Snape glared at Black, who had barged into Snape's office without even taking the time to knock.
"For your whole miserable life, no doubt," Snape replied, not really knowing what this irritating man was talking about, but not wanting to show his ignorance. Just having him on the school grounds rankled like rosehip powder under his skin, but having him in the same room and actually attempting to engage Snape in conversation was almost unbearable. Worse than Cruciatus curse, which at least was honest, could be avenged, and eventually ended.
"No, you prat. For the prank when we were children. I'm apologising. Sorry."
"Oh yes, that makes everything all better, doesn't it? Twenty years ago you try to kill me, and-"
"Oh, get over yourself, Snape! I didn't try and kill you. If I was trying to kill you, you'd be dead."
"You think you could-"
"Yes. And anyway, you weren't worth the trouble of trying to kill."
"I hardly think-"
"No, you don't. If you did, you'd work out pretty damned quickly that I'd never do anything to get Remus into that kind of trouble."
"I think you are capable of anything, Black." Snape stood up, glowering, feeling his blood boil with over 20 years of resentment, further aggravated by being interrupted and Black's attempts to out do him on the sarcasm.
Holding out his hands in a placating gesture and taking a deep breath, Black started again. "Snape, I came here to apologise. We have to be near each other for the present, so we may as well try to make it as bearable as possible."
"I have absolutely no intention of burying the hatchet anywhere other than-"
"Let me guess, in my head. You're so damned predictable, Snape. Twenty years you've been festering over stupid things that were done to you in school. The way you've fixated on me, anyone would think you had a crush!"
Snape's hand was on his wand and a particularly nasty haemorrhoid-causing hex on his lips before he remembered his station. Such childish reactions were beneath him now.
"Get out of my office before I do something we'll both regret, you useless sack of fleas. Pettigrew was right to hide as a rat all those years. He knows what you're capable of. You tried to kill me, you killed all those muggles, and you're using him as your patsy because you know he's too much of a coward to stand up and fight. He's gone back to Voldemort because he needs protection against a homicidal maniac like you!" Snape jabbed at Black's face with one long yellow finger to punctuate his attack.
There was a small feeling of satisfaction in watching Black blanch and take a step backwards. That had hit home.
"You are a sad, petty little man, Snape," Black said, his voice almost pitying. "You are going to die old and alone."
"As opposed to young and in a crowd? I've already told you to leave my office. I have to tolerate your presence in the school for now, but there is no reason for you to come within 100 yards of me or my dungeons."
"I came here to apologise, you arsehole! You could try accepting it with a little grace! And since when has it been 'your dungeons'? You're here on tolerance, Snape, don't forget it. One wrong move and the Ministry will throw you into Azkaban before you can say Death Eater."
Snape could feel the fury building up and this time he did get his wand out, "You-"
"Wait!" Black interrupted yet again. "Stop."
Snape stopped and waited, breathing hard through his nose like an over exerted horse.
"Back up, rewind, start again. I'll try this again later, when we're both calm. I'm going to apologise. Properly. And you're going to accept it eventually."
"You can ram your apology up your arse, Black." Snape spat at Black's retreating back, annoyed at himself he that couldn't think of anything appropriately cutting to the man's utter arrogance and presumption.
When Black had gone Snape sat straight behind his desk, eyes half closed, and concentrated on his breathing. Slowing his heart beat, feeling the urge to kill fade into his normal level of contempt and disgust.
"Hello, Snape, let's try this again, shall we? I'm sorry."
"Fuck off, Black."
"Oh, such charm, such elegance, such breeding! No wonder wizards are proud to come from old wizarding families with such outstanding manners!"
"I said fuck off, Black. I'm in no mood for your prattle." It had been a trying day. There was nothing seriously wrong, but many tiny petty little irritations and frustrations had taken their toll. He was tired, even more irritable than usual, and just wanted to be left alone. A bottle of wine, a favourite potion, an open fire, a few nasty letters to some of his favourite journals. That's all he wanted tonight. That stupid grinning face was the last thing he needed to see.
"I'm serious. I'm sorry I was mean to you in school."
"Mean? You tortured me for seven years!"
"You asked for it."
"I simply tried to defend myself," Snape couldn't believe Black would try to justify his actions.
"Everything we dished out you gave back in spades."
"I tried to get you to leave me alone, you never backed off, never gave me a chance." Realising that Black was giving him a chance to get out some of what was festering, Snape suddenly found himself almost enjoying the chance to snarl at the man. He tried to gather as much spit and vile invective as he could muster.
"You kept following us around!"
"Because I knew you were up to no good. You were always sneaking around the school with your damned invisibility cloak."
"We were trying to look after Lupin!"
"So you say, but you were up to a lot more than that. You fooled all the teachers, but I knew you were causing trouble."
"So what if we were, it was none of your business. If you hadn't been so damned determined to get us into trouble and kept your damned big nose out of it-"
"Ah, here we go again, resorting to insulting my appearance. You haven't changed one iota, Black. I'm sure we can blame your stay in Azkaban for your retarded social growth, but you've always resorted to the lowest form of argument. I'm perfectly aware of my physical shortcomings, and have no need of your continually pointing them out to me."
He watched as Black dropped his eyes and took a deep breath. "Okay, yeah, you're right. If I'm resorting to that, it's time to give up."
Once more Snape was left alone as Black turned and left.
"Hi Snape, it's time for your 5 o'clock apology call!"
"How long is this going to last?" Snape's voice was weary. This had been going on every day for the past week. Black would wait until all the classes had finished for the evening, and Snape was finally starting to uncoil the tendrils of vindictive malice that curled around his spine, turn up, apologise, set off another argument, then leave with Snape all coiled up with hatred and resentment again.
"Until we get this right and I can apologise properly." Black smiled brightly.
"If I accept your apology, will you leave me alone?" Snape was about ready to do anything to get rid of this nuisance.
"Only if you mean it."
Snape resisted the urge to shout, or show any other weakness. "Why? Why is this so important to you? You tormented me for seven years. You showed no remorse when you destroyed all chances I had for friendships with other students. You abused the hell out of me for my sexuality. You had no hesitation in insulting my appearance. Why now, after all this time, do you care at all whether or not I forgive you? And I don't care how many times you apologise, I still don't see why I should!"
