Author's Note: The following was created by a rather lurid song and a newly tainted friend whom I have turned 'To the Slash side.' This is for her--and myself since I love the pairing no matter how implausible. Please read all the disclaimers before reading the story, I do not want to recieve flack for someone's laziness having not done so.

I'm sure the basic plot line has been done before, though hopefully not exactly my way (Heaven knows fellow slash writers can think of anything to make their pairing come together--no pun intended). If it seems to copy another work, it is not done intentionally. I have not read a story like this one, so I can't claim to have been tainted by another author's story.

Story Disclaimer: I do not own any characters herein; they belong to JK Rowling. I make no profit of any form from this endeavor.

Song Disclaimer: I do not own or otherwise have entitlement to use the song 'Little by Little' by Alice Cooper. Fragments of the song are used at the beginning and end of the story to help set tone and as an artistic flair. I make no profit of any form with its use.

The following story-based disclaimers apply:
1. AU: alternate universe, this could somewhat fit the storyline, but for the sake of argument and because of other disclaimers, it is fitting on its own timeline.
2. OOC: out of character elements apply. Not everything is going to fit the personalities of those characters JK Rowling has created so masterfully. I have tried my best to keep them to form despite my changes to their actions. Those actions are what redefine them and make them out of character.
3. Slash: same sex or male/male relationships. Nothing overly graphic, though actual sex is eluded to. If you do not enjoy these types of romantic pairings for any reason then please do not bother to read the story. There are many other fictions without slash in them.
4. Oneshot: this is a one chapter story. It is quite long and could very well be chaptered, but I don't see any real reason for it. Any loose ends that you find will probably remain that way, though I have tried to be thorough enough to close up anything that needed to be.

Pairing:Severus Snape/Sirius Black. (Mild hints of another pairing as well that has no direct bearing on this story.)


We're not sick, insane.

It's just another lover's game.

Little by little we cross the line.

Little by little the ties are bind.

Little by little, by little, by little...

Little by little tonight.


"Sirius, please sit down."

Albus Dumbledore was sitting in the kitchen, hands folded neatly on the battered tabletop in 12 Grimmauld Place. Before him sat a cup of steaming tea and the warm, welcoming scent of fresh scones.

Sirius Black nodded meekly and sat down across from the Headmaster without a word. He wasn't entirely sure what it was that Dumbledore wanted of him, but it wasn't often that the Headmaster cleared a room of its occupants to speak to someone alone; let alone flinging up silencing charms and peeping protections after everyone snapped to obey.

"I know that you are anxious to help the Order in any way," Albus started out softly, eyes catching Sirius' flickering gaze and holding them so that the animagus had no excuse but to listen. "And I have such an opportunity for you."

Startled and suddenly excited, Sirius leaned eagerly across the tabletop with his most mature and patient expression on his scruffy face. "Of course, Albus, whatever you need me to do, I'll do it."

A slight smile turned up the corners of Dumbledore's mouth, "I am glad to hear it. It is important to me that this is done quietly and efficiently."

"Mum's the word," Sirius blurted, trying with little success to keep his knee from bouncing with unrestrained glee. He had been holed up in Grimmauld Place for months on end. Granted, there had been a steady trickle of Order members in and out of the house, but he was a creature of nature. Being trapped inside a musty house that only held bad memories for him was literally smothering. He began to fiddle with the teacup in front of him, turning it in his fidgeting hands.

"What is it you need? A dog right, something someone will over look? A spying job, maybe, like following a group of myriad Death Eaters as they speak candidly about their latest horrors..." He trailed off and grinned happily to himself, envisioning his free flight in the outside world and finally being of some use.

Albus looked highly amused when Sirius finally returned to the present. "Nothing of that sort I'm afraid." He sipped his tea quietly while Sirius moped a little. "I will not risk you getting caught for anything such as that. I already have spies inside Voldemort's circle, Sirius, I do not need another."

The animagus snarled and glared at a spot above the Headmaster's hat. Snape, his mind hissed.

"What I need of you is the same as I require now: a private and exclusive place to send a trusted colleague. You see, I am under the impression that he will be greatly exhausted and possibly damaged when I see him next. I would like to ask your permission to allow him to come here, to rest and recuperate without being looked upon and asked uncomfortable questions."

Thoroughly disappointed that he wouldn't get the chance to leave the cursed house, Sirius nodded gloomily and took a large draught of his tea. "Certainly, Albus," he mumbled into the cup.

"Excellent," Dumbledore smiled and stood from his chair.

"Though I don't know why you would ask. I've told you several times that this is the Order's Headquarters, whoever you want to come can come in. I mean, why would you have to ask about this specifically..." Sirius trailed off, suddenly suspicious.

Albus was making a rather quick path to the door, amazingly spry for a wizard of his age. Then it came to him.

"No way!" Sirius roared. He didn't bother to note how Dumbledore's shoulder's sagged and how the aged wizard sighed deeply. "I will not allow that man into my house to stay! I don't care if he's bleeding to death on my doorstep!"

Dumbledore turned, thankful that he hadn't reached the door and broken the silencing spells before this outburst. "Calm down, Sirius," he tried to soothe.

"Calm down? Albus, you know I loathe the man! I hate having him here for twenty minutes a week for the damned meetings. And now you want me to give him room and board?" Sirius was stalking the room, alternately kicking at the rough floor and tugging at the roots of his hair with his fingers.

"It will only be for a short time, I promise you." Albus watched the animagus pace.

Sirius snorted and continued to pace as he mumbled under his breath.

"Sirius," Albus stood in the man's pacing path and obstructed his movement, "this is very important. I would not ask this of you if I didn't believe that Severus would need it."

The animagus curled his lip in distaste but didn't reply.

"I doubt that Severus enjoys the fact that he has to rely on you for privacy and shelter." Albus added almost as an afterthought while still keeping a keen twinkle in his eye.

The snarl on Sirius' face faded into a sadistic kind of glee. "He wouldn't, would he? In fact he'd absolutely hate the idea. He'd owe me." Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "Fine, Albus, let the bastard come."

Dumbledore frowned harshly and rested a hand on Sirius' shoulder before the man could leave. "I appreciate you allowing him into your house, but I must insist that you treat Severus with a modicum of respect."

"I said he could stay, Albus, don't press your luck," Sirius frowned.

"At least be civil, Sirius. Severus only needs your hospitality because he will be physically and emotionally exhausted. I want to be sure that he actually rests to recuperate while here. That is the whole point of my asking." Dumbledore released his hold on Black and waited patiently.

The animagus was scowling and staring at the cracked tile under his feet. "Very well," he said stiffly, "I will be civil. But don't expect anything else."

Albus sighed in slight relief, "That is all I ask."


Sirius had been reclusive from the rest of the house for the rest of the day. Order Members noticed his disappearance but did not comment. It was not unusual for the animagus to disappear into his bedroom or keep the Hippogriff, Buckbeak, company when he got into a funk.

By the time night had closed in tightly, the house had emptied of all but Kreacher. The house elf was too busy nesting with a pair of the late Mr. Black's trousers underneath the boiler to care what his master was doing.

Black left Buckbeak's room and stomped grumpily down the stairs. He was far from happy about acquiescing to Dumbledore's request. However, it was far too late to back out now.

The kitchen fire had died down to glowing embers but the door had been pulled to and the heat had remained. The smell of hearty stew made his stomach grumble and he cursed himself for pouting and not coming down to eat. A covered tray sat on the table and Sirius uncovered it with a grin. A small note in Molly Weasley's hand-writing was sitting beside a large bowl of stew and several scones. He sent her a mental thank you before pulling his chair up to the table and delving into the meal with fervor.

His spoon clattered at the bottom of the empty bowl nearly twenty minutes later. Sirius reclined in the seat and set a hand over his stomach. His troubles had well been forgotten and with a hearty meal in his belly and the warmth of the room seeping into his muscles, it was not long before his eyes were drifting shut.

It was unknown if he had actually slept for five minutes or thirty, but the clatter of noise from the den across the hall made him jerk awake within nanoseconds.

With his heart beating in his throat, Sirius drew his wand from his pocket and walked silently to the kitchen door. There was no further noise, no calls of 'hello?' from a late-night Order Member, but the hissing and crackle of the fire in the den had increased and light danced underneath the doorframe. A shadow moved inside.

Sirius crept into the hall, stepping over the creaky floorboard beside his mother's hideous portrait and pressed his shoulder against the door. He could hear the soft shuffling of robes within and a very light muttering.

He carefully turned the knob and with a flurry of movement and speed Viktor Krum would have been proud of, Sirius tackled the stranger and knocked them both in the far wall. The shrouded figure let out a great blast of breath and slumped a bit into the wall for support.

Sirius grinned viciously, wand snapping up and preparing to jab the intruder in the chest, but a long-fingered hand clutching a darkly stained wand blocked him and the man's other hand heaved against Sirius' bulk and stumbled him backward.

It took all of two seconds in the flickering light of the fire for Sirius to recognize the hooked nose and glittering onyx eyes of one Severus Snape. It did not stop him from launching himself back at the potions master.

Snape hissed in pain as Sirius rushed him and slammed him against the hearthstones. "What...are you...doing, Black!" He raved in gasps as his breath struggled back to him.

The animagus held Snape by the neck, not cutting off his wind, but holding just strong enough to prove his upper hand. "What are you doing, Snape?"

"I was told to come here by Albus you fool," Severus hissed, hand twitching, wand still clutched in his fingers.

"Then why were you sneaking?" Sirius spat, eyes scouring the darker wizard's face.

The sharpness of Snape's cheekbones looked deeper in the low light, and there was a deep gash running along his hairline. The pale skin that was usually the man's tone, was even further sallow. There might have been a greyish tinge but it was hard to tell in the half-light.

Severus brought his fist up, jabbing his wand into the hollow of Sirius' throat, "Expelliramus!"

The animagus flew backward into the far wall, crashing against a locked roll-top desk that shook violently even after he fell away from it and onto the floor. It only took him a moment to regain his feet.

Snape was backing toward the exit, his eyes never leaving Sirius. Black growled and stalked him into the hall. Severus was scowling but his arm was already shaking with fatigue, Sirius didn't fool himself by pretending it was because the potions master was afraid of him.

