Author: Claire (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Website: Tread On My Dreams
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters.
He could sense Snape's presence before he saw him; sure enough, the gargoyle swung open and Snape left Dumbledore's office. When he saw Sirius, his face contorted into his customary scowl.
"Nice to see you, too, Severus," Sirius said. "Checking in with Dumbledore? Is he still convinced you're on our side?"
"I am on his side," Snape replied pointedly.
"Good to hear," Sirius said, ignoring the slight.
"The same side, I suppose."
Sirius half-smiled. "I still don't trust you, Severus."
"That's perfectly all right with me. I don't trust you either."
"Interesting coming from someone who once allied himself with Voldemort, someone who still bears the Dark Mark on his forearm. Someone who is, if I'm not mistaken, serving him again."
"I'm not serving him. He merely thinks I am."
"Or perhaps you're spying on Dumbledore for him."
"These accusations are ridiculous, Sirius. Let's not forget which one of us spent over a decade in Azkaban."
"I was framed."
"So you claim."
Sirius was itching to punch him. "There was no trial! I couldn't even plead innocent. They just took me away and -" He didn't want to think about it, or to relive the time he'd spent in Azkaban. It still haunted him, a shadow hanging over him whenever he went.
"And what?" Snape sneered.
"And nothing! You don't know what it was like, what -" Again he had to stop. He felt like he was there again, surrounded by Dementors, being so tempted to give in to insanity. He knew he was innocent but he didn't want to believe it anymore, not if it meant this constant battle . . . he was getting so tired . . . wanted to give up . . .
"You're right, I don't," Snape said self-righteously. Then - "Sirius? Are you -"
"I'm fine," Sirius snapped.
"You look - "
"I don't need your concern, Severus," Sirius spat out at him.
"Of course," Snape said. His cold eyes met Sirius' for a moment before he turned and walked away. Sirius entered Dumbledore's office. The elderly wizard was waiting for him.
"Ah, Sirius," Dumbledore nodded. "Getting along well with Severus, I see."
Sirius opened his mouth to protest, but Dumbledore silenced him with a look. Whenever he was around Dumbledore he felt sixteen years old again, intimidated by the great wizard standing before him. "Please try to be civil towards each other, at least. He is on our side, you know."
"How do you know, though? How do you know you can trust him?"
"I know," Dumbledore said firmly.
Sirius knew he wasn't supposed to question this, but he had to. "He turned to the Dark Lord once, who's to say he won't do it again? Who's to say he hasn't already? Maybe he's spying for him, and you're playing right into his hands!"
"Am I ever going to get an answer longer than two words about this?" Sirius sighed in exasperation.
"It's doubtful," Dumbledore responded, smiling slightly. "Sirius, I appreciate your concern, but I don't want your schoolboy grudge against Severus to cloud your judgement."
"It's not a -" Sirius began to protest, but once again Dumbledore silenced him. "What if he really is on Voldemort's side? And you keep letting him teach here? What if he harms any of the students? What about Harry?"
"Severus Snape is most certainly not going to harm James Potter's son," Dumbledore said in mild amusement.
"What's so amusing?" Sirius demanded. "They never got along at school, you know that. They hated each other. We all hated him."
"James didn't. He saved his life."
"He saved his life because he was a good person, not out of any kind of loyalty to Snape. He would have done the same for anyone."
"James was a good man," Dumbledore reflected.
Sirius nodded quietly. Everyone had adored James, apart from the odd Slytherin, of course. The ringleader of their little group, the amazing Quidditch Chaser, the most handsome, charismatic boy in the school. The girls had been crazy about him, but he'd never had eyes for anyone but Lily. Pretty, smart Lily, Head Girl of the school - it had been a perfect match. Everyone had been delighted for them - except for Severus, of course.
As if Dumbledore could read his mind (perhaps he could, mused Sirius) he said, "He never had eyes for anyone but Lily. I think perhaps that's what drove him over the edge."
"Drove who over the edge?" Sirius frowned in puzzlement.
"Sirius, you start looking for answers and then ignore them when they're right under your nose," Dumbledore scolded gently.
"You mean Snape?"
"He always seemed to resent them, but I didn't realise he was in love with Lily." Sirius paused. "No. He wasn't in love with her. It was James."