"Because you're only punishing yourself, you stupid git!" Black snapped. "All you're doing is screwing up your own life with all these nasty bitter little thoughts and plots for revenge. You don't hurt me or anyone else who hurt you, you just hurt yourself, and your students, and cut yourself off from anyone else who might help you, or even like you."
"I have no requirement for people to like me, Black, look how your 'good' friends turned out, after all. Dead or treacherous."
"Now, the other day you said it was me who was the traitor. Make up your mind, Snape. Me or Pettigrew."
"I wouldn't trust either of you as far as I could spit you!"
"And you sure can spit, can't you? Arguing with you is like arguing with a lawn sprinkler."
Before Snape could gather his invective, Black clutched his head as if being attacked by a brain eating monster and shouted "Argh! I think this is the shortest time yet! You make me crazy like no else ever has, Snape! What is it with you?" And he turned and stormed out, the dungeon door clanging behind him.
Snape slowly and gently banged his head on his desk. He was fully aware that the failure of the apology to work this time would mean another visit tomorrow afternoon.
He was waiting this time. He sat behind his desk, arms and legs crossed, and waited for Black to come crashing into his office.
"I accept your apology."
"Erudite as always, Black. I accept your apology. Now go away."
"So," Black crossed his arms and grinned, "You forgive me."
A small vein started to throb in Snape's temple. "Yes. Now leave. Do not return."
"So... you totally forgive me for the shrieking shack prank?"
Snape's eye twitched a little, keeping time with the vein.
"Certainly, if that's what it takes to get rid of you."
"You're only accepting my apology to get rid of me, you haven't really forgiven me then?" Black leaned closer, hands on Snape's desk, oozing into his personal space. "You're not yet willing to be my friend, and work with me happily?"
"I..." Snape found his jaw muscles were seizing up, preventing him from continuing his lies.
"So... if I said let's share a cup of tea and biscuits, and chat about our plans for the weekend, you'd be happy with that? You'd accompany me to dinner tonight?"
"Argh! No! Get out! I can't believe you'd expect me to maintain a pretence of friendship!"
"Hah! So you don't forgive me! You're a god-awful liar, Snape. How did you ever make it as a spy?"
"You are just not important enough, Black. I don't see putting the effort into maintaining any kind of sham of civility for your benefit!"
"Important? Of course I'm important to you, Snape. If I wasn't, you wouldn't care!"
"I don't care about you at all, you egomaniac!"
"If that were true, then you wouldn't care about the fact I insulted you or bullied you as a child. You wouldn't have spent the last 20 years bitter and twisted up into nasty little knots over the things I did. You've let me define your personality, Snape, face it! You let my stupid prank shape your entire life!"
"I did not let you do anything!" Snape was on his feet again and could hear the note of hysteria in his voice, an edge of the madness that he'd been accused of in the past. He hated to lose control, the thin veneer of civilisation cracked so rarely, ruining his smooth Slytherin style, although it was often a guaranteed way of making people step backwards, giving him more space, if not respect.
"So, what great steps have you made to overcome the humiliations and injustices of your youth then? Other than to join that ridiculous Death Idiots group, and ruin any and all possible future you could have had in decent society?"
"Any mistakes I have made have been my own, and they are nothing to do with you or your delinquent friends. The world does not revolve around you, Black!"
"It did then, didn't it, Snape. Back in school. You were obsessed with us and what we got up to. Sure, I admit I made it hard for you to make friends, but you made that so easy. The way you followed us around. You only joined the Slytherin Quidditch team when James and I joined up on Gryffindor, don't pretend you had any interest in the game prior to that!"
"Someone had to show you some humility. The way you strutted around the school like a bunch of bantam cocks, it was about time someone knocked you off your broomsticks."
"And you did, you knocked us down time and again. And you looked great doing it! You really had some moves!"
"You... er... uh... what?" Snape gaped, realised what he was doing and snapped his mouth shut. What on earth had Black just said? What kind of tactics was he employing now?
"You flew rings around everyone else on the Slytherin team and really gave us a challenge. Of course, I've never seen anyone before or since who flies side-saddle, but you made even that look elegant. You were a real aerial acrobat!"
"..." Snape backed up a step, one hand on his chest. He had absolutely no idea how to deal with this. No one ever said things like that to him. Even after the games, when he'd done his best to mash the other teams into the ground, no one had said such things. Maybe 'Good job, Snape, that showed those (insert other team name here) bastards!', but nothing like this. He waited for the other shoe to drop, the braying laughter, another round of insults at his gullibility.
"Ah, so that's the way to get you shut up, then. I dare say no one's ever had the nerve to pay you an actual compliment before, have they?"
"That was underhanded, Black, even for you." Snape felt on firmer ground, the compliment had been a set up to throw him out of the argument.
"No, I mean it! You were a joy to watch. We used to try and copy the way you flew, it was like you were a cross between a bird and a spider-monkey. Wicked!"
"Oh... all right..." Snape had no idea how to respond to that. He knew he could fly well, but he'd never been praised for it.
"In light of that, I'd like to apologise for what Pettigrew and I did in the showers after that game when you beat Ravenclaw. That was... unnecessarily cruel, and if it's any consolation I was pretty ashamed of myself at the time. There's no fun in a prank when you know it's gone too far."
Snape stood and stared, remembering. The humiliation was as fresh as yesterday. A burn of anger and hatred stored in the nerves of his spinal column was released, a sour drip of resentment contaminated the half-digested remains of lunch.
"I guess if it had been me in your position... well, anyway, I do offer my sincere apology for that incident."
Arms straight at his sides and fingers plucking at his robes, Snape dropped his eyes to his desk top, letting his hair hide his face.
"Sorry, Snape, I guess that was a bad choice. I should have started smaller, huh?"
"Why now? Why have you started these apologies? Why after all this time? What do you care? Why is this so important to you?" Snape just had to know. Perhaps if he could find out somehow, he could stop these infuriating intrusions, this rehashing of his painful past.
