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"Goddamn you to hell, Albus Dumbledore."

Sirius Black's eyes were level with hatred as he glared at the bowed head of the old wizard. With one hand he swept the glass jars and vials on Madam Pomfrey's table to the floor. Shards of glass went flying; viscous liquid spattered the wall. Hermione gasped, but Dumbledore did not flinch. Poppy Pomfrey emerged from behind the white curtain, her face drawn.

"Is he dead then?" Sirius's voice was harsh.

She nodded, her brimming eyes spilling over. Dumbledore went to her and patted her as she sobbed; Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood numb. It did not seem possible that he was dead. Sirius turned on his heel and strode out of the infirmary, not stopping to look back.

He did not pause all the way down to the dungeons of the castle, and certainly did not spare a glance for the anxious faces and whispers that eddied around him as he passed. "Is it true? Is he really--" "I heard he brought him in just an hour ago--" "Is that blood on him?"

He closed and locked the door of Snape's office behind him. There was no danger of interruption now. He went to the third shelf of the fourth cabinet and carefully pulled down a tiny blue vial, stoppered with a purple wax seal, and slipped it in his pocket. Working quickly, he pulled out a cauldron, lit the fire, and began tossing in the contents of other jars. Soon a noxious reek filled the office. When he was satisfied with the consistency of the potion, he left it to simmer and pulled out a dusty tome from Snape's bookshelf. He reached into the space behind it and emerged with a small leather-bound notepad. He studied it as he stirred the potion, flipping the yellowed pages, squinting at the cramped writing.

He jumped when he heard the knock at the door.

"Who is it?"

"It's me, Sirius. It's Harry. Please let me in."

Damn the boy. "Go away, Harry." No, he would have to do better than that. "We'll talk in the morning, all right?"

"Let me in, Sirius, or I swear I'll stand out here and really draw a crowd."

Fuck. He jerked the door open and Harry fell in, coughing and choking on the fumes roiling out of the cauldron.

"What the hell is that, Sirius?"

"Headache powder. I've had a really rough day and I'd like to get some rest now."

"I have a feeling that if you drink that, more than your headache will be gone. What the hell are you doing down here, Sirius?"

"Finishing up a project for Snape."

"Oh. Well. . . do you really think he's going to need it?"

"You never can tell." Sirius sifted something powdered into the potion, which cleared the smoke a little.

"Let me help you."

"No way, Harry. Get out of here and go to bed."

"Forget it, Sirius. Whatever you're doing, I'm going to help you with it. You look like you're going to need some help with this. I'm not thirteen anymore. You can trust me. Please. Let me help you."

"You have no idea what you're asking."

"Oh, I have a fair idea."

Sirius regarded the young man before him who returned his gaze calmly, arms folded. He considered. "I do trust you, Harry. The question is, do you trust me?"

"I'm not sure I understand."

"Sure you do. If I ask you to do something, are you capable of doing it, even if you don't understand it, even if everything in you says not to do it? Do you trust me more than you trust yourself?"

Harry considered in turn. "I'd have to say. . . yes. The answer is yes."

"All right then, let's get busy." He tossed a bag of beetles at him. "Shred me some wings."

An hour later, after much finger-cramping chopping, skinning, and shredding on Harry's part and much muttering and consulting of the little notebook by Sirius, the potion was ready. He was careful to keep the notebook out of Harry's reach.

"I think we're ready. Go get James's cloak. We're going to need it to transport this mess. Try not to be noticed, if you can."

Harry was back quicker than Sirius would have thought possible. "I think I'd better wear it, since I'll be carrying the cauldron. I'm more likely to be noticed prowling about than you are, anyway. Just look innocent. You're good at that." Harry nodded.

Sirius went to the glass front cabinet and pushed aside the tubs of shredded herbs. Stretching his arm all the way to the back, he pulled out a knife with a vicious looking curved blade, which he tested against his thumb. Satisfied, he swirled the cloak around his shoulders and carefully picked up the still bubbling cauldron.

"Ready?" asked his disembodied head. "If you want to, now is the time to back out."

Harry shook his head, and two minutes later they were at the door of the infirmary. With a glance at where he thought Sirius might be, Harry pushed the door open. Madam Pomfrey was not in sight. He cleared his throat, and she emerged from the curtained partition.

"Yes, dear? What may I do for you?"

In a flash, Sirius had the cloak off and his wand in his hand. "Stupefy."

Harry watched Madam Pomfrey slump to the floor. Sirius turned to the double doors and began muttering spells at them Harry had never heard before.

"The doors are sealed now. It will take Dumbledore a good half hour to slice through those wards. With any luck it will be some time before he even discovers we're in here, so we ought to have some time." He set up the cauldron on the table he had swiped clean earlier that evening, and stirred it. Only then did he walk to the partition and pull back the curtain.

Fuck. Oh Jesus fuck. He closed his eyes and swayed. No. He fought down his desire to retch and returned to the cauldron. He unstoppered the little blue vial and poured it in. The mixture hissed and roiled.

"What the hell is that, Sirius?"

"Blood."

Harry swallowed, not daring to ask whose. He remembered Snape's third year lecture on the uses and properties of blood in potions. There wasn't a single dark potion that didn't require some form of blood. Dark magic. Blood was volatile and uncontrollable in potions. Wizards' blood was the most potent of all.

"Here is where I'm going to need your help, Harry." He pulled out the knife and laid it on the table, searching his godson's eyes.

"Oh my God. Tell me you're not."

"What exactly did you think I was going to do, Harry?" His voice was gentle. "You knew, part of you did, when you agreed to help me."

Harry couldn't stop shaking his head. "No. No. You'll die."

"Not if I can help it. That's what you're here to do."

"Okay. I can't believe I'm saying this, but okay. What do I do?"

"If-- when-- I pass out, keep my arm over the cauldron. No matter what happens, Harry. Do you understand? No matter what happens."

"Sirius." He could see the boy working up to the question. "Why are you doing this? I mean--" He shifted. "Let's face it, it's not like he would do this for you."

"You don't know anything about what he would do for me. Just think of it as an old debt I've got to settle, all right?"

Harry nodded. Sirius set aside the partition and pulled out the little scimitar. He began slicing off the clothes on the still figure - a slice down the chest, two up the legs, and he was finished. He peeled back the layers of clothes to expose the naked flesh, pale and bruised. He moved quickly so he wouldn't feel how cold the skin was. Almost five hours now. Still enough time.

Clutching the knife, he returned to the cauldron and held his left forearm over it. Ignoring Harry's ashen face, he sliced into his arm, quick and deep. Vertically, straight down the arm, so the blood pulsed and gushed into the cauldron. He felt himself sway, felt Harry's arms supporting him and holding his arm out stiff. The cauldron roiled and sputtered. Smoke filled the room, or was that his vision clouding over? How much was enough? He couldn't remember. If he gave too much, he would not be able to remain conscious for the spell, or for the final part. He fumbled for his wand, but Harry was quicker.

"Integumentum reparo."

The cut sealed, leaving only a thin line. Sirius fell back into a chair, swallowing the Pepper-Up Potion Harry thrust into his hand. He closed his eyes and waited for it to take effect. No use rushing things now. He would need all his wits about him.

"That was too much, Sirius. We should rouse Madam Pomfrey."

"No. Just give me a minute."

He waited until the last trace of dizziness was gone, then stood to stir the cauldron. Perfect. The opalescent depths shimmered back at him. There was movement, not at the surface but below it, like figures moving. He squinted. What was it? Better not to look. He tapped his wand on the side of the cauldron and took off his shirt.

"Step back, Harry. I don't want you any nearer to this than you have to be."

Harry snorted in protest and didn't move. Sirius picked up the cauldron and placed it on the bedside table. He reached both hands inside and came out with fistfuls of goo, which he smeared on the still, cold figure on the bed. The potion tingled his fingers and warmed them. He coated every exposed inch of the body beneath him, until it gave off the same faint purple shimmer as the remaining potion in the cauldron. Then he tipped the cauldron into his mouth and drank off the residue. Like fire it felt, going down. Warm, impossibly warm. A rush of power and confidence flooded him. He could almost feel his eyesight sharpen, his hearing become more acute. The colours in the room brightened. He was ready.

He pulled off the rest of his clothes and stood naked at the bedside. He had meant to refer to the notebook one more time, but now he found that the words sprang to his mouth of their own accord. Of a sudden he knew what to do with his arms. He held them straight out over the body and tipped back his head as the words moved through him in a voice not his own.

"Ish sinkallabeth aldun morvilkemeth.
H'loq silnorin.
Ish sinkallabeth otun khaz-rilgeteth.
H'loq silnorin!
Vaq-lun ashdunaya, aldun morvilkemeth.
H'loq silnorin! H'loq silnorin!
"

The fire writhed within him, struggling to escape. It was a snake that flailed his bowels. He opened his mouth wider so it could get out. Now the snake spoke, sibilant and harsh.