At the same moment Snape's back bumped the far wall, Sirius lunged at him. Snape snarled and buried his fist into the folds of his shirt, using it as leverage to yank him about by the collar. Sirius didn't seem to mind, his fists were busy finding a nice soft spot to land.

Before Sirius could bring back a fist to let fly, Severus jerked him forward by the collar and bit him quite viciously on the flesh of his face.

Sirius was so startled his fist fell back to his side and he let out a rather undignified squeak. He shoved Snape away from him and covered the throbbing spot with a hand.

"What the hell did you do that for?" He spat while pulling his hand away and staring in slight shock at the small smudge of blood on his fingers.

Snape was glaring holes through his head, wand snapped to attention and pointed at his throat. "Physical violence is the only thing a barbarian like yourself understands," Snape snarled.

At their distance, Sirius could see further injury on the potions master's face. The ugly purple bruising along the potions master's cheekbone was even darker in the half light of the hallway. A jagged split in the man's lip had pulled open again but Sirius didn't know if the tickle of blood on the wizard's chin was from the injury or his own blood.

"Albus made me promise to be civil to you. As long as you stay out of my line of sight, I think I can manage," Sirius snarled, fist tightening on his wand.

Severus snorted, then grimaced. "If you don't mind, I would like to retire. I don't have the energy to rephrase everything I say so that even an idiot like you would understand." An evil smile curdled Snape's expression, "Or should I say; Me, bed; you, idiot?"

Sirius pulled his fist back, even twisting his torso to get a good, hard swing but his gnawing conscience won out by a mere hair. With groaning muscles and a shaking arm, he slowly lowered it to his side and spoke through clenched teeth, "Fuck off, Snape."

He spun on his heel and stalked back across the hall and into the kitchen where he slammed the door as solidly as he could. Sirius stood with his back to it, grinding his teeth and listening intently as he heard Snape move about in the hallway.

A few moments later, a solid thump told him that Snape had gotten to where ever he had intended. Personally, Sirius didn't give a damn so long as Snape didn't take a spare room on the third floor where his rooms were. It would be much easier to avoid the greasy git if he stayed on an entirely different level.

Sirius counted slowly to fifty, hoping that would have given Snape enough time to finish his roaming of the halls and stairwells so that he could escape to his own rooms without having to see his sallow face. The door was stuck in the jam when he tried to open it and he made a mental note not to slam it shut again unless he wanted to live in the room or face the embarrassment of being freed by (and he shuddered) Snape.

He climbed the stairs quietly and rounded on the landing to get to the second floor. The animagus stopped on the landing and growled softly to himself before getting a hold of his anger. Snape was sitting on the fourth stair from the top, right in the middle of the stairwell so that he could not pass.

"Get out of the way, Snape," he barked, incensed when the wizard didn't so much as move.

But no biting reply was forthcoming, and the great irritation started to fade. Snape wasn't sitting on the step, he was laying across them in a rather uncomfortable looking heap.

"Snape," Sirius said sternly, wondering what Albus would do to him if he came in the morning to find his potions master dead on his stairs.

The darker wizard still hadn't stirred, and with a high amount of caution Sirius started up the steps toward the man. He pointed his wand at the man's back and rolled him with his foot, jutting out his wand and expecting an ambush. Severus' head lolled loosely on his neck and the side of his skull hit the banister with a solid thunk. He still didn't move.

Sirius stood looking at him, wondering what the policy was for a dead body, when he saw Snape's chest rise and fall very slightly. With a great sigh of relief, Sirius walked up the stairs past him and stood on the second floor staring down at the sprawled man on his steps.

He wasn't about to help him, and the man was alive... "Serves you right for passing out on the stairs," Sirius mumbled with little conviction. He looked away and after standing silent for nearly a minute, he climbed the remaining stairs and went to bed.


In the morning, Sirius rolled out of bed with a groan and staggered into his bathroom. He splashed water on his face and stared blankly at his cheek. A jagged circle of teeth marks marred his skin. A faint ring of dried blood was smeared slightly, probably from his pillow. He poked it gently with his finger and hissed as sharp pain radiated from the wound and all through his head.

"Where the hell..." He wondered idly while staring at the bruised spot. Last night came back to him in freeze frames. "Snape," he cursed.

It took all of two seconds for Sirius to descend the stairs without falling down them. He was too livid for the cold of the house to have an effect on his shirtless back. Severus was not on the landing where he had left him but there seemed to be some smell of burnt toast from the kitchen. Molly Weasley could not burn toast if she tried...

Sirius stalked into the room and stopped at one end of the table, staring angrily at the other occupant of the room.

Snape was sitting with his head bowed over a mug and saucer. A piece of charcoaled toast sat on the plate, a bite missing from the corner. It had the same ragged edges as the wound on Sirius' cheek. Severus coughed lightly into a napkin but did not glance up from his miniscule breakfast. "What do you want, Black?"

Sirius snarled, what did he want? "Have a nice sleep, Snivellus?"

The potions master stiffened in his seat, but still didn't give Sirius the satisfaction of seeing his face. In lieu of a biting remark, Severus bit viciously into his toast and coughed violently into his napkin.

The animagus stared at the top of Snape's head, willing the man to look up so that he could make a cheap shot. The dark wizard seemed content to let him stew. Over the next several minutes, Sirius stared and Severus ate slowly, his meal punctuated with a coughing fit now and then.

After the last sip of tea was taken and the remains of toast crumbs brushed from his fingers, Snape dropped his napkin onto his plate and moved around the table while ignoring Sirius the entire way to the entry. He paused in the doorway and spoke in a low voice, "Get dressed, Black, narcissism does not become anyone but Lucius Malfoy."

Sirius prickled and stomped to the door and watched Severus climbing the stairs. "Do I make you uncomfortable, Snape?" Sirius spat as Snape's robes whirled around the corner and out of sight.

The animagus went back into the kitchen and huffed. He withdrew his wand from his pajama bottoms and levitated Snape's dishes toward the sink. The potions master's napkin fluttered off of the saucer and to the floor. Sirius rolled his eyes and snatched it up, grimacing in disgust as sticky warmth stuck to his fingers.

"Damned drooling, greasy bastard," he muttered. He flung the napkin toward the counter but stopped still and walked cautiously toward it. He prodded the cloth open with the tip of his wand and frowned. Specks of crimson stained the linen. Sirius plucked a clean towel from the sideboard and wiped his hand carefully across it, watching his fingers trail faint smears of blood.

"Merlin," he breathed. For a flickering moment he felt a sense of pity. What the hell had happened to Snape to make him cough up blood? Surely he hadn't done it by knocking him into the walls last night? Sirius slapped himself in the forehead with the palm of his hand. Severus had already been injured when he stumbled into Grimmauld Place; Albus had even told him that Snape would be hurt. "I am an idiot," he said softly.

In a moment of stupidity, Sirius quietly climbed the stairs and knocked on the only closed guest room door. "Snape."

There was a shuffling from inside the room but the door didn't open. "What is it, Black?"

"Are...are you alright?" Sirius grimaced and promised to pay penance later for even being remotely friendly.

The door was yanked open several inches and Severus' terribly pale and puffy-bruised face filled Sirius' vision. "If I wanted the help of a self-neutered mutt, I would have flooed Lupin."

Sirius gaped as the door slammed shut in his face. He kicked and pounded at it, swearing a blue streak. "God damn you, Snivellus, come out here and say that to my face! Fucking arse!" A tingle of magic told him that Snape had set up a silencing charm and Sirius stalked off to the master bedroom and Buckbeak. Perhaps maiming some rats and watching the hippogriff tear them into bloody strips would help his frustration.


It was mid-afternoon when Sirius had the gumption to wander back downstairs. Buckbeak was only too happy to let the man go. The animagus had been grumbling to him and hadn't allowed him to nap the whole time he was there.

"Good afternoon, Padfoot," Remus Lupin smiled and nodded as he entered the kitchen. Several order members were scattered throughout the house doing whatever they needed to. The werewolf looked over Sirius as he sat down heavily across from him. "What happened to your face?"

Sirius idly raised a hand and touched the bite mark on his face. He sneered, "Nothing." His blue eyes ticked around the room looking for Snape but thankfully saw that the darker wizard was absent.

"It looks rather like..." Remus' eyes widened, "is that from a bite?"

The animagus turned his face away from Lupin and snorted, "Of course not, how would I have gotten a bite on my face?"

One of Lupin's eyebrows rose slowly. "How, indeed."

Dumbledore walked into the kitchen not a moment too soon and gave Sirius the chance for a change of topic.

"Good afternoon, Sirius," The Headmaster smiled genially and stood behind Remus' chair. "I do hope Severus made it here safely during the night?"

Sirius grunted and nodded his head.

"Good, good. Now, if you'll excuse me," and Albus was gone again.

When Black gathered enough courage to look at Remus, the werewolf was studying him with calculating eyes. Sirius smiled disarmingly and propped his feet on the tabletop, leaning back in his chair until he rested on its back two legs.

"How's it been, Moony? Anything exciting to report?"

Lupin narrowed his eyes momentarily but sighed heavily and gave in. "Not so much, I'm afraid. It looks like I'll have to nose my way back into the old Goldmen pack. They don't take well to those that don't belong to a pack already."

"Be careful, won't you?" Sirius asked in all seriousness.

"Of course," Remus gave him a weak smile. "Always am."


Sirius and Remus spent a better part of the afternoon discussing pack treaties for werewolves in the den. By the time dinner rolled around, Sirius had forgotten about his unwanted guest until he entered the kitchen.

Normally, Snape would have long since retreated back to his own house or the Hogwart's dungeons when the rest of the Order settled down for a meal. Unfortunately for Black, Snape was currently under his roof and the man was sitting in his seat while Molly set a plate in front of him. Albus was conveniently absent from the table.

"That's my seat, Snape," Sirius barked from the doorway. He knew Remus rolled his eyes but chose to ignore him as the wolf pushed past him and sat down between Arthur and Tonks. The rest of the room had grown quiet--not that it had been very talkative when he had entered.

Severus glared up at him through his hair and purposefully speared a piece of potato and took nearly a minute to bring it up from the plate to his mouth. Sirius was seething by the time Snape started to chew.

Molly walked quickly past the other eaters and stopped in front of Sirius with a stern face. "Now, sit down and eat, Sirius. There's no need to make a fuss." Sirius opened his mouth to argue but a heavy wooden spoon appeared in Molly's right fist and she poked him in the chest with it. "Don't you back-sass me, Sirius Black. Now find an empty seat and sit down."