Taking a deep breath and releasing it from the side of his mouth as if he'd taken a drag on a cigarette, Black looked out the window for a moment, obviously gathering his thoughts. "Twelve years, Snape. I couldn't spend all of them as a dog. As soon as the dementors know there's a human around they come in. They circle like vultures. They want every little happy thought to suck out of your thought until there's nothing left but pain. All they leave you with are the insults, the pains, the humiliations, the cruelties of your life. You've been there, you know that."
Nodding, Snape didn't interrupt.
"After a while... Year after year of my greatest triumphs being shown to be nothing more than the torment of some poor bastard kid... it's nothing to be proud of, Snape. I'm not saying you didn't deserve half of what we dished out, but... you didn't deserve the other half of it. It's not a good feeling, knowing that the best thing I ever achieved with my power and intelligence was hurting someone. Does that make sense?"
Snape just looked at his face and knew Black's shame was genuine. And thought about his own pleasure in hurting those that couldn't fight back. He knew he hurt his students in some form of twisted revenge, he knew himself, and he had no compunction about tormenting them as he'd been tormented. He wondered if he'd feel that kind of shame if he returned to Azkaban. Somehow he doubted it. His own sins ran deeper, his torments were far different. He thought of Black's words, and wondered if perhaps he could understand. Perhaps just a little, he did. He just nodded again.
"For that incident then, do you forgive me?"
Snape looked at him for a long time, then: "Yes. For that one, since you bothered to explain why to me."
"Cool!" Black yipped the childish exclamation and beamed broadly. "Baby steps, huh, Snape? We'll be best of buds in no time at this rate! It only took eight days!"
Snape rolled his eyes and sneered, "As long as this foolishness is over and I can return to my work in peace and quiet."
At the door Black stopped, looking over his shoulder, a catch of amusement in his voice. "Over? We've just started! It took eight days to get one genuine apology and acceptance. It could take a year at this rate!" He slammed the door on his way out, setting tiny bottles rattling.
This time Snape barely stifled a sob as he collapsed back into his chair.
"Hi, Snape, and Sorry."
"What for this time?" His voice was barely more than resigned. It just didn't seem worth the effort of shouting at the moron. Since 'the breakthrough', as Black liked to call it, Snape was almost used to the regular afternoon visits. Sometimes he'd forgive, sometimes he wouldn't, nearly every time they'd end up in a screaming fit of insults and invective. And it didn't matter how much spit and spite Snape spat, Black kept coming back. He'd leave either laughing in triumph or with his tail between his legs and his eyes dark and furious, but 24 hours later he'd be back, grinning like an imbecile.
"Erm," Black rubbed his chin thoughtfully, "Which incident would you like to be apologised to for today?"
"This continual aggravating, time consuming apologising!"
"I'm sorry I'm wasting your time and aggravating you," Black grinned broadly and then laughed at his own questionable wit.
"Oh, sod off, Black, I don't have time for this."
"Oh, a busy evening planned thinking up new ways to torment the children? Need to find another way to humiliate someone who barely comes up to your navel?"
"I, unlike some, have work to do. I don't spend my time begging for table scraps from my betters."
"Oh... oh... I'm wounded! A dog joke! No one's ever insulted me with dog jokes before!" Black stopped and thought, "Actually, that is original, I don't think anyone's used the table scrap line yet. Hey, why don't you just call me a flea bag and get it over with."
Gritting his teeth, Snape ground out, "I have exams to mark, say what you have to say and get out."
"All right, what shall I apologise for today?" Black made a show of thinking, "I shall apologise for all the cracks about your nose. I should never have picked on your nose. Like you said, picking on someone's appearance is the lowest form of attack, and we all have our physical imperfections. I for example, have very knobbly knees. So I'd like to say sorry. If it's any consolation you've grown into the nose well, it fits your face now."
"No, Black, that's a wasted apology. I'm perfectly well aware that I have a face like a vulture, so apologies for having pointed out the obvious have no meaning. Pick something other than my nose."
Black exploded into a sharp yap of laughter, but Snape held up a hand to stop him talking.
"I walked right into that one, didn't I? No nose picking jokes" Snape forced down a smirk.
"How about your hair? I never let up on the greasy hair jokes...?"
"No, I have greasy hair, that doesn't count either."
"Yeah, I always wondered, why do you let it get like that? Your hair would be really nice if you took better care of it."
Snape just caught himself putting a hand up to touch his hair, "That is my business." He waited to see if Black got in another insult.
"I'm just saying it's a shame, that's all," a thoughtful pause, "How about this one? I apologise for that time we hexed Brian Woodrow to fall in love with you and got him to say all those really embarrassing things."
"I think it's Woodrow you should apologise to. I believe he left the wizarding world and went into muggle therapy for 10 years. I should think the trauma of lusting after me warped the poor lad."
"Shit, just what I needed. More guilt. Remind me to find his address later, I'll send him an owl and some grovelling. How about I apologise for when I turned your hair and robes bright pink and put all the gay propaganda stuff all over your bed and trunk."
It took a while before the muscle spasms in his jaw and hands settled enough that Snape felt he could speak. "Yes, that needs an apology. That was a particularly brutal outing."
"I know, I saw the bruises next day."
Snape was pleased to see genuine shame in the blush and shuffle.
"James was furious. He didn't talk to me for a week after that. He often said I went too far. Of course, then I'd get worse, just to show him he couldn't tell me what to do."
"Hey, who you calling stubborn? You're the one who's spent 20 years festering over it!"
"And you are surprised at that? Do you have any idea what kind of hell I went through after they found out what I was?"
"You could have denied it! Just blamed us."
"Denied it? You spent two years doing your best to make sure the whole school knew I was a queer. You never stopped finding any opportunity to get in some comment or jibe. You spread rumours about me and master Skeezon in the potting sheds, you nearly got him fired! You ruined the reputation of an innocent man as part of your stupid vendetta."
"Oh..." The look of utter surprise was priceless. "I didn't realise..."
"Of course not. Such a leap of intellect is obviously beyond you."
"I was a kid, I didn't..."
"You were 16, old enough to know full well what you were doing. That was an act of pure malice."
