Slowly, Severus opened his eyes. Instinct told him he should not move; he was not alone in his bedroom as he supposed. In fact, it seemed he was not in his room at all, but Black's. Said person was still resting his head on Severus' knee, while Severus himself was still sitting against the headboard.
'I fell asleep!' Severus thought with dismay, and his badly tensed back affirmed this fact. Black muttered something, curling his fingers together in his sleep. His skin was sallow, more so than even the Potions Master who now watched him with growing horror. He should just jerk away, let Black have a rude awakening.
'Do it! Damn it, you don't owe him anything!' Severus tensed again, ready to move, when Black suddenly opened his eyes. He blinked once or twice, before arching his limbs in a stretch.
"Good morning Master," he said, blinking owlishly at him. Severus just gaped in response, as Black stood. "Did you want breakfast?"
Severus nodded mutely, remembering to shut his mouth. He went to stand himself, before letting out a hiss of pain.
"What is it, Master?" Sirius was at his side almost instantly, voice high with concern.
"Nothing," Severus groaned, grasping his back. "I'm just tense from sleeping upright,"
Black fell to his knees on the slate floor. "I am sorry, Master! It is my fault, I should have moved, I-"
"Do not concern yourself about my well being, Black. Breakfast-go," Severus said, struggling to stand once more.
Sirius did not argue, but threw a concerned look over his shoulder before exiting the room. Severus stumbled after him, intent on finding a muscle relaxant potion.
Black served him breakfast, still looking at him as if he were on his deathbed.
"Will you cease your vacant staring Black? I took a potion, I am fine," he finally snapped, throwing down his copy of the Daily Prophet.
"But Master, you should not have felt so much pain. Is…is there something wrong?" Sirius stuttered, almost choking on his eggs.
"It is an old injury, and it pains me occasionally when I do idiotic things like baby-sit an overgrown pup at night," Severus growled.
Sirius worried at his bottom lip. "Can I help then? I give a decent massage?" Sirius asked hopefully.
Severus looked at him like he'd suddenly sprouted another head.
"You are offering to give me a massage? You, Sirius Black?"
When Black nodded, Severus broke out in genuine mirth. Black just watched him through unreadable eyes, and Severus stopped.
'The sooner I get Lupin to snap some sense into him, the better,' Severus thought with a shiver.
After spending the day teaching classes full of 'dunderhead' students, there was nothing Severus liked more than going back to his usually empty chambers. He would sit in his favorite armchair and read potion magazines, or mark essays, and he could finally relax. Unfortunately he would not be able to treat himself that afternoon. Much to Remus Lupin's surprise, he had been invited to spend the afternoon in Severus' own chambers. Sirius did not know he was coming however, and Severus hoped the shock would not have lasting repercussions.
As he opened the portrait, Black came bounding up like a dog greeting his master.
His smile faltered however, when Remus clambered through after.
"Master? What…what is he doing here?" Sirius backed away.
"Lupin is merely here to help with some grading. I took one of his classes while he was off sick, and assigned homework. He must approve of the grades before I return the work," Severus said smoothly, as if such things happened all the time at Hogwarts.
Sirius made a small noise in the back of his throat in affirmation, and started edging for the door.
"Prepare dinner, Black. I am sick of the house elf fare," Severus growled, sinking into the nearest chair.
Sirius jumped like he had been shot and went into the kitchen, peering around the door occasionally to check if Remus was indeed still there.
Remus leaned closer to Severus, as if checking something.
"You are right when you say that he is nothing like before he went into Azkaban. The Sirius I knew would never hold his curiosity back like this. He should be demanding an explanation," he murmured.
"It seems that Azkaban has destroyed certain elements of his essential personality. Almost like…" Severus hesitated for a second; unsure whether he should reveal this information.
"Almost like what?" Remus prompted with concern.
"Dementors feed on happy memories. It almost seems to me that Black is devoid of anything but unhappy memories. He has nightmares, and when we visited his ancestral home he almost had a fit. He shows no interest in Hogwarts, a place he should associate with good memories. He also avoids you like the plague, and yet you were his best friend, were you not?" Severus said softly.
"Yes. Although outwardly he and James were inseparable, when James started dating Lily it changed. Sirius didn't like feeling like the third wheel, and Peter was no substitute for James, so he fell back on me," Remus said with a strange sparkle in his eye.
"Black left Azkaban with one purpose; to find and kill Pettigrew. What does he have now?" Severus voiced.
"He has me," Remus said defensively. "And Harry,"
"He has two people he thinks he has betrayed. His self-esteem is too low for him to understand any of that. You need to get through to him, and then I can get out of this mess,"
Remus eyed in speculatively.
"When you told me what you had done to Sirius, I was beyond angry. But by your own admission, you claim to have made a mistake. How can that be?" he asked.
"We're not here to discuss me, Lupin. Go, talk to Black in the kitchen and get out of my sight," Severus said gruffly, marking the parchment in front on his viciously.
The shabby man looked down at his former schoolyard nemesis as if memorizing every detail. He saw the man who had suffered so much at his friend's hands, and through his own inability to act. There was something slightly different about him. However, he could not place it. It was almost the same sense he had given when he and Lily had been friends. Shaking himself, Remus focused at the task at hand. Sirius would not be able to run this time.
Said man's hands were shaking as he sliced vegetables. His hand slipped, coming down roughly of his finger. He let out a small noise of pain, and turned reaching for the paper towel. Someone got to it before him however.
"Here, let me see," Remus said with a smile. His clear gray eyes radiated friendship and familiarity, but Sirius still found he backed against the counter to avoid him. Remus seemed to ignore this, gently grasping his hand and pulling it towards himself.
"It's not too deep, but you should probably wash and bandage it just in case," he said, leading him over to the sink.
"I know about your situation with Severus, Sirius," Remus said in that same clear voice, as if he were commenting on the weather.
Sirius gaped up at him.
"