Chapter One; Compassion or Personal Gain?

It was early morning, and yet Severus Snape had not given up his vigil. There was a mass murderer loose, and he could still be in the castle. He had attacked the Fat Lady a few nights ago, and Severus was sure he would try to access Potter again soon. They said Black was mad, and some of his actions were decidedly so, others not. For example, he had shown extreme cunning in both his escape from Azkaban and then his entry to Hogwarts itself. It was not known how long Black had been missing from the wizard prison when Dementors raised the alarm, and yet he had brazenly attacked the Fat Lady, causing his presence to be known here immediately. Severus could only guess that Black was getting more and more desperate as time wore on and he had not yet captured Potter.

Years before, when he had heard how Black had betrayed the Potters, he had not believed it. Even with Dumbledore's confirmation, he still refused to acknowledge that Black was capable of such a stunt. He was entirely too Gryffindor, too loyal to his friends and too defiant to his parents. If he had betrayed them, he could not have known he was doing so, although Severus never told anyone of his suspicions. The death of Pettigrew, witnessed by fifty muggles…that was harder to ignore. Perhaps he had gone mad in grief, and stayed that way. Shaking such thoughts from his head- what did he care if Black was innocent or not? He kept patrolling the corridors, looking for some sign, any clue. A small movement outside the nearest window caught his eye, causing him to stop and stare in amazement.

A large black dog was wandering the grounds, a perfectly rolled newspaper in its mouth. The school only housed one dog- Fang, Hagrid's hound, and this dog was certainly not it. Quietly, so as to not disturb it, he opened a locked door and went into the grounds himself. The dog seemed not to notice anything, and sauntered off in a manner Severus found oddly familiar. He trailed it for some time, until they came to the Whomping Willow. Severus held his breath as the dog grew closer, knowing that certain death resulted from going anywhere near the vicious tree. Ignoring a warning branch, the black dog ran straight towards the tree and down a hole that Severus still dreaded. Still, he must follow, and follow he did. His breath hitched as he looked into the darkness, knowing what lay at the end of the tunnel. He had never come back here after Sirius had dared him to go and see where Remus went every full moon. He had almost lost his life that night, and it was one incident that he had never forgotten. Bloody Black. He realized with a start that by following the dog, he had left the school unprotected, but it could not be helped.

He was nearing the end of the tunnel, almost inside the shrieking shack itself. He gently pushed the door opened, prepared for anything.

When he entered the room, a man was sitting with his back to the door, legs crossed with a newspaper spread before him. He was muttering under his breath, hands flicking through dirty black hair occasionally.

"Give it up Black, I've got you," Severus said, whipping out his wand and pointing it at the shocked man.

"Snape? What are you doing here?" Sirius went to stand, but Severus pointed to the floor.

"Stay there Black, and don't move," he snarled. He had not let his guard down however, because he knew that dog was somewhere around. No doubt it would attack if it found anyone threatening its master.

"Now, Snape…I…" Sirius looked up at him with pleading eyes, and Severus wondered if this was the happiest moment of his life or whether it would be better when Black received the Dementor's kiss.

"You grew careless, Black. Did you think no one would notice a great black dog going back and forth between your hideout?" Severus was smiling, a maniacal smile but one nonetheless.

The other man flushed, but did not answer the proffered question.

"You know I didn't betray the Potters, Snape," he said clearly.

"I don't know anything of the sort, Black. And they have eyewitnesses describing you killing Pettigrew. How are you going to get out of this one, Black? You aren't at school anymore with Dumbledore making excuses for you,"

"I did not kill Pettigrew. He made it look like I did and turned into a rat, leaving me to be arrested. He betrayed the Potters," his voice was so calm, and he sounded so certain, but Severus had heard him lie his way out of many things at school.

"I don't believe you, Black, but maybe you can persuade Dumbledore before he hands you to the Dementors," replied Severus, savoring the look of horror on the other man's face.

"Please! You owe it to me to hear me out!" Sirius cried, jumping to his feet.