"Ish sinkallabeth aldun morvilkemeth.
H'loq silnorin.
Ish sinkallabeth otun khaz-rilgeteth.
H'loq silnorin!
Vaq-lun ashdunaya, aldun morvilkemeth.
H'loq silnorin! H'loq silnorin! H'loq silnorin!
"

He tried to retch and the snake held him rigid. He dared to open his eyes and saw figures around him, faces cowled in white wool cloaks. Their voices rose in a thrumming chorus, joining his. ". . .Otun khaz-rilgeteth. H'loq silnorin! Vaq-lun ashdunaya. . ." The night wind whipped him, and he was standing not in the Hogwarts infirmary but in the center of a circle on an empty plain. The wind froze his fingers, but the fire in his belly burned him, eating him. He was not strong enough, it would consume him. The snake hissed and spat its contempt for him. "H'loq silnorin! Ish sinkallabeth aldun morvilkemeth! Morvilkemeth! Morvilkemeth!"

Hands were on him, touching him, supporting him, lifting him. The hands beneath the cloaks. They fought the snake with him. He could form no more words. When he moved his lips only a howl emerged. The snake coiled around his body now, inside and out. It gave a final twist of its great body and smacked his head with its tail, sending him sprawling forward. He felt the dirt beneath his fingers, saw the hooded figures reach for him, and the dirt had turned to mud and slime, oozing between his fingers, and the earth moved up and down, up and down, heaving, breathing.

Breathing. His sight cleared and he saw himself as from a distance, stretched out over something that coughed and spluttered for breath, sucking it from him. His chest contracted to nothing as the air left it in a rush. The thing beneath him clawed him with the desperate greediness of the drowning, clutching at him, fighting him for the air. He felt arms on him, pulling him backward, but he was no longer sure if they belonged to Harry or the cloaked figures. His mind narrowed to the desire for air. It was being crushed out of him, and there was no getting it back. His throat closed as the last air left his body, and he surrendered, letting the blackness close over his head.


The first time he touched me was after an Order meeting. It was a small meeting: just Dumbledore, McGonagall, Remus, Snape, and me. The four Hogwarts faculty members were really the core of the Order, and they met weekly, at least. When I was at Hogwarts to give a report to Dumbledore, I would tag along with Remus. Most of the time I sat in silence, only contributing when Dumbledore wanted a comment from one of his two agents. Snape always managed to refer to me without actually looking at me. He would fix on a point just slightly above and to the left of my head, avoiding my face as though it were an unsightly protuberance to which it would be rude to call attention.

So most of the time, as I say, I just stared at the fire and waited for the endless strategizing and theorizing to be done so Remus and I could go have a pint at Rosmerta's. It's not that I'm uninterested. I know Dumbledore was disappointed in me, in that condescending way of his, that I didn't participate more actively. What the hell. I did what I was told.

After the meeting, I headed downstairs to meet Remus. We always took the back door to Hogsmeade, heading out the side entrance by the dungeons and across to the Willow. Old habits, I suppose. Which explains why I was loitering around down near Snape's lair when the old snake emerged.

"Black." How did he manage to make it sound like an obscenity every single time?

"Snape." I did my best to return the favour.

"What are you doing down here?"

"Waiting for Remus, not that it's any of your business. Crawl back in your coffin, Snape, and sod off."

"You'd do well to watch your language around me, Black," he hissed.

"Right you are. I should have gone for fuck off. So fuck off, Snape, and leave me the hell alone."

He advanced on me, robes aflap, like some great greasy bat. As though I might piss myself at his approach like a terrified first year. "It is a matter of small importance to me, Black, how you treat me. At your hands, I have been accustomed to receive discourtesy at best and violence at worst. But it is a matter of great importance to me how you treat Albus Dumbledore."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"You know very well what I am talking about. You've made it perfectly clear you don't care about the outcome of this war, and you don't care about any of us. Why is that, Black? Already sold yourself to Malfoy, have you? Hoping for a cushy job in the Ministry when he's the Minister of Magic, are you?"

"Fuck you." I shoved him back. "Fuck you and your doomed little war. I already fought one war, while you were curled up at your Dark Lord's feet with his dick too far down your throat to swallow. We're all as good as dead, and you know it. Yet you pretend and sit there sipping his tea and chewing on crumpets and nothing ever changes. So fuck you, Snape."

He narrowed his eyes at me. "So that's it, is it? The great Sirius Black is a pathetic, sniveling coward. Is that why you like turning into a dog, Black? So you can find a rubbish can to hide behind until the battle's over? Which is it, Black-- cowardice or treachery?"

I shoved him harder then, and heard him hit the stone wall with a satisfying thump. I planted my hands on either side of him and leaned in close.

"A traitor, am I? Funny how I'm not the one with the Dark Mark on my arm, you murdering, lying, whoring son of a bitch."

And then he knocked the wind right out of me.

He moved his hand.

And brushed it against the erection I didn't know I had, not removing his eyes from mine. And brushed it again, then a third time, until he had unleashed from my throat the strangled groan I hadn't known I was biting back. He unbuttoned the flap of my trousers with one swift movement and reached inside, wrapping his hand against my now rock-hard cock. I don't know why I didn't move. Stop! I screamed. Get your fucking hands off me! Except it came out as another groan, and I heard his breathing come faster and Padfoot could smell the arousal on him, and it made me impossibly hard. With a few well-practised jerks of his hand, he had my knees buckling and my come shooting over his hands, down my trouser front, onto my shoes.

Oh God, the shame of it. My face was on fire. I held myself motionless, on the theory that the longer I remained still, the longer It Would Not Have Happened. I braced myself for the full blast of Snape's contempt, the words that would make me sink into the floor and die of shame. He had waited so long for the chance to humiliate me, and God, had I just handed it to him in spades. He raised his come-spattered hand and--

And licked it. Oh God, he was licking it, keeping his eyes on mine. He sucked his fingers dry and ran his tongue down each of his fingers. My cock twitched in renewed arousal at the sight. He licked it clean, then took out his pocket handkerchief and carefully wiped my trembling front, tucking me back in my trousers. He bent to clean my shoes and my trouser leg. Then he folded the handkerchief back into its neat squares and slipped it into his pocket.

Only then did he lean forward and whisper in my ear, in a voice that sent shivers down my spine, "Me too, Black." And turned on his heel, walking away in time to greet Remus coming around the corner with a chilly nod, closing his dungeon door behind him.

"Ready, mate?" Remus did a double take. "My God, you look awful. Don't tell me. You and Snape were getting into it again?"

I laughed, releasing the breath I had been holding since Snape first brushed his hand against me. "Yeah. Afraid so."

Remus sighed. "Some things never change, do they?"


The second time he touched me, I had laid my plans. I had thought about it swilling down butterbeer at Rosmerta's that night. I thought about it at breakfast the next morning, when Snape's eyes passed over me like I was statuary. I thought about it in Albus's office that afternoon, where my distraction passed for normal.

So by the following night, I was ready. And if I was right, so was he.

At ten o'clock that night I pushed the door to his office open. I had been right. It was unlocked, unwarded, unguarded. As close to an invitation as I was likely to get, despite the scowl he aimed at me from his worktable.

"Black." There was if anything more venom behind it. "If you find knocking too difficult to remember, could you at least scratch at the door?"

"I'll try to remember," I said in my best sex god impersonation, sauntering over and leaning against his table in what I hoped was a winning manner.

"Black. Are you under the impression that you are being fetching?"

"No. I'm under the impression you've been hard for me since yesterday, and that you still are underneath those robes."

He regarded me with a level gaze, and the hand stirring the cauldron never faltered. "You have an overly optimistic view of your own appeal, Black."

"That's probably true. Would you like to hear about your appeal, Snape? Would you like to hear what I would like to do to you? Or would you let me show you?"

The hand stirring slowed the tiniest bit. "I don't know what you mean."

"Then I'd best explain."

I unbuttoned his trousers with only a little less grace than he had mine, and freed him. Dear God, he really was hard. Had he been from the minute I walked in the room? Or since last night? I ran my finger over the velvet hooded tip of his cock and watched his eyes flutter shut. I flicked it again and he gripped the edge of the table. A drop of pre-come oozed out and he shuddered. I moistened his length with it, swirling it once, twice. The groan he had clamped back escaped and I felt my groin tighten in answer.

In one smooth motion I sank to my knees and drew him whole into my mouth. He let out a shuddering breath. I sucked, hollowing my cheeks, relishing his panting breaths.

"Black--" It sounded more like a plea than an obscenity now. I redoubled my efforts and moved my tongue down to his heavy sac, taking first one then the other into my mouth. He bucked up, muttering something that I don't think was English. I ran just my tongue up and down his length, letting my teeth scrape him ever so gently.

