love with a man's hands and lips, with a man's body. He understood why Severus would hesitate. The proscriptions against what he guessed they both wanted were very strong in the Wizarding world. Any world.
He buried his muzzle between Severus's chest and his arm, inhaling the scent, closing his eyes and revelling in the closeness. He felt him move, knew he was writing, and looked over to see.
"I thought I was going to lose you."
He looked up. The reading lamp was still lit, and he could see the expression on the man's face. The despair, the fear. It was real. Whatever affection Severus felt for the large black dog was real and deep and something he valued.
Sirius whimpered, and arms came around him, pulling him close, and he didn't know if his dog's body could cry, but he licked the tears off Severus's face and wished it was June when Severus had promised him he'd help him transform back, no matter the consequences.
The dog's long spine was pressed to the man's body. Severus was on his side. One arm around Sirius, he rubbed his belly, over and over, the caress both gentle and sensual.
He moaned with contentment.
The hand kept on going lower and lower, until it was almost there, almost touching. The man's mind inside the dog's body was hesitant, but the dog was already growling in deep pleasure, and he hadn't been touched yet.
And then Severus touched him. The touch was not fearful. It was deliberate and firm, and Sirius's growl of pleasure intensified.
The next few minutes were a tumble of limbs, pajamas cast aside, the dog's tail wagging, and wordless negotiation which led to Sirius's licking Severus while he rubbed his own penis against Severus's knee. Both were panting, and Sirius licked, knowing better than to try to take Severus's cock in his mouth, and he swirled his tongue around his balls and back up, and the moan of pleasure from Severus made him wag his tail and thrust harder and faster.
As his motion became more urgent, he had a hard time doing both and he was sure hands would have helped, and then Severus took his own cock and he was slow at first, but then they matched their rhythms, the tongue, the hand, and the wonderful rubbing that was going to—he knew it—going to result in—
His orgasm took him, and he threw his head back and howled with it. Severus's hand faltered, but Sirius was licking again, and Severus came, too, not making a sound, and then they both lay there for a long time until the wizard found his wand and cleaned them up.
Sirius had never felt this good. He wondered if it had always been like this, if he'd come as a dog before or only as a man. He was tingling everywhere, from his nose to his tail, and he burrowed down into the covers next to his man, wanting nothing more now than to sleep. He felt drowsy and happy and— He felt wrong.
Tears were running down Severus's face. They were the tears of longing and desire and love again, but this was different. He licked and nuzzled, and Severus turned away, trying to hide his despair.
Merlin, he wished he had the words to ask, to ask why, what was the matter, it hadn't been that bad? And Severus had initiated... Was it shame?
He growled, fear and sadness coming out that way, and Severus took a deep breath.
"It was good," he wrote.
The dog cocked his head. There was more, and he could wait.
Severus shook his head, refusing to say anything more.
And so they sat. The dog patient, the man staring down at his hands, his face hidden in his dark hair. An hour, two? Sirius didn't know. He only knew that he could wait and eventually Severus would tell him.
The words were spelled out haltingly. "When you remember, you'll hate me for this."
He shook his head, and lifted his left paw over and over, "No, no, no," but Severus nodded. "You will," he wrote, and he slid down into the covers, turned his back to the dog, and cast a spell to quench the dim light.
Sirius lay in pain. He'd hurt Severus. No, Severus was hurting, and this hurt him. But this was not something the dog could fix. The only thing he could do was to offer what he could: the warmth of his presence, his love.
Everything seemed normal the next day. Timothy came to walk Sirius. Then he and Severus ate. Severus was working steadily for George now, brewing potions, and he'd go to the small workshop they'd set up next to the wine cellar, its cold alleviated by a tiny fireplace. Sirius would lie on a rug next to the fire and watch Severus or read.
That was the most wonderful thing. Severus had created a spell for books so a page would turn when Sirius tapped it with a paw or his nose, and he was able to read.