"Now hold on a moment, Snape, you were pretty malicious yourself, don't forget."
"I'm not the one all of a quiver with remorse, I'm not the one all boo hoo trying to save my mortal soul with some half-baked idea of penitence."
"No, of course not. You never did have the moral integrity to know when you'd done the wrong thing. You enjoy inflicting pain, you enjoy hurting others. It's no wonder you joined the Death Eaters, that group of wankers were just your level. Going around the countryside torturing muggles and anyone else who couldn't stand up to you just because you're too socially retarded to develop any kind of normal relationship. You were all a bunch of cowards and freaks, the lot of you!"
Suddenly there just wasn't enough air in the room, it was hard to draw breath, and Snape decided the only way to get enough oxygen was to not share it. He grabbed his wand and prepared to fire, and it was only Black's years on the run from the dementors that gave him the speed and reflexes to get out before he was a small pile of steaming slag on the floor. Snape's door, on the other hand, didn't move so fast and groaned quietly as it melted and died.
"I didn't come here yesterday-" Black started.
"I did notice. It made for a very pleasant evening."
"I thought maybe it would best if we took a break from each other for a day."
"Good idea. Now sod off and don't come back and we'll both be so much happier."
"I think that today I should apologise for the last time. My half of it anyway. It all got a bit out of control again."
"Par for the course."
"Yeah, you and I are kind of like mawthorn and cracknel, somewhat incendiary when placed in close proximity."
"Oh, a potions reference. I am so unimpressed. First year lessons, Black, hardly something that's going to stun me with your intelligence."
"I'm impressed with myself, though, I barely remember anything from school. Not the really intellectual things anyway. The dementors sucked out a lot of that. If they think you enjoy learning, they'll take that away from you as well, you know."
"Yes," Snape answered flatly, "I remember that."
"Did you lose much?"
"Some. You'll be pleased to know you can relearn it though. It just takes discipline and hard work. Then again, that is hardly your forte, is it?"
"Oh, I don't know, I'm working pretty hard at you, aren't I?" Black smiled cheerfully, but his eyes were still somewhat guarded.
"I will give you that, Black. You have been most persistent."
"So, anyway, sorry it got so nasty last time. Shall we start again."
"Exactly how many things do you plan on apologising for, Black? Is this going to be something that is going to continue for the rest of our natural lives? Should I not make any long term plans?"
"I made a list," Black pulled out a scroll and unrolled it. And unrolled it. And rolled the top down and let the bottom unroll further until it rolled and came to rest against his feet, still not quite fully unrolled. "I've been marking them off as we get through them. We're nearly a quarter of the way through so far, although we might have to revisit some of them."
"Oh my god," Snape whispered quietly, his stomach coming to rest somewhere near his shoes. "This is unbearable, this is torture, this is never going to end is it?"
"Not if we keep going backwards like we did last time, no. I can see this being a long-term hobby. Still, it's keeping me from getting bored in the evenings. I'm having as much fun plotting my apologies as I used to get from plotting the pranks and tricks I'd play on you!"
"You're dedicating your entire life to torturing me, aren't you?" Snape couldn't help the note of desperation in his voice. He saw years of this rolling out in front of him like the scroll. And how could he complain to Dumbledore about it? 'But headmaster, he keeps apologising to me!' Oh yes, he could see Albus taking that seriously. 'Severus, why did you use Avada Kedavra on Black, my most precious and perfect Gryffindor whom I have always liked more than you?', 'Because he kept saying 'sorry', surely you can see it was justified?'
"You great git, this isn't supposed to be torture. This is supposed to be for you let out all the poisons. I'm trying to lance a boil for you. Get all the puss and crap out so you can start to heal."
"And I dare say once you get all the puss out I will then blossom like a flower into a wonderful human being with the heart of Hagrid and the cheer of Flitwick, no doubt?" Snape sneered.
"That would be nice, but unlikely. I'll settle for you just being slightly less vile."
"Telling me to sod off hasn't worked yet, has it, seems you'd have learned by now it doesn't work. Bit slow on the uptake yourself, there, Snape."
Tapping his fingers irritably on the desk top, Snape snapped, "Then say what you have to say and leave."
"Today's apology is 'I'm sorry about the shrieking shack incident'. I tried that once before, but it was a little too ambitious at the time, so I'd like to try that again. If you can't forgive me for that, at least forgive Lupin, because he really was innocent in that. He had no idea what I was planning to do and he would not have let it happen if he'd known. James didn't know until I'd already told you either. I wasn't trying to kill you, I just wanted you to see what Lupin was. You weren't supposed to get quite so far so quickly, and the inevitable outcome of what I had said just never occurred to me. It was stupid of me, it was utterly thoughtless, and I'm sorry."
"You should have said something then."
"That would have been admitting guilt. I had a hell of a time convincing Dumbledore not to expel me. It took all my powers of persuasion and my incredibly handsome winning smiles to convince him it had just been a little prank that got out of hand. If I'd been honest about it, I'd have been out on my ear. Mind you, that would have saved me 12 years in Azkaban, looking back on it."
"You should have said something to me."
"Yes. You would've immediately run to Dumbledore and told him I'd admitted it, though."
"Better late than never, though, huh? Maybe I'm pushing it. Anyway, think about it. You know that I feel like shit about what happened, and I'll admit full responsibility. I'll go tell Dumbledore if you like, although we both know he knows full well what really happened. Give it a few days and I'll ask about this one again. I'll see you at dinner."
Snape watched him leave, and thought about it.
"Today," Black said brightly, "I'd like to apologise for that time I turned all of your books into jelly."
"That cost me a fortune, I had to go back to Diagon Alley and buy new books," Snape grumbled peevishly.
Dropping a bag of coins onto Snape's desk, Black said: "Here's the full cost of the books, plus appropriate interest."
"I didn't expect-" Snape started, surprised.
"I know, but you can buy yourself something nice with the money. Maybe some shampoo."
"Sorry! Old habits die hard. So?"
"You're forgiven," Snape was learning that it was a lot easier to give in and forgive quickly, rather than drag it out with counter accusations. They could be here for hours, as Black would bring up other things to shout at Snape, which would then require further apologising.