Pouting, Sirius stalked to an empty seat far from his usual spot at the head of the table and slumped down into the chair. Molly shoved a plate of food under his nose and gave him one last reproachful look before sitting down beside her husband and eating her own meal.

The meal was tense and uncomfortable for everyone involved. Whenever someone attempted to break the silence either Sirius or Snape would glare at them until they flushed and sat back in their seats.

Most of the Order didn't bother to stay for dessert. They quickly made their excuses to Molly and fled the room just under a run. Only Remus, Arthur and Molly had remained in the room with Snape by the end.

"Severus, would you like some cake and cup of tea?" Molly was clearing away dishes and trying her best to block Sirius' glare with her body bent across the tabletop.

Snape blotted his lips with a napkin and stood with his plate in hand. Sirius scowled at his back. The bastard hadn't picked up after himself that morning.

"No thank you, Molly," Snape replied stiffly, his voice was just as dry and gravely as the morning. He bent to retrieve a fallen fork when Molly let out a breath of exclamation.

"Goodness, Severus, what has happened to your neck?"

All clearing of plates was forgotten as those left in the room tried to take a peek at the potions master without being blatant about it. Snape tried to step from the motherly woman's reach but Molly snagged a handful of black robe and held him on the spot.

She pushed one curtain of hair out of Severus' face and frowned in the way mothers do when they discover their children have been hiding something from them. The bruises and cuts on Snape's face were clear under the lights of the kitchen. Sirius had seen it all before, but the raw mark along Snape's neck was something he had missed. It was bright red and tinged in purple; and appeared to run directly around the wizard's throat just above his adam's apple.

"What happened?" Molly asked in a clipped tone.

Sirius was oddly shocked when Snape's eyes flicked to him in a moment of desperation.

"If this is the result of your spying, Severus, I will certainly have a word with Albus about this." Molly promised, finally releasing Severus but preventing him from fleeing by standing in his only way of exit with her hands on her hips.

Sirius stood from his chair, drawing everyone's attention. He colored lightly under the sudden scrutiny and stammered, "I-uh...I did it, Molly."

A quick wave of surprise washed over Snape's face but it was replaced just as quickly with a mask of indifference tinged with disgust.

The Weasley matriarch took all of ten seconds to reach out with a vice-like grip and drag Sirius from the room by his ear.

Remus stood with the other two men and listened to Mrs. Weasley shout from the hallway. He winced as the woman went on, only hearing Sirius' mumbled reply for short bursts between Molly's raving.

Severus took the opportunity to flee back to his room, leaving a curious Lupin and soothing Arthur to tend to her when she came back in without Sirius.

"That man," she raved, snatching up dishes as she went in circuits around the table. "Honestly, you would think he would have grown out of that childish bickering years ago."

Arthur murmured to her and trailed after her with armloads of dirty cups and plates.

Remus frowned thoughtfully and called his goodbye's to the Weasley's. He wasn't altogether sure Sirius hadn't just grown up a little bit.


Sirius saw a shadow of Snape leave the kitchen and head for the staircase while he kept apologizing to Molly over and over. When Mrs. Weasley finally left him with a parting glare and stinging words, Sirius was not going to let it alone.

He darted off after Snape and climbed the stairs two at a time until he reached the second floor. Sirius pounded on Severus' door until he felt the tingle of a silencing charm. He growled and beat the door once more with his fist, leaving a decent sized dent in he wood. "Dammit, Snape, I want answers."

Sirius gripped the doorknob and turned it, not expecting it to give freely and swing open. He didn't bother with pleasantries and stomped into the room, feeling the silencing charm snap over him as he crossed the threshold. Severus wasn't in his direct line of vision, but Sirius didn't care.


The side door that led to the connected bathroom was yanked open and Severus' livid face snarled out at him as he stalked from the bathroom. "What are you doing in here, Black?"

Sirius was dumbfounded for a moment, synapses firing but not connecting. Severus was without his robe, shirt unbuttoned to his navel and hair tied back out of his face. Every patch of skin had some form of damage. A rust-colored cut ran down Snape's chest; as thin as a thumbnail until it stopped abruptly between the last two ribs where a deep plunge of whatever sharp edge had cut him was jabbed into the tissue. Smatterings of bruising, raw patches of irritated skin and two perfectly circular burn marks marred Snape's chest and upper abdomen.

"Is that a boot print?" Sirius blurted and pointed aimlessly at a set of bruises that matched far too well to be random.

Snape tugged his shirt shut and snarled. "If you don't explain yourself in the next five seconds, I'll bind you and feed you to your blasted hippogriff!"

Sirius blinked and his mind finally returned to normal. His face filled with anger and he pointed an accusing finger in Snape's direction. "You have some explaining to do. I took the heat for you and I deserve to know what I took it for."

Severus snorted in disbelief, "You deserve to know? You don't need to know a damned thing. You think because you concocted a ridiculous lie in a misguided attempt to help, that you know anything about me? Get out!"

"At least tell me about your greasy neck? That is what I lied for." Sirius fumed, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring.

The potions master's eyebrows were furrowed and he was looking steadily down his nose in a way that was reminiscent of when he was speaking to a slow student. "It is a burn." Snape spoke steady and low, his face stony.

"Snape, a burn doesn't look like that," Sirius stated matter-of-factly. "It blisters, turns red..."

One sable eyebrow rose slowly. "It is a friction burn you idiot."

"Friction burn? What would give you a fric--" Sirius' eyes widened minimally. "Oh."

"Indeed," Severus spat, "now you know, get out."

Snape was herding him toward the door but Sirius was still prying. "Why would they tie a rope around your neck?"

Severus stopped with one hand curled around the door and the other resting beside the doorjamb. Sirius was standing just outside the wizard's room, looking genuinely confused. "They're Death Eaters, Black. They do what they want."

"But you're a Death Eater," Sirius mumbled.

Snape sucked in a sharp breath, "So you like to remind me."

The door slammed shut so hard the wood around it creaked and Sirius flung his arms up to protect his face. He stared dumbfounded at the door, wondering what he had said. A little more confused than when he had gotten answers, Sirius returned downstairs for some of Molly's cake...that is, if she had left him any.


Sirius had not seen hide nor hair of Snape for the next four hours that led to ten o'clock. Molly had left a slab of cake on the counter, but it had Snape's name written on it, and a specific note for him telling him not to eat it. Sirius was tempted to eat it anyway, but if Molly returned the next day and the cake was gone, she would ask Snape if he had enjoyed it. Then she would know he had eaten it, and the woman was mad enough at him as it was. He left the cake alone.

Life inside a run-down house with no way to leave it was far from exciting. He was starting to hope Snape would come downstairs just so he could get in an argument for something to do. When the potions master still hadn't showed by eleven, Sirius dragged himself upstairs and plopped onto his unkempt bed with a grunt.

His dreams had recurring themes of Snape bound by rope, hanging from rafters or being kicked around by several lumbering Death Eaters that cackled with each blow. Sirius woke well after midnight in a slight sweat. He groaned into his pillow and rolled over onto his back. He was not getting any good sleep by dreaming of Snape in dire straights. Though he had been the cause of much of Severus' pain and anguish as a child, he still hadn't beaten him that badly...had he?

The animagus got up and rubbed sleep out of his eyes. He really needed a heavy drink.

The lights were out throughout the house, but dull lighting shone out of the kitchen when Sirius turned onto the landing.

A cauldron was bubbling delicately on the counter, blue-green smoke rising from the surface. Sirius checked around for Snape, but the only evidence that the man had been there was the chopping block next to the black pot with half a pile of juiced green berries.

Sirius picked one up from the pile and sniffed at it. It smelled quite tart and Sirius' saliva glands puckered in his mouth.

"Don't eat that."

Sirius jumped and dropped the berry on the floor. He spun and glared as Snape came into the room from the pantry. "Do you practice your entrances in your free time?"

Snape ignored him while setting two jars down along with a handful of dried herbs. He kept his back to Sirius and set to work straining the berry pulp from the juice and measuring it for his brew. Sirius yawned widely and scratched at his bare chest. He sidled up behind Snape, grinning when the man stiffened at his proximity. "What are those anyway?"

Snape snorted and carefully poured the juice into the cauldron, stirring briskly and watching the fumes change from blue-green to maroon. "Lantana Camara. Perhaps I should have let you eat it..."

"What would it do?" Sirius leaned heavily against the counter, poking at Snape's ingredients until the man growled and pulled his materials out of his reach.

"If I was lucky? Kill you."

"One berry?" Sirius gaped, idly wiping his hands on his pajama pants.

"Perhaps," Severus drawled. He shook a few leaves of dried herbs into a grinding bowl and began to powder them.

Suddenly suspicious, Sirius tried to clear the webs from his mind. "What are you making? And why are you using poison?"

"Shut up, Black. You're ruining my concentration." Severus scowled, slamming the pestle into the bowl and raising a cloud of dust.

"Who's taking it, Snape? Are you going to kill someone? Are you going to kill me?" Sirius barked, angry for no real reason.

Severus whirled on him, pestle in his hand like a blunt dagger. "I'm going to take it."

Sirius shook his head as though he hadn't heard properly. "What? You're going to take it? And you call me an idiot."

"That is the wonder of magic and the artistry of potions, Black. A poison that destroys vital organs can be used and re-catalyzed to heal them." Severus continued to grind, ignoring the dull look on Sirius' face.

"How badly are you hurt, Snape?" Sirius asked quietly, eyeing the fine powder as Severus leveled off a spoonful and sprinkled it evenly across the surface of the potion.

"Go away, Black."

"I mean it you ass," Sirius said. He took the remaining herbs from the counter right out from under Snape's hand and returned them to the pantry. "Do you need me to contact, Albus?"

Sirius returned to the kitchen to find it empty. He let out a frustrated, 'hmph', and grabbed the bottle of whisky he had originally come downstairs for. Snape had disappeared into the house somewhere, though Sirius was sure he hadn't gone that far.

He returned to his room and drank deeply from the bottle. That's what he got for trying to be nice to Snape.


It was maybe three in the morning when Sirius was woken from his half-drunken sleep by a portly man in a portrait.

