Disclaimer: these wonderful characters belong to JK: I just borrowed them for a bit.

"Of all the pig-headed-!" Sirius descended into incoherent muttering. He picked up a log and hurled it viciously on to the fire where it landed heavily, sending up a satisfactory blaze of sparks.

"He KNOWS how important it is for Harry to master Occlumency-!" he stopped and thrust both hands into the log basket to repeat his previous action. Instead, he gave a loud yell, dropped the log and swore. Remus was at his side in an instant.

Face screwed up in pain, Sirius gingerly held out his hands in front of him for Remus to inspect. Multiple splinters of wood were embedded in each palm.

Remus looked around and spotted the unhelpful Black house-elf lurking in the kitchen doorway.

"Kreacher, please find me a sharp needle and three clean handkerchiefs," he said firmly.

The house-elf regarded him haughtily and announced,"Kreacher does not take orders from stinking half-breed who shames the House of Black with its presence. My mistress would have had you executed-"

"And lying in the hall as a hearth rug," Sirius finished impatiently. "Just do as he says, you insolent piece of…

He watched as a scowling Kreacher disappeared. "I can't believe Dumbledore wants me to be friends with that."

"I don't think he was suggesting you take him out to dinner," Remus replied reasonably. "He was just saying you could treat him with a little civility, a little courtesy."

Sirius snorted. "Has Hermione signed you up to S.P.E.W.?"

"The subscription's cheaper if I introduce a friend…"

"Over my dead body!" Sirius felt the malevolent gaze on him once more as Kreacher returned and offered up the needle and handkerchiefs.

Spreading one of the handkerchiefs out on the kitchen table beside him, Remus motioned Sirius to sit in one chair and took his own seat in front of him.

"Incendio," Remus muttered and sterilised the tip of the needle in the resulting flames. He took hold of Sirius's left hand. "Now hold still. This will probably hurt."

Sirius caught the gleam of gleeful anticipation in Kreacher's eyes at these words and sternly sent him from the room. He winced as Remus started working the splinters free and placing them carefully on the handkerchief. By way of diversion, he turned back to the object of his anger.

"The ignorance of the man! He's part of the Order and Dumbledore trusts him to do this…why he trusts Snivellus at all, I'll never understand…the slimy, deceitful, lying, spiteful, vicious…I don't care WHAT Dumbledore says, I don't believe he's changed…he's just as slippery as he was at school and I'm certain he's still in touch with the Death Eaters-" He broke off, aware that Remus had not said a word.

"Well?" he asked belligerently. "Don't you think Snivelllus is behaving like a complete git?"

Remus stopped and looked up at him with a clear gaze.

"Well?" Sirius repeated less fiercely, a note of apprehension in his voice: he had seen that look before and he usually did not like what accompanied it.

Straightening up in his chair, Remus answered calmly. "I don't think it's fair that Snape is taking his anger out on Harry."

"It's cowardly!" Sirius exclaimed"He's a teacher! He should-"

Remus interrupted him. "I mean it's us he has the issue with. Not Harry." He bent back over Sirius's hand.

Sirius studied the top of his head for a moment then said quietly: "Not you either, Moony."

"Oh, it was James and you who led the Snape-baiting," Remus agreed, "but I didn't stop it, Sirius, and neither did Peter."

He felt Sirius tense at the mention of the fourth Marauder but continued: "I know Snape wasn't blameless - far from it - but I was never comfortable when you and James picked on him in public, Padfoot. When Lily challenged you that day I felt ashamed that it wasn't me. She was saying what I wanted to say."

"Why didn't you?"

Remus sighed, straightened up again and sterilised the needle once more. He shrugged. "Because before I came to Hogwarts, I'd been where Snape was and I didn't want to go back there."

"You were…"

"Bullied. Yes." Remus smiled. "Another occupational hazard of being a werewolf"

Sirius did not smile. "And you thought we'd do that to you? Remus, we were Animagi by then! Hadn't we shown our loyalty to you? We would never, ever -"

"Actually, it's one of the reasons I worried about you and James finding out in the first place. I wasn't certain what you'd do with the knowledge."

"Moony…Prongs would never…I would never…"

His expression was one of earnest reassurance: Remus held his gaze slightly longer than he should have done before returning to the splinters. Sirius's face closed up.

"You still haven't forgiven me, have you?" he said in a low voice.

Remus shook his head. "Padfoot, I forgave you a long time ago."

"You really think we would have-"

"At the time, it seemed…a possibility. You were careless people back then, you and James."

He studied Sirius's left hand closely. "That's clear now." He carefully wrapped the wounded hand in a fresh handkerchief, cleaned the needle and started on the right hand.

There was silence punctuated only by the sound of the logs crackling on the fire. Despite the warmth generated by the flames, Sirius felt colder than he had done since he had escaped Azkaban. He did not even feel the needle digging into his flesh. His oldest friend - now, his best friend - had just confessed that he had thought him capable of betrayal and torment. From anyone else, he would have responded angrily to an accusation he regarded as unjust,but the horrible thing was, he could understand entirely why Remus had believed it possible. Hadn't he proved himself callous and untrustworthy when he had told Snape the truth about the Whomping Willow?

He swallowed. "I suppose that's why you thought I was to blame when James…" he could not finish the sentence.

Remus looked up sharply. He read Sirius's mood instantly and gave himself a mental kick. No matter how often they discussed the episode with Snape, Sirius had an endless supply of guilt to tap into. Sometimes the guilt got in the way of constructive conversation.

