Disclaimer: They're JK's. And there's a line from a poem by Carol Ann Duffy in there too. See if you can spot it.

AN: I started writing this chapter a while before OotP was released, so I had to make some major changes. The style is still rather strange. One or two people have read the beginning and kept encouraging me with it at the time, and I decided to revamp it and finish it off. I think I managed to keep it going in the same direction.

Dedication: To Magentatata, because she hasn't had a mention in my fics yet and she deserves one if only because she has great taste in music. (That dog just don't give a feck, does it, dear?)


I walked into the room and crossed to the open window. A fresh breeze greeted me, carrying the scent of vanilla and the black roses in the long garden. What was I doing here? Was I mad? I was going to die, I was convinced of it. There was no way Sirius Black would let me talk to him, then walk away unharmed. Extremely dangerous, they said you were. Well, I told myself, I'd like to see him try and kill a werewolf. Then I realised you'd know exactly how to kill a werewolf, because I'd made you read all those books about us years ago.

The room was large, one of the half-dozen or so dining rooms in the family home. The house was un-lived in, but well maintained by your family's servants who had all left the house by 10 pm. You knew that. That's why you asked to meet at 11 O'clock. It was nearly that time now. I gazed about in the dark at the long table, the drinks cabinet, the diamond chandeliers, the expensive portraits of ancient Black family members. It was all exactly as I remembered it. The whole house, the atmosphere it contained, the frame of mind it put me in, made my spine tingle like it always had. *Almost* like it always had. Before it had filled me with awe. Now I recognised the emotion as pure fear. And you were late.

Various smells and sounds reached my senses which I hadn't experienced for years. If I shut my eyes, I was a teenager again, a young boy in my best friend's house, doing nothing but visiting you socially like we'd not spent the last decade apart. Like nothing bad had ever happened. Like you hadn't betrayed us.

If I really let my mind wander, I could feel you again, your fingers brushing idly against my face, your warm, familiar breath. I could see your face; its every detail was printed in my memory as clear as day, but inaccessible unless I really concentrated. My subconscious mind knew you were dangerous. I'd nearly gotten over you. I needed maybe a year or so, and I could have forgotten you were ever such a significant part of my life. I could have moved on.

But it wouldn't be like you, would it, to allow me the chance to succeed? Let me nearly get there, let me think I would reach my goal, but stop me just before I got there. How many times did you put me to one side in favour of somebody else just as I thought I'd succeeded with you? I lost count. I bet you didn't. At the time I blamed myself, told myself I wasn't good enough for you. I wish I'd never had to discover the truth.

Did I hate you? Of course. Despised you. Hated you more than I've ever hated anything, more than *anyone* has hated anything. Hated what you became and what you did to me. You were merciful to Lily and James Potter and to Peter Pettigrew. You killed them before they knew the real you. They only ever met the man I loved, never the man I loathe. Sometimes, when it's cold and dark and I'm alone, I wish you'd killed me too. As long as I'd never known it was you, I could have gone to my grave loving you. Why did you spare me to this fate? Maybe tonight I'll find out.

Of course, my darling sweetheart bastard, I can't pretend to be perfect. Maybe if you knew me, knew what I've become, you'd hate me too. Paranoid, hateful, depressed. I didn't find love again. Maybe lust, a degree of comfort, but after you left me like that I could never link the idea of passion with the idea of compassion ever again. Of course I blame you for that. Who else is there to blame?

I thought I would finally break away from you when I got the letter from Dumbledore. You won't know this, but he wants me to work for him. Me, a teacher! Who would have thought it? They'll have to keep my little problem a secret, and Snape works there so he'll be a thorn in the side, but it'll be a whole new start for me. Or I hoped it would. I sent my acceptance letter off, smiled for the first time in ages. Then I got the card from you. The soggy, torn scrap of an old Christmas card written on in green coloured pencil. I recognised the handwriting immediately (I still have a shoe box full of letters from you after all) and my heart sank. My past came back to smack me in the face. When I think of you, Memory Lane becomes a dark alley full of lurking figures and looming shadows. You're bad and you're dangerous. Any sensible person would have screwed the card up and dropped it in the bin, but I couldn't. You wanted to meet me. I couldn't pass up this chance to find the answer to the one question I'd asked myself over the years.


So here I was. And where were you? I opened my eyes again and looked around. Nothing had moved. Nothing had changed. I folded my arms and checked my watch. I'd give you fifteen minutes, then leave. Fourteen and a half minutes later, I heard a sound outside the door of the room, and then silence. But there had definitely been a noise. You were waiting.

". . . Sirius?" I croaked.

The door opened. Two bright silver eyes peered around it, framed by straggly black hair. There was fear in those eyes, amongst other things. Finally, you pushed the door wide and stood framed in the light of the doorway.