"I wouldn't go so far as to say 'in love with', Sirius. But it was love, of a kind." Dumbledore paused, seeming debating how much of Snape's personal life to discuss with Sirius. "Most people felt the same way about James, I suppose, but they were friends with him. They weren't cut off from him, weren't deliberately excluded."
Sirius stared at the ground, ashamed. "We didn't exclude him, as such -"
"I'm not reprimanding you, Sirius. I remember Severus as a student. He wasn't the most pleasant to have around. But he was good, at heart. Just lonely."
"And then when James fell in love with Lily -"
"It was the straw that broke the camel's back, to use the Muggle expression. He withdrew more and more, and became increasingly interested in the Dark Arts, eventually joining with Voldemort."
Sirius nodded. "Then - why did he defect?"
"Voldermort murdered a man right before his eyes. It shook Snape more than he wanted to admit, made him realise what he was doing. He came to me and told me everything."
"And you believed him, right away? You didn't think it was some kind of trap?"
"A man doesn't arrive in the middle of the night trembling the way he was that night, Sirius. He was scared, and upset, and guilty - I knew right away that he wasn't lying."
"Is that why you trust him?"
"It's one of the reasons."
"Is that - the thing with James, I mean - why he hates me so much?"
"One of the reasons."
"I don't hate him," Sirius said softly.
"You do an excellent job of hiding it."
"I -" Sirius didn't know what he wanted to say next. He felt there was something to say, only he didn't know what it was. His mind kept drifting back to the way he'd brushed off Snape's concern earlier.
"He's been through a lot, Sirius. As have you. You have more in common than you realise. Now," he said decisively, "you came here to update me on the situation with our allies, I assume?"
Sirius nodded. He'd almost forgotten. "They're all preparing for a confrontation, should it happen in the near future. They're working on extra defence charms, but I don't know how much use they'll be if Voldemort does attack them."
"He's not going to attack individual wizards," Dumbledore said softly. "According to Severus, he's planning to infiltrate Hogwarts."
"Yes. As far as he's concerned, he already has one servant in here, and he plans to work towards getting more inside. The more allies he has in Hogwarts, the more power he'll gain. He wants the students. He needs young wizards and witches to help him in his rise to power, in his attempt to take over the wizard world. Which brings me to another point, Sirius - we need a new Defence for the Dark Arts teacher. We seem to go through them quite quickly here. I need someone I can trust, Sirius. Specifically, you. I know, I know -" he held up a hand before Sirius could speak - "you're in hiding. Obviously you would be in disguise. Constant doses of Polyjuice Potion or a Transformation Spell should do the trick, whichever you prefer."
Sirius was nodding. "I suppose it could work."
"You're safer here than anywhere else right now," Dumbledore reminded him. "And I'd like you to prepare the students for the possibility of Voldemort attacking. Counter-curses for every situation. They must be prepared."
Sirius nodded. "When do I start?"
It was only when he left the office he realised he'd just agreed to work in the same school as Snape.
Snape almost didn't recognise him. Almost. His eyes gave him away. He knew those eyes. Never mind that Sirius Black's usual black hair was now a mousy sort of brown colour, that his skin tone had changed, that his facial features had been altered - he still had the same eyes.
"What do you think?" Sirius asked him, taking the seat next to him at the table. The few teachers who had arrived at Hogwarts early were eating breakfast. The students weren't arriving for another two days, but several of the teachers had already settled in.
"I think - it's a good disguise," Snape admitted grudgingly.
"You recognised me, though," Sirius observed. Snape realised that this was why he'd sat down next to him. He wanted to know where he'd gone wrong.
"It was your eyes," Snape told him.
"My eyes?" he repeated. "I didn't realise they were so distinguishable."
"They're not. I mean - they are. To people who know you, I suppose." For some reason Snape felt uncomfortable. He hadn't realised just how much attention he'd paid to Sirius's appearance. He hoped Sirius didn't find it odd. He was just - trying to know all he could about his opponent, that was all.
Sirius nodded. "Well, I suppose that'll have to do. I happen to like these eyes."
Snape almost smiled.
"I - eh - spoke to Dumbledore about -" Sirius stumbled. "That is to say - he told me that he trusts you, and that's good enough for me."
Snape was surprised. He hadn't expected this. "Likewise," he nodded. "We're on the same side, after all."
"Right." Sirius paused. "He told me about the night you came to him. When you turned away from Voldemort."
"How much did he tell you?" Snape asked sharply.
