Sirius flinched when she slapped him, but only the briefest of reactions. He felt his cheek grow hot where her hand had connected, and his tongue explored the upper gum, feeling it puff and swell as he stood there.

"Why? Why?" She was crying now, even as her face was contorted in anger. "Why do you do this to me? I thought we were over this, I thought we were over you going after him?"

"Still love him then?" He said it so quietly and calmly, as though she hadn't just hit him.

"Sirius, I can't take it anymore. I can't take my best friend being this way. I can't. It tears me apart that I had to keep it a secret. And maybe that's why I let it end – I can't choose sides. Even if he didn't have the guts to fight for me, I don't want you fighting my battles for me either."

"Lily." His voice was that of defeat, but he couldn't help reaching out his hand towards her, to take her hand in his, one last try.

She looked down at where his fingers brushed hers, and she pulled her hand away.

"No, Sirius," she replied quietly and turned and walked away.

# # # # #

The fistfight takes place in their favorite venue – the abandoned Potions classroom. The players are the same, but this time there is no lead-up, no introduction with overtures and sarcasm. There is simply two men in a room, and a meeting of eyes, and an understanding. Punches are thrown, lips split, eyes blacked.

In the end, two men who appear at first glance to be asking for bets to be placed, turn out to be quite evenly matched. The reach of one makes up for the force of the other. Both men fight for the same thing, even though at the same time, neither of them want it in the same way they did when they should have had this discussion. They both wonder, amidst spitting blood and right hooks, why they didn't do this years ago and why they're both so angry at a dead man.

It's over only because they simply lost the taste for it. No one wins, but both of them look like they lost. Wordlessly, they retreat into the professor's office, and the professor pours them each a tumbler of scotch, which they sip painfully - swirling it in their mouths filled with open wounds.

"Please tell me there's another guy somewhere who has crawled off into the bushes to die. Please tell me he was very evil and deserved to get the stuffing beaten out of him the old fashioned way instead of simply being hexed into next week like a couple of civilized, grown wizards would be expected to do."

"Remus."

"Remus."

The two men raised their glasses to the third who stands in the doorway, shaking his head.

When he pulls Sirius out of the chair, Remus says "say goodbye to your new friend" and Severus replies "we are not friends", to which Sirius adds "damn right, dirty snake" and Severus just says "pussy".

# # # # #

Remus Lupin entered the dungeon classroom and found it empty. He shoved his hands in his trouser pockets and walked through the rows between the desks to the Potions Master's office. He stood in the doorway, and rocked back and forth on his heels.

Severus did not even look up.

"It's not the full moon, Lupin. You can go away now. Shoo." He made a waving motion with his free hand.

"Tch tch, Sev."

"Don't call me that," he said, never looking up from the paper he was grading.

Remus waltzed into the office, and sat down in the chair across from the desk. Severus looked up at him without lifting his head.

Remus just gave him a tight smile.

Severus sat up, and put down his quill and folded his hands in front of him on his desk. "I see we're having another miscommunication. I said leave. Means the opposite of 'please, take a seat'. I know we've been over this."

Remus smiled more genuinely this time. "Now I get it. You just always sound so angry and eeeevil." He wiggled his fingers towards the other man. "But you're a funny guy. Really."

Severus did not reply, but realized the other man would not leave. So he went back to grading his paper, hoping that, like many other things in his life, if he just ignored him, he would go away.

"Seeeeverus."

"I have nothing to say to you, Lupin. Bugger off."

Remus took his hands out of his pockets and threw them up in the air, giving up his big idea of convincing the other man with logic. He felt a little tug of sadness at yet another failure in logic – the thing which all others were supposed to obey.

"Come off it you broody bastard! Are you trying to ruin your life?!"

"Yes, thank you. Now goodbye."

"I know you still love her."

Severus ignored him.

"And the feeling's mutual," he continued.

There was silence, and Lupin could almost see the wheels turning in the Potions Master's mind.

"Impossible," he whispered.

"Impossible, you say? Nay, I reply."