Muggle books on adventure and travel that Hermione brought him. Books on amnesia. Wizarding books on Wizarding history, on spells. Reading allowed him to escape entirely into his mind, where his dog-shaped body no longer mattered. Hermione also bought him a Muggle vocabulary book intended for children and, while it was slow and painstaking, he could put his nose on a word to show the others. It wasn't easy communication, but it was something.
They'd eat lunch and go out for a walk in the middle of the day when it was warmest. Then back to Grimmauld Place to read and have dinner, and then to bed.
In bed they were together, but the intimacy of that night had not been repeated. It had meant too much pain afterwards, and Sirius could not forget Severus's words: When you remember, you'll hate me for this.
Oh, he'd been told all the reasons he was supposed to hate Severus Snape, but they didn't mean anything. Hermione had said that, without the emotions, the actual memories, it didn't add up to much, and he hoped that if—when?—he remembered, he'd still be able to see things that way.
Because losing Severus did not bear thinking about.
Harry persuaded them to come to the Burrow for Christmas, and Molly made them comfortable. They took long walks in the countryside, and sometimes Ginny or Hermione came with them. Sirius ran free, not needing a lead.
For Christmas almost everyone got him books, and Severus cast his spell on all of them so he was able to skim through them right away. He was thrilled. Molly had knitted him—not a sweater, thank Merlin—but a scarf in Gryffindor colors, and Harry tied it around his neck, and all the Gryffindors clapped, and Snape smiled tightly and opened his present from Molly which was a green and silver scarf, and he thanked her and put it around his neck, and Sirius gently tried to take it off, and they scuffled, and everyone laughed.
He and Severus had gone shopping in Hogsmeade. It had been frustrating for both of them and very slow, but, using the vocabulary book, they'd managed to get gifts for everyone. He also had Severus buy everyone sweets from him. He was pleased that everyone liked his presents.
Harry handed Severus a small box and Sirius sat up carefully.
"Sirius asked us to get this for you, Severus," he said.
Severus opened it.
It contained a whistle, shaped like a soft, flat triangle. It was made of silver, embellished with a Celtic snake with small emeralds for eyes, and attached to a strong silver chain.
"He said he wanted you to be able to call him any time," said Harry. "It took a lot of flipping pages in the vocabulary book.
Severus nodded and fell to his knees in front of the dog. He looked at him in the eyes and wrote, "I don't need a whistle. You'll come if you want to."
Sirius looked at Harry. "He wants you to be able to call him. He said that he knows you know he's a man, not a dog, but it's important to him. To hear you."
"Are you sure?"
Sirius raised his right paw. Severus nodded and put the whistle to his mouth. The sound was shrill, and everyone grimaced.
Hermione said, "They said at the shop that it would take some practice."
"They weren't kidding," said George, who got up to help Severus off the floor.
When he sat down on the sofa, Sirius moved to him and laid his head on his knee. Really, there was nowhere else he wanted to be.
Snape found a three-note combination that he used to call Sirius. They played with it while walking in the countryside. Sirius loved hearing the notes from far away, drifting through the winter air.
Christmas had been nice, Sirius thought, but he enjoyed the peaceful solitude he and Severus shared at Grimmauld Place.
He went back to St. Mungo's and met with Minerva two more times. They had no new ideas.
Minerva promised that she would reverse the Animagus spell for him in June, if need be. He hung onto that promise.
Severus needed to go to Hogsmeade. He Apparated them near Honeyduke's and went to Dogweed and Deathcap where he purchased some mushroom extract for a potion he was creating for George, then headed to Tomes and Scrolls so Sirius could look at the books.
It wasn't snowing, and the snow on the ground was dirty and old. It was dreary, and winter had dragged on too long and wouldn't let go. After buying Sirius's books, they walked over to Gladrags to talk to the witch who managed it. She had a small cottage a few miles from Hogsmeade, near the lake, that she wanted to let for the next several years while she worked in Paris, she told them. Severus nodded and wrote that he'd be in touch.