"Just - that he'd killed someone, and that was what made you come back. I thought you should know that he told me."
"He didn't tell you it all, then," Snape said. He should have known Dumbledore wouldn't have told him the full story, but a general overview. For that, he was grateful. He found himself wanting to tell Sirius the whole story, and wondered was he crazy for wanting to do so. Sirius and he were hardly friends, after all. And the dining hall at Hogwarts was hardly the place to start discussing that night.
Sirius looked at him inquisitively, but came to the same conclusion as Snape had moments earlier, and returned to his meal. They finished breakfast in silence.
Snape saw him later, wandering around the school, seeming to be lost in a reverie. When Sirius saw him, he jumped. "Oh! Hello."
Snape nodded in response to his greeting, somewhat puzzled by the lack of hostility that Sirius had been exhibiting. It made him suspicious. Maybe the potion he'd taken to transform himself had worked on more than just a physical level, he mused. There were several potions which could alter someone's entire personality. Yet Dumbledore had consulted him at length about various potions, and none of the options he'd suggested were for anything more than a simple physical transformation.
As Sirius walked on, Snape couldn't help but ask, calling over his shoulder, "What were you thinking about?"
Sirius turned around, and the two men faced each other. "It's silly, but - I was thinking about our own days here, as students. It seems so long ago, but at the same time -"
"It feels like yesterday," Snape finished. "I know." He'd been hated then, and he was hated now. He didn't see much of a difference. Except now he was a teacher, in a position of authority, and he was feared, too. He knew it. He liked it.
Sirius had picked up on the note of bitterness in Snape's voice. "I suppose it wasn't much fun here for you."
"On the contrary, I learned quite a lot. It wasn't all bad."
"Why did you turn to Voldemort?" Sirius asked suddenly.
"Hasn't Dumbledore filled you in on that, too?"
"I want to hear it from you."
"Desperation, I suppose," Snape reflected. "He seemed to offer a way out."
"What made you so desperate?" Sirius asked softly.
Snape couldn't quite believe the turn this was taking; nevertheless he tried to answer as best he could. "I don't know," he said honestly. "I can't pinpoint it. It was everything and nothing. I needed to feel loved, I suppose. Voldemort can be very - seductive."
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Are you telling me - you were - or do I even want to know?"
Snape sighed. "He's evil, Sirius. He'll do whatever it takes to persuade you to join him. For me, it was making me believe that he loved me."
"And that's why?"
"And then - "
"And then he murdered my cousin. Right in front of my eyes. I lured him there. Voldemort told me he wanted him as a Death Eater. I didn't realise he just wanted to kill him."
"How can you say that so calmly?" Sirius asked in amazement.
Snape shrugged. "It's better to be detached from your emotions. You should know. You still haven't cried over James's death."
"How - how did you know?"
"I can tell. When they took you to Azkaban, they killed that part of you. When you talk about it, that same dead look returns to your eyes."
"You haven't cried either, have you?"
Snape shook his head. "I'm sure that doesn't surprise you." He hadn't cried since the night he'd come to Dumbledore, sobbing like a child in the old wizard's arms. After that any emotion had been too much to take.
"I know you didn't really hate him."
"That much is true," he admitted.
"I know it hurt you when he married Lily," Sirius continued.
"I don't know what you're -"
"We all loved him, Severus. In some way or another, we all did. There's no shame in admitting it -"
"No, no shame, just pain. Just knowing that you loved him and could never have him, that's all," Snape said bitterly. "Excuse me." He pushed past Sirius and headed towards the dungeon.
He hadn't meant to reveal so much to Sirius. What had he been thinking? His face was flushed, and his fists were clenched. He hadn't wanted any of that to be brought up. Not with Sirius.
"Severus?" He'd followed him.
"Go away," Snape muttered through clenched teeth.
"Why do you hate me?"
"I don't hate you."
"Stop lying. Is it because of James?"
Sirius sighed. "Is it?"
"I said maybe."
Sirius was getting frustrated. He grabbed Snape by the shoulder and spun him around. "Just tell me!" he demanded.
"Why does it matter so much to you?" Snape asked him, staring straight at him. They were so close their noses were almost touching.
Sirius looked down. "I don't know."
"Let me make this easy for you," Snape said impatiently. He leaned forward and kissed him. "Would that have anything to with it?"
Sirius stared at him. "Maybe . . ."
Snape sighed in exasperation.