"That-that man is keeping everyone on the second floor awake! I demand that you do something about it!" The portrait was leaning heavily onto the framework. Sirius sat half up in bed, resting on his elbows, and squinted at it. It took a few bleary minutes before he recognized the man from the second floor hallway. It was his great uncle something-or-other.

Sirius flopped and rolled half onto his side, letting out a grunt and pulling an empty whisky bottle from underneath his hip. He tossed it at the noisy portrait. "Whadda you want me to do about it?" Sirius mumbled into his pillow.

"Get off your lazy arse and shut him up! You are supposedly the master of the house, so do something 'masterly!' "

The animagus rolled unsteadily onto his feet and wobbled slightly to the frame and tapped on the man rudely. "Look here, it's this" and he closed his finger and thumb less than an inch apart, "close to being morning, and I haven't slept well. Go bugger off!"

"And you call yourself a Black!" The man huffed.

"Only because I have to! Not like I have a choice..." Sirius mumbled.

"Fine then, I'll just go tell him to keep the moaning to a minimum shall I? Perhaps he'll finally finish keeling over soon so I could get some sleep as well, hmm?" The portrait turned smartly to leave.

Sirius blinked his fuzzy eyes and tried to think. "Whadda you mean moaning? Bad moaning?"

His great uncle gave him an odd look, "Yes, bad moaning you idiot, what other kind is there?"

Sirius grinned and stretched, "Well, there is that kind you do when you're having an awfully good time..." The portrait didn't look amused and Sirius scowled at it. "Not my fault you've never had a good shag in your life, so stop staring at me like that. I'm going."

He didn't wait for the man to say anything further and left his bedroom at a pace a little too fast for his wobbly legs to allow. He stumbled down the first flight of stairs and swore that if Snape wasn't a short sprawl from falling into the grave, he was going to set all the portraits in the house on fire. Sirius looked wistful. He'd start with his mother's, thank you very much.

When he made it to the second floor, he was loathe to admit that he wouldn't have been able to sleep on that floor either. Apparently Snape had forgotten to put up a silencing shield--or more likely, if Sirius would admit it to himself, he was probably too exhausted to remember.

It was pitiful groaning, like someone with a high fever. A keening of need for comfort that one never realizes they are doing when sick. Even though Sirius knew the sound was coming from Snape, he still felt like he should do something.

Snape had left his door locked this time. Sirius sighed in frustration. He had forgotten his wand upstairs. He knocked loudly on the door, "Snape?"

The moaning softened and then stopped altogether. Sirius blinked at the door, the hallway was silent. It was rather creepy after hearing constant sorrow echo off of the walls. He knocked again. "Come on Snape, open the door!"

There was a vicious coughing from behind the door, "Go 'way," a weak voice called from the inside.

Sirius pounded harder, "Get up Snape, open the door!"

The bed creaked and Sirius heard the potions master plodding slowly to the doorway. Good, he though to himself, even if he only opens the door to hex me, at least he isn't dying.

A muffled thump and then solid bang on the door made Sirius nearly jump out of his skin. Visions of Snape bleeding to death on his floor made him panic. He began to shake the knob and kick at the blockade. "Dammit Snape, don't you bleed on my floor! Do you have any idea how hard it is to clean blood out of hard wood? Snape!"

In a moment of blatant idiocy, Sirius backed up until his shoulders touched the wall across from Snape's rooms before he barreled shoulder first into the heavy door. The latch broke free with an ear splitting crack but the door only moved half a foot before hitting something soft and fleshy, rebounding back to strike Sirius in the face.

Nose gushing blood, Sirius wriggled his way into Snape's room and paused in shock. Snape was crumpled at the base of the doorway, a rather sizable stain of blood on his night shirt. Sirius rolled him onto his back and sighed in relief to see that the dark wizard was still breathing.

"Snape," He crouched down beside the unconscious wizard and tapped him on the cheek. "Wake up, Snape."

A bubbling wheeze from Snape's chest was his only answer, and Sirius frowned. He checked his revulsion and picked the man from the floor, feeling the cold stickiness of the drying blood smear across his chest. He walked Snape back to the bed and paused, the pillowcases and sheets were spoiled with crimson. He looked down at the dangling, limp man and frowned, "Merlin, Severus, are you dying?"

Sirius lay Snape across the foot of the bed where there appeared to be no blood and maneuvered past cauldrons and trunks to get to the bathroom. He wet down a hand towel and wrang it out into the sink. When he pulled a dry towel down from the top shelf, several empty vials tumbled down at him and shattered onto the floor in a million jagged pieces. Carefully he picked up a torn label from the mess and held the scrawl up to the light. It was from a blood-replenishing potion.

Unconsciously, Sirius checked the other labels that he could see and all of them were the same. He quickly grabbed up his damp towel and shook out the dry one in case of any glass before cautiously getting back into the bedroom.

Snape was still out cold but Sirius was beyond caring at the moment. He tried to ignore the fact that it was Snape he was helping. It's an Order Member, he thought, an injured Order Member...

Careful of what other ailments Snape might have at the moment, Sirius tugged off the wizard's night shirt. The shirt hit the floor with a soft squelch. The blood down Snape's neck and chest was not from an open wound that Sirius could see. His brain tried to puzzle it out, and the realization came a moment before the proof.

Snape mumbled and tried to roll onto his side. Sirius let him, afraid the man would wake up and accuse him of something devious before killing him. A great shudder wracked Snape's body before he coughed violently. A spurt of blood shot from his mouth and stained the linen, trailing from his lips and clinging to his hair.

Sirius' stomach roiled and he had to look away and bite his tongue to keep from vomiting. He rolled Snape back and cleaned the new blood away. He stood up and stepped away from the bed, dropping the tainted towel on top of Snape's night shirt. Snape looked like the living dead--moreso than normal.

It was the bruising, Sirius decided, that made him look so sickly. And the large imprint on Snape's chest was most definitely a boot print, he could even make out the carved size number bruised just above the heel mark. It was that boot, he hypothesized, that had caused the most damage. Snape had some bad internal injuries, bordering very carefully on fatal.

He needed to know.

Sirius leaned over Snape and slapped him lightly on the face, "Snape, wake up."

The dark wizard's eyelids fluttered and the wheezing, bubbling noise of his chest grew. A low moan ended in a heavy breath the frothed pink bubbles at the corners of Snape's lips.

"Severus Snape, wake up this instant!" Sirius barked, shaking the bed with his arms and watching Snape jiggle about.

Finally, the potions master let out a hiss of air and his eyes scrunched tight. " 'lack, go 'way."

"Snape," Sirius tapped him again on the cheek several times, "wake up."

With a violent snort and a hard cough, Snape's eyes snapped open and he rolled to the edge of the bed in time to vomit at Sirius' feet.

Luckily, Sirius had seen just this sort of thing happening and lept up onto the bed frame in time to prevent a nasty mishap. Namely, he vomiting on top of Snape who was vomiting on the floor.

"Christ, Snape, that's no way to treat a man who's just helped you out," Sirius curled his nose and looked anywhere but at the floor.

Snape hawked and spit, far too ill and filthy to care at the moment. He rolled back onto the bed and stared balefully up at his keeper. "What are you doing in here?" He wheezed.

"Let me see," Sirius mocked, balancing precariously on the footboard, "I've been woken by a nosy portrait, nearly thrown my shoulder out of joint, covered myself in your blood --and nearly your vomit-- helped clean you up, and made sure you are alive."

Severus didn't seem to care about anything he had said, his forehead furrowed and he smirked slightly, "What's happened to your nose? Please tell me I did it."

Sirius frowned and raised a hand to his face, hissing the instant his fingers brushed the swelling. He had forgotten about that. "Yea, that's your fault," Sirius pouted.

"Good," Snape mumbled, eyes slowly drifting shut.

"Hey, hey!" Sirius jumped down onto the mattress, bouncing Snape across the bed until his head thumped the footboard he had been standing on. "You aren't going to sleep yet. What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Right now, an obnoxious mutt is keeping me awake," Snape grunted.

"No," Sirius sat down heavily by Snape's head, "You're covered in blood, your sheets are covered in blood, you passed out at the door and your bathroom is covered in broken bottles all labeled 'blood replenishing potion'; there's enough in there, by the way, to tell me you've been taking them at least three times since you got here."

Snape scowled, head spinning and stomach still uneasy, "How did you get in here?"

"I told you, I nearly threw out my shoulder busting the door open!" Sirius exclaimed.

One of Snape's eyebrows rose, "Only an idiotic Gryffindor would use such a foolish way to get through a locked door. Next time I suggest using your head, that way you won't damage yourself."

"I'd forgotten my wand upstairs, alright?" Sirius snapped, gingerly touching his throbbing nose again.

"And your shirt," Severus quipped, willing the world to stop spinning so badly.

"What is it with you and my shirt, Snape? This is my house, I'll damned well wear what I want!"

"But you aren't wearing anything," Severus snapped.

"And that's my choice, innit?" Sirius grinned. "Anyway..."

It was silent for a moment. Snape felt his stomach turn at the smell of blood and swallowed hard several times before he could speak. "Go away, Black."

"Not until you tell me what's wrong with you."

Snape looked up at him through his peripheral vision. The animagus had his arms crossed over his chest like a tantrum prone child. "It's none of your business."

"Merlin's balls, Severus, the room is covered in blood! If you bleed to death in my house, Albus will skin me!"

"Ah, so long as I know where you stand," Snape hissed, trying to sit up but failing half way. He rested a hand on his head for a minute to appease the backstroke his brain was doing. He carefully opened first one eye, then the other to see Sirius looking down at him with badly hidden concern. Snape sighed heavily, "It's an internal injury. It will be taken care of as soon as my potion is complete. Do not bother to trouble your pretty little head about it."

Sirius grinned, "Pretty head, eh? If I didn't know better, Snape, I'd say you were flirting with me."

Snape suddenly rolled again and sagged off of the edge of the bed, heaving up the remains of his stomach. Sirius frowned, "I was just joking."

A harsh, wet laugh ripped from Snape's chest as he lay across the mattress facing the floor. "Get your wand, Black, I'm going to need help cleaning this mess up."

Sirius didn't budge from the bed. Snape painfully pulled himself back up onto the blanket and collapsed onto the dirty blankets. "For the love of--Black, I am in no mood to harm you bodily, and I haven't the strength even if I did."