"Stay back, or I'll kill you. You know I could so easily do it, and say you tried to attack me. I don't owe you anything," Severus' icy black eyes bored straight into the other man, and he knew he was deadly serious.

"You might not owe me, but if you let Lily's murderer get away because you hated me, instead of wanting to know the truth, you may regret it for the rest of your life. Please," Sirius begged, bowing his head. He knew it was useless, but he had to try. He had no wand, and there was no way Severus would drop his guard long enough for him to transform.

"Say 'please' again," Severus was smiling, the kind a cat gives a mouse before it kills.

"Please," whispered Sirius in defeat. He had won many battles when they were at school, but it seemed as though Severus would win the war.

There was silence, and Sirius knew his life was about to end. He had been so close, so close to exposing Pettigrew and regaining his life.

"You say Pettigrew turned into a rat? How can that be, his magic was mediocre at best?" Severus said suddenly, snapping Sirius from his thoughts.

"He was an animagus. We all were…James, Peter and I. We became animals at school to keep Remus company during full moons," Sirius explained.

"You're a dog?" Severus asked, receiving a nod from Sirius.

"And the finger? He cut it off himself I suppose?" Snape's voice was dry and sarcastic.

"Yes. He needed to leave something to show he was dead," replied Sirius. "Without Dumbledore's knowledge, I got him to be secret keeper. I thought for sure that Voldemort would think it was Remus, or I and never go near such a weak thing as Peter. I was wrong, because Peter was already working for the Darklord, and he delivered them straight to his hands," Sirius' voice cracked with emotion.

He knew that Severus would never believe him, but telling someone the truth was a relief. Again, silence fell, but Sirius did not hope Severus was considering his words. Probably thinking of the slowest way to kill him.

"I believe you," Severus said simply, while Sirius' mouth dropped.

"I could never believe you were a deatheater…not smart enough…but just to be sure…Show me your left arm," Without waiting for permission, he flicked his wand and drew back the cloth, exposing a clean expanse of skin.

"What?" asked Sirius in confusion. He was certain he had heard wrong, or was that Severus was still teasing him.

"They have faded since the fall of the Darklord, but they are still visible to the naked eye," Severus as if that explained everything.

"WHAT are?" Sirius questioned.

"One thing still remains unanswered however. Why are you trying to kill Harry Potter if you are innocent?" Severus asked, ignoring Sirius' questions.

"Ronald Weasley has Pettigrew…I mean, as a rat. A pet rat. I saw him in the Daily Prophet. The rat should be missing a finger, if I am correct." Sirius decided it was best not to get annoyed, or even taunt his rival more than necessary.

"Are you sure it's Pettigrew?" Severus winced at his eagerness. He felt sure what Sirius was saying was true, but he did not want to be hoodwinked.

"Yes, I would recognize the murdering bastard anywhere," Sirius growled, eyes lighting with some inner fire.

"So Black, let's say I believe you, and tell Dumbledore your story. What do I get out of it?" Severus said bluntly.

"What do you mean? You'll be freeing an innocent man, avenging Lily's killer!" replied Sirius hoarsely.

"I'm afraid that's not enough. If I took you to the dementors right now, I would be a hero, probably receive an order of Merlin," Severus smirked at the thought.

"I've got gold….my house, anything!" Sirius cried, desperate for this one chance not to slip away.

"I get paid well to be a teacher here, and I own my own house. You'll have to do better than that," Severus was enjoying this taunting, even if he did believe Black.

"I give you anything, anything you want!" Black fell to his knees.

Severus watched the desperate play of emotions over the other man's face.

"I want that," he whispered, watching him in eerie hunger. "I want to see that look on your face for the rest of your miserable life,"

Sirius was watching him with scared eyes as he advanced and grabbed him by the jaw. His wand was still pointed directing at Sirius' face- he was not going anywhere.

"Become my slave, and I will set you free," he said quietly.

Sirius felt what little pride he had left stripped away as he stared into those obsidian eyes.

"Yes," he whispered, eyes falling.

"Yes," Snape repeated, and he smiled.

A/N Please review and tell me what you think! I'm feeling quite inspired for this one, so don't give up on me yet!