The scratching of the quill was the only sound coming from the room, save for the occasional stifled mutter. Dark eyes critically scanned scrolls of messy writing; angry slashes appeared to have a mind of their own as they soaked into the flimsy material. Firelight bathed the room, but still the hunched figure shivered. Contrary to popular belief, Severus did get cold, hence all of the layers of thick clothing. Padding down the hall lightly, a man with long straight ebony hair stopped, looked into the room and grinned.
"Talking to yourself again, Snape?" he smiled, malice lighting up his usual sombre features.
Severus neither looked up nor stopped his furious marking.
"Still your witty self, Black. It still amazes me that you have the brains to speak, let alone form full sentences,"
Inwardly, Sirius winced. Nice one he thought ruefully.
"Warming you blood are you?" he gestured to the merrily burning fire. "It's just a shame that you don't hibernate for the winter with all of your snake buddies,"
The gashes appeared more frequently, thick and with long sweeping comments such as "Your complete lack of competence has shone through particularly well in this essay, once more proving my belief in your inability to read even basic English" or "Ineptitude is demonstrated with every word-well done. Next time, don't even bother to submit homework".
Sirius stalked arrogantly over to the table, carelessly glancing at the reddened parchment.
"You're in a good mood, as always," he remarked, ignoring Severus' stony front.
He sat on the edge of the desk, knocking a jar of glazed caterpillars to the floor.
Finally, after minutes of strained silence, Severus broke it.
"What do you require, Black? I'm afraid the only thing I can help you with is to give you directions to the exit,"
The animagus shrugged, whistling softly.
"Bored," he whined, before grinning once more.
His smile seemed to have none of the legitimacy it had had before Azkaban. Severus Snape had a wraith of a man sitting on his desk (It wasn't the first time such an event had occurred, by the way.)
"Must I endure your presence? Why don't you go mark a tree or chase Mrs. Norris?" Severus replied, dropping his quill, pale hands reaching to massage his aching temple.
"I just…never mind…" Sirius seemed confused; an expression rarely seen filtering over his face.
"Sorry," he muttered, leaving the room.
Severus stared after him, mouth hanging open. He had just received an apology from Sirius Black!
The Headmaster looked up, eyes twinkling when they fell upon his once beloved student, Sirius Black.
"Ah! Sirius, sit down, sit down, Sherbet Lemon? No? Well then, dear boy, I have something to discuss with you,"
Sirius sat down rather awkwardly. On too many occasions had this been the scene of punishments and humiliation for childish pranks and bullying. A pink blush spread over his pallid complexion, as he remembered his foolishness.
"Now, as you know, you are a wanted man. However, in a raid last night, the Ministry of Magic captured Peter Pettigrew," Dumbledore savoured these words, allowing them to take full affect.
"I'm…I'm free?" whispered Sirius, eyes bulging.
"Yes," replied Dumbledore softly. "You will be receiving a full pardon from the Ministry, and the Order of Merlin, First Class, as compensation for your mistreatment,"
Sirius felt joyful tears prick his eyes.
"Thankyou, Headmaster," he said, standing.
Dumbledore extended a wizened hand.
"No, thankyou, Sirius, for all that you have done for Mr Potter and the Order,"
Sirius gingerly shook it, almost recoiling. On fewer and fewer occasions could he stand any human contact at all; his brief moments of affection extended only to Harry and on some occasions Remus.
If Dumbledore noticed this, he didn't show it.
"I would like to offer you something else, before you leave Sirius. I want you to consider it, for Harry if for no one else,"
"I want you to live on the school grounds, at least until the threat of Voldemort is gone. I believe it is in everybody's best interest for you to remain here," Dumbledore said gravely.
"I don't….I can't…" Sirius began desperately.
"There is no room for argument, Sirius. Your safety, and more importantly, the safety of the Order is at stake," answered the older wizard.
"What about Order Meetings?" Sirius managed, after frantically combing his mind for suggestions.
"We have a new venue, sources tell me that the old one is no longer safe. Now Sirius, wards have been place on the school grounds, preventing you from leaving. I hope these wards need never be tested, Sirius. You may leave,"
Dumbledore's tone ended Sirius's feeble arguments leaving him no choice but to leave the room with well, his tail between his legs, so to say.