"Ah-- Black--"

I took him back in my mouth, relaxing my throat to take him all the way. He leaned back, bracing himself on the table, watching his cock disappear into my mouth. He arched up to meet me, making small noises in the back of his throat that made my cock leak with excitement. I sucked harder, increasing my pace. He made a strangled noise that might have been my name.

"God-- move-- move, I can't-- ah--"

I ignored him and gently squeezed his balls. He cried out and thrust into my mouth, fucking it with abandon. I gripped his hips and met him thrust for thrust, and he was coming down my throat with impossible ferocity in a white rush, and I sucked every last pulse from him until he fell back limp against the table, gasping, lost behind his eyes.

I tucked him back in as he had me and smoothed his front. I remained crouched, waiting for him to come back. My groin throbbed. Had I not been pushing forty I doubt not I would have come from the sound and sight and smell of him alone, without a hand on me. My engorged cock demanded release, but I would not grant it here. I had sworn to myself I would be capable of doing what he did, of walking away with that same damnable suavity.

When he raised his head I rose as gracefully as I could, hoping he would not hear my knees crack, and gave him a little smirk. I reached over and lifted a stray strand of hair out of his face.

"Sweet dreams, Snape."

And then I did actually manage to make it out the door and up the many corridors to my guest lodgings, where my hand brought me to my own quick, though desperately unsatisfying release.


And there, by rights, it should have ended. We were even, and if it wasn't quite what Dumbledore had had in mind when he said that bit about recognising each other for what we are, at least we would be able to acknowledge the other as human, with human needs and compulsions. Hell, it was a start. It is time for two of our number to recognise each other for what they are: repressed old sodomites. Not that my experience of sex with other men was very extensive. In fact, it hadn't gone beyond adolescent fumblings behind drawn bed curtains, but still, it was enough to let me know I wasn't entirely straight. Enough to let me know I should have stopped while I was ahead.

Which I would have, too, except that there was the third time.

I didn't see Snape again for another week, when my presence in the castle again coincided with a meeting of the Order, a full one this time. As Arthur Weasley droned on and on, I felt my gaze drifting around the room. I had loved the man since he had taken me under his wing when I was a frightened first year and he was a house prefect, but God, what a crashing bore. Surely I wasn't the only one whose attention was wandering?

Apparently not. I felt Snape's velvet gaze on me before-- argh. When had I started thinking of his gaze as velvet? I wanted to smack my forehead against the table. I wanted him against the table. It occurred to me I never had seen him naked, and I pondered what he might look like. No, no, think about Arthur Weasley naked. There. That did it. God bless the man. I nodded thoughtfully as Arthur made eye contact with me. Much better. Better than thoughts of Snape stretched naked on this table, swallowing my cock in his lush mouth--

Sodding hell. I shifted in my seat, and Albus offered me a lemon drop. I sucked on it viciously. Find another verb, find another verb quickly. Sucking. Licking. Swallowing. Tonguing. Fucking fucking hell. I tipped my head back and examined the ceiling, counting the tiny plaster stars. When it was safe I lowered my gaze, directly onto Snape, who was watching me.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire. In the split instant before I guarded my gaze, I knew he had seen my desire. I had felt the weight of his eyes, and I knew what he was thinking as well. I wanted to slip underneath the table and wrap my mouth around that cock just to hear him make some more of those delicious noises. Don't mind us, Arthur. We've just got some issues to work on here. Carry on, old boy. I closed my eyes, no longer caring who thought I was rude, trying to will my erection away.

Some seventeen hours later, the meeting was over and I had stumbled back to my customary lodgings underneath Gryffindor Tower. The only room in the whole castle, it seemed, with inadequate heat. Thank you very much, Albus. I stoked the fire and leaned against the mantel, feeling the warmth of the old fireplace seep into my bones. I heard the rustle beside me before I opened my eyes and knew he had wanted me to hear him approach.

"You might have come sooner."

"You might have asked me to."

I did not move as he unfastened my trousers. He stopped as though considering, then bent to remove my shoes and socks. A foot fetishist? No, he threw them out of the way and pulled my underwear down. All right, this was new. I shivered. He began on my shirtfront, and pushed it off my shoulders. I was now completely naked and trying not to cringe beneath his assessing gaze. I thought of every glance in the mirror since Azkaban at the gaunt, wasted figure whose eyes I did not know, and my hand twitched to my abdomen.

"I--"

"Shut up." He pulled my hand away. "You're beautiful. Always have been. But you used to know it."

He leaned in and licked the base of my neck.

"Very nice."

He leaned in again and moved lower, latching onto a nipple. I cried out and ran my hands through his hair. Touching was nice. I could do this. Oh, I could definitely do this, I thought as his lips moved lower and lower. Oh come on, you bastard, I thought as his lips brushed my inner thigh. Please.

He chuckled, so I must have said that last out loud. With a definite shove, he pushed me back on to the bed and climbed atop me, careful not to brush his hips against me.

"Does it occur to you that one of us is wearing too many clothes?" I managed to get out.

For answer he lowered his mouth to my cock and took me in to that wet, swirling, sucking heat.

Oh, God.

I know I practically came off the bed. I know I uttered a string of obscenities or endearments or both together. I know I grabbed a fistful of hair, because I felt him gently detach my fingers from a tangle of black silk. He raised his eyes and looked at me.

"Are you a screamer, Black?"

"Am I a-- what? No, of course not." I was panting. What could I say to make him stop talking and resume that incredible thing with his mouth?

"Hm. We'll have to see."

With that he lowered his mouth again, never increasing his pace. I was floating on a cloud of gentle pleasure, awash in bliss, adrift in--

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

Without warning, Snape's tongue had moved lower, trailing hot fire down my balls. But he hadn't stopped there. His tongue was slowly circling the entrance to my body, laving my arse, teasing and licking it. Dear God, nothing had ever felt this good. A sob tore from my throat and I threw my legs apart like a wanton, begging for more.

"More, Black?" When had my name become a caress?

I replied in some babble that I hoped was English. It must have got the job done, because the next thing I knew there was something else at my entrance, something warm and slick, like oil. His fingers were gently pushing me, ah too much--

"Relax." His mouth closed over my cock again, teasing my head. Slowly I felt him slip a finger inside me, then another. The pleasure-pain of it was so much sharper and sweeter than anything I had ever experienced in sex before, it almost--

White light burst behind my eyes as his fingers bumped my prostate for the first time. And then he was rhythmically pushing against me, massaging the gland, pulling his fingers out and plunging them back in, fucking me with his fingers and his mouth at the same time, matching the pace, oh oh oh too much too fucking much. I heard a high keening sound that must have come from my throat since Snape's was full of my cock. I arched and bucked off the bed as my orgasm hit with screaming intensity, and for the first time in my life I actually blacked out after coming.

Snape was stretched out beside me when I came to, his unreadable eyes on mine. I licked my lips and tried to think of a suitable response. Nothing that preserved my dignity came to mind.

"So. I guess that answers your question."

He smiled gently and pulled the quilt at the foot of the bed up over me. I pushed it away.

"Take off your clothes. I want to touch you. Please."

"I don't think that is a very good idea."

"Why not?"

"Because at the moment I doubt that I am capable of restraint."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning I am very likely to fuck you into the mattress given half a chance, and I don't want to hurt you."

It seemed that where Snape was concerned, my body was determined to belie its age. It should have been impossible to feel the stirrings of renewed arousal less than five minutes after a mind-blowing orgasm, but that sentence did it. Just the word "fuck" dropping from his lips with casual ease made my balls tighten.

"Bullshit."

"I beg your pardon?"

"That's shite and you know it. You just don't want to be naked. Please, Snape, let me touch you. I want to feel your skin against mine. Don't you want that?"

He laid his hand on my chest and stroked my dusting of hair. "You don't know what you want, Black. You just got introduced to your prostate. I could be Dumbledore and you'd want to rub me down with oil and suck my toes."

"Dumbledore's toes-- that's quite the arousal-killing image you've got there. Come up with that one on your own, did you?"

"I had some time on my hands during the meeting tonight."

"Indulge me." I reached for the collar of his shirt and began to finger the button. His hand came up and caught mine in an iron grip.

"All right." I dropped my hand and stored away in my mind the flash of something I had seen in his eyes-- was it terror? I put my hand against the hard swell of his erection. "May I?" He nodded. His breath rasped as I unbuttoned him, and his purple cock sprang out, dripping and swollen. He looked inches from coming.

I put my hands at his trouser waistband. "May I?" He hesitated, then nodded, and I pulled down both trousers and underpants to his ankles. I turned my attention to shoes and socks, as he had with me, so I could pull everything off at once and have a clear field. He sat up abruptly, breathing hard.