My jaw dropped. Surely this sorry creature was not my Sirius Black? Your muscular figure had become gaunt and thin, your skin was pale, all trace of your usual tan gone, and your hair was long and lank. I could see you had made some effort to look presentable: you'd washed and shaved, but I could tell these weren't things you were in the habit of doing any more. Your shining eyes were the only remnants of the Sirius I had known. It brought tears to my eyes, I won't pretend it didn't. I wanted the old Sirius back, like a spoilt child who wouldn't let go of the idea of something it couldn't have.

"Remus, I . . ." Your voice was hesitant and fractured. You coughed suddenly, a dry, racking cough which nearly doubled you over. Automatically I rushed forward to support you, but you jumped away like a wild animal. "Sorry," you muttered. I watched as you skirted round the room, looking about at the familiar décor, but keeping me within your sights as if I were the dangerous criminal.

"No one knows you're here?" you muttered.

"What do you take me for?" I snapped, annoyed. You laughed, and it turned into another coughing fit. Once you recovered, you turned your gaze on me again.

"You don't change, Remus." You said. "You're just like the eleven-year-old kid I met on the train all those years ago. Why don't you change?"

I caught myself growling and stopped. "You don't know me."

"See? You still try to fool yourself. Of course I know you. I know you better than you do."

"Look, just tell me why you wanted this meeting!" I was getting impatient. I was scared and wanted out of there. You were going to take your time though. You were looking around at your house, the décor and the dust and the darkness. I wondered why you'd come back here. Surely we could have held this meeting in a dozen other places? You'd hated this house and your family when we were together. You despised their anti-muggle, pro-Riddle attitude so much you ran away and lived with James Potter's family. Was this some sort of statement of your changed mind-set? You were a Black again. Had you ever really been anything else? Had I fallen for some elaborate farce when I believed you were ever against your family's values? So many questions to ask you, so little time. I realised my fear had been replaced for the most part by curiosity, an emotion which was deadly to felines and canines alike. The wolf within me told me not to drop my guard. I kept my eyes on you, never letting you walk behind me. You seemed to find this amusing and stopped in front of a portrait of some long-dead Black torturing a group of bound and gagged Muggles to smirk at me, all trace of nervousness gone.

"Really, Moony, do you trust me so little?" you drawled.

"What do you think?" I growled.

"What's the wolf saying?"

"Keep away. Don't believe a word you say. Get the hell out of here."

"Smart wolf." The smirk was back. Then it suddenly vanished and you whirled round, a stolen wand suddenly in your hands. Light shot from the wand tip, and the portrait behind you erupted into flame. I flung an arm over my face as smoke filled the room. The heat was intense for a moment, then the fire burned out without spreading to the surrounding architecture. The smoke didn't entirely clear, and you coughed violently again. I flung open a window, used a spell to help clear the air. The remains of the muggle torture portrait dropped from the wall and smouldered on the floor near your feet. I looked from it to you. There was something in your eyes, some spark I hadn't seen for twelve years, and I was compelled to offer you some support. You leaned against me, trying to regain your breath. The wolf snarled at the instant we touched, then fell silent almost as suddenly. I ignored it for now. You were still another human being and I could see you hadn't been in the best of health recently.

"I . . . HATE . . . this fucking house!" you growled, slumping to the floor beside the charcoal blackened rag of the portrait. "Is that damned house elf still here?"

"Haven't seen him," I said shortly, crouching a short distance away from you.

"Idiotic little bastard," you growled, and for a moment I was unsure whether you meant me or the elf.

"Why did you want to meet here?" I asked after a while of silence.

"Don't know. So I could burn a few portraits? Maybe I just like torturing myself. Who cares? It's just a place."

"So what do you have to say to me?"

You wiped your nose on your sleeve. "I didn't do it."


"I didn't do it. Any of it."

I stared at you incredulously. How could you say that so flippantly? Everyone knew that you were a murderer. There was proof. . .Lots of proof. . . somewhere.

"Of course," you continued in the same conversational tone, "I can't expect you to believe me. It just needed saying. I didn't do it. Someone else betrayed Lily and James."

"Oh, and someone else killed Peter Pettigrew? And all those other innocent people?" I couldn't restrain the anger in my voice, no matter how calm I wanted to sound.

"Something like that." You swept your hair back and held it behind your head. "Got a bit of string?"


You stood up. I flinched away from you, but surprisingly the wolf was calm. This made me even more nervous. Was my own alter-ego turning against me? I watched you tear a piece of canvas from another painting and clumsily bind your hair with it. I caught a glimpse of the Sirius I had known in that action, and mentally slapped myself when I felt a bout of sympathy towards you. I found my memory slipping back to that last night we'd spent together, twelve years ago. I'd let you leave our house. I could have stopped you but didn't. I'd needed to know you loved me, sought your confirmation, then when it was over I released you to carry out your horrendous tasks. . .