Sirius tapped his right paw on the ice several times. He was cold and wanted to get to The Three Broomsticks.
A dog was wandering in the square in the center of town. She was filthy and skinny, all her ribs showing. Sirius went up to her, and they sniffed each other. He could see she'd been mistreated. She had open wounds on her side; one of them looked infected. Her coat might have been a creamy gold, but now it was dark with dirt and blood, matted in places and mangy in others. Sirius panted in sympathy, and he felt her fear and her pain.
He looked up at Severus, his eyes wide, asking him to do something.
Severus leaned over towards the dog, and she shied away in fear. Sirius felt her misery. He sidled up closer to the poor dog and tried to communicate Severus, his gentleness, his kindness, that she could calm down. She was terrified, and he pressed at her, hoping to reassure her with his presence. She whined and backed away until she bumped against the wall of The Three Broomsticks. Sirius feared that, cornered, she'd become aggressive, but she didn't. She cowered next to the stone and cried.
Severus wrote, "Wait here," looking down at the dog with pity. He went into The Three Broomsticks.
Sirius stood above the dog while they waited, trying to tell her that she'd be all right, that they'd take care of her, that Severus would help. He nuzzled her neck, and her whine turned into a growl and then back into a whine.
Severus came back, carrying a steaming bowl. He knelt in front of the skinny dog, set the bowl of stew in front of her and pointed to it, reached out and gently touched her head to indicate that she should eat.
And Sirius sat down abruptly. His heart started to race and he felt hot, very hot, and shivers and chills ran through him.
He'd been here. And Snape...stew. Bread. The silky voice. "Go ahead, eat! You look like you need it." Him, on the run. Sirius Black. He knew who he was. He started to shake, and that drew Severus's attention.
Severus. Severus Snape.
It all came back.
He transformed into the man he was, stood shakily, and shouted, "You fucking bastard! You—" Dizziness overcame him and he wobbled. He wasn't used to being upright. Severus moved towards him, and he scrambled back, almost falling. "Don't touch me, you filthy pervert!"
He'd never forget the look on Snape's face until the day he died.
Witches and wizards were gathering, attracted by the commotion. Severus attempted to write, but Sirius was screaming invective at him as memories and emotions overwhelmed him. Snivellus. The threat to Remus. Lily dead. James dead. Baby Harry, wailing and bleeding. Dumbledore dead.
He lurched towards Snape, intent on killing him, and the dog—the mangy, skinny beast—flung her weak body between them and snarled at him. His leg moved back to kick her in the side, and he heard a voice—Hagrid's, he thought—say, "Sirius!" and he stopped. There were people all around him. Snape sidestepped the dog and, before Sirius could react, wrapped his cloak around Sirius, and Sirius realised he was naked.
"Get away from me," he hissed. "Don't ever come near me again!"
Hagrid came up to them and hugged Sirius. He sighed. "I'll take care of him, Professor."
Snape nodded and watched in silence as Hagrid helped Sirius towards Hogwarts.
Sirius turned back one last time, his eyes cold. "Get out of my house," he said.
Ignoring the crowd, he knelt again near the dog and pointed to the bowl of food, which was still half-full. She was staring after Sirius and Hagrid, and he touched her shoulder and moved the food bowl a bit.
She finished her meal. When Snape looked up, the crowds were gone. He stood and tugged at her collar, picked up the bowl and brought it back to the door of the Three Broomsticks where Madame Rosmerta had heard the news and asked him if it was true and was Sirius Black, that bad boy, back in human form, and was Severus taking that dog home, and where did he find her, and would Severus need lunch?
He shook his head to all her questions, and, when she'd taken the bowl from him, nodded his thanks and goodbye and walked down the steps.
There he knelt, put his arms around the filthy animal, and Disapparated.
Sirius followed Hagrid to his hut. On the way they passed a third-year, and Hagrid sent him for Professor McGonagall.
At the hut, Hagrid put another log on the fire and found some old clothes for Sirius. They would have been much too small for Hagrid. He said he kept them for making scarecrows.