"Snape?"

"I'm sorry, Black, I can't do that." His voice was not like any Snape voice I knew.

"All right." Gently I pulled the trousers back up, leaving the flap open so his cock remained free. His breathing stilled. "Why don't you tell me what I can do. You let me put my mouth on you before. May I do that again?"

"God-- yes."

I licked slowly, working harder at relaxing my mouth so he could bump against the back of my throat. He moaned and fisted the sheets. I batted the sensitive ridge with my tongue and moved my mouth up and down the shaft with excruciating slowness.

"Snape."

"What?"

"May I do to you what you did to me?"

He gave a half-sob of need. "Please."

"Give me the oil." He pressed the little vial into my hands and I slicked myself as he had done. Imitating every nuance of his gesture, I slid my tongue down his balls and to his tight, puckered entrance. Amazing what a few quick flicks of the tongue could reduce a man to. I wonder. . . experimentally, I dipped my tongue inside. He growled. I pushed in harder, fucking his hole with my tongue. The noise he made did not seem human. I reached my fingers around and thrust.

His body arched and stiffened and did not seem to want to come down. Too late I realised I had pushed in too hard and soon, but he was clamped too hard for me to extract my fingers. Shit. I had really hurt him.

"God, Snape, I'm sorry--"

"Don't stop, oh please just don't stop--"

And then I realised he was coming in a fountain. I clamped my mouth on him and swallowed as hard and fast as I could, plunging my fingers in brutally, right to the sweet spot he had found on me, hard as I could. His orgasm seemed never to end, and I rode it out with him, draining him of every last drop. He collapsed backward, and I rested my head on his chest, listening to his heart slow as he came back to himself.

My eyes drifted shut in spite of myself. When I woke in the wee hours Snape had managed to extract himself and leave without waking me. I was covered and the fire was well banked. Instead of going back to sleep I wrapped myself in the blanket that smelled vaguely of sex and sat by the fire to ponder.


The fourth time, I touched him.

After that night I had had to leave and go back south again, but I was back within a fortnight. After reporting to Albus I went straight to what I was coming to think of as my room, not bothering to search out Remus. I suppose I didn't want to acknowledge, even to myself, that Remus was not the one I had come to see. Dear, sweet Moony. Is it harder finding out your best friend is a werewolf, or a fag? In England, easy answer.

I was waiting in Snape's rooms when he came in from dinner, which I had not attended. Breaking into his rooms took less time than I would have thought. My activities in the last month had taught me plenty I never learned at Hogwarts about ward-breaking, and it stood me in good stead tonight. If he was startled when saw me sitting in his favourite chair, he didn't show it.

"Black." He slammed his books down on the desk. "Discussions about basic courtesy are utterly wasted on you, aren't they?"

"Apparently. So how have you been keeping, Snape?"

"Are you actually interested in the answer, or was there something you wanted?"

"Well, yes, now that you mention it. The last time I was here, you said something about fucking me into the mattress. Does that offer still stand?"

"I see I am going to need a drink." He poured himself a whiskey from the cupboard and tossed it back.

"I'll have one too, thanks."

He sighed and poured me a finger of Ogden's. "Can you drink it like this, or do you prefer a doggie bowl?"

"No, you're the only thing I want to lap with my tongue." I gave him my best smile and swallowed down the whiskey at a gulp.

"Quite the little slut, aren't you?"

"Look." I set my glass down and crossed to him. "I've spent the past two weeks doing things I never want to remember. I suspect the same could be said of you, from what I gather of recent Death Eater activity. I'd obliviate myself if I could, but unfortunately Albus needs those memories for now. So right now, a good drink, a good rest and a good shag is what I need, and not necessarily in that order."

"Well. Such an eloquent invitation is hard to resist. I am beginning to divine the secret of your boyhood popularity."

I moved closer and brushed my hips against his. "Tell me you don't want it, Snape."

In a matter of minutes he had my clothes off and me on my back in his bed. Moaning shamelessly, I might add, at the feel of his mouth on my neck, my nipples, the backs of my knees for Christ's sake, everywhere but where I most wanted it. He was swirling his tongue down from my navel when I pushed him up.

"Snape. Stop." I struggled to get my breathing under control. I had told myself I would not allow this to happen again, and here I was, putty under his fingers once more. I rested my hand on his top collar button. "Please."

Slowly he nodded. I unfastened the first button, then the second, then the third, never hurrying. Soon I had his jacket off and his shirt unbuttoned to the waist. He was staring off somewhere behind me. Rigid immobility was apparently as much encouragement as I was going to get. I moved down to his trousers, and he let me undress him completely then. I lay him back on the bed to look at him. He was many miles away. What the hell was the matter with him?

I stretched my body out beside his, pressing my hard length against his thigh, but he never moved. I dusted kisses over his chest, and he blinked rapidly, but still made no move. All right then. I climbed atop him and began trailing my fingers over him, teasing his nipples to hardness. His body was responding to me, but his eyes were pure panic. I leaned in to whisper in his ear.

"You're gorgeous, did you know that? Fucking devastating you are. Do you know what I've thought about doing to you? About you doing to me?" I crooned every delicious obscenity I knew in his ear, I wove a sweet song of fucking and poured it in his ear with my tongue. I ground my hips into him and almost came from the feel of his cock pressed into mine, just as it had been in my fantasies. And right when I knew I couldn't take any more, he reached up and pulled me to him with a groan.

He flipped me over and fucked me like a madman, and oh God, it hurt, it hurt more than I would have thought possible, but now he was the one whispering soothing things in my ear, he was kissing and licking and biting my neck as he rode me. He snaked his hand around underneath our bodies to my cock and began stroking me in time to his thrusts, and I was lost, lost, coming so fiercely I was gasping for air. And then he loosed his last rein on himself and rode me fast and hard, and the warm breath of his grunts shivered my ear as he came, pulling the last pulse out of me and into his hand.

He slid gently out of me, but I held him pressed against my back. God, it felt like my spine had slid right out along with his cock. I had come harder than should have been physically possible, and all I could think was when, when could we do that again. I was split apart with pain and pleasure; everything I thought I had known about sex and my body had just been chucked out the window. I arched my head back and sought his lips, rasping the stubble of his jaw against my lips. Mm. That was good too.

I turned and concentrated on kissing his jawline, following the hard swoop of it up to his temple and down again. I raised up and gave him a bleary smile, then moved down to his chin to graze his lips.

He flinched away.

I stopped dead and looked at him not looking at me. In the instant before my lips had brushed his, I had seen the distaste flicker in his eyes before he could hide it. Fucking hell. Something cold and heavy settled in my veins.

I got up and pulled on my clothes as gracefully as I was able considering the pain in my arse, and still I could feel him not looking at me. The weight of his not-gaze. I was out the door without a backward glance, and the fucker didn't even try to stop me.

I spent the rest of the night in the Three Broomsticks with Remus, drinking more heavily than I ought to have. Anything to forget Snape's eyes, that half-curl of his lip as he jerked away. Remus chatted away about his classes, his students, whatever. I remembered to nod at the right places. After a while he lapsed into silence and just watched me drink.

"You know," he began, "there's nothing you couldn't talk to me about, if you wanted to. Nothing."

"I know that, Moony." I avoided his eyes, those great smudged holes of sadness that had looked that way since he was eleven, when I first met him. "It's just been a rough time of it. I'm glad to be here and away from it all."

"So you'll stay a couple of days then?"

I fiddled with my glass. "I don't know."

"I see. Well, when you decide to talk about it, I'm here."

I stumbled back to my room in the castle just a few hours before dawn. Rosmerta had let the drinks keep coming to me long after she should have shut me down. She always did have a soft spot for me. And what a spot it was. What a fabulous lay she used to be, all soft curves and slick heat and warm, downy lips--

Don't think about lips.

I gave up on fumbling with my key and went for Alohamora, practically falling through the door onto the rug. It seemed unsurprising that Snape woud be sitting by the fire waiting for me.

"You're drunk."

"What gave it away?"

I could see his nostrils flare in the firelight. I must be riper than I thought. "How much have you had?"

"Aye, I'm sorry, lass, I went and pissed away the rent money again, I did. It's the demon drink has got a hold on me." I collapsed into a chair laughing.

"Sobrietatis." He had his wand out before I could stop him.

"Goddamn it, Snape! Now I have to start all over." The room spun for a moment, settling back into its normal dimensions, as it always did after the sobering charm. Only a real sadist could have come up with that charm. Some long-suffering witch, lo these many centuries ago, who had had just about enough. One of my ancestors' wives, no doubt.

"I would like a chance to explain, and I'm not going to waste it on you when you're drunk."

"Explain what?"

He examined his hands. "Certain things are difficult for me."

"I may be regrettably sober now, but I'm still exhausted. You're going to have to be clearer than that. What the hell are we talking about?"