Reluctantly, knowing that Snape was probably just going to lock him out again, and this time remember a few other handy spells to keep him away, Sirius finally acquiesced and went to his bedroom.

He hurried back down, hoping to catch Snape's spells before he could finish them, but the door was still standing open. Snape was still laying across the bed, one arm draped across his eyes, the other hand balled in a fist that was rubbing in tight circles at his breast plate.

"Alright, Snape, what do you want to do first?" Sirius grinned and raised an eyebrow.

Severus peeked at him from under his arm and sat up on shaky arms with a grunt. He scowled at the animagus when he finally stood. "Why is everything that comes out of your mouth blatantly stupid or an innuendo?"

"Why is everything that comes out of your mouth scathing or sarcastic?" Sirius retorted.

A slight smirk curled Snape's bloodstained lips and he pointed at the bathroom. "Start there with the mess you made, I'll start here."

Sirius wasn't going to argue, he greatly preferred shattered glass to someone else's stomach bile any day. It was only a few minutes before the mess in the bathroom had been taken care of and Sirius returned to the bedroom to see Snape leaning heavily against one of the posts at the foot of the bed. At least the vomit there had been cleared away.

"Are you alright, Snape?"

The man shivered and pushed himself away from the post, hand still clutched around it tightly for support. "Perfectly fine," he grumbled.

Sirius nodded dumbly and looked over the rest of the room. Nothing else had been touched yet. Without a word about it, Sirius cleared the spatters of blood from the floor by the door and repaired the jam. The trunks were soon closed and pushed to the far wall and the bloody towels and Snape's night shirt were poofed to the laundry room set to scrub themselves.

Snape still hadn't dared let go of the bed post and Sirius let him be. He pulled the soiled sheets from the bed and bundled them in his hands into a tight ball. He stuffed them into the fireplace and set them aflame.

"What are you doing?"

Sirius shrugged, watching the fire burn. "The stains would never really come out of them, besides, it's only sheets."

Sirius looked over his shoulder to see Snape staring at the fire, the flames reflecting in his glassy eyes. "I'm sorry," Severus mumbled.

"They're only sheets, Snape," Sirius was confused. So the man had stained some sheets, big deal, besides it wasn't like Snape had purposefully bled all over them.

Snape grunted and shivered again, stepping toward the fire slowly. Sirius went to help him, but Snape's sharp gaze bit into him--the flames still dancing there like they were from within-- and he left the man alone. Snape slowly lowered himself to sit on a nearby trunk and leaned into the flame's heat.

Sirius called fresh sheets and blanket from the linen closet and caught them neatly as they sailed into the room. He quickly snapped them open and had Snape's bed made in a matter of moments.

He walked quietly up behind the wizard and looked him over carefully. He was very pale, a testament to the lack of blood in his system. "Come on, Snape, bed's made. You should get back to sleep."

Slowly the dark wizard nodded. Snape stood and turned, stumbling a little. Sirius caught him tightly by the arm and Snape let out a cry of pain. He wrenched his arm free and cradled it to his chest.

"Gods Snape, are you alright!" Sirius balked.

Snape nodded, breath still held in his chest. He turned angry eyes to Sirius but slowly walked past him without retaliation. Sirius followed at a respectable distance, but close enough to stop the wizard from cracking his head open on the floor if he fell. "I thought you said you didn't have any broken bones?"

Snape sat down gingerly on the freshly made bed and glanced up at him through his swaying curtains of hair. "I don't."

"Then what..." Sirius trailed off and nodded solemnly. The dark mark glared up black and ugly from the pale porcelain of Snape's skin. "Does it always hurt like that?"

Snape sneered in disgust and looked past Sirius to the fire. "No. Only when I am being called..."

"Were you--" Sirius started but cut off abruptly by Snape's hard gaze on him again.

"Or if someone with pure magic touches it."

Sirius blinked in surprise, mouth hanging open. "But I... I tried to kill Pettigrew. I used to dream about it."

Snape snarled, "And yet you didn't. Thoughts are not what you are, Black. You've never used dark magic in your life, even if you've thought about it."

"I..." Sirius thought hard, "I see. I'm sor--"

"Save it, Black." Snape said softly, eyes again watching the sheets turn to ash. "It doesn't matter."

Sirius nodded and returned to the hall, checking back in on Snape as he pulled the door shut. "Goodnight, Snape."

The dark wizard didn't reply and Sirius pulled the door to. He paused in thought and walked to the slumbering portrait of his great uncle. He wrapped on it smartly and the man came awake with a snort. "Good night," he called cheekily, leaving the man swearing a blue streak as he whistled and climbed back up the stairs to his room.


Sirius did not sleep when he returned to his room. The sun was already starting to turn the sky grey as dawn came. A quick 'tempus' told him it was a quarter to five. Instead, he took a slow and relaxing shower that did nothing for his sleep fogged mind.

He dressed and fed Buckbeak, the hippogriff seemed surprised to see him about so early. Sirius sat with it and made small talk for the better part of twenty minutes before petting it affectionately on the beak and heading for the kitchen.

As Order Members began to arrive nearly an hour later, many of them were just as surprised as the hippogriff at how early he was up and about. Molly was quite pleased to have him help her in the kitchen. Especially after asking about his nose--which he told her was Snape's doing--and telling him quite shortly that he had deserved it. Sirius grudgingly admitted he did and stuck his tongue out at her when she turned back to her pot.

Remus Lupin did not come for breakfast that morning, but Tonks assured him that he was fine and would be by for dinner. Sirius offered her breakfast and soon had everyone sat down eating by the time Snape made an appearance.

Molly was immediately worried when the man appeared like a wraith at the door. He was drawn and pale, eyes in hollowed out sockets. From the looks of him, Sirius guessed he hadn't gotten any sleep either.

Mrs. Weasley soon had him fussed over and sat down with a cup of tea. She began to pile food onto an empty plate and Sirius saw the completely disgusted look on Snape's face and the green tinge to his cheeks.

"Molly," Sirius chirruped happily, making the woman pause. "Let me." He took the plate from her hands and she watched him with hawk like eyes. She began to rave at him as he began to return everything back to where it came from.

A plate with dry toast soon sat before Snape and the wizard looked positively relieved--for Snape anyway. The shrill of Molly's voice was still in Sirius' ear but he mostly ignored her as he perused the fruit bowl for a long moment. He dropped a large red fruit beside Snape's plate before going back to his own breakfast.

Snape raised an eyebrow at him and took a slow sip of tea.

"It's a pomegranate, Snape. Full of iron," Sirius grinned cheekily before stuffing a pile of scrambled eggs into his mouth.

"Molly," Snape said quietly a moment later, the woman paused from her raving to look over at him. "This will do fine, thank you."

"Severus Snape, you are as thin as a rail and so pale I could see through you!" Molly exclaimed. "You need to eat!"

"And I am," Severus quipped, taking a bite of his toast.

"Honestly," Molly sighed heavily, allowing Arthur to pull her gently by the elbow back to her seat.

Things went relatively fine from then until people began to go about their business again. The Weasley's had brought their brood with them, it still being several weeks before the start of term. The twins had stampeded up to their room, their pockets bulging with any number of oddities. Ron and Ginny had gone off to the den to play wizard's chess and pass the time.

"Severus, I've been meaning to ask what's brewing on the counter," Arthur said conversationally.

Snape glanced up from the tedious task of seeding his pomegranate, "A simple elixir. Something for Albus." He said cryptically. Arthur nodded knowingly, then gazed quizzically at his wife.

Sirius chewed slowly as he thought, but he left the matter be. He knew the potion was for Snape, not Albus. This was probably one of those, 'don't ask questions' moments.

The house was abuzz for most of the day with the children there. Sirius found himself quite busy playing various games and enjoying how full the house felt. He had forgotten about his problem with Snape. Or mostly, Snape's problems.

After giving Ron a thorough thrashing at Wizard's chess and then getting a good trouncing at exploding snap from Ginny and the twins, Sirius excused himself to feed Buckbeak his afternoon meal.

On his way up the stairs laughing to himself, Sirius saw Snape leaning against the wall beside his door.

He cautiously approached. They had never been close to friendly during the day--hell they were only vaguely friendly at night when Snape was laying half dead--and he wasn't sure what to expect.

Sirius checked to make sure they were indeed alone before approaching. Snape was mumbling to himself when Sirius interrupted. "You alright, Snape?"

"Is that you're new parroted response for me, Black?" Snape sneered.

"What?" Sirius asked, genuinely confused and getting irritated.

" 'Are you alright, Snape? Okay there, Snape? Are you dead, Snape?' Honestly, Black, one might think you were actually starting to care." Severus snapped.

"Fine," Sirius barked, "forgive me for trying to help!"

"Very well," Snape hissed.



Sirius huffed and stomped up the stairs to the master bedroom and threw a few rats at Buckbeak rather rudely, then stomped back down the stairs to find Snape still standing beside his door.

The man was shaking the knob violently and hissing to himself.

"Lock yourself out, Snape?" He asked happily.

Severus' head snapped around and for a quick moment a sheen of hopelessness creased his face before his mask of indifference snapped back into place. "Someone's changed my password."

Sirius grinned and raised an eyebrow, "Have they now? Sure you haven't just forgotten it? I'm sure there are plenty of curse words that you can speak in any language, have you tried them all yet?"

"Dammit Black," Snape hissed, trying to keep his voice low, "I need to get in here."

"Trying to stow away for the day, eh?" Sirius smirked.

"I need to get to the bathroom," Snape motioned violently at the door.

"So use that one there," Sirius motioned down the hall.

"You don't understand," Snape pinched the bridge of his nose and grabbed hold of Sirius shirt, hauling him forward until their noses almost touched. "I need to get into my bathroom." Snape gave him a hard look, " bathroom?"

A light finally dawned and Sirius shook himself free from Snape's hold. "Oh."

"Yes, 'Oh.' " Severus sighed heavily. "I need to take it soon, Black, or I'm going to be useless for the rest of the day."

"How is that different from any other day?" Sirius grinned.

"Fucking--Black! If you aren't going to help me, then go bugger yourself. Why break the habit of a lifetime?" Snape snapped and muttered a few more unlocking spells on his door to no avail.

"I'll have you know I've had plenty of buggering, and not with myself thank you very much!" Sirius spat, totally affronted.

"Shut up, shut up!" Severus growled.

