Constantly, they haunted him. Rattled breathing, the echoes of them screaming. The desperate gleam that never left their eyes until death had extinguished their inner fire. They had known that death was imminent, the hope died the instant you entered the island. You were nobody there, insignificant, a sinner amongst sinners. Not even as Padfoot, could he escape that place, the place that was now a prison for his mental self only. It felt good to be amongst the living, to hear laughter, see smiles. The pain, the isolation, it was so far away, and yet it lived in him. Festered, grew, came out whenever the lights turned out. Nobody could see him then, he didn't have to put up a façade, or present the ghost of who he was, or at least used to be. He was Sirius Black. Witty, good-humoured, impulsive, all words he heard daily. All words that were his exact opposite.
He was lonely. Nobody stopped at Grimmauld Place anymore, not since the war had been fought and won. Harry didn't have time for his godfather anymore; his days were spent in the company of his latest boyfriend. Remus was gone, a 'victim' of the war against Voldemort, a real 'hero'. Nobody had seen the kindly werewolf scream in terror as Voldemort hexed him again and again. Sirius could still remember the light fading from his eyes, eyes that stared blankly at him like so many others. James, Lily, Remus, Peter, the infamous marauders brought together again by life's cruel game. Except for Sirius. He alone was to know the torture of their passing; he alone had to bear the burden of loneliness.
'But not forever' thought Sirius maliciously.
Unconsciously he massaged his wrist, feeling the harsh scars below his fingers, tracing their outlines. Pale white scars marred his arms from wrist to elbow, a self-inflicted torture to try and rid himself of his emotional pain.
They say that silence is golden. For Sirius, however, there was nothing gold about it. Over and over, he replayed his mistakes, until finally he was a vessel of self-hatred. He had ruined his life; from the first time he had ridden the Hogwarts train.
Sirius remembered it so clearly. The laughter, the happiness barely contained by the excited eleven year olds. All but one. A slimy looking, sneering first year, who seemed to be crying and wiping his nose with his sleeve. Severus Snape, already carrying the rumour of being a dark wizard. He was exactly the sort of person Sirius had been expected to become; instead his younger brother conform to the dark image the name Black represented.
Sirius could hear the ringing of his mother's screeches, her disappointment in her eldest son being unable to perform basic Dark Arts. She had turned her attention instead to Regulus, priming and preparing him for the time when he would rise to join the ranks of the next Darklord.
Immediately, Sirius had stalked up to him, pushing him roughly, demanding to know his name. Before long, he and a fellow boy had him crying again. Their voices, high with excitement, were something that Sirius never quite forgot. His life had never been the same since.
The teasing became worse over the years, resulting in brutal and callous attacks on the unfortunate Severus Snape. Rarely, could Severus ever stop these attacks, although Sirius was never to see him cry again. It was if they hardened him, and he accepted the harsh reality readily. If Sirius had been scrutinisingly sharp like Remus, or compassionate like Lily, perhaps he would have realised that not all was right with the boy who couldn't fight back. But he hadn't. He'd blundered along happily enough, slowly developing an obsession for the dark-haired Slytherin.
Sighing, he lowered himself slowly into the bath, hands clutching almost convulsively a half-full wine bottle. His eyelids drooped, steam clouds puffing from the scorching hot water. The water just kept running, spilling over the edge of the tub, soaking the floor, and still he didn't move. Gracefully, the bottle slipped from his fingers, smashing into the sodden floor. Sirius gradually moved over to the side of the bath, peeking over the side. Pale, strained crimson liquid, slowly spreading over the tiles.
He couldn't even look at the chair where Remus had once spent his evenings, reading the latest Defensive Magic Books, or simply laughing with Sirius, remembering the good times. Remus had never wanted to hurt Severus, Sirius recalled. As a matter of fact, he'd been trying unsuccessfully for years to reconcile them. He missed him. He Sirius Black, the final marauder.
Looking back now, Sirius couldn't believe how much he'd hurt Severus. He was so stupid, to have treated him as a lower being, instead of telling him how he'd felt years ago. He remembered so clearly the night he'd sent Severus after Remus. That day, Severus had passed Remus a potions ingredient, and his hand had lingered over Remus' for a fraction too long. Jealous of his best friend, and fearing that some relationship had formed between the werewolf and the Slytherin, he'd found the perfect way to drive them apart. He didn't realise however, that his 'prank' would send Severus over the edge and forever out of his reach. The boy had hated him then, truly loathed him. Their childish enmity had become full blown in one night.
