Author's Note: The uncensored version of chapter four of this story is available out of general circulation, in that other section of the library. Be sure to bring a note from your professor.
Stone Walls do not a Prison make,
Nor Iron bars a Cage ;
Mindes innocent and quiet take
That for an Hermitage ;
If I have freedome in my Love,
And in my soule am free ;
Angels alone that sore above,
Injoy such Liberty.
------Richard Lovelace, ca. 1649
"Well. Where is he?"
"How the hell should I know?"
"You were here first. What did you do with him?"
"I murdered him, Black, and stuffed his body behind a bookcase. Now no one can stand in the way of my diabolical plan to dominate the universe. And my first act once I have gained world power will be to buy you a muzzle."
"Very funny." Sirius collapsed in a chair and sat in sullen silence. After a while he glanced at the clock on the wall. "This is ridiculous. Does he expect us to sit here all night?"
"My guess would be yes, that is exactly what he expects. I don't think we will be seeing Albus before midnight, at the earliest."
Sirius groaned and leaned his head back in his chair. "Good God. You're right. Remus is going to kill me. He's stuck supervising my detention for me all night now."
"I'm sure you'll find ways to make it up to him."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, never mind." Snape sank further into his chair and tried to glare Fawkes into submission. Sirius drummed his fingers for a minute, then rose and began to pace.
"That infernal pacing."
"This is ridiculous. I'm not staying here."
"That's just fine with me, Black. I have no problem being the only one here when Albus opens that door."
"Oh, bloody hell."
"Watch your language."
"You're one to talk."
"What does that mean?"
They watched Fawkes groom himself and listened to the clock tick. Finally Sirius stirred.
"Well, I might as well begin. For what it's worth, Snape, I apologise."
Snape's eyebrows shot to the ceiling.
"I was wrong to challenge you like that. In the hallway, at least. I admit that at the moment, I forgot you were Deputy Headmaster and thought of you as – well- Snape."
Snape steepled his fingers. "Very well, Black. I accept your apology."
"This is the part where you apologise for baiting me."
"I beg your pardon. I did no such thing. I spoke of baiting werewolves, not you."
"Why, you little-"
"And I might point out that you assaulted me like an overgrown Quidditch hooligan, for which you have yet to apologise."
"And you assaulted right back!"
"Right. I'm done here. No more talking, or I may strangle you. No telling how many detentions Albus would make me serve for that one. But at least I would have the comfort of serving them alone."
"Go to hell, Black."
Sirius climbed the small spiral staircase to the bookcases above the desk and selected a book. He curled in a chair with his back to Snape and read in silence. Snape rose and stroked Fawkes. He walked to the window and looked out over the darkness on the surrounding hills, then back to Fawkes.
"Now who's pacing."
Snape sighed and climbed the little staircase to the second level. Sirius did not look up.
"Are you ever going to forgive me, Snape?"
"For which of your many offenses?"
He shut his book with a scowl. "For witnessing your vulnerability."
Snape froze. "How dare you."
"How dare I what? Remind you that you haven't always been as stiff as a broomstick in a waistcoat?"
"You dare reproach me."
"It's not a reproach! Christ Almighty, I've never known anyone who made it harder to be his friend in my entire life!" He opened his book and resumed reading with a distracted frown.
Snape watched the floor in silence. "Is that what you are?"
"You said- oh, never mind."
Sirius watched him over his book. "Yes, I had hoped that we could become something like friends. After what we've seen and known of each other. Is that so utterly out of the question?"
Snape pursed his lips. "I. . .I don't think I have any idea how to do that. With anyone."
"No kidding." He shut his book and re-shelved it. "All right, low blow. Forget I said that." He stretched. "We appear to have some time on our hands. What shall we talk about?"
"Did Harry tell you why he got into the fight with Milholland?"
"No. You're saying he told you more than he told me?"
"I'm saying he knows how to get round you."
"So. Why did he attack Harry?"
"You've got it backward. Potter went for him."