"I say impossible because she can't possibly love me. She feels sorry for me, maybe. But she doesn't love me," he said, still quiet.

"I think you're wrong."

"Why?"

Remus leaned forward in his chair. "Because she does, you twit. I don't know why. If she didn't love you, she wouldn't be hurting as much as she is."

Severus looked up this time, and his eyes implored the man who sat across from him, the sandy-haired peer whom he had once regarded with extreme distaste and now…less so.

"I never wanted to hurt her."

"I know."

"How? How do you know? You don't know me!"

Remus smiled. "I know you a lot better than you think. I know you've waited your whole life for one woman, and now you have her. I know you wouldn't throw her away as easily as all that." He pushed his chair back, scraping loudly on the stone floor.

"I'm going 'round for dinner next Thursday. 'Bout seven."

"And I care, why?"

"Just thought you'd like to know."

Remus turned and opened the office door, shutting it behind him with a soft click!

# # # # #

Lily was just sitting herself down, across from Remus, next to Sirius, at the small kitchen table, when the bell rang.

She got back up, confused. "Who could that be at this hour?" She could not think of a single soul, because who would ring the bell?

Lupin looked surprised for a moment, and then just shrugged.

Sirius began to rise. "I can get it, Lils."

"No, no, sit back down. Eat your dinner. I'll get it. Probably nothing."

He shrugged, not having to be told twice to enjoy her cooking. He picked up his fork and began to tuck in.

Lily opened the door, speaking as she did. "Yes? Can I…"

Her mouth closed at seeing the man who stood on her doorstep.

"Severus."

"Lily."

"Can I help you?"

He proffered flowers, bringing to mind the last time he rang the bell, the last time he brought flowers to her door.

She just looked at the flowers, and then at him.

"What do you want?"

He swallowed. "A second chance?"

"Came and went," she said, the door still not open terribly wide.

"A third, then?"

"What for?"

"Because…because I love you."

She frowned. He could almost see the wheels turning in her head. She was still a little angry. No turning back now, though.

"Those for me?"

"Yes."

She took the flowers from his hand, and walked away from the door, leaving it open.

Well, that's no 'come in, make yourself at home', but she also didn't slam it in my face.

He followed her in, and closed the door behind him.

"Lils? Who was at the door?" a voice called from the kitchen.

Black. Great.

Lily stalked into the kitchen, and did not answer the question. She laid the flowers down on the counter, and opened a cupboard, reaching up for a vase.

"Flowers? Who brought you flowers?" Sirius inquired, and then, from the corner of his eye, he saw Remus turn his head. Sirius followed suit, tipping back his chair and saw the man who walked to stand in the doorway.

"Sorry. Didn't know you were having company," he said quietly.

"Snape." Sirius said simply. He looked at Remus, who again had that look of meddling innocence about him.

"Black. Lupin." He nodded his head at both men. "Perhaps…I should come back at a another time?"

The vase was pulled out of the cupboard, and set on the counter. That door was closed, and another was opened, and a plate and a glass were removed. They were set at the end of the table, empty seats separating his place from both her and Remus, letting him stare directly down the table at Sirius.

"Do you want to stay, or what?" She asked him, one hand on her hip, looking very no-nonsense.

"If you're sure…" he began, ignoring his audience.

She gestured to the place setting. He shuffled behind Lupin, and took a seat. She picked the serving spoon out of the casserole dish and gave him two large scoops, more than he would ever eat. Then she bestows upon his plate a large spoonful of green beans - not his favorite vegetable.

She knew these things.

She was doing it on purpose.

Not going to make it easy for me, are you darling?

He took a deep breath, and when she sat back down, and gestured sharply to the other two to stop staring and eat, he stuck his fork in the pile of casserole, exhaling deeply, as though it would make more room in his stomach.

They ate in verbal silence, the only noise was that of clinking forks against plates, and the soft sound of chewing.

Even Sirius managed to keep his mouth shut, but did not deny himself several withering glances down the table. Remus gave him a small, strained smile.

At least it was a start.