"Great! We're doing well tonight. How about we try another."
Snape sat back, arms crossed, "Very well, then."
Making a show of thinking, "I would like to apologise for the time I blew up your potion in class and ended up spraying you and all of your fellow Slytherins with that hair growing potion."
"They were most displeased, I had to stay up all night creating a depilatory anti-hirsute cure."
"Sorry about that. Did they give you a hard time?"
"Somewhat. Mostly they just wanted to know what I kept doing to attract your attentions in ways that caused them personal discomfort. They wanted to know why I would make myself a target time and again."
"In other words they gave you hell because of me."
"Why was I your target? It couldn't have been just because I was interested in trying to catch you up to no good. You were most persistent and sought me out for your 'special attentions' far too often for it to be merely retaliation for my own hostilities."
Black leaned in closer, his face almost an inch away from Snape's, and spoke low yet clear, "Why? So much for your much vaunted brilliant mind, Snape. Let me put it this way. If you'd been a girl, I would have been pulling your pig tails."
It took a bare second for this to sink in, Snape's eyes grew wide in shock, then narrowed in anger, and once more Black just barely made it out of the room before the newly replaced door needed replacing again.
Black had the sheer gall to yell 'whoop whoop whoop' as he ran away down the dungeon corridors.
"I'm sorry about upsetting you so much, I guess you weren't expecting that, then?"
"Get out! I've been remarkably tolerant of this foolishness up until now, but I will not permit this to go any further."
"Tolerant? You've tried to kill me at least twice since I started trying to make amends!"
"Amends? You have made a mockery of any reparations you may have been trying to achieve with that ridiculous statement. You nearly had me convinced that you'd matured just a little, you nearly fooled me into thinking you were almost ready to join the human race at last. Now I can see you're just as much the foolish prat now as you were then, full of your own self importance, far too wrapped in your love of yourself to have any idea what kind of effect your actions have on others!"
"You, of course, are a great humanitarian."
"No, obviously not, but at least I'm honest about it."
"Yes, you always were. Brutally honest." Crossing his arms in an unconscious mirror of Snape's posture, Black's eyes slid away, focussing on the jars of horrible things that decorated the walls. "I always admired that. I always resented it, too. I wanted to crush that out of you. I wanted to make you as dishonest as I was."
"What are you talking about, Black? You're talking in riddles. I do not have the patience for this."
"Ah, you should be patient. I'm working up to revealing the main crux of our problems. If this was a murder mystery, I would be about to reveal who dunnit. I've been working my way up to this, you see."
"Which seems to beg the question, why should I care, and even more, why shouldn't I kill you?"
"If you killed me, Dumbledore would be most disappointed."
"There is that, yes."
"I'm no idiot, I know that's the only reason I'm still alive."
"Imbecile. If I was capable of killing someone, you'd be dead by now."
Apparently, that gave Black food for thought. "You've never killed anyone? That goes against what I've heard about you and the death eaters."
"Rumours I am happy to encourage. It keeps the students in line. Unfortunately, it holds no weight with my fellow teachers. Now, in order to bring this pain to an end as quickly as possible, please, go on with your great and, I am sure, fully believable excuses. Why did you want me to be dishonest?"
"Because you're honesty shamed me."
"When we turned your hair pink and told everyone you were gay, you didn't deny it."
"Why should I? It wouldn't have been my choice to have been outed in such a manner, but there was little point in denying it. Anyone who tried to hurt me usually did not walk away from the incident. Not upright anyway."
"You have one hell of a 'fuck you' attitude, Snape. You take great pride in what the rest of us are ashamed to show to the world. All those anti-social tendencies - you've raised them to an art form. I was so busy conforming at that age, trying to be what everyone expected, it always used to annoy the hell out of me that you just didn't care. For every joke I'd crack to make me Mr Popularity, you'd deliberately insult someone, apparently for the pure joy you'd get from making an enemy. I'd do my best to excel at everything I was expected to do well at, be it on the Quidditch pitch or in class, or tormenting Slytherins, but you just did whatever you wanted, with no regard to others."
"So did a hundred other people, Black. I don't see why my being studious should have concerned you overly much. Your marks were always passable, despite your inattention to your studies."
"I worked hard, I just tried to hide it. Didn't want to get called a girlie swot."
"Nerd. You missed the rise of the nerd in the 80s."
"Should I cry?"
"It wasn't that you studied, or that you were weird or anti social, it was... you were yourself. I had too much to hide. I was jealous of that freedom."
"You've lost me, Black. You're talking in circles."
"I had to hide so much, although I didn't really realise that at the time. I just blamed you for the way I felt."
"And how was that?" Snape felt quite calm in the man's presence, for once. Mostly because Black was sitting down, his posture closed in and non-threatening, giving Snape plenty of space, and because he was getting answers. Snape wanted to know... everything. Everything that came his way, all knowledge, light and dark, and even Black possibly had something interesting to say if Snape listened long enough.
Taking a deep breath, Black continued, "I had to beat you down, I had to make you as afraid as I was. I had to make your life miserable because I blamed you for all those feelings in me. You were so honest, you didn't give a shit what anyone thought. No one turned my hair pink, or hexed me with little pink triangles. If they had, I would have blamed you and laughed it off. Not actually admitted it and taken the beatings. You were so brave, and I was such a fucking coward. You just went around being yourself, and taking what we dished out. I hated you for that. I wanted to crush you down, make you ashamed, so I wouldn't be the only coward."
"Ah, so this is your way of telling me you were gay all the time. Despite the fact you were apparently shagging half the female student population."
"I didn't think I was gay, not then. I was normal, you see. My friends were normal, the most normal and admired guys in the school. We were popular and handsome and clever. Even the teachers liked us, and all the other boys wanted to be like us. Never short of a date on a Hogsmeade weekend. I wasn't gay, you just made me think the wrong kinds of thoughts."
Snape listened, mesmerised by Black's speech. It was spewing forth as if it was something he'd bottled up for a long time. Or rehearsed very carefully.