He was a failure. Everything he'd set out to do in life, he'd failed at, since his birth he'd fallen short in everything asked of him. He couldn't be evil, he couldn't produce an heir, and he couldn't do anything. Sirius was no use to anyone, or so he believed. Sighing, Sirius glanced over to one of his mother's antique tables. Glittering metal held his attention, his eyes becoming unfocused as he slowly made his way over to the table. Almost apprehensively his hands ran down the cold metal, gently picking up the letter opener. His thumb stroked the blade, tearing a minute cut in his skin. He moaned, feeling the pain, but also feeling himself relax. This was how it should be. This was what he wanted. Raising the blade he almost lovingly pressed it into his wrist.
With a hiss the potion bubbled over, causing the dark haired man to curse and look up. A scowl seemed permanently etched on his features, and even when he was alone he carried a menacing air few could mimic. If possible, his eyes darkened even more when he noticed what time it was. He was late, for the Headmaster had asked him to check on that useless mutt Sirius Black. Apparently Black's behaviour over the past few months had become worrisome to the ancient wizard, and Severus had dutifully (although with much argument) agreed to 'check up' on him. No doubt he'd find Black lounging in bed with a few pretty girls, drinking expensive wine and sending derisive comments his way. Sighing in a completely un-Snape-like manner, he straightened his clothes, ran a hand that was covered in oily potions through his even oilier hair, and prepared his Floo powder.
When he reached his destination, the first thing he noticed was how cold it was. There were no lights on, and no sign that anybody was even living in the house at all. Severus' foot came down upon something that caused him to jump back. A kitchen knife lay on the floor, a rusty red substance covering it. A slightly nauseous feeling of dread growing in his stomach, the potions master systematically ran from room to room, calling Black's name. He'd almost given up hope when a soft moan brought his attention to something lying next to an old-looking desk. What he saw shocked him to the core.
It was something Severus had never expected to see. Sirius Black, lying on his floor, clutching feebly to a letter opener, and softly crying. His eyes looked dead and pained, and his tears slid down his face, until they finally came in contact with the bloody mess that was his lower body. He managed however to overcome his shock quickly, however.
"Black? He whispered.
"Can you hear me?" his voice was more gently than it had ever been, but try as he might, the comment still had an acid bite to it.
Sirius cracked open an eyelid, moaning when he realised who was crouching next to him.
"Go away!" he groaned, eyes closing again, trying to mask the grimace of pain that shot across his face.
Severus studied him for a few moments, his face betraying nothing.
Sirius' breathing was shallow and becoming less frequent every minute, until finally Severus had enough. Gently he picked up the emaciated animagus and started trying to heal him.
The Black family had stockpiled a large collection of potions for their own use over time, thank goodness, and it was from these stores that Severus took all he needed to heal Black. Unemotionally, he told Dumbledore the basic facts of what he believed had happened, and had obtained permission to care for the wretched man until he recovered. Severus couldn't help feeling a certain bond with the surly Gryffindor, noticing for the first time something they had in common. He still treated him the same, sneering at the unconscious figure, but his heart just wasn't in it anymore.
Again and again, Remus' voice echoed through his dreams, accusing him, telling him that he, Remus, had died because Sirius had been so cruel in his youth. He was screaming, it wasn't his fault, he hadn't known, but Remus just vanished and Sirius was alone in the darkness once more.
Severus woke to the other man's screams. Annoyed, he moved to his bedside, ready to bite Sirius' head off for waking him at this ungodly hour, but stopped short.
"MOONY! Came back...don't leave me alone...please, it's so dark Moony, please..." Sirius was shrieking over and over, his hands clawing desperately at thin air.
Thinking quickly, Severus callously held his hands down firmly until he stopped moving, eyes snapping open. Eyes wild, Sirius woke, remembering the events that had lead to him being held down by the snaky Slytherin. Tears dripped down his face, a dam of emotion struggling to be free.
"Please...please..." his voice no longer seemed like his own, he was rambling out random sentences, and he knew it but couldn't control it.
Severus' hands removed themselves from his arms, only to be replaced with Severus sitting on the side of his bed, surveying him with unfathomable eyes.
"Talk to me Black," his smoky voice was commanding and hypnotic, and any will to keep his secrets hidden melted under the inscrutable gaze.