"Alright, Snape, don't get your knickers in a twist." Sirius pushed him aside and inspected the doorway. "Ah-hah!"

"Fred! George! Come here!"

Sirius held up a quailing hand to Snape as the potions master seethed. The twins came carefully up from the downstairs and tried to look surprised. "Why whatever could be the matter?"

"Fix the Professor's door." Sirius motioned the impregnable door.

"We don't know what you're talking about," George said innocently.

"Fix it now!" Sirius barked, watching as the boys jumped in unison. "It has your prank written all over it. If you don't remove it from this door immediately I'm going to have a word with your mother."

Fred and George looked stunned before quickly removing the charms from the door. They backed away as it swung open and Snape stalked through it, slamming it shut in their faces.

"You're not going to tell mum are you?" Fred asked weakly.

Sirius sighed and put an arm around either boys' shoulders and started slowly down the stairs with them. "You mustn't play any more pranks on Professor Snape while he is here."

"Come on," George cried out, "You hate him as much as we do, and it was harmless!"

Sirius stopped, tightening his hold on them, "Listen to me, not a singe prank. No more spelled doors, no mislabeled jars, no joke candy. Do you understand? Nothing." The boys looked aghast. Sirius shook his head, "Swear to me you won't say a word to anyone, not a word, not a note."

"We swear," they said at once. The words floated above their heads in a mist and they both looked angry. "Hey, that wasn't an oath you know!"

"It was, because I am serious," Sirius said softly. The twins frowned but nodded, they were already stuck in the situation, they may as well hear about it anyway. "Professor Snape is in a bad way at the moment. You two locking him out of his rooms nearly made him miss taking an important potion. I'm not sure exactly what's happened to him but I don't want something as stupid as a door charm killing him. Is that understood?"

The boys nodded dumbly and walked down the rest of the stairs by themselves.

Sirius rubbed at his temples and swore softly. Hopefully Albus would join them today and he could tell the headmaster what he had done. It would be a little added protection just in case Molly found out about it.


By dinner, Sirius was pleasantly exhausted from his extended company. Snape had not made a reappearance at all the rest of the day. Molly brought him up a platter with lunch, but he would not answer his door. Sirius shrugged it off while Molly panicked again about Snape's pallor and weight. By the time everyone else had been fed and the dishes cleared away, Molly went to retrieve Snape's platter. She came down the stairs humming happily. Snape had eaten the majority of his lunch and returned the tray outside his quarters for her.

The arrival of Remus' sleepy face made Sirius feel better. He had been worried about his friend nonetheless. Remus reassured him that the pack had indeed given him a hard time but after a bit of carefully submissive moves and even a few aggressive ones he had won their grudging respect and they listened to him. He was fairly certain they would listen to him further and eventually join Dumbledore's side of light.

"Good lord, Padfoot, tell me you didn't tangle with Severus again," Lupin yawned, eyeing his friend's bruised nose.

Sirius grinned, "Not exactly, Moony me old chum, nothing to worry about."

Remus didn't look convinced. "So you're behaving are you?"

"Remus you wound me," Sirius gripped at his chest playfully pouting.

"Gentlemen, dinner is ready," Molly called from the doorway. Sirius followed Remus into the dining room.

The werewolf stopped and cautiously moved forward, Snape was in Sirius' seat again. He looked over his shoulder to see Sirius' face turn red in anger. Surprisingly enough, Sirius didn't explode but walked across the room and sat down to the dark wizard's right.

"Evening, Snape," he said stiffly. The potions master smirked but didn't say a word. "Rather comfortable seat isn't it?"

"Quite," Snape smirked a little more and took a drink from his water glass.

The tension in the room was palpable but nothing else came from the two of them but a few angry stares and one memorable tousle over the last sesame seed roll. Molly eventually smacked them both smartly with her spoon--causing all Weasley children present to wince-- and cut the roll in half.

Sirius rubbed the back of his hand ruefully and bit his portion neatly in half while glaring at Severus. The potions master scowled back and kept his punished hand in his lap. Sirius' anger faded when Snape coughed lightly and took a sip of water. He was the only one to notice the speck of crimson on Snape's lower lip before he wiped it away with the tip of his tongue.

"Does anyone know the time," Snape asked politely a moment later.

Remus checked his wristwatch, "It's about ten minutes past seven, Severus."

A line of thought marred the spot between Snape's brows and Sirius watched him intently until Remus cleared his throat. Sirius looked up at his friend and the werewolf gave him an incredulous and confused look. He was careful not to watch Snape too closely after that.

Several minutes passed and Snape suddenly stood, his face looked waxen. "If you'll excuse me."

Several people mumbled a reply, only Fred, George and Sirius watched Snape leave with any real level of acknowledgement. Sirius sat a still as possible and for a length of time he believed would be unremarkable before he excused himself as well.

He gave Fred and George a pleading look and sighed in relief when he heard the two start cracking jokes the minute his feet touched the hallway. Hopefully they would make the others forget any questions they might have, especially Remus.

The animagus followed Snape to his rooms and knocked softly. "Snape?"

The door opened and Sirius saw Snape turn away from the entry and walk toward his bathroom. "At least come in and keep gawkers from overhearing," the potions master said quietly.

Sirius checked the hall and shut the door. "What's going on? Are you about to keel over?"

Snape exited the bathroom with a vial in his hand. He gave Sirius a look that spoke volumes about just how simple he believed the ex-Gryffindor to be. "Are you hoping or asking?"

The animagus rolled his eyes and watched as Snape popped the vial open and upended it. The potions master grimaced.

"If you're such a master, why don't you make those things taste better?"

Snape glowered at him, "If you had paid any attention when we were children you would know the answer to that question." Sirius was still watching him expectantly and Severus let out an exasperated sigh. "To flavor a potion may well change the qualities and effects of it. Adding mint, for example, to this blood replenisher may make it taste a bit better, but will also react badly to the coagulant agent. Instead of aiding healthy blood growth, it would create a viscous plasma. Which would render it useless for its intended purpose."

"Ah," Sirius shook his head. He would never have been able to be a potions master, he didn't have the categorized memory that it would require. "You never did answer my question."

"Which would be?"

"What's going on? I saw you cough up blood downstairs at dinner and you yourself looked confused. Are you getting worse?" Sirius leaned against the door with his arms crossed over his chest as though to prove he would not leave without an answer.

"I've had to take the replenishment early," Severus admitted with reluctance.

"So you're getting worse," Sirius stated matter-of-factly.

"So it would seem," Snape paused and set the empty vial down. "It's a good thing I did not wait to start the potion until tonight."

"Why are you coughing up blood, Snape? I thought you said you didn't have broken bones." Sirius accused, a little surprised at how betrayed he felt when thinking Snape didn't tell him the truth.

"There are no broken bones," Severus snapped. He looked angry, very angry. His long fingers flew to the collar of his robe and he popped the clasp open and shrugged out of it, tossing across the bed. In a flurry of movement, his fingers popped open the tiny buttons of his shirt and Sirius gaped, trying to think of some smart comment about Snape stripping to break the intensity of the moment.

With the buttons undone, Snape pulled the right side of his shirt from the tuck of his trousers and stalked toward Sirius who suddenly felt trapped against the door. The potions master pointed one stained finger at the perfectly round burn mark that rested just to the right of his breast plate. "This is from Lucius Malfoy," Snape snarled. He pointed at the other burn, identical to the other, just below his last rib. "This is from your beloved cousin Bellatrix."

"She is no family of mine," Sirius roared.

"No matter," Severus sneered, "she did it either way. Both of them straight through the flesh and into the soft tissue beneath. This one," he pointed again at the burn from Bellatrix, "has been slowly dissolving my liver, leaving a burning gaping pit that's also slowly poisoning my other organs." He stabbed visciously at the other burn, "This one is eating away at my lung, and doing a fair job of it if I say so myself."

"That's why you're coughing up blood," Sirius said in awe, staring at the burn marks as though he could x-ray through them and see the damage for himself. "Why don't you go to Madame Pomfrey, surely she--"

"Cannot do anything, and will know nothing about it!" Snape snarled. "This is not a child's prank, Black, and I do know what I am doing even if you don't believe it."

"I never said--"

"Shut up! I don't care. Now you know, get out!" Snape hissed as he turned away and started doing up his buttons.

"No, Snape, I won't!" Sirius barked. "Why did they do this to you?"

"Why does it matter to you? You suddenly have a conscience, Black? Feel sorry for the greasy bastard whom you yourself spit on as a Death Eater? Don't patronize me!" Severus fumed, stuffing the shirt tail back into his pants.

"What is with you, Snivellus? God forbid I try to help you, let alone sympathize!" Sirius growled.

"I never asked for your sympathy!" Snape spun on his heel. "Get out, Black! Get out before I do something you'll regret!"

The animagus prickled, gnashing his teeth. "Fuck you, Snape!" He left in a flourish, slamming the door shut behind him.

Snape stalked to the door and yanked it open, "Not in this lifetime, Black!"

The timber of his voice and the second slam of the door echoed in the house like a gunshot. Red faced and angry, Sirius stomped down the stairs and into the kitchen where he sat in his chair. Arthur and Remus were silent; the only two remaining sipping tea.

Molly puttered in from the pantry with a worried look, "Tea, Sirius?"

"No thank you, Molly," Sirius said with false cheer just a little too brightly. "I think I'll just have some whisky."

The Weasley matriarch kept her lips sealed as a bottle of Ogden's sailed from the pantry and landed with a skid on the tabletop. She went to retrieve him a glass, only to notice he didn't need one as he nearly bit the cork off and took two heavy pulls from the bottle neck.

"Padfoot--" Remus started, but was cut off with a scalding glare from Sirius.

The animagus set the bottle down with a thump and swallowed his mouthful with a hiss. "Don't bother asking, Remus, I won't answer."

He stood from the table with his bottle in hand and climbed the stairs to his room. Another bottle of whisky drained in record time.


Sirius woke from his drunken stupor several hours later. His head was throbbing in time to the beat of his heart and his limbs felt leadened. His tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth and the reek of what little alcohol he hadn't consumed was spilled across his shirtfront.

He sat up in the dark, clutching uselessly for the night stand and his wand. Sirius fingers brushed across it, but he only managed to knock it to the floor where it rolled --loudly--underneath the bed and into an oblivion of dust bunnies.