Dressed, though still barefoot, he huddled near the fire under Snape's cloak and drank hot tea. He'd heard the complaints about Hagrid's baking, but the biscuits he handed Sirius tasted wonderful, dunked in the sweet, milky tea.
These were the last moments of peace he'd have all day as Minerva arrived, followed moments later by Hermione and Ginny, and, within the hour, Harry and Ron.
Much later, in bed in the Burrow, he grieved for Remus, his last friend. He remembered their telling him that Remus Lupin was dead. It hadn't meant anything then.
James. James. The pain came back. New and old and remembered. Losing James and Lily and what had happened— His life wasted, his best friends dead.
And it was all Snape's fault.
He stayed with Molly and Arthur for a few days. On Sunday he told everyone he was going back to Grimmauld Place. "Snape will have left," he said, and Harry confirmed that he had.
Nobody said anything to him, but he knew they'd all been puzzled and concerned about—and, at least in the case of Harry, a little repulsed by—his attachment to Snape.
He couldn't explain it to himself. As a man, he hated Severus Snape. As a dog he had as well, though he had taken the warm bowl of stew from him that cold morning years before, too hungry to let hatred stand in the way of a meal. But the dog without his memories had loved Snape in a way Sirius could not understand. With his whole heart, willing to die for him or die with him. Snape had been everything, and Sirius would never try to explain how the man without memories trapped inside the dog was neither dog nor man, but that both had been utterly consumed by his love.
Grimmauld Place was empty. There was no trace of Snape or of the mangy dog, if she was still with him.
Sirius welcomed Arthur's offer to do paperwork at the Ministry. It got him out of that house.
He and Harry met with the solicitor and then with the Existence Department at the Ministry to establish that Sirius was alive, to record his official pardon, and to transfer his assets back to him.
It was a long, cold winter.
He found a teacher of Legilimency, an old witch whose husband had been deaf and mute. They'd communicated with Legilimency throughout their long marriage, and she was happy to earn some extra gold and to have someone to teach. He worked hard with her, at both Legilimency and Occlumency. Someday he'd run into him again, and he wanted everything Snape had on his own side, too. As months passed, their efforts were more successful; he began to be able to read her more superficial thoughts and, with great effort, to prevent her reading his. Sirius sent an owl to Minerva suggesting that she consider asking the old witch to teach Hogwarts students. It would be time better spent than at Divination, he wrote.
He tried to understand what had happened between him and Snape. He couldn't do it. There were many memories that were happy and some that were painful. And some that hurt him deeply.
When you remember, you will hate me for this. Snape had been right. Sirius was horrified, ashamed of what had happened, ashamed of himself for being intimate with a man who was his enemy, ashamed for Snape who had allowed intimacy with a dog even if he was really a man. He was angry at Snape. Above all, he was angry at himself for feeling exactly what Snape had known he would feel.
The love he'd felt for Snape before his memories came back was even harder to understand. It was different than loving James and Remus had been, but it wasn't what loving the men who'd shared his bed in his youth had been, either. It was instinctive.
It was the dog's love, he thought. And still the man's. Something that he would never fully grasp and never be able to explain to anyone.
Yet it was real.
He made an uneasy truce with himself. He hoped that perhaps, in the future, he'd be able to make some sort of peace with Snape.
In June, he decided to sell the house at Grimmauld Place. He hated it and had taken a flat near George's in Diagon Alley. He tossed and sold, and cleaned and tossed some more until the place was almost empty.
Rita Skeeter, whose books about Harry and the War were best-sellers in the Wizarding world, decided to buy it. Hermione howled with laughter and covered the inside of all cupboards and closets with flypaper.
When clearing out his room, he found Snape's cloak. He tossed it in the trash pile, but, later that evening, picked it up and put it in the pile of things to be moved to his new flat.