"So I'd try to beat those feelings out of me by destroying you. I'd blame you for making me think about you like that. I wanted to be normal, have a girlfriend, and get married like James. I'd flirt with all the girls and think I was so cool, then you'd walk by with your hips like that, and I'd get so fucking angry with you for destroying it. Every time I thought I had you beaten down, I'd see the sweet curve of your back, and you'd ruin me. I'd spend the summer screwing myself normal with some young witch, and when we'd come back to school your shoulders would have filled out under your robes, and it would have been for nothing."
"And I'm supposed to believe that? In comparison to all of the pretty young things that hung off your arms making big cow eyes at you, you were obsessed with the skinny greasy Slytherin boy."
"You'll excuse me if I dismiss your blatherings as the rantings of an idiot. I have no intention of falling for any more of your ridiculous stories, Black, so you can cease wasting both our times."
"I just bared my soul to you, you bastard. How dare you just throw it back at me like that!"
"Now, that's more like it. Go back to calling me a bastard, that's much more familiar territory."
"Yes, ugly greasy bastard. Vicious prick with a mouth like a bane sidhe. Has anyone ever told you you have beautiful eyes?"
"No, and I wouldn't believe them if they did. You may leave now."
"Well, you do. Of course, you're usually squinting and glowering at people with them, but they are, nevertheless, quite beautiful. You certainly used to use them to great effect with me, you could slice me from stem to stern with one well placed glare."
"Of course that is so believable."
"I remember you'd done something particularly horrible to me in our sixth year, I was so utterly wound up afterwards. I took Jasmin Windiburn up to the towers and spent a good three hours shagging her until neither of us could stand up properly. I was assured of my manhood then, but then soon after that you walked by. Your arse is so high, so hard, and all I could wonder was is it as tight as it looked, and all that hard work was undone. I remember punishing you for that, I don't even remember what the prank was, but I remember it was awful. As awful as I could possibly make it and not get myself expelled. I was furious with you going around with an arse like that, putting it out there, tempting me away from normality."
"I've heard enough, Black," Snape found he was almost sick listening to this. "I don't need to hear anymore. This isn't achieving anything. Any amusement value that may have been gained from your apologies is long gone. You're doing nothing other than torturing yourself and boring me."
"Oh..." Black looked utterly devastated.
"What? You expected to make your confessions of homophobia and queer bashing, blame it on some adolescent crush, and have me wave the magic wand of forgiveness? All is starlight and honeysuckle? That would be moronic even for you, Black. I've hated you for nigh on 20 years, the best you could hope for with that confession is that my hate may now be tempered somewhat with pity, but as I already held you in contempt, I don't see a great deal of difference."
"Actually, I had hoped..."
"The way you wouldn't leave us alone, perhaps it was for similar reasons."
"I suppose if it had been, that much-vaunted honesty would have come to the fore."
"Doubtful. You put too much store in my honesty. It is by necessity countered by my intelligence. But that is irrelevant in this case."
"I suppose I should leave then."
"For making a fool of myself, I guess."
"A natural state of affairs, Black."
No apologies tonight. Shame. Snape had enjoyed watching Black humble himself. It had been fascinating to hear Black's excuses for his past behaviour, and although Snape was not sure if he believed Black's jabbering, it had certainly made a sort of twisted sense.
Tapping his fingers on his desk, Snape wondered how much of it was true. Some of it, at least, if Black's Azkaban addled memory could be trusted. That place had a way of distorting people's minds until nightmares became the only reality.
If it were true, if Black's intrusions had been motivated by repression and denial, what then? Did Snape have similar motivations? He worried and picked at the thought. He could remember envy, he'd been aware of that clearly enough. The level of trust and even love between the four boys had been palpable, and Snape knew he'd been fascinated by that. Such a strange foreign concept, no one in Snape's group of acquaintances trusted like that. Secrets were to be jealously guarded, not shared and enjoyed. Snape admitted he'd wanted something like that, and was drawn, moth to flame, to touch that bond. Or destroy it. Vandalise their relationship, as they had something precious he could not obtain through study or the use of power or knowledge.
Had he wanted them themselves? That he could not recall. He had no recollection of ever lusting after any of the four, although, then again, he probably wouldn’t have turned Lupin down. He'd harboured an idle curiosity about Lupin for a few years. But he'd wanted what they had, not the boys themselves. At least, not overtly. Black was handsome, with a classic poster boy look. Strong jawed, bright eyed, firm bodied. And so far out of Snape's league that he had never unduly wasted any fantasy time upon him. There would have been little point in mooning about after the best looking, most popular boy in school, not when Snape's only offers came from the scum of Hogwarts or the accursed.
If what Black was saying was true, that a lot of his aggression was motivated by denial, did that mean it was still the case? If so, it was going to make things even more awkward. Snape smirked a little. It would also mean Snape now firmly held the upper hand in their ongoing battles. Black had handed him a very useful weapon. Snape could get a lot of mileage out of this. If Black ever tried to insult him, Snape could turn around and hiss 'yes, but...'
But what? But 'you're in love with me'? No. 'You were in love with me'? 'You had a crush on me'? 'You used to fantasise about my arse'? There were possibilities there, 'you're only saying that because I refuse to put out', but somehow Snape could not see himself hurling that as an insult in public.
How would he have reacted if he'd known then, Snape pondered, tapping a quill against his lips. Undoubtedly he would have used that knowledge to make Black's life miserable. Turn it against him, hurl accusations that he was fucking his friends in secret, lorded it over Black and spread every rumour possible. The same as Black had done, only even worse. He wondered if he would have been interested in Black? It was possible. There was no greater aphrodisiac than being loved or wanted, but Black had been nothing but infuriating and immature. He was still infuriating and immature. But now in a man's body, recovered and physically healthy after some time outside Azkaban. But still dangerous and unpredictable. Still fiercely protective of his friends, still full of laughter and mischief.
He put away all the papers on his desk and left his office to attend dinner in the great hall, but was brought up sharply on seeing Black leaning against the opposite wall. Black straightened when he saw Snape and they did nothing but stare at each other for a few seconds. Baring his teeth, Snape prepared to deliver a volley of abuse, but bit it off as Black stepped closer. He watched Black's careful approach, holding his ground, refusing to back down even as Black pushed his face to within an inch of Snape's, then closed that inch, his lips cool and soft against the corner of Snape's mouth.
Snape stood stock still, watching Black - his face expressionless - move away carefully, and retreat backwards up the corridor as if protecting his rear from attack.
Once more, Black entered without knocking. But instead of launching into another apology, he started to skirt the edges of the room, checking all of the bottles and vials as if mentally cataloguing their contents. He'd occasionally touch something with careful fingers, reading the labels and brushing away cobwebs.
Snape watched, his attention divided between the intruder and his work, as Black edged ever closer. "Why are you back? Are you such a masochist that you can't stop humiliating yourself?"
"I haven't changed, Snape. I couldn't leave you alone then, I can't leave you alone now."
"I dare say you've had little chance to change. Twelve years in Azkaban must have stunted your emotional growth quite effectively."
"Do you think it was adequate punishment?"
"For what? I thought the popular belief is that poor little Sirius Black is innocent, that he was put away in hell without a trial for something he didn't do."
"Twelve years," Black's voice was both strained and thoughtful. "It can't have been for nothing. I can't have lost twelve years of the best years of my life for nothing. How about, between you and me, we say that I got twelve years for all the things I did to you?"
Snape watched Black, noting he seemed almost nervous, as if Snape's answer was important. He inclined his head, "If you wish."
"So you can forgive me then," Black's irrepressible grin was back, "if you know that you've had your revenge?"
"That is not what I would have chosen for revenge."
Black's smile slipped a little, "Don't let it have been for nothing, Snape."
"Do you feel that I also should go to Azkaban as punishment for the various hexes I hurled at you and your friends?"
"You've punished yourself more than enough. You've been your own dementor and sucked all the joy out of your own life. You hardly need my help to be a miserable git."
Snape frowned, "That is my choice."
"You've been punishing yourself for mistakes you made when you were a teenager," said Black, moving so that he was looking at the bottles on the wall behind Snape's desk, forcing him to swivel on his chair so his back was not exposed.
"I was old enough to bear the responsibility for my actions."
"And you still haven't punished yourself enough, I take it." Black shrugged, gesturing in a way meant to indicate oh, just everything about Snape.
"So tell me, in your great wisdom," Snape sneered, standing up as Black came within a foot of him, holding his arms out, "how I should be living my life."
"You shouldn't be stuck here all the time, making yourself and everybody else miserable. Life is a freak occurrence, but freedom is a precious gift. Don't waste it on being sour and unpleasant."
"What would you have me do?" Snape couldn't help the bitterness that flooded his voice. "Should I be running through fields of flowers and making daisy chains?"
"You could try making friends, spending time with people. Dumbledore likes you, Lupin and Hagrid would both like to be your friend, if you didn't keep pushing them away. You could use this time, while you're still young and full of vim, to travel the world, to meet people and invent new ways to piss them off. Go out into the muggle world, it's got a lot to offer: movies and shows, music that we never hear. They have their own potions and magics that in some way exceed what we have, you could experience all of that."
"Not interested." Snape just caught himself from moving backwards as Black came even closer, until his breath was warm and moist on Snape's face.
"Or we could fuck."
Snape was pleased he hid his shock with nothing more than a sharp intake of breath. "I do not believe that rutting like an animal with you will do anything to improve my quality of life!"
"I'm a good lover, Snape," Black said, his voice low and husky, moving so that the backs of Snape's thighs were pressed against the edge of his desk as he tried to put as much space as possible between them. "I'm a good lover, or at least I used to be." Broad hands came to rest on Snape's hips and Black's thumbs brushed up over the prominent hipbone and down into the groove at the top of Snape's thighs. "Or maybe I deluded myself into believing it all those cold lonely nights. I'm pretty certain I'm a good lover, I'm going to work damned hard to prove it to you. Let me fuck you," Black whispered against Snape's jaw. "Hard and brutal, right here on your desk. You can make barbed comments about doing it doggy style. I know you'd like that. I'll bite your neck and call you my bitch. I know I'd certainly like that."
"No." Snape gripped the edge of his desk, knuckles turning white.
"Are you wearing anything under your robes?"
"Pull them up. Show me."
Taking Snape's earlobe between his teeth, Black bit down sharply, then licked a wet path around Snape's ear.
"Lift up your robes and let me see."
Catching the hem of his robe on one ankle, Snape lifted it until he could grab it with his just slightly trembling fingers and pulled it up over his thighs.
Sliding slowly down the length of Snape's body, Black murmured, "I've waited more than half my life for this." He nuzzled under folds of soft heavy fabric, "You're going to notice me now, aren't you, Snape. You won't be able to turn your arrogant profile away, big nose in the air, making like I'm beneath your contempt, a bug you can't be bothered squashing."
"You're still beneath my contempt, Black." Snape tried to sound threatening, but lost it in a gasp, just biting off a whine.
"A little piece of advice, Snape, never insult a man who's holding your balls in his hand." The balls in question were being rolled and tickled, and Snape spread his legs a little as Black gently but firmly squeezed them to emphasise his point.
"Hurt me and I'll kill you, Black," Snape squeaked.
Voice muffled as he licked and nipped, "Kill me and spend the rest of your life a eunuch."
Grabbing a fistful of short thick hair, Snape pushed Black's head down, easing himself into the warm wet mouth, effectively shutting Black up. Snape could not remember ever having received such an enthusiastic response, sucking and slurping, an eager slippery tongue pressing and rubbing, "Looks like you can use your mouth for more than arguing, Black," Snape choked out. "You've been practising."
"No, but I've spent a lot of time thinking about it," Black said rapidly, before diving back in, gurgling with excitement and taking Snape deep, as if he'd done this before.
Not a hint of teeth, Snape was impressed, and when Black hummed happily, Snape felt his balls tense and prepared himself to shove in hard and fast.
Black pulled off, suction released with a wet pop, "Not yet!"
Looking down at the man kneeling at his feet, Snape ground out, "Is this yet another way you've found to torment me?"
Black laughed, and slapping the head of Snape's prick against his lips, said, "No, I told you what we're going to do."
"I did not agree to that, Black. There is no way in hell I'm going to let you do that to me."
"If you can trust me enough to put your dick in my mouth, you can bend over and take it up the arse."
Before he could retort, Snape felt the very tip of Black's wand penetrate him from behind and he stood on tiptoe to avoid the intrusion.
"Relaxi Podicus!" Black uttered loudly.
Snape could feel the arse relaxing spell spreading down his thighs, and hissed in annoyance as Black had to catch him when his knees gave way.
"Sorry about that," Black said as he spun Snape around and dropped him on his desk face down. "I didn't want to waste anymore time."
"Considering your attestations recently of being utterly besotted for years, then surely a few minutes to-" Snape's tirade was stopped short as Black flipped Snape's robes up over his head, leaving his arse exposed to the cold air and Black's hungry stare. He could hear the rustle as Black hauled his own robes up around his waist.
"Okay, Snape," Black said, "Tell me now or forever hold your peace. Do you have any real objections to this or are you just bitching for the sake of it?"
"Just do it already, Black. If you must do it, get it over with so we can both get on with our lives."
"Good," Black said, "Because I've never met a man as much in need of a good hard shag as you."
Snape had a comment ready, something he was sure would have cut Black down to size, but then Black charmed, "Lubricatus!", and Snape was filled with warm gooey wetness, and then Black positioned the head of his prick and started to push, and whatever Snape was going to say was lost forever. Relaxed and lubricated, Snape's body put up no resistance as Black started to ease in; a pressure, a give, then the feeling of fullness, a dull, sweet ache. Bracing his elbows on his desk, Snape pushed back, subtly, opening himself to the invasion. It had been a long time. A long, dry, empty time.
"Yeah, you bastard," Black groaned, sinking in deep. "You ugly fucking bastard. Ah, you're tight... you're so fucking tight. Hot. I knew you would be. You're so fucking sexy. Oh man, yeah, this is what I've been dreaming of."
"Oh, do shut up, Black," Snape sneered. "No one needs to hear your blather."
Black pulled out until just the head of his prick was held by hungry flesh, then slammed back in hard, lifting Snape's feet off the floor so that his thighs smacked against the edge of the desk, and the head of his prick scraped over the tangle of his robes.
"Careful, you ham-fisted moron!" Snape snapped, trying to curl his hips away, but Black was lost in the sensation, fingers digging into Snape's hips, the speed of each thrust increasing. The angle was wrong, Snape gritted his teeth as Black ploughed in over and over, using his body like a battering ram. Shifting, trying to ease into a better angle, Snape allowed one hand smack, but when Snape felt Black lift his hand to smack Snape's other buttock, Snape twisted around and slapped Black hard across the face, startling him and causing him to lose his rhythm.
"Fucking bitch," Black grabbed Snape's hands and held them up behind his back, preventing more slaps or any hexes. Leaning forward, using his weight to hold Snape down, Black eased the force of his thrusts, "Is this more to sir's liking?"
It was. Smooth and fluid, Black stroked in, getting the angle right, getting the speed right, and Snape lifted up to take the satin smooth prick in deeper. Crushed against the desktop he wriggled back, feeling each stroke over the little magic button inside, and Black's prick felt good. Better than he could ever remember. Not too big, not too small, a nice fat head that rubbed just the right way. He wriggled and squeezed, twisting his hips, milking every glimmer of sensation possible.
Holding both of Snape's hands in one of his, Black burrowed down between the piles of fabric, grasping Snape's prick and stroking it hard from root to tip.
"Come on, you sexy bastard, come for me." Another stroke. "Show me you're my bitch." Another hard stroke and, trapped between the silky fine invader from behind and Black's demanding fingers, Snape groaned and came, ricocheting between the two sensations, spraying Black's hand and his own robes with cream.
Relaxing onto the desk as Black released his hands, he leaned into Black's final rabbit-fast thrusts, enjoying both the last tingles of pleasure being massaged out of his arse, and the thwack thwack thwack of skin hitting skin.
Giving a whimpering groan, Black fell forward, wrapping his arms around Snape's middle and sinking his teeth into the back of his neck. Whole body trembling, he jerked and thrashed, and finally stilled, his body a heavy weight crushing Snape beneath him.
"Get off me, you oaf," Snape purred, and rolled over to one side, so that Black slid off and hit the floor with a thud.
Snape pulled his chair over, sat down carefully, wincing, and propped his feet on Black's labouring ribcage. He smoothed his robes over his knees and fingered his hair back into place.
After a moment, Black said, breathlessly, "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Snape was genuinely puzzled.
"I can do better. I know it. I can do a lot better."
"That was about the standard I expected of you."
Black got up on his knees and rested his arms on Snape's lap. "Who taught you to do that squeezy twisty thing with your arse? That was brilliant!"
Black looked thoroughly shocked, "You bastard! I was right! You had me feeling all guilty over that!"
Throwing his head back, Snape laughed, a harsh unpleasant sound, "You gullible idiot."
"Right, you prick, I'll show you!" Black stood up and Snape wondered where he'd dropped his wand, but Black was simply hiking his robes up once more. "Go on, bend over the desk again, Snape. I'll show you, I'll show you how bloody sorry I am!"
Snape sneered at Black's flaccid penis, and gave him 'the eyebrow'.
"Turgidus Erectum!" Black almost sang, and his prick came to life, bobbing around happily. "I made your life hell before, now I’m going to take you to heaven!"
"We'll see," Snape said, cynically, then pulled his robes up over his head and rolled them into a wad to put under his hips, protecting his thighs from the edge of the desk. "You're going to owe my arse an apology after this."
"Don't worry, I've got one all worked out," Black said, running his hands down Snape's back in long strokes. "This is the back I remember," he cupped Snape's buttocks, "and the arse I dreamed about. It looks even better with my cock up it!"
"Shut up, idiot."
"Hi. I've come to apologise."
"What for? I should imagine there was nothing left to apologise for by now."
"You're so smart. Think of something."
"Hmm... well... You did belch at lunch without excusing yourself."
"Oh no! How heinous! Can you ever forgive me?"
"About bloody time."