"Did he now? What had he done?"
"Verbally provoked him by insulting a faculty member."
Sirius chuckled. "You've got to be joking."
"I assure you I am quite sincere."
"He didn't make the mistake of insulting Remus."
"No. It was me, actually."
"You?" Sirius did a double take. "Harry defended you?"
"Yes. I confess I am really quite moved, if disapproving in a general sense."
"Huh." Sirius stroked the stubble on his chin.
"You appear unsurprised. At my being insulted or at Potter's delicate sense of honour on my behalf?"
"Both, actually. Harry's very peculiar that way. I don't know how to account for it. James was like that, to a certain extent, but nothing like Harry." Sirius rose and went down the little staircase. "Where do you suppose Albus hides that sherry?"
"Black. You cannot be serious. You want to break into Albus's stash?"
"Well, if we're going to be stuck here like naughty schoolboys, might as well act like them. Besides, I had plans to get hugely pissed tonight, and I like to stick to my plans."
"You were seriously planning on getting drunk on a school night?"
"Yes, Mum, I was in fact."
"And teaching Potions the next day, your reflexes and motor skills impaired by hangover?"
"I don't get hangovers."
"You are going to meet your death in a potions classroom. One Neville Longbottom is all it would take." A terrible thought struck him. "I haven't seen him at all. Tell me that doesn't mean what I think it does."
"That's what it means." Sirius's head was buried in a cabinet.
"Last months of the war, actually. Funny thing is, Frank and Lucille are all right now. That Memory Restorative Potion you were working on worked after all. They recovered their memories and their sanity, just in time to hear their son had died."
"Good God. They'll hardly thank me for that one." Snape ran his hand through his hair. "I don't understand how that potion could have worked. What I had was only a prototype. It was far too unstable to be of any use."
"Oh. Well. I tweaked it some, and got lucky I guess. I haven't your 'natural gift,' but I'm not hopeless either."
"That really irritated you when Albus said that, didn't it?"
"Little bit." Sirius uncorked a bottle of Ogden's and pulled out two glasses. "Paydirt. Bottoms up, Snape." He tossed back the firewhiskey at a gulp. Snape followed suit, almost choking on the rich burn of the stuff.
"Been a while for you, hasn't it? Well, time to get back in the game. Time was you could drink a Quidditch team under the table, if memory serves. Here's mud in your eye." He tossed back his second glass.
"You know," said Snape, wiping his mouth, "I was telling young Potter about McQuarrie today."
"That old bastard. May he rot in hell."
"Et in saecula saeculorum. I almost told Harry today about the time we spearheaded the joint Gryffindor-Slytherin project to put a testicle-squeezing charm on his underwear."
"Great Scott. I'm glad you didn't. I have a hard enough time making sure he knows as little as possible about my school days." He refilled his glass. "I don't think I've ever laughed as hard as I did that day. Seeing the old boy clutch at his groin and keel over that way- damn," he laughed. "I'd pay good money to see that again. And you were the mastermind behind that one."
"May it redound to my glory."
"I feel a sudden desire to sit down."
"You've certainly become a cheap drunk."
"My many suitors will be glad to hear it."
"So, speaking of your suitors-"
"What exactly did Milholland say?"
"Fill me up. Oh, the usual. Death Eating scum, traitorous bastard, et cetera et cetera. Couple of new ones."
"Well, let's see if I've got this right. I sucked Dumbledore's mildewed cock to get my job back. And I'm a slimy git of a faggot- in itself nothing original- who is rogering your godson."
Sirius set his glass down, his face suddenly grave. "Harry didn't say any of this to me."
"No, well, he wouldn't."
"No wonder he went for the little prick."
Snape squinted at him over his glass. "You've been here what, two years now?"
"An unmarried man in a boarding school. You'll get used to it. The gossip. Lupin's bound to have encountered it before. Talk to him about it."
"You know, Snape, I think you may be labouring under a tiny bit of a delusion about my relationship with Remus."