He had a permanent job at the Ministry now, in the Magical Law Enforcement division. It was mostly deskwork, but he liked being involved with the post-war cleanup and with an aspect of Harry's life. While he was working a liaison job in Paris, he met a young French wizard and they had a brief affair, spending every other summer weekend at Gilles's steamy fifth floor flat in the Quartier Latin.
It was fun while it lasted, which was as long as the summer did.
In the middle of September, he was in Hogsmeade on MLE business when, outside the herbology shop, he saw a beautiful cream-coloured dog. She saw him, too, and growled. Right away Snape was there, coming out of the shop. He stopped and stared at Sirius. The dog's growl intensified. Snape put a hand on her head, and she calmed. She looked up at Snape, her golden brown eyes full of love. Sirius felt a wave of emotion wash through him, cresting in pain, and he didn't understand it.
Neither man moved for a long moment and, as Snape started to turn away, Sirius said, "Hello, Snape."
Snape nodded at him and would have left if Sirius hadn't said, "Wait. Have lunch with me?"
What in Merlin's name was he thinking, he wondered. He hadn't planned that. It was seeing the dog, he thought, how well-fed and clean she was. And seeing the rapport between her and Severus. And how she had remembered him and hadn't trusted him because she knew he'd hurt Severus and Severus was hers.
And—he stopped in the square, realised what he was feeling, and forced himself to walk again. Jealousy. The emotion was jealousy. Of the bond the cream-coloured dog shared with Severus, that he had shared, too, and broken and lost.
Madame Rosmerta showed them to a table in the back, and, since there was already a dish on the floor with water, Sirius figured Snape came here often. He'd heard he'd taken the small cottage they'd looked at that cold day in February.
Rosmerta made a fuss over Sirius and told them she'd have hot butterbeers and food—Welsh rarebit, she said—right away, as well as something for Phoebe.
"Phoebe?" asked Sirius with a smile, after she'd left. The dog raised her head and looked at him, and Snape put the silver whistle to his mouth and blew it, very softly, two notes. The dog thumped her tail on the flagstones.
"She looks wonderful, Snape," he said. "So much better."
"I have to tell you something."
Snape raised an eyebrow.
"I'm a Legilimens. Well, junior grade."
Snape's expression became guarded, and Sirius had no doubt he was putting up an Occlumency barrier.
"Snape. Never without your permission."
Snape had been the one. To insist that Harry and the others remember that Sirius was a man in a dog's body, not a dog. To allow him to make his own choices. Ask permission before doing something to him, like when they'd tried Legilimency, man and dog. Sirius had thought a lot about that, about issues of consent, especially working in MLE where Aurors had a tendency, especially those dealing with Muggles, to Obliviate first and ask questions later. Or not.
Snape nodded. Rosmerta came with the butterbeers and set them down. She bantered a bit with Sirius and left.
"Snape. You're right, of course, but why is it so important to you, permission?"
Snape turned away to look out the window. Sensing his distress, Phoebe came to him and laid her head on his knee. He started stroking her head while Sirius waited, taking a few sips of warm butterbeer.
Snape reached over to touch his arm, and Sirius jerked it back. Snape quickly wrote with his wand, "Sorry, I apologise."
"No, it's all right. I just didn't expect—"
Snape wrote, "Can you let me to try to tell you?"
Sirius shivered. He let go, knowing he could not hope to block Snape who was a better Legilimens than anyone living, but he trusted him.
He gasped. It was Snape's voice in his head. The silky voice that he remembered.
"Is this working?"
"Yes," he said out loud.
"Try in your head."
"Do you hear me?"
It worked. A fully silent conversation, so long as they didn't break eye contact.
"So, why, Snape?"
Snape dropped his eyes again and stroked the dog. He looked up and his words were halting.
"I tried to tell them to let me die," he said.
"After the snake, when they found me. I was almost dead. Very close, a matter of minutes. I tried to get them to leave me, tried to push them away, but they saved me, patched me up, despite my protests. Voiceless protests, since my vocal cords had been ripped out, though I didn't know that then."
"You wanted to die?"
Snape looked at him as if that were obvious.