"Padfoot," he began, "it was one of the worst days of my life when I was told you had killed James and Lily and Peter. I didn't understand it and I didn't want to accept it. It took me ages to come to terms with it."

He gently laid a hand on Sirius's arm and continued:

"I told you this two years ago. I didn't want to believe you were responsible for the death of our friends but in the end, I did."

"Because I'd shown myself to be treacherous towards you," Sirius whispered dully, studying the floor.

Remus resisted the urge to shake him.

"No, idiot, because there didn't seem to be any other explanation. We all thought you were the Secret-Keeper, remember. Actually, the incident with Snape was one of the main reasons I didn't think you were guilty."

Sirius looked at him, puzzled.

"After it happened, you changed, Padfoot," Remus said quietly. "So did James. Both of you grew up overnight and started thinking about how your actions affected other people." He leaned forward for emphasis. "I never worried again."

He saw the emotions working their way through Sirius until his eyes settled on a mixture of relief and belief.

"I said this two years ago too," Remus smiled, re-sterilising the needle, "it was easily the best day of my life to know that you were innocent."

This time, Sirius returned the smile.

As Remus started to remove the splinters once more, Sirius asked:

"Tell me, Moony, what was Snape like when you taught with him?"

Remus considered for a moment then said: "He's a competent teacher but not a popular one. He has favourites and he uses his position to bully some of the children."

"Harry," Sirius said grimly.

"He's one of them though Harry can stand up for himself. I believe when Harry started, all Snape saw was James and James's son. Nowadays, I think he dislikes Harry in his own right; Harry's probably like a fifth Marauder to him. And also, he now knows how close you and Harry are. I imagine every time he sees him, he's reminded of you. Actually, the one who was terrified of him was Neville Longbottom."

"Frank and Alice's kid?"

Remus nodded and then chuckled. "I told you about the Boggart, didn't I?"

Sirius's face lit up. "Yeah, Snape in a dress with a big red handbag. I wish I'd been there…" he said dreamily. "How was he with the other teachers?"

"He listens to Dumbledore but doesn't always like what he hears. As for McGonagall, Flitwick and the others, he seems content to co-exist."

"And with you? How was he with you?"

Remus concentrated on a recalcitrant piece of wood buried deep in Sirius's right palm. It was a moment before he answered.

"Snape didn't want me there," he said simply. "You know how much venom he injects into saying my surname. That was pretty much present every time we spoke."

"Was it…do you think it's because…?" Sirius tailed off, not wanting to utter the words "because of what I did".

Remus finished the sentence differently.

"Because I'm a werewolf and a danger to the students? Because you were at large and I might have been helping you? I expect that's what Snape told Dumbledore. He might even have said that to himself. Really though, it came down to the fact that I was a Marauder. I think he hates all of us with an equal passion. I hoped he would be able to put our history behind him." He grimaced. "Some hope."

He inspected his handiwork and decided that he had finished. He bound up Sirius's hand, looked at his friend who was still brooding and continued:

"Snape was…" he searched for the word and then gave up "..Snape. He still is and I doubt he will ever change."

He hesitated for a moment then decided to play his hunch: "Don't think I don't know what he says to you when he visits here, Padfoot."

Sirius's expression confirmed his suspicions. Remus went on:

"He won't say anything overt in front of Arthur or Tonks or anyone else in the Order but I've been around both of you long enough to know when the pair of you have been fighting."

"I can handle Snivellus," said Sirius shortly.

"Don't let him get to you, " Remus warned. "You'll be playing right into his hands."

He stood up, carefully knotted the handkerchief with the splinters and threw it on the fire.

As the pair of them watched it burn, Sirius said:

"Harry's got to learn Occlumency. Otherwise he'll leave himself wide open to attack."

Remus nodded. "If he can't get Snape to start the lessons again, I'll tackle Snivellus. There's a chance he may listen. And if he doesn't I'll go to Dumbledore. Let Harry try first though. If Snape has an ounce of objectivity he'll see that rather than gloating, Harry is horrified by what happened."

There was a snort from Sirius which indicated to Remus that he did not credit Snape with having even that much detachment but he said no more.

Remus started to smile and Sirius looked at him curiously.

"James and that Snitch," he said by way of explanation.

Sirius gave a bark of laughter. "Remember McGonagall's face when he let it out in her Transfiguration class?"

"He tried to tell her that he'd transfigured your quill-"

"-but I couldn't hide the quill in time -"

"-and McGonagall said-"

"-'Mr Potter, I may be many things but I am neither gullible nor am I a Seeker.'"

"Remember the Ink Blackjack chews?"

"I had green teeth for a week," Sirius smiled. "Remember when we charmed Flitwick's chair?"

"And when we levitated the bag of Dungbombs in front of Filch?"

Sirius suddenly sat up straight in his chair, eyes gleaming.

"That's what we need to do, Moony!"

Remus was lost. "What?"

"Show Harry! We can borrow the Pensieve from Dumbledore and we can think of some of the best times we had at Hogwarts with James -"

"-and about Lily-" Remus nodded eagerly.

"-and then he'll know what his Dad and Mum were really like," Sirius finished triumphantly.

Remus beamed. "That's an excellent idea! Why haven't we had it before?"

"At the end of term," Sirius decided. "Don't want to get in the way of his OWLs."

And they spent the next several hours arguing fiercely over which memories to choose.