The animagus groaned as he rolled over onto his feet, only to collapse to his knees and knock his head soundly on the night table. The slow beat in his head changed to an allegro and he stood up clutching at thin air.

It was by far the worst way to go down stairs, but headfirst and tripping seemed to be the only way he was managing to do it. Sirius finally landed with a bang on the first floor and lay there panting and bruised. "There had better be a remedy in the pantry," he growled out. What a stupid place for a hangover cure, anyway, he thought.

"One would think, one would keep one in one's bathroom," he mumbled as he picked himself up from the floor. He stood, using the wall for support and thought about what he had said for the next five minutes, and even then he still had no idea what he was talking about.

Finally, he gave up all coherent thought--which was fortunate since he wasn't doing much of it in the first place--and stumbled into the kitchen. After fighting off two chairs and the table he made it to the pantry.

Layers of various bottles all twinkled at him and he stared transfixed. "My God, Albus is a bunch of bottles," he slurred. One bottle twinkled just a little brighter than the rest and he pulled it down. The round, robust handwriting of Molly's said that this was what he was after. "Bless 'er, heart," Sirius grinned and stumbled back out of the room and into the kitchen where he fought off another chair and beat it into submission before he could sit in it.

He drank the contents of the bottle and felt his swimming head clear. The headache and slight nausea remained and he frowned down at the empty vial. Molly's writing was scrawled across a label that wrapped around the whole bottle. He squinted at it and read, "Hangover Remedy. But only enough of one so that you learn your lesson." He harrumphed and dropped the bottle onto the tabletop. Damn that Weasley woman for being such a good mum.

A plate of toast was sitting in the middle of the tabletop that he hadn't noticed. Beside it was another note with Molly's writing. He read the little note and smiled to himself, she had made him toast. How thoughtful.

Sirius had eaten two slices in great bites before he realized that it was not just toast he was eating. His stomach was turning to a roiling vat of magma. He grappled for the note and stared hard at it. "No," he groaned. There, in the corner of the note was a little squiggle that was trademark of the Weasley twins: a small Gemini emblem that waved and winked. He had been had.

The fire in his stomach grew to unbelievable proportions until it felt like he would melt from the inside out. He was writhing against the table when Snape came in with an empty silver goblet in his hand. He stared at Sirius but chose to ignore him and went to the cauldron in the corner.

"Wa-ater," Sirius croaked, sure he should have smoke coming out his ears by now.

Snape ignored him, ladling out a portion of his elixir into the glass. His hands were shaking from exhaustion. Just as he brought the cup to his lips, it was snatched away.

"Black, what are you doing!" Snape howled, snatching out for the elusive animagus.

"It burns," Sirius gasped, draining the goblet of its contents.

"You idiot!" Snape screamed, lunging after him. Too late did Sirius realize what he had done. The burning had ceased directly after the last gulp of potion hit his stomach.

"Merlin," he breathed. "Severus, I-I'm sorry, I didn't realize!"

Snape was a raving lunatic, fuming and swearing in languages Sirius couldn't name. "Give me the goblet," Severus snapped, snapping his fingers in irritation. "Hurry, before the remaining potion is ruined."

Sirius nodded, quickly handing the goblet to the potions master. He waited in horror as the wizard ladled out another cup. As Snape brought it to his lips, the dark evergreen color soured to puce. "No," Snape said softly in disbelief.

The animagus snatched the cup and stared down into it, then into the cauldron. The whole remaining potion had changed color. "What does this mean?" He asked in panic. Snape didn't answer and Sirius shook him by the collar. "Well? Snape!"

"That's it," Snape said in the same soft tone, eyes staring into the goblet.

"What's it!"

The glaze to Snape's eyes cleared and he had Sirius pinned to the table in a second. "YOU! You did this on purpose!"

"No! Snape don't be stupid!" Sirius tried to fight back, but Snape was still wiry and in a complete rage fueled by adrenaline.

"Stupid? Stupid! I am not the one who has just consumed someone else's potion!" Snape's voice cracked and the fingers in Sirius' collar loosened a fraction. The animagus used the moment to extract himself from Snape's clutch and get as much distance between them as possible.

Sirius breathed hard and ragged as he watched Snape from the other end of the table. The potions master was looking at his hands, a deep ugly bruise on the back of one the shape of a spoon.

"I wasn't meant to die like this," Snape hissed. His head snapped up and he glared burning holes into Sirius. "Rotting, from the inside out!"

"There has to be some...thing," Sirius paused, blinking his eyes. The world was losing sharp focus. Every outline was just a little fuzzy, vibrant colors just a little more bright, deep colors had just a little more depth. A queer feeling bubbled in his stomach and he looked up at Snape in horror.

"What's the matter?" Snape asked suspiciously.

"There's... I feel," Sirius struggled for the right word, "funny."

"Euphoric?" Snape accused, hands clutching at the table edge.

Sirius thought about it, "Yea. Yea, euphoric." He grinned and quickly slapped a hand over his mouth, "Merlin, I almost giggled."

Severus snorted at the disgusted look on Sirius' face.

"How long will I feel like this?" Sirius asked. "I don't quite like it. It's false."

"The next hour or two, I should think. It's a side-effect of the medication. It's a healing potion, remember, made of poisons. There's always a side-effect." Snape closed his eyes tightly.

He sat down heavily into a chair and buried his face in his hands. A hard cough made the table shake. Sirius stared in horror at the blood on the tabletop. "There has to be something, Snape. Think dammit, you're supposed to be good at this!"

"Good at what?" Severus croaked. "Getting out of a bind? Surviving?"

"Yes, dammit!" Sirius walked toward the man, feeling as though his feet were glidding across the tile. The warm air around him seemed to part for him and when he stopped it closed in on him again like a gentle hug. He shuddered. "Look, Snape, isn't there anything we can do?"

Snape's head snapped up, his eyes accusing. "We?"

"Yes, I'm the one that's fucked this up," Sirius sat down slowly into the chair beside Severus. Snape turned his head to look at him and Sirius watched in a transfixed awe as his hair floated across his face before settling again on either side, like slow motion film.

Snape thought hard and glanced over at Sirius who was waving his hand in front of his face and sniffing the air as though it were perfumed with something exotic. The answer came to him but he was loathe to like it.

"The potion is currently floating about in your blood," Severus said calmly. Sirius' eyes tried to focus on Snape's face but he kept getting sidetracked by the warm glow from the fire. "That means it is still accessible for the next hour or so before it is totally absorbed."

"What does that mean," Sirius asked, distracted.

"It means I will have to consume enough of your blood to reverse the effect of the decay in my body."

"Oh, yes, that makes sense," Sirius mumbled, again in awe of the sweet smell in the air that he could not place.

"Black, do you understand a word I have just said?"

"Hmm, oh, yea. Blood, an hour, something about drinking... I get it," Sirius waved his hand dismissively.

Snape caught hold of it and drew it toward him. Sirius cocked his head to the side, his brain fuzzy and warm. Severus conjured a small knife and held it up for Sirius to see. The animagus smiled and nodded, completely oblivious to what Snape was about to do.

A sharp biting pain cleared the haze for a moment and Sirius tried to pull away from it, but Snape's hand was like a vice on his wrist. The haze fell again but the pulses of dull pain echoed through the cloud like cool water. Sirius watched in lazy detachment as Snape pressed his forearm to his mouth and tongued the cut open.

The healing potion in his body soon found the open wound and within a matter of seconds the hole in his arm was sealed shut and Snape sat back with a look of irritation.

Sirius blinked at the creased face in front of him and brought up his hand to wipe a smudge of blood off of Snape's lip with his thumb. Severus jerked back in surprise and Sirius giggled much to his dismay.

"What are you doing, Black?" Snape asked quietly.

Idly licking the blood from his thumb, Sirius shrugged. "Dunno, seemed like the thing to do."

Sirius grinned and tugged his chair a little closer to Snape. The potions master scowled, "What are you doing?"

"You already asked that," Sirius quipped. The air around Snape was a little warmer than the rest and that sweet smell was a bit stronger. Curious, Sirius leaned in, but Severus leaned out. "Come, now, Snape," he pouted. He curled his fingers into Snape's robe and pulled him forward. The smell was stronger and Sirius buried his nose in Snape's neck.

"Black," Severus growled, "I know you have no control of your lesser functions at the moment, but refrain from getting in my personal space."

"There's summat..." Sirius trailed off, distracted by the ripples of the air as Snape shivered. "That smell, I know that smell..."

Snape closed his eyes and willed Black off of him. The feathery touches of the animagus' breath and lips ghosting on his neck was giving him chills...and an unwanted impression he was surely misjudging.

Sirius pulled Snape a bit closer, nuzzling right behind his ear. The fragrance finally came to him. "Mulberries? Snape, why do you smell of mulberries?"

Snape was gripping the arms of his chair until his knuckles turned white. Damn that euphoria. "I don't know what you're talking about, Black."

Sirius laughed, the warm air billowing across the exposed skin of Severus' neck. "The fruit, you know? Mulberries? Tasty little things. I used to eat mulberry jam every morning on toast, haven't had it for years." Sirius licked his lips at the memory, oblivious to the sweep of neck he had tasted. "Ever had them, Snape?"

"No," Snape said uneasily. "Get off of me, Black."

"What for?" Sirius mumbled, taking another deep breath. "You still haven't answered my question."

"I don't bloody well know why, Black. Perhaps its just in your head." Severus fumed, annoyed with Black, angry at his own reactions.

"Pity," Sirius said with deep regret. He sat back a bit and Snape let out a heavy sigh of relief. "Did you eat mulberries today?"

"For the love of--no, Black. I told you I've never had them." Severus barked. His face was still hot with a flush, damn Black for his oblivious aggressiveness.

Sirius didn't look convinced, "Are you sure?"

"Yes, for Merlin's sake," Snape hissed.

A crafty smile curled Sirius' lips up until he looked very much like the Cheshire cat. "Liar."


Severus growled. Sirius was lapping leisurely at his lips, trying to taste the berries that were only in his head. With a fist in Sirius' hair, Snape hauled his head back. "Do not, do that again," he hissed.

Sirius' eyes were dilated, the vibrant blue deepened. He gnashed his teeth and buried both hands into Snape's robe. "Why not?"

Snape narrowed his eyes, that had sounded very much like a challenge. A deep seated part of him lurched. "Because you are not yourself, and you will only hate yourself for it later."