"Of course," he said. "What is there for me now?"
"I'd started thinking about it when Dumbledore asked me to kill him. I didn't want to, and he kept saying that that was how he wanted his death to be. And, while I was recovering from the snake's bite, I thought a lot about death, and how all we can own is our own death, and I felt I'd been cheated of that. As so many people are. Then I thought about all the spells they cast on me without my permission, and I started to realise that, as wizards, we don't respect people."
"What do you mean?"
"Sirius—sorry, Black. We Obliviate and Confound Muggles without thinking about it. And we do it to each other. Beings should each have control of our bodies and our memories and what is done to either. Which is what I tried to get for you."
"You did," Sirius said. "You did, and you've made me think about all that. Autonomy. The right of consent. I'm working with MLE about exactly that. An end to Obliviating, anyway, as the first step."
Snape raised an eyebrow.
Rosmerta came with their lunches and fresh hot butterbeer. She told them it was starting to rain.
"I still have your cloak," said Sirius when she'd gone. "Shall I bring it to you tomorrow?"
"That would be kind. Thank you."
They parted in the square. Phoebe had made her peace with Sirius since he no longer appeared to be threatening Snape.
He watched as they walked away, man and dog. He'd been there, and he found himself envying Phoebe the simplicity of her relationship with Snape—Severus—
He knocked at the door the next day. It was late afternoon and raining. Snape opened the door, and Sirius handed him the cloak.
Snape looked at him, and again they spoke silently.
"Thank you. Will you come in?"
"I'd like that."
They had tea, talking about Snape's work for George at the joke shop. Snape had taken a more active role in the potion invention, and they worked together well. Sirius knew Snape liked George, and he asked him about that. He told Sirius that it was George who'd given him the courage to go on.
Snape shrugged. "Because he found it in himself to go on living. After losing his twin, half of himself."
They did not mention their previous time together. Snape told him, however, about rescuing Phoebe and nursing her back to health.
"She looks great. You use the whistle with her?"
Snape nodded. "Yes. She knows several two-note commands."
The best part was that they didn't feel the need to speak. They sat in the pleasant room together, as they had been many times before, in companionable silence.
Later, Phoebe stood up from her spot at Snape's feet and panted.
"She wants to go out," he said, rising from his armchair.
Phoebe walked over to Sirius and nudged his knee. "What do you want?" he asked her with a smile, caressing her silky ears. She nudged him again.
He was afraid and started to tremble. He hadn't, since— he knew he could. And he knew Snape could get him back. Still, it was— did it quickly, without thinking, and transformed into the black dog.
The world shifted, as it always did, a richness of smells overlying everything, a loss of colour, an intensifying of sounds. The emotions, too, were different. Simpler.
Phoebe's glee at a companion. Her excitement. Severus. His man. Severus. He whimpered. This was— was part of him, not acknowledged when he was in Sirius's brain and mind. The pathways of the dog's brain were different, and the love and loyalty he felt for Severus were clearer there. He felt happier than he had in months. He wagged his tail. He was home.
He followed Phoebe to the door, and they went outside. It was dusk. She started to run, and he followed. They ran to the lake and into it, splashing despite the chill, and they ran on the shore, and he revelled in the simplicity of motion, the wind in his fur, and the friendly dog running next to him.
He stopped to look back. Across the lake he could see the cottage. Further away in the distance, the lights of Hogsmeade and, to the north, Hogwarts castle. It was a wonderful place. He barked in joy, Phoebe joined him, and they ran further and faster.
He knew, with a certainty he could not explain, what he wanted. He wanted Severus. If he'd been able to accept the dog's love, Sirius felt sure he could accept the man's. The two of them and their dog. Or the man and his two dogs. It didn't matter in the end. Or maybe it did, he thought wickedly, considering the pleasure without guilt two men could share.
Then he heard it. The clear notes coming over the water. Three and two. Sirius and Phoebe. They turned at the same time, almost without stopping, and ran back towards their man.