"Moony?" You were staring at me, trying to snap me out of my reverie. I blinked once. You offered me a small smile which I forced myself not to return. I still wanted those answers. I'd wondered before hand whether I'd want to hit you when I saw you, but the urge never once gripped me. I just wanted to talk.

"Tell me a few things," I said. "Firstly, why?"

"Why what?"

"Why betray James and Lily?"

"I told you, I didn't. Is it my fault if you don't believe me?"

"Of course it is!" I snarled.

You shrugged. "I'll give you the facts if you want, it's up to you what you do with them."

I shook my head. "You're mad, Sirius."

"Nope. I'm a lot of things, but mad isn't one of them." A strange look passed over your face. "I didn't ask you here to convince you of my innocence. It wouldn't work anyway. You wouldn't believe me. I couldn't ask you too, not on just my word. Maybe one day there'll be proof, but for now I'm an escaped criminal. Guilty until proven innocent if you like. I didn't get a trial, you know." You stared at me evenly. The more you spoke, the more I thought I recognised you again. 'This is exactly what Sirius would say', I thought. You continued. "I think you know why I'm here though. Why *we're* here."

"No." I shook my head. "I couldn't guess."

You moved closer to me and I stood my ground. "Why should I want to meet you, Moony? You and no one else? Why won't you go running to the nearest Auror as soon as you leave tonight? Why do you feel such hatred towards me, yet can't even be unpleasant to me?"

I blinked stupidly, unwilling to answer.

"Love, Moony," you muttered. "Whether I did everything you think I did or not, whether I'm a murderer or a victim, we had something once and I still feel for you. You still feel for me too."

I tried to find my voice. "No, I don't."

"Don't you *ever* listen to what the wolf has to say?" you demanded. "Of course you have feelings for me. You're only human, Remus, and a human with no feelings but utmost loathing towards another will harm them, maybe kill them. Why don't you try and hurt me, Remus? I killed James, didn't I? And Peter? Aren't you going to avenge them?" You moved closer still. "Listen to that wolf in you. What's it saying to you?"

I closed my eyes. I didn't trust you, but the Wolf was now vying for my attention. I opened my mind to my animal instincts. What was the wolf thinking? But of course. Here was my mate, my life-partner. He'd been gone for 12 years, but wolves don't forget easily. I could sense for a moment what the Wolf wanted. Nothing mattered except the return of its mate. Who cares that a few people died? Who cares that there'd been a major security breech? The being its life - my life - had revolved around was back. Maybe things could carry on as they had before? I struggled to disconnect myself from the wolf, find my real emotions, my true feelings. It was difficult, the creature was part of me. But I knew who I was and I opened my eyes.

I had pressed my lips against yours while the wolf controlled my mind. We stared into each other's eyes for a long time, just standing there. So what if you were a killer? You were my mate. I had chosen you. Ok, maybe it had been the wrong choice, but it was far, far too late to change my mind. I could feel your pulse, hear your heart pounding. You didn't know what to do. And I knew one thing instantly: you were telling the truth. Oh, I didn't think you were innocent, not then, but I knew you still loved me. Maybe that's the only reason why I deepened the kiss. Maybe it was more because I hadn't been loved for so long, hadn't felt that feeling in return, that I couldn't bare the idea of not taking advantage of it. Maybe I pitied you. I can't remember, the wolf was back, taking over half of me, leaving only half of my body to myself. It took half my senses, half my mind, made me lean into you, moan at your touch. It was a strange kiss. You'd forgotten how to do it. I tried to remind the wolf of the haggard, beaten, shabby appearance you had now, but it didn't care. It loved you for your soul, and although I didn't understand the feeling, I could do little but give in to it.

I don't know what time I left. It doesn't really matter. I feel very little about it. I don't know whether to continue believing you committed the crimes you were convicted of. I should feel soiled, dirty, ashamed of becoming so close again to the traitor, the murderer, but I don't. I just feel lonely again. I realise how alone I've been, how pathetic I must seem. Have you heard what the Daily Prophet calls me when it reports on our story? "Black's tragic Lover." That's me. I've been labelled over and over again. "Beloved of the traitor." "Grief-Stricken friend of the Potters." "Black's Wretched Werewolf Lover." That's who I am now, dearest. I have no name of my own any more. Maybe I don't deserve one. But you have one, and yours is Black. Blacker than a moonless midnight, as Black as your loathsome parents, but not quite black of heart.

I know we'll meet again. You can't keep away, can you? Until then, my forbidden love, I keep an open mind.