Still, he found his throat constricted, and try as he might, he couldn't speak, so he simply shook his head.
The Ex-Deatheater plucked him from his bedding and almost caringly placed a hand around his shoulders. Sneering outwardly in disgust at this action, he knew that it was the only way to calm Black down enough for speech. What he didn't expect was Black to cling to him, burrowing himself in Severus' chest. Awkwardly he stroked the man's back, feeling he tension seep out of him through his silent sobs.
He'd almost given up on Sirius ever answering him, when a muffled voice started talking.
"He's gone...Remus. It was my fault just like everything else!" his hands tightened at this statement, displaying his self-loathing.
Severus raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"Everything else?" he asked, still betraying nothing.
"I know I shouldn't have...done that to stuff to you when we were kids...Remmy hated that...said that it would come back and haunt me. He was right..." his voice seemed to lock again, and he managed only a tiny squeak of terror which sounded suspiciously like.
He quivered uncontrollably, teeth gritting as he tried to control his pain. To Sirius' surprise, a creamy white hand stroked his hair.
"You'd better sleep, you're still not healed,"
Sirius rubbed the soft bandages that covered his wrists. The hands gently pulled him back into the safety and warmth of his bed, but he didn't want them to leave. He pulled Snape down, still desperate to have something to reassure him. He couldn't open his eyes, afraid to see the scorn at his weakness in Severus'.
"Well, that chair is a little uncomfortable, after all," and a dry chuckle was the last thing he expected to hear. The bed creaked as Severus turned off the lamp, and the room became silent once more. To his surprise, Sirius felt arms encircle him, and he soon dropped into sleep.
He couldn't believe what he'd just done. Without thinking, he'd hugged Black, and now he couldn't move him for fear that he would wake up. Black was infinitely better asleep.
'Or near-dead' a voice whispered nastily in his head. Severus tried to clear his thoughts. He didn't want Black dead, not really...or did he? Feeling Sirius' hands tighten possessively around him, Severus didn't know what to think.
The next day they tried to act as if nothing had happened. Sirius still felt too weak to stand, and remained in bed all day, glaring depressively out the window. The weather seemed to match his mood, stormy grey clouds hanging low in the sky. Occasionally, a loud thunderbolt would boom overhead, and there seemed no end to the growling smaller ones. Accepting he was doomed to his bed-type prison, Sirius tried not to grumble too much to his Slytherin carer, who thankfully didn't spend much time in his bedroom. At around seven that night, Sirius heard his door creak open and a light pattering of footsteps coming his way.
"Your food, Black," offered Severus, who was bearing a plate.
Accepting it with a curt nod of thanks, he began picking slowly at his food, finding he had as little appetite as always. Since leaving Azkaban, he had eaten like a sparrow. Snape seemed to notice this.
"Eat Black. You're too thin," he stated matter-of-factly.
He tried to, but his heart wasn't in it, and he moodily pushed his plate away. Severus silently picked it up and left the room, returning a few minutes later.
"Why?" asked Sirius breaking the silence.
"Why what, Black?" asked Severus, who had returned to the armchair and was studying him carefully.
"Why are you here? Why didn't you just let me die?" Sirius head drooped, ashamed.
He heard the springs in the armchair release, and Severus once again sit upon his bed. Yet again he was too afraid to look at him.
"Look at me," yet again Sirius found he was compelled to obey. Fearfully, he looked up at his rival, realising with a pang that probably half the Wizarding world would know his weaknesses by tomorrow.
"Do you really believe that I would have just left you to die? That I am so callous as to leave a man, alone, who needs help so badly he believed his only option was death? I am not heartless, Sirius,"
The use of his first name shocked him to the core. It was more surprising than any of Snape's previous actions. None of the things he'd said corresponded with the Severus Snape he knew. Or thought he knew. Was there a side to him that had escaped even Sirius Black's keen eyes? Could he possibly be more than a sneaky Slytherin, servant to the ex-Darklord?
Seeing his new companion start to stew with this information, Severus decided he needed a way to stop him brooding. He placed a hand upon Sirius, noticing him flinch and begin shaking.
'Now why's he doing that? He didn't get scared last night...' thought Severus, startled.
"What's wrong?" he voiced, troubled.