"We're not actually lovers, you know."
"I'm sure I never thought about it."
"I don't have sexual thoughts, Black."
Sirius refilled their glasses. "You used to."
"A long time ago."
"Is sex something you gave up as part of your penance all those years ago?"
Snape sipped in silence. "Yes."
"Yes? Bloody hell, I was joking. How long has it been since you had sex, Snape?"
"I'm not sure."
"Sure of what?"
"How you would define sex."
A small ugly suspicion plucked at Sirius's gut, and he quickly turned the conversation. "I would say defining sex is the great work and purpose of one's school days. At what point can one definitively say that sex has occurred? Jamie and I used to have arguments about this all the time. He claimed to have lost his virginity under the Quidditch stands during fifth year, but I maintained it was simply snogging gone awry."
"I would say. . . orgasm in the presence of another person."
"That's awfully conservative of you."
"All right. Mutual orgasm, mutual touching. Autoeroticism in the presence of another doesn't count."
"Hm. Glad to hear it."
"So why aren't you married, Black?"
"Who, me? Well, let's see, how would that posting in the Daily Prophet read? 'Handsome ex-con seeks single white female?' Women tend to be unwilling to overlook things like murder convictions."
"People can be so shallow."
"And also because Jamie got the girl, that's why."
"Not hard to see why she made her choice."
"You wound me. Don't you think I'm husband material? Responsible, upstanding, and all that?"
"Charming, witty, incapable of fidelity."
Sirius gave a rueful smile. "Not actually true. Lily had other issues with me."
"Did she love you?"
"Not so much, evidently."
Snape finished off his glass and reached for the bottle. "I'm sorry if I gave offense by my assumption about you and Lupin. It's just- well, there were rumours, in school."
"About me and Remus?"
"About you and Potter."
"Oh. Well, those weren't actually untrue."
"Ah. Miss Evans' other issue rears its ugly head."
"Indeed. Me, I've always maintained that anything that increases my chances of a date on Saturday night by 50 percent, can't be a bad thing."
"That's incredibly. . . .sluttish of you. Also disingenuous."
"Because everyone has a preference."
"Not me." He leaned over for the bottle. "I take it back. I do have a preference. For good conversation and uninhibited sex."
"Neither gender has a corner on those markets."
"You see my problem."
"I think your plan about hiding as much of your life as possible from your godson is a good one."
"Truth or dare?"
"What are you, fourteen?"
"Arrested adolescence, remember? Let's live up to it."
"Does anyone ever actually pick 'dare'?"
"Oh, sure. I used to, all the time. The key is to play with people you trust to come up with reasonable dares that won't get you killed or expelled."
"You know we're out of school, right? We can't actually be expelled."
"Sacked, then, in our case."
"Oh, I think that's pretty much a foregone conclusion, when Albus walks back into this office."
"You're avoiding the subject. Truth or dare?"
"All right. God help me. Truth."
"What's your favourite colour?"
"You have got to be joking."
"No, I'm really not. I don't believe it's black."
"It's not." He closed his eyes. "Deep purple. My mother had this velvet dress- I thought it made her look like a queen."
"Quite a woman, Cassandra."
"Shut up. My turn. Truth or dare."
Sirius gave a devilish grin. "Dare."
"Oh, for heaven's sake. What on earth can I dare you to do in this office we haven't already done? Strip naked and dance with Fawkes?"
"I don't know. That's your job. You can dare me to floss my teeth, if you want."
"Very well. You've made your choice. Go get a piece of parchment off Albus's desk. And a quill."
"What am I going to do?"
"You're going to take dictation."
"All right. Fire away."
"Write: 'Dear Albus.'"
"Got it. Dear Albus."
" 'I wanted to write this note to tender my heartfelt thanks,'" Snape recited slowly. " 'My heartfelt thanks for arranging tonight's detention. Over the course of the evening, I have come to see that Deputy Headmaster Snape is by far my superior in breeding, understanding, and learning.' Are you getting all this?"