The muscles of Sirius' neck bunched as he tried to break free of Snape's hold. "You'll be dead later, and who would I tell?"

The realization struck like lightening. Severus sat as stone in his chair. He would be dead if he didn't manage to consume more of Sirius' blood. Parasitic though it may be, it was the only slim chance he had.

"The human body can only consume a pint of blood before getting ill," Severus said quietly, staring hard into Sirius' face. The animagus grunted to show he was listening. "Do you think you can lose a pint of blood without passing out?"

Sirius grinned, pawing at Snape's robe, trying to pull him out of the chair. "One way to find out."

"Indeed." Snape hauled Sirius forward by the hair, sending the chair the animagus had been sitting on flying out behind him. They were a hair's breadth apart and Snape stared hard into glazed blue eyes, "Remember I am do not submit, and this will hurt."

Sirius laughed softly and snapped his teeth at him.

Severus smirked, "So long as we're clear," and crushed Sirius' lips to his own. The animagus struggled as his lower lip split open on the impact but gave in to the mingled pain and euphoric pleasure as Snape milked it for blood until the potion healed that too.

Sirius pulled free and stepped back, eyeing Snape with calculating eyes. "I won't submit without a fight," he grinned ferally as Snape stood from his chair. The clasp of his cloak was undone and the heavy material pooled around the potions master's feet. Sirius watched it with his defunct vision.

Snape had him by the shirt collar before he had time to look up from the robe. Sirius' back slammed against the work table and he bent backward across it. Snape followed him down, ripping at his shirt and tearing the collar. "The one time you actually wear a shirt," Severus mumbled.

The animagus barked out a laugh and took hold of either side of Snape's tailored shirt, yanking the halves apart and scattering buttons across the room. Severus sneered and hauled him off of the table by the belt in his trousers. He pinned Sirius face first to the wall, one hand tearing the collar further, the other pressing his wand into the soft spot at the underside of his chin. "Do you have any idea what this shirt cost?"

"Too much, apparently," Sirius pressed back against Snape, but the darker wizard had his feet planted well and didn't move far.

"Why is that?" Snape butted Sirius head to the side with his own.

"The buttons came off far too easily," Sirius laughed then hissed. Severus bit him hard at the juncture of his shoulder and neck, grinding his teeth to tear at the flesh. The muscle jumped and thick warmth spread across Snape's tongue.

"Fuck, Snape, I thought you need blood, not flesh!" Sirius writhed in pain, trying to get away.

Slowly this wound healed, but Snape had gotten two good mouthfuls before it closed. He pulled his bloody lips away and hissed into Sirius' ear, "You have to get through the flesh first, Black."

"That fucking hurt, thank you very much," Sirius snapped, mindful of how his throat was going to be bruised by the heavy press of the wand tip.

"I did warn you," Severus growled, finally ripping the front of Sirius' tee shirt in a rough line clear to the tuck in his jeans.

The scent of mulberry was thick again and Sirius only grunted as his body molded itself by the press and pull of Snape's free hand. It was highly tantalizing, trying do understand Snape's pattern of torture. Light touch, scratching nails, nip of teeth, hard clutch; the haze of his brain was cleared and fogged with each alternate. By the time Snape bit him again on the ball of his shoulder, Sirius forgot it was supposed to hurt more than it did and ground himself back into Snape's tight hold.

Finally, Snape's stomach revolted at the final mouthful of Sirius' blood. Severus left well enough alone, hoping he had consumed enough to help himself without consuming too much and make himself sick. If he vomited, it would all have been for nothing.

Sirius was breathing heavily still pinned to the wall under his weight. Snape could not believe that the man was still aroused. It had to be the effects of the potion in his system. He himself did not enjoy such pain as pleasure. "Black," he croaked. The animagus sighed and lowered his forehead to the wall as Snape withdrew his wand from his throat. "I've gotten what I needed, we do not...need to go further."

"Like hell," Sirius mumbled into the stone. He used the wall's support to turn around and grabbed hold of Snape's shirt. Snape stopped himself from the pull by bracing his arms on either side of Sirius' head.

"You will regret this already when the potion wears off," Severus grunted as Sirius' free hand grabbed hold of his belt.

"Probably," Sirius grinned, hauling himself up to Snape if Snape was not going to come to him. Severus backed up a step and Sirius growled in frustration. "Look, you've been the proper gentleman, giving me several opportunities to get out of here. Now, I'm still here and horny as hell and you are going to help me out."

"You won't see it that way," Severus mumbled, allowing himself to be pulled forward.

"Probably not," Sirius admitted, latching his lips to the pulse on Severus' throat. Snape let him roam a while, nipping, groaning, grinding, before he pushed Sirius away again.

"What now?" Sirius whined.

"I do not bottom," Severus smirked and pushed Sirius onto the table. The animagus fell onto it with very little grace and lay there in a daze as Snape loomed over him. "But I promise you won't mind."

And Sirius didn't.

The potion euphoria wore off somewhere between his pants being thrown over Snape's shoulder and the potions master nearly gnawing one of his nipples off. He'd clawed at the table, Severus' shoulders and anything else within easy reach. One of the joys of being a wizard, was that in one's youth, many useful little spells were learned during puberty that only became more practical as one aged. Sirius was only to happy to teach his favorite little lesson and get pounded into the table until one of the legs threatened to break.

Twenty minutes later, Sirius found his pants draped across the cauldron and the remains of his shirt somewhere in the same vicinity. Snape was sitting at one of the only chairs left upright when he managed to get his jeans pulled back on.

He upturned a chair and sat down next to Snape. The other wizard was staring into the distance, eyes unfocused. Sirius swallowed hard, perhaps the whole blood/potion thing wasn't right?


The eyes cleared in an instant and turned sharply to him. "Black, if you think I'm going to cuddle you and whisper sweet nothings in your ear, you have an ugly reality check coming."

Sirius sighed in relief. "I'm already looking at it," he quipped.

Severus sneered.

"You, uh, aren't going to tell anyone about this are you?" Sirius felt panic begin to well in his chest.

Snape snorted and gave him another patented look that made you feel ten IQ points dumber. "Of course, not. What the hell do you take me for?"

"A greasy bastard."

"I'm sorry to have to tell you, Black, but you aren't exactly a brag worthy catch." Severus stood and cleaned his cauldron, then stuffed his discarded robe inside.

"Excuse me? Look who's talking, beak-nose!" Sirius seethed.

"You weren't complaining a moment ago," Snape smirked.

"Pardon me for being poisoned by your potion."

A hard, intense stare made Sirius start to sweat just a little. "Tell yourself whatever so long as it makes you sleep better at night, Black."

Snape turned from him and left the kitchen with his cauldron in hand, his shirt tails billowing out behind him.

Sirius followed him into the hall, struggling for something smart to say but only swore to himself.

"Eh, Padfoot, are you alright?" Remus stood in the hall, still wrapped in his traveling robe.

The animagus jumped nearly a foot off of the ground and clutched at his chest. "Merlin, Remus, you've given me a heart attack."

"Sorry," Remus smiled. The little grin fell slowly off of his face as he stared at his friend. "Sirius...would you mind explaining--"

"Give me a moment, would you, Moony, I think I need to get a shirt on before more people start showing up." Sirius made a break for the stairs and barreled up them to his rooms.

He quickly changed his clothes and checked the time. "Merlin's balls, it's six o'clock!"

Sirius stumbled back down the stairs, trying to tug on a pair of shoes as he went. He ran into Severus who was just leaving his rooms. Trailing behind him was his trunk.

"Where are you going?" Sirius asked in surprise.

An ebony eyebrow rose silently. "I've rested and been healed. I'm going back home before the start of term." Sirius opened and closed his mouth several times. "What? I would think you would be ecstatic to see me off."

"I am, you evil bastard." Sirius said.

"What are you blathering about?"

"Remus is down stairs right now nosing about. He already knows something's going on and he's likely to hound me to death. And you get to run off, happy as you please!" Sirius griped.

"Don't worry about Lupin," Severus smirked.

"What do you mean, 'don't worry about Lupin'? He isn't stupid, Snape, and he's my best mate!" Sirius fumed. He stood in Snape's path and the potions master frowned.

"If he mentions anything, politely ask him where he got that little scar behind his right ear, I'm sure he'll leave it alone." Snape physically moved Sirius from his path and started down the stairs.

"Hold it, Snape. How's that going to--"

Severus gave him a knowing look and smirked slowly.

Sirius blinked and pointed at him, "You...and Remus..."

"What, Black? Remus and I..." Snape played dumb, still smirking.

"Wha-? When?" Sirius sputtered.

Snape snorted, "I don't think it's my place to say." The smirk widened into a full blown evil grin, "But perhaps you can ask him when he stopped calling me 'Snape', and started calling me 'Severus'."

The potions master turned and finished descending the stairs. He passed Lupin who was standing in the entry to the kitchen looking completely dumbfounded.

"Severus, are these your--," Lupin paused and held up a small black bead, "your buttons?"

Snape paused and gave the werewolf a careful once over, "Why yes, Lupin, thank you for reminding me." With a mumbled incantation and a flick of his wand, the multiple lost buttons from his shirt collected neatly in his palm. He pocketed them and continued on his way without so much as a goodbye sneer.

Sirius staggered down the last few steps and stood beside his friend.

"Sirius, how did Severus' buttons get all over the kitchen?" Remus asked in a small voice.

Sirius feigned surprise and leaned closer to Lupin for a second before looking worried, "Goodness, Moony, where did you get that scar behind your ear?"

Remus' face tinted and he touched the scar with his fingers before turning into the kitchen and quickly busying himself by setting the chairs back at the table.

"Help me straighten out the kitchen, Sirius, I think Molly should be here soon to start breakfast." The werewolf paused at the end of the table where Sirius and Snape had vacated less than ten minutes ago. He looked up at Sirius with a curious expression and asked, "Do you smell mulberries?"

Sirius didn't know whether to laugh, scream or wretch in relief. "No," he said, "I don't."

Remus nodded absently and Sirius watched Remus flit about with his face still pink and decided he wasn't going to ask. At least not yet.


I'm all undone, my pretty one.

Don't slap my face unless you kiss me.

Little by little we cross the line...

Little by little the ties are bind...

Little by little, by little, by little...

Little by little tonight.

You beg and you cry for more...

You pull me down here on the killing floor...