"Th...they're going to get me. The dementors...they'll get me," whimpered Sirius, huddling under his blankets. A loud burst of thunder sounded overhead, causing the shivering to become more pronounced.
"I will not let them," reassured Severus, slipping into his bed again, hoping to calm him. After all, this had seemed to work the previous night. Sirius clung to him once more, feeling the heavy fear of losing someone else in his heart.
"Don't leave me...please don't leave me. Please don't go, just like everyone else," he murmured as he fell asleep. Severus felt as if he could never leave his side again.
The days continued to go on like this until Severus determined that Sirius could stand and do things for himself once more. He allowed the man to get out of bed and do whatever he pleased.
"I think a shower is in order," suggested Severus.
He removed the bandages, revealing pinkish scars. Sirius blushed, and turned to go to the bathroom. As he stood under the hot water, he felt himself suddenly become rather light headed and clutched at the shower wall, sliding slowly to the ground. He covered his face with his hands, tears as well as water pouring down his face.
Was he really so incompetent that he couldn't even shower anymore? What if Severus left, how would he cope?
He didn't hear the bathroom door open, or see Severus watch as he struggled to stand. Sirius gave up and felt the water pound into his skin, and yet somehow it couldn't clean him. He was dirty. Dirty inside with all the faults in his past.
Severus had decided that Sirius had been in there quite long enough. Surely he didn't take that long to clean? Quietly, he opened the door, and slipped inside, steam pouring from the room before he closed the door. Sirius was crying in the shower, his sobs drowned out by the rush of water. For once in his life, Severus had no idea what to do. Did he comfort him, or just let him expel his grief in peace? Unsure if he was making the right decision, Severus pulled a towel from a towel rack, and turned off the shower before entering the cubicle. Cautiously, he knelt down in front of him, not caring that he was wetting his clothes. He held out the towel, almost as if he was offering peace to Sirius. When Sirius didn't respond, he sighed and draped the towel around his shoulders, wrapped him up as securely as possible, and lifted the skinny man from the cubicle. Sirius sniffed and burrowed into his chest, and Severus felt as if he was growing to care for the person he had once hated above all others.
As he lay alone in his room once more, Sirius began wondering why Severus had suddenly become so nice to him. Sure, he obviously wasn't callous and uncaring, but he was human too, and Sirius had abused him in the past. When Severus next entered the room, Sirius decided that he needed to put things right between them.
"Severus?" asked Sirius nervously.
The other wizard turned to him, eyes questioning.
"I'm sorry," apologized Sirius. "I'm sorry for what I did and said to you when we were kids. I was brash and unthinking, and I know that nothing will ever change what I did to you. I...I'm especially sorry about the werewolf incident..." he cut off, staring at the floor.
"You are forgiven," replied Severus calmly, although his heart thundered in his chest uncomfortably.
"But why did you send me there in the first place?"
This question caught Sirius off guard. He had expected Severus to scream and rant about how he would never forgive him, and instead he wanted to know his motives? Sirius decided to be honest, with both himself, and Severus.
"I...wanted you to notice me, and only me. I was always trying to get your attention, but you were indifferent to me, even when I taunted you. Then, that day I saw you speak to Remus, and I thought there was something going on, so I wanted to make you hate him. And you did, except afterwards, you hated me too," he replied, slowly and carefully, expecting Severus to become angry after hearing his excuse.
"I see," mused Severus thoughtfully.
He stood and moved towards the bed, as Sirius sickly watched him. His eyes must have betrayed him, as Severus smiled bitterly.
"I'm not going to hurt you, you know," he smiled softly.
Sirius continued to look at him in disbelief, as a hand snaked out and softly caressed his chin. He was even more shocked when soft, velvety lips were pressed against his.
Sirius allowed himself to become lost in the sensation, feeling the hands sweep all over his face, tugging softly on his hair, running hands though his silky locks. He closed his eyes, as a tongue explored his mouth tasting, licking. Finally Severus stopped, and pressed kisses to his closed eyelids, and the tip of his nose.
When he awoke the next morning, tangle in Severus' arms, Sirius smiled for the first time in many years. As the miraculous man he was sleeping with had healed the cuts in his wrists, his heart too had mended. He remembered now, what it felt like, knowing someone cared, would always care, and he gave himself up to the feeling. Lazily, Severus opened his eyes and glanced coyly down at his new lover.
"Love me," whispered Severus staring at him. And as usual, Sirius found himself compelled to obey.