"Hang on. Slow down a bit."
" 'I was a fool ever to have challenged his slightest decision or to have offered him offense in any way. I am ashamed to own I have been blinded by my envy of his natural good looks and talent. But no more. I must confess to you my folly. Today's altercation was entirely and completely my fault, provoked by my headstrong unwillingness to listen to Professor Snape's calm and wise remarks. Henceforward, I will be his devoted, single-minded supporter in all matters, as I have ever been yours.
Sirius Ebenezer Black'
Do you have all that?"
"You cannot be serious."
"This game was your idea, not mine. Are you backing down?"
"Not on your life."
"Good. Now I want you to leave that on his desk, right at the top of the pile. Excellent. You know, I think I like this game after all."
"Just you wait. Yours is coming."
"I am all aflutter. Do your worst."
"Truth or dare?"
"Were you raped in Azkaban?"
The silence that crashed down landed on his chest like a weight. Too late Sirius realised his mistake and cursed his whiskey-fogged brain. "You don't have to answer that."
There was no reply. He raised up on one arm to look at Snape on the floor across from him. He was staring rigidly at the ceiling, unblinking.
"Snape. I didn't mean to ask that. I was wondering about it earlier and it just came out now before I could think. I'm drunker than I thought I was. Please let's forget I asked it."
Snape still did not move. Sirius waited. Finally Snape sat up and walked over to the cabinet. He emerged with another bottle of whiskey. He uncorked it and swigged right from the bottle before he sat back down. He continued his study of the ceiling.
Sirius shut his eyes, hating himself. "I didn't mean to be such a bastard, Snape."
"I know that." He drank from the bottle again. "Did it happen to you?"
"No. I was pretty much let alone by the Aurors, once I was captured."
"Yeah. They kept to the old standards with me- floggings, beatings, the like. When they thought about it, which wasn't that often."
"The beatings I could stand all right. It was what came after I couldn't bear."
"Jesus. Albus would burn down the Ministry, if he knew."
"He must never know. Please." Snape's voice was urgent.
"Of course not."
They passed the bottle back and forth in silence for a while.
"It's your turn, Black."
"I don't think we should play any more."
"Oh, I think we should. Truth or dare?"
"Who's the person at Hogwarts right now, faculty, student, or otherwise, with whom you most wish to have wild, raucous, spine-tingling sex?"
"Oh, no you don't. You've dished it out, now you can take it. I want a truthful answer, on your honour as a teacher at this school. Do you swear to give it?"
"Christ. All right. I swear."
"Good. Now let's hear it, you randy little bastard. Personally, I'm hoping it's Hooch."
Sirius mumbled something indistinct.
"What's that? You're going to have to speak up. Let's have it. Who is it?"
Sirius rolled over so his back was to Snape. "It's you."
The silence before was nothing to the thunderous pall that descended on the room this time. Sirius could hear his blood pounding in his chest. He pushed himself up and drained the bottle to the halfway mark.
"Congratulations, all right? We're even. Dirt for dirt. Shame for shame. Now can we please just get drunk quietly before I manage to humiliate myself even further." He collapsed on to his back and felt his stomach roil. It was possible he might be sick. He had just handed Severus Snape enough rope to hang him with. Why hadn't he thought to lie? Why was lying a skill reserved for the sober?
"You're having me on."
"I should think it's fairly obvious I'm not. Please, let's just change the subject."
Snape raised himself on his elbows and squinted at Black through his hair. "Why?"
"Why would you want to sleep with me?"
"You know, what I said before. Good conversation, uninhibited sex."
"I'll grant you the former. But you have to know I'm hardly capable of the latter."
"I think you might surprise yourself."
"Besides, I have no real experience- consensually, that is- of that sort of thing."
"Snape, really. I was speaking in hypotheticals. It was not a proposition. I do realise you'd sooner chew your leg off."
"No. . .no, you're quite wrong there. I have to admit, a part of me has- wondered."
Sirius dragged himself on his elbows over to where Snape was lying. "I wouldn't have thought you would have any curiosity about- what did you call it?- 'that sort of thing.'"
"I don't, in general. Well, I have thought about it on occasion. Certain people."
"What, you want names?"
"I want them, and I want them now."
"Well. You, for one."
"Snape. Have you ever kissed a man?"
"Want to try it?"
Snape reflected. "I might not care for it."
"You might not."
"What is it like?"
"Rougher. Stronger. Firmer."
"Those are not- bad descriptions, in and of themselves."
"You'll have to judge for yourself."
"Just a kiss, nothing more?"
"All right then."
He sat up and Sirius edged closer, letting his hair trail over Snape's shoulder. He brushed his lips against Snape's jaw line. "Still want to?"
"Yes." Snape's voice sounded tight.
Sirius moved his lips to Snape's and let them rest there a moment. "Still?"
"You are beginning to irritate me."
He pushed against Snape's lips and twined his hand in his hair. He felt Snape's lips part for him, felt the jolt in his groin when tongue brushed tongue. He struggled to control his breathing, and too late realised he was crushing the other man to him, plundering his mouth. He tried to ease up, but Snape was right there pulling him tighter, pushing into his mouth now with startling ferocity. He tasted whiskey and cloves. With difficulty he pushed him away.
"Snape. I promised just a kiss. I need to stop now if I'm to keep that promise."
"Fuck your promise."
The sound of that word on Snape's lips sent a sharp frisson through him. "Snape. I'm not kidding. I'm drunk and hard and I could come right now. Stop or else."
For long moments afterward they lay in a daze, limbs atangle.
"If Albus walks through that door and finds us on the floor of his office drunk, naked, and covered in questionable bodily fluids, what do you think the chances of our getting sacked would be?"
"I would say, fair to excellent. We've got to get cleaned up."
With the urgency of self-preservation, they hastily pulled their clothes on and put the office back in a reasonable semblance of order. After a quick and fierce debate over what to do with the empty whiskey bottles, they decided to carry the evidence with them, concealed under robes.
"Now. If we could just do something about the smell of sex." Sirius stood with his hands on his hips, frowning.
"Yes, that is a problem. What about a Fumigus charm?"
"No good. He's sure to recognise it."
"Of course he will. But at least he won't know what's under it."
"I wouldn't bet on that."
They cast the charm and straightened their clothes. Sirius studied Fawkes for a moment. "What do you think the chances are that overgrown chicken can talk?"
"Forget the bird. He's the least of our worries. What time is it?"
"Well, clearly Albus is not going to show up. He can hardly fault us at this point for leaving. He's made his point, after all. And let's not forget, we have your nice note on his desk."
"I'm going to burn that thing."
"Oh, no you don't. I'll blackmail you if you do."
"Small problem there. You're pretty heavily implicated in this scenario."
"Come here." Sirius pulled him close. "That was definitely some of the best kissing I've ever had. Any chance we might get to do some of that again?"
"Hard to say. Who knows what burst of rationality sobriety may bring?"
"The we'd better take advantage of the time we have till then." Their kisses were slower and more deliberate this time. "Severus. I can do better than a quick roll on the floor," he said, resting his forehead against the other man's.
"I'll wager you can. But it may take me. . . some time."
"That I can give you. Come on, let's get out of here," Sirius murmured. With a final twitch to the curtains and cursory inspection of the room, they were gone.
Fawkes cocked his head and watched them go, then flew across the room to the empty chair in the corner. He landed on the back of the chair and began to trill softly. The man in the chair lifted back the rich folds of his invisibility cloak's hood, and the phoenix perched on his shoulder.
"What do you think, Fawkes? Interesting, yes? Far more than I was expecting, I'll grant you that. And it will more than do to be going on with," he said with a small chuckle. "Well, well, well. Quite a night we've had, quite a night indeed." The old wizard slowly stroked the bird as he wandered off to his bedchamber, lost in thought.