"About why you left my rooms earlier this evening."

"I left because sex was over. I had a great time. In fact, I had the orgasm of my life, as I suspect you know. No complaints here, really. Now unless you've brought me something decent to drink so I can start working on my buzz again, leave me to my bed."

"Very well. I apologise for my intrusion."

I waved my hand. "Think nothing of it."

He paused with his hand on the knob, then turned back to face me. "All I wanted to say was, you misinterpreted my actions. You may have thought I was-- that is--"

I stared at the rare spectacle of Snape at a loss for words.

"No I didn't, Snape. I just find it curious, is all, that you will put your tongue up my arse but shy away from my lips. Well, not curious, so much, since I think I know the answer."

"And what do you think the answer is?"

"I think it's easy enough to forget you're fucking Sirius Black when you don't have to see his face. I just brought you face to face, so to speak, with the uncomfortable fact of my presence in your bed."

"That is what you think?"

"Are you going to tell me I'm wrong?"

He studied his hands again. "Black. It is just-- there are certain things I have never done. With anyone."

"Wait a minute. Am I still pissed, or did you just tell me you've never been kissed?" I must have been still a little bit drunk, because I couldn't stifle a chuckle at my rhyme. The sobering charm, I should point out, does not clear away all the effects of inebriation immediately, but simply accelerates the body's natural metabolism of alcohol. In my defence I say it.

Snape drew himself up. "Good night, Black."

"No, wait. Wait." I put my hand on the door to stop him. "You're honestly telling me that in all your sexual experience, you have never kissed anyone?"

"No. I have never done that."

"That. Good Lord, you sound like a maiden aunt. Say it, Snape. Say 'kissed.' Come on, say it."

"This conversation is ridiculous and I want no further part in it."

"Kiss kiss kiss. Kissing. Snogging. Swapping spit. Tonsil hockey. Tongue tango. None of this means anything to you?"

"I am leaving at once."

"Oh, no you're not. Not until I've deflowered you, you gorgeous sexy beast."

"Stop it."

"Come on baby, it'll be good, I promise. We don't have to go any further than you want."

"Stop laughing immediately."

"Oh, come here, you." I leaned in and rested my forehead on his. "To tell you the truth, I've never kissed a man. So who knows, I might be really bad at it. My only comfort is, you're not likely to know the difference." I closed the distance between us and felt a shock as I realised I didn't have to adjust my height. Snape was 6'1", like me. A level kiss. It sent a frisson down my spine.

"What's the matter?"

"Nothing."

"Tell me."

"We're the same height. It's just-- nice, is all."

"Oh."

I brushed my lips against his. I inhaled his scent-- a mixture of cloves and chamomile. Something sharper underneath. Camphor. I began to wish I hadn't had so many cigarettes earlier. Perhaps he mightn't like it. I nudged at his lips and they parted. His mouth was lusher than I expected, his lips firmer. His tongue met mine in a jolt that I felt down to my groin. I swirled my tongue slowly around his mouth, mapping it. He imitated my gesture in my own mouth, and soon our tongues were sliding around each other, our breathing quickening, our hands gripping.

I pulled away and looked at his face. Kissed was a good look on him. His lips were swollen and moist, his eyes hooded. Suddenly I found myself pinned against the door as his tongue dove inside me. Not bad for a beginner. Bit aggressive, mind you, but I wasn't complaining.

Not complaining at all, especially when he began to rock his hips against mine, matching the thrust of his hips with the gentle thrust of his tongue. He was something of a quick study. I pushed him back and took in air.

"Did I do it wrong?"

"God, no. But I want more."

Getting naked was not a problem this time.

"Bed," I managed to croak.

"But the wall is so close."

"Says the man whose back is not pressed up against it." I shoved him backwards and climbed on top. "God, I want you." I rubbed my cock against his and moaned at the sensation. "Snape, I want to take you like you did me. Show me what to do."

He picked up his robe from the floor and pulled out a small vial of oil.

"Well. You were quite optimistic about your apology."

"It was an explanantion, not an apology."

"Whatever."

I slicked myself and started to slide a finger into him, but he stopped me.

"Don't. Just take me."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. God. Just-- not face down."

I pushed myself into him in one stroke. He arched off the bed with a strangled cry, his head thrown back. I pulled partially out and thrust again, and he lifted up to meet me on the upthrust. Sweet Jesus, but this was intense. The ring of muscle at the base of my cock clutched at me, and the tight heat of it pulling me in, in-- I could not control my thrusts, and began stabbing blindly. He was urging me on in some language I couldn't make out. In a burst of inspiration I took hold of his cock, bobbing between us, and pulled at it.

"Ah, God-- Black, yes, yes--"

I slammed into him for all I was worth, my balls slapping his arse. I increased the speed of my hand on his cock and saw his balls draw up. I tried to wait for his orgasm but couldn't, he was so beautiful shooting come out between us, over my hand, his muscle squeezing my cock again and again, and with a final thrust I was coming with him, and with a shock I heard him calling my name through his tightened throat, my actual name, over and over as he came--

"Sirius! Sirius, Sirius. . ."


"Sirius! Sirius!"

Harry shook his godfather's still form, pulling him off Snape, who sat up coughing and heaving, swallowing air like water. "Sirius! Wake up!"

Snape leaped to his feet and took in his surroundings in a glance: the empty infirmary, the still smoking cauldron with its peculiar odour, the little curved knife, Black's lifeless form in Harry's arms. He snatched up the knife and crouched over Black.

"Hold his head back, boy!"

Snape shoved Harry aside and grabbed Black's head, tilting it back until his mouth hung open. With a wicked thrust he sliced open his own forearm, spattering Harry's glasses and shirt, spraying Sirius's chest. He pressed the bloody mess of his arm to Sirius's mouth, and Harry fought a gag as Sirius's mouth clamped and began to drink. Snape began to mutter strange words that didn't sound like spells to Harry. The blood ran out from the sides of Sirius's mouth and streaked his face, pooling under his neck, and still the greedy mouth worked at the arm like a teat. Snape swayed and jerked his arm back with a cry.

"Integumentum reparo."

Snape cocked an eyebrow at Harry, whose wand was aimed at the sealed gash on his arm. "Nice work, Potter. I see you've had a busy evening."

On the floor Sirius began to cough up gouts of blood. There was a pounding at the door, as of a staff beating on it.


So that was the fifth time, by my reckoning. And it was the first time we slept together, which was a dangerous business. Toward dawn we collapsed. When I awoke, he was still there. Our arms were twined around each other, our legs thrown atop one another. Dark hair pooling into dark. Memories skittered through my head of two other dark-haired boys in a similar tangle of limbs. Thrusting and rubbing. Riding orgasms through clenched teeth, careful not to creak the bedframe.

Sshh. Remus will hear.

Are you kidding? After the change? He'll sleep like the dead 'til Saturday.

Saturday. So it was. I cracked a protesting eyelid at the brutal sunlight pouring in from the window. Mother of mercies, it was surely by evil design that the sobering charm had no effect on the following day's hangover.

"What were you thinking about?" Snape's baritone at my ear. So he was awake too. I waited for him to disentangle himself, but he did not stir.

"When?" I croaked.

"Just now. You needn't say if you'd rather not."

"Oh." I shifted and he instantly released me, but I smoothed his arms back in place. "Just old memories. School stuff."

"Potter?"

"I suppose."

"Is he the source of your woefully inadequate education in buggering?"

"I don't know which part of that sentence to object to first."

He gave a low chuckle. It occurred to me it was the first time I had heard any sound of amusement coming from Snape's mouth. Snape's mouth. Quite the mouth it was. I closed my eyes and thought about the things that mouth had done to me last night. This morning. Whenever.

So I'm thinking about asking Lily Evans to the Yule Ball. Bit out of my league, I know, but nothing ventured, right?

Right.

What's the matter? Didn't want to ask her yourself, did you?

No, it's just- oh, never mind.

Oh come on, Paddy, I bet you could ask that pretty friend of hers- Violet, is it?- and we could go together.

Sure, Jamie. But can we not talk about this now? It seems a bit inappropriate while you're naked in my bed.

Oh come off it, it's not like we're fags or anything, just 'cuz we get off. I mean, could you imagine?

Snape rose and stretched. "Saturday or no, I'm still expected to show my face at breakfast. I assume Albus prefers you to stay sub rosa while you're here?"

"So I gather. I'll have the house elves send me up a tray. Or maybe I'll just sleep some more."

Snape tossed my clothes at me. "Get up, you sloth. If you're suffering, let it be a lesson to you."

"You were obviously raised by sadists. Or Presbyterians."

He cocked a wry eyebrow at me and was out the door, fully clothed, before I could collect my thoughts. His timing was flawless, actually, because four seconds after the door clicked shut, Albus's head was in my fireplace.

"Sirius, my lad. I hope I'm not waking you."

"No, no. Anything the matter?"

"I'm afraid so. I need you to go south again today. Can you manage it?"

"Sure, Albus."


It was another month before I was back. I made my report to Albus in his office, as before. Snape was there when I arrived, and Albus did not dismiss him. I got a polite nod from Snape and tea with lemon from Albus. It tasted like piss. After nearly a month spent as Padfoot, it took a while to adjust to human food again.

I ran through my usual list of information, both from the Ministry and scattered groups of Death Eaters. Nothing had leaped out at me, with one exception.

"And there was something about a book."

"A book?" Albus looked puzzled.

"Macnair and Rosier in an alley were whispering about some book their master was looking for. Macnair said 'the traitor's still got it, but the Dark Lord will get it back from him.' That's all, and then they were on to the usual. Muggles to bait, puppies to torture, that sort of thing."

Albus and Snape exchanged the briefest of glances. Albus nodded thoughtfully. "Well, thank you. Sirius. It's probably nothing, but you never can tell when these little scraps of information will come together to give us the larger picture we seek. Come, let's get you some hot food and a warm bed. You look like the very devil, my boy. Will you see to him, Severus?"

"Of course, Albus." Snape gave his formal little bow and escorted me out of the headmaster's study. I didn't immediately notice that he was leading me not to my customary lodgings, but down to the dungeons. He opened his office door and ushered me through. I barely had time to turn around when he was on me, his mouth devouring me.

My hands came up and clasped him to me. The tongue-fucking was making me want more. I needed release and I needed it now. He sensed my urgency and brought a hand to cup my erection. In seconds I had him stretched over the table, buried in him, pounding him. He didn't seem to mind having his back to me this time.

"So good," I murmured in his ear. "So good, so fucking good, God how I've thought about you--"

He turned his head and met my mouth with his. That was all it took to send me over the edge. We came together, the air heavy with our groans and the smell of sex. I collapsed onto his sweat-sheened back afterward, unable to move or even think. I stretched out my arm and twined his hand in mine.

"Black."

"Mm."

"I'm glad you're comfortable, but you're crushing me."

"Sorry." I slid off and collapsed back into his chair. He pulled his robes back on and went to his sitting room, emerging with a tall glass of water. I drank it down gratefully, washing the taste of the tea out of my mouth. How had he known?

Snape sat in the other chair, lost in thought, drumming his fingers.

"I'm surprised you can do that."

"Think?"

"Sit." He rolled his eyes. "Snape. Who's the traitor they were talking about?"

"I would imagine I am."

I set down my water and frowned. "You? You really think Voldemort's on to you? I heard Macnair and Rosier four days ago. Have you been summoned since then?"

"No, but I expect to be soon. And that means nothing, really. He might have suspected me for some time. He is difficult to predict, even for me."

"What's this book they were talking about? Do you have it?"

He hesitated. Then he got up and went to his bookshelf, pulling down an enormous dust-covered volume.

"Voldemort wants to get his hands on a copy of Moste Potente Potions?"

"No, he wants to get his hands on this." He reached into the space behind the book and pulled out a small leather-bound notebook, of the sort schoolboys use for their lab notes. It was weathered with age. He tossed it to me.

I flipped through it quickly, and frowned in puzzlement. "These are potions notes. Old ones, it looks like. What does Voldemort want with your notes from school?"

"Those aren't from any class Hogwarts offers, which you'd know if you had ever roused to consciousness in Potions class. They are my notes from the research I undertook when I first joined the Death Eaters twenty years ago. That's the research he recruited me to do."

I had never heard Snape talk about his years as an active Death Eater. I thought about pressing for more, but decided against it. So Voldemort had been after him for his skill at brewing potions. Unsurprising. It would have apppealed to his not inconsiderable vanity. A vanity not unjustified, either, from what my unpractised eye could judge of these notes. They were incredibly complex. He watched me riffle through the pages.

"This looks amazing, Snape. But I have no idea what any of it means. Why does he want it so bad?"

"He doesn't 'want it so bad.' It is the only thing he wants, the only thing he has been trying to get since he was sixteen. Those notes contain the aim and purpose of his existence."

"And this would be because?"

He snatched the little book from my hands and turned to the last page. "Read it."

I read it through, then read it again. I could feel the colour drain from my face. "This is not possible."

"That's what I set out to disprove twenty years ago. And besides, who told you it was not possible?" He rose and began to pace the room. "Tom Riddle had an idea, an idea that it is worth thinking about. What does it mean to be a wizard, to possess the power we do? What is it worth, if it's all a bag of magic tricks designed to make our miserable existences easier for a few years before we crumble into dust with the rest of the popultion? What is all our wisdom but a pile of circus tricks? He set out to know what no class at Hogwarts or any other school would teach him. In what fundamental way are we different from the rest of the world? What is the ontological difference that makes us who we are?"

Snape was agitated, his hands twisting behind his back. "What, if any, are the limits to our power, and who set them? In all the millennia of our history, no one has given us the answer. We have taken the metaphysics of Muggles and made them our own, because we are too weak and stunted and frightened to ponder the alternatives." He paused in his pacing. "In the past century, Muggles the world over have pushed the limits of the possible. They have taken their primitive technology and turned it into a blazing pathway to God. And we have stood still, too frightened of our own shadows to show one-tenth the courage of the puniest Muggle scientist in exploring the boundaries of our existence. That is what Tom Riddle wanted to change."

He sat back in his chair heavily. "At least, that is what he convinced me of. After a bit of work, I came to see-- Riddle came to see-- that there is really only one boundary worth pushing, only one fence worth jumping."

"Death." My voice sounded thin.

"And the last enemy to be destroyed will be death."

"Is that what he used to say?"

"That's Saint Paul, you hopeless ignoramus." He steepled his hands. "That is the intriguing thing about Christianity, I think, and why it is oddly suited as a religion for wizards. It retains the germ of the idea, buried beneath the sediment of centuries, that death is not a completion of the natural cycle, but a deep disruption of it. We were not meant to die, you see. Most Muggles have forgotten this. They have turned funerals into celebrations of life, and grief into a twelve-step program. But of old it was not so."

"And you did it. You actually did it."

"Well, that's only theory, of course. Based on the wisdom of civilisations vastly older than our own. I never actually did anything."

"But you know it works."

"Yes," he said softly. "I believe it does. And so, apparently, does he."

"So when you left the Death Eaters you took this with you?"

He nodded. "I surrendered it to Albus and told him the whole story. He gave the notebook back to me and told me to destroy it."

"But you didn't."

"But I didn't."

"And now Voldemort has somehow found out that you have it."

"Well, that's purely speculation. We have no way of knowing if I am the traitor they were referring to or not. Voldemort has entered the advanced stages of paranoia, and suspects treachery everywhere. As for the book, it could be anything. There's no sense jumping to conclusions."

"Snape." I shook my head, incredulous at what I was hearing. "You know you can't go back. This is the book he means, and you know it."

"I know nothing of the sort." He rose and began to pace again. "How could rumour of this book's continued existence have reached him? I told him, when I crawled back to lick his boots two years ago, that Dumbledore had forced me to destroy everything, and he believed me. Why now would he be persuaded that I lied?"

"Pettigrew," I whispered. "It's got to be him. Damn it, Snape, he lived in this castle with the Weasley boy for three years. Are you telling me, knowing what he knew about what you and Voldemort had been working on all those years ago, that he woudn't have searched your office? Do you honestly think there's a chance in hell that rodent couldn't have found this? I bet he's been waiting for just the right moment to down you, Snape. He'd be jealous of his master's trust in you. He'd hate you for it. I know the way his mind works, believe me. If you're in danger, he's the reason."

Snape froze, a rigid expression on his face. His hand began to rub at his left forearm. We both stared at it.

"No. Don't you dare do it, Snape. You know you can't go."

"I have no choice."

"No. No. Let's go to Albus. Let's go right now. Let's take the book and give it to him. He'll think of something."

"How many years do you think Albus has been trying to erase the Dark Mark? I can't resist the summons, even if I would. And besides," he said less harshly, "how long do you think his wrath would stay itself from this castle and the children inside it, if I did not go?"

"I don't care. I don't care about any of them. Just please, don't go."

"Yes, you do." He tucked the book back into its place and pulled down his cloak from its peg. He paused at the door. "Good night, Black."

"Wait." I hated the strangled sound of my voice. In two steps I was pressed to him, kissing him as I had never kissed before, cradling his dark head in my hands, plundering his mouth, inhaling him. I poured every unspoken word into that kiss, every emotion I had not even allowed myself to feel, and he took it all. When I was done and had no more argument left to make, he pulled away and examined my eyes.

"Sirius," he said, his voice husking the sibilants of my name.

"Severus."

Then he was out the door, and I could not stop him. Six times.


"I think he's waking up now."

Madam Pomfrey bustled to the bedside, her ample hips shoving Harry out of the way as she bent to check her patient's progress.

"I think you're right, dear. Best send for the headmaster. He did want to know first thing, and the others will be anxious to see him."

Sirius heard the voices from a great distance. They sounded as though they were speaking through cotton. They drifted away, or perhaps he did. They might have been gone two minutes or two hours. He was aware of a loud, rhythmic rasping sound that made it difficult to hear and caused his head to ache. He focused on the sound and discovered it was his own breathing.

"Sirius?"

He cracked an experimental eyelid, then another. Dumbledore was peering down at him. He did not look as though he were going to offer him a lemon drop. Harry, clutching his hand. Remus, on the other side. McGonagall, behind Dumbledore. Snape. . . .where was Snape?

He sat up abruptly, causing the room to spin.

"Not so hastily, Black." A firm hand pushed him back down. Snape was at his shoulder, sitting propped against the wall, behind his line of sight. The room swam into sharper focus and the pain receded.

"No, I'm all right. Let me sit up." Sirius pushed back the covers and swung his feet over the edge of the bed. He felt surprisingly good, after his first few moments' disorientation.

"I take it you are feeling better." Dumbledore's voice was grave. Looking at his expresison, Sirius was reminded of the night twenty-some years ago when he had first seen diappointment in those eyes as they fixed him. That was nothing to the expression he read there now.

"I'm fine, Albus. Really. Just a little unclear on the sequence of events, is all. How long have I been out?"

"A little over six hours. It is almost time for lunch. Shall I fill you in on what has happened?"

"Yes, please." Madam Pomfrey handed him a glass of water which he took at a gulp.

"Ah. Well, where to begin. In the last twelve hours, you have performed the darkest magic ever to be attempted within the confines of this castle. You have violated every principle of wizarding that was ever taught you, as well as some fourteen or fifteen laws of magic. You have done all this with utter disregard for the consequences of your actions, and outright contempt for the safety of those around you. You have exposed us all to the gravest danger. I cannot see what the end result will be, but I can see enough to say that many who are not here today will come to rue the choices you have made."

This was not a Dumbledore Sirius had seen before, and he lowered his gaze before the roll of that voice.

"But to unmake them now is far beyond my power, or the power of any of us. We must abide them as well as we can. And if it is any comfort to you, I know you meant to do good. But I would sooner have had you tear down this castle stone by stone and burn its timbers to the ground than do this thing that you have done." He turned and left the infirmary, the burden of his many years slowing his stately pace to a shuffle.

"Get some rest, Sirius." Harry squeezed his hand sympathetically before he left. Remus and McGonagall drifted away. Remus looked like he would have liked to have said something, but instead patted Sirius's hand and gave a half-smile as he walked away.

"Are you going too?" Sirius found his voice at last.

"I don't think you want me to do that. You are going to require my physical presence for some hours yet."

"Oh." He asked no more questions, being pretty sure they would not have answers he wanted to hear right now. He swallowed and tugged at the blanket. "I'm sorry, Snape."

"I'm not."

"You're not? I thought you would be furious with me."

"Yes. I should be. I have been trying to work up a righteous fury for the last six hours, but I can't seem to accomplish it. To be perfectly frank, I am disappointed in myself. Everything Albus said to you was true, of course. But all I can manage to feel is such trememdous joy at being alive- being here- that it rather overwhelms any more virtuous sentiment. For the moment, anyway. Give me time and I'm sure I shall work up to a fine fury, if you like."

Sirius propped himself on his elbow. This was not a Snape he was familiar with. "So you're not angry," he said, turning the idea over in his head.

"It was incredibly foolish of you to take the risk you did. Did you know what was likely to happen?"

Sirius fell back on the pillow. "Yes. I did."

"It wasn't written in the notebook. I wondered if you had deduced it."

"Of course I did. That kind of magic comes at a price. I do know that much. So," he looked at Snape, "why aren't I dead?"

"Because I knew more about dark magic by eleven than most wizards learn in their entire pathetic, hidebound lives."

"That sounds more like you. What did you do to me, Snape?"

"Are you sure you want to know?"

"I'm sure."

"I fed you the only substance that will bring a wizard back from the very brink of death, willingly offered."

Sirius lay in silence for a moment. "Are you talking about what I think you're talking about?"

"Yes. Wizard's blood has properties far beyond what most people suspect. Of course, there were certain elements to the situation that gave it particular potency."

"Such as?"

"Your action had created a magical bond that made it simpler for me to do what I did. I was, in effect, just strengthening what you had begun. Buttressing your bridgework, to borrow an architectural metaphor."

"I see. I have some questions about the potion. Will you answer them?"

"If I can. You know far more about it at this point than I do."

"Could anybody have done what I did?"

"No. It required a great deal of power, and tremendous strength of will."

"Voldemort has both those things."

"Perhaps. But he lacks the ability to care deeply for anyone beside himself. That potion is one he will never be able to brew, even could he get his scaly claws on it."

Sirius reflected for a moment. "My emotions played a part in it, then."

"You fail to understand. They were the engine that drove the magical action, from the spells you cast to the blood you spilled. It was a highly personal act. All the good will in the world would not have enabled you to do what you did to someone you had never met."

"The stronger the emotion, the stronger the spell?"

"That's a highly simplified version, but something like that, I would imagine."

Sirius rolled over and stretched. He took in the sight of his best and oldest enemy draped in the tiny chair beside him. Snape was looking at him from beneath a quizzical eyebrow.

"He's coming, isn't he." It was not a question.

Snape nodded. "Indeed. You sent up a signal flare not many dark wizards can have missed. There's no hiding what you did. Nor is there any hiding the fact that I am very much alive. Certainly that is not how Voldemort left me."

Sirius's stomach clenched at the thought of how Voldemort had left him, at the huddled broken mess he had stumbled across at the entrance to the grounds. The fevered searching for a pulse, the hoarse cries for help, the long desperate stumble to the infirmary. He shut his eyes against it.

"How long do we have?"

Snape gave a one-shouldered shrug. "It could be some days. It could be this afternoon. One way or another, he is going to launch a full-scale attack in this castle to get his hands on that notebook."

"Where is it?"

"I destroyed it. As I should have done twenty years ago."

"I'm damn well glad you didn't."

Snape smiled a wintry smile. "Me too, Black."

Sirius laughed, remembering the first time he had heard that incongruous colloquialism from Snape's lips. Snape seemed to get the joke, for his smile became a fraction less chilled. Sirius pushed off the covers and sat up. He felt fully restored now, and eager to escape Poppy's watchful eyes.

"I've got to get out of here. Not just the infirmary, I mean. If Voldemort knows what I did, I'm likely to be the one he'll want to have a chat with. He might leave this place alone if I were out of it."

"As usual, your vanity blinds you to reality. As the discoverer of that potion, I am far more interesting to him right now. But I agree he wouldn't mind discussing the matter with you as well. We should both get very far away from here, and as soon as we can. Can you travel?"

"I think so."

"Perhaps you should try standing first."

"In a minute. Snape?"

"Yes?"

Sirius hesitated. "Earlier, Harry asked me why I was doing. . .what I was doing. He thought it was a hell of a lot of trouble to go to for someone I had always hated, and who had always done a fair job of hating me."

Snape said nothing, but waited for him to continue.

"I told him to think of it as paying off an old score."

"I see. Well, consider your debt cancelled."

"No, see-- I lied." Sirius stood up and ran a hand through his hair, pulling on his clothes that had been draped over the footboard. "That isn't why I did it at all. I didn't have a reason, that I know of. I just began doing it before I knew what I was doing, or why. I just didn't want you to think-- that is--" Snape's bland expression was making this excruciatingly difficult. "You couldn't make this any easier for me, could you?"

"Now why would I do that?"

"I didn't think about debts, or old scores, or any of that, when I did what I did, and I wouldn't want you to think I did. That's all I wanted to say."

Snape stood too. "I know that, Black. Now if you feel you can walk, let's get you out of here."

They made their way down to the dungeons by circuitous paths, away from the inquisitve gazes of Hogwarts. In the last months the castle had become more refugee camp than school, and the hallways were crowded at all hours now. Even traveling the back corridors, they encountered knots and clusters of folk who fell silent as they passed. News traveled at light speed in a wizard community, and dark stares followed after them.


And so I woke the morning after the seventh time far from the castle that had been my still point of safety for the last eighteen months and the closest thing to home for the last thirty years, in a dingy thin-walled little cottage that I had occasionally used for lying low. The narrow bed was hard and uncomfortable, the linens felt like they were made of sandpaper, and the cold rushed through the cracks in the wall beside me. It was heaven. I wrapped myself more firmly around Snape, as if to remind myself of his flesh-and-bone reality. He pressed back against me.

"What are you thinking?"

I laughed. "I'm thinking you have a dangerous fondness for that question. Turn over."

He complied, taking care to brush his morning erection against mine. I shivered.

"Cold?"

"I'll survive." This statement, in light of the previous day's events, seemed darkly funny, and I smiled.

He took my cock gently in his hand and ran his finger from base to tip, pausing to swirl around the head. I gasped. He repeated his action, never taking his eyes off mine.

"Snape. Stop if you don't want me to come right now."

He seemed to be thinking about this. "No," he said at last, "I don't believe I do. I believe I want you to come with me inside you. I want to see you come because I'm fucking you so hard you can't hold it in anymore."

My cock leaked at that, and I gave a little involuntary arch into his hand. "I think I'd like that."

"It occurs to me that our previous encounters have been. . . a bit hasty. Make yourself comfortable, Black. You're going to be weeping for it before I'm done."

"Arrogant, supercilious prat. . . you-- ah."

"Like that, did you?"

"Again."

"All in good time." He sat up and surveyed me, as if considering where to begin. He descended on my abdomen and flicked his tongue in my navel. Someone had apparently strung a little wire connecting this with my cock while I slept. I jumped, but he pushed me back down.

"I think it's time, Black, you learned a little lesson in control."

"I don't require any lessons from you."

"Oh really?" he asked lazily. "Let's examine that proposition, shall we?" He moved his mouth lower and held it there for a long moment, hovering. My cock twitched at him. He gripped my wrists and pinned them to the mattress. Only then did he take me in his mouth. His rhythm was fast and good and I saw my orgasm coming, coming--

And then he stopped and watched me, as my purple cock throbbed and I fought for air.

"Snape-- goddamnit. Don't do that."

"Don't do what?" His silken voice was devoid of expression. "This?"

He lowered his mouth to me again, but much slower this time. Agonisingly slow. He ran his tongue along my ridge, over the glans, down again. He sucked until his cheeks hollowed. He kept his rhythm just enough off-kilter to fight down my orgasm, and every time my balls drew up he ruthlessly clamped them down. It seemed to go on for hours. I groaned and thrashed, but still he did not release my wrists.

"Snape-- please."

"Please what?"

"Fuck me already!"

He brushed a finger downward. I threw my legs apart, not caring how wanton I appeared. From the hitch in his breathing I knew he was reaching his limits as well. He bent his mouth to me, and his tongue drew circles around my hole, teasing the puckered entrance to life.

"Oh, fuck-- please, I can't--"

He raised my legs up to rest on his shoulders and slid an oiled finger inside me. I cried out at the intensity of it.

"Don't make me wait, goddamnit. Get in me now."

With one smooth motion he entered me. He went absolutely still, his eyes shut against the orgasm I knew he was fighting. I dug my fingers into his arse cheeks and pushed him in further, until he was sheathed so far in me I thought I would split. I pulled his head down to whisper in his ear.

"Fuck me, Snape. Fuck me like you've never fucked before. Fuck everything else out of me. Tear me to fucking pieces."

He groaned and pulled halfway out, only to plunge in again at a higher angle. He clipped the edge of my prostate and I bucked against him. He grabbed hold of my hair and tilted my head backward, exposing my neck.

"Hang on," he husked, and then he let go. He pounded me wildly, at a rate no man his age should have been able to sustain, teeth bared and clenched, eyes mad with need. He was life and I was life, and he thrust as if to pour more life into me, and I arched, pulling it from him, pulling him deeper, ever deeper. He drove into me without mercy, his cock splitting me, his breath grunting in my ear, his fingers wrapped in my hair.

"Tell me you like it like this, Black, tell me--"

"Yes, yes, I like it, fuck me, fuck me harder--"

"Show me how you like it, come for me--"

He curled his hand around my cock and pulled, and I was gone. The orgasm ripped through me like brush fire, tearing a wail from me, and my body froze in a rictus of pleasure as he groaned and shoved his last thrust, and I could feel his hot seed spilling in me, so much it was seeping around my hole, could feel him thrashing and pumping against me as my muscle clamped him and his pleasure took him.

This time I'm pretty sure we both blacked out. When I came to, our sweat- slicked bodies were still joined. I shifted, just to try if I could move with a ten stone wizard on top of me. No luck. Snape moaned and pulled out slowly, and we both shuddered at the loss. I couldn't stop my leg muscles shaking, and I fully expected to find great bloody handfuls of my hair on the pillowcase.

"Sorry." His voice at my ear was heavy with exhaustion.

"For what?"

"That was a bit rough. Rougher than I intended." He reached a hand down to massage my quivering muscles.

"I loved it. I don't think I've ever come so hard. The sight of you like that-- Christ on toast, that was magnificent."

He gave a low chuckle, and continued his lazy massage. I couldn't reckon how long we drifted like that, lost in the comfort of the other's skin. The weak sun climbed higher. I watched its progress through the dirty window beside the bed, my hand tracing slow circles on his back.

It was enough during those quiet hours to think our own thoughts. I thought of my first day at Hogwarts, of the slight lank-haired boy who had sulled in the corner of our train compartment, his large eyes watching me. I thought of James and Lily, and Harry at Hogwarts, safe for now. I thought of Dumbledore's face those many years ago in his office, after my ill-begotten prank, of the gravity of his face and eyes, of his words: "You'll be the death of me yet, Sirius Black." And here it had come true.

So few times had it taken to undo me.

"Severus."

"Yes, love."

I swallowed this as I was intended to, and went on past my suddenly tight chest. "Will it be soon, do you think?"

He gave a half-shrug. "Who can tell. But I think so, yes. In the next few hours. He knows where we are."

"How?"

"The dark magic. He can feel it."

"He's that powerful?"

"Make no mistake about it."

We drifted in thought a while more. Of a sudden an idea seized me, and I sat up.

"Snape. Did you ever study any Muggle history?"

"Naturally."

"Ever read about the charge of the Light Brigade?"

"Of course. Half a league, half a league, and all that. I am British, you know."

"Let's do it."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'll be damned if I'm going to sit around here and wait for Voldemort to come knocking at the door. Let's ride to meet him, Severus. Into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell. . . .however it goes. Think of it. What's the one thing he expects? For everyone to be so goddamned terrified of him that they sit cowering in their castles and cottages, waiting for the big bad wolf to come huffing and puffing. It's all we've done this entire fucking war, and I'm sick of it. You and I are not likely to live out the evening anyway. What the hell do we have to lose? If the cannon are going to mow me down, God knows I'd rather go out riding toward them, my saber whistling the air. We might just take a few of them with us, too. For eighteen months we've waited for him to make his moves, we've waited on his timing, on his advantage. I say, fuck that. If we can throw him off, maybe it's the sliver of advantage Albus will need to take him. Maybe it will buy Hogwarts five minutes, or five hours of time. Either way, it might be enough. I say, let's go find him. Ride with me, Snape. One last charge."

He propped himself on his elbow, looking at me as though I were insane. Slowly, he nodded. "Yes. . . .I think you might have a point, demented as it is. You just might at that." He sat up and ran a hand through his hair. "I will ride with you, Sirius Black."

I pulled him to me in a kiss that said the words I couldn't shape, and that he didn't expect to hear. We shrugged on our clothes in silence, and headed out. The door of the cottage banged in the wind behind us. There didn't seem any point to closing it. We stood for a moment on the little stone stoop, looking out over the headland. Snape's eyes were distant.

"Now what are you thinking?"

He turned a rueful smile on me, the wind whipping his hair wildly. "Of the dangers of early exposure to Tennyson."

I smiled back, but I was really smiling at how beautiful he looked standing there outlined against the dimness of the late winter afternoon, battered by the wind. I was smiling at our idiocy. We had managed to buy, for all our trouble, just twenty-four more hours of life. But that was all right. Sometimes, that was enough. If I had had to pick any twenty-four hours of my life to buy, this would have been it.

"Me too, Black," he said. "Me too."


Many miles away, another powerful wizard, also not insensible to the flow of dark magic, caught the tug of movement. He set down his lemon tea and stroked his long white beard. He walked to the window and gazed out it, frowning deeply, as though engaged in some interior struggle. When he turned from the window, his face had smoothed. Years that had sat heavy on him as he sipped his tea were shrugged off with a gesture.

"Come, Fawkes," he called to the phoenix. "The time has come at last. They shall not ride alone."

He stepped briskly to the corner and picked up a large gold-knobbed staff, wrapping himself in a fur-lined cape against the cold. The phoenix settled on his shoulder. He paused at the entrance to his office just long enough to reset the wards. After all, one never could tell. The stone gargoyle looked expectantly, waiting for the password. He considered.

"Hope," he said with a slight smile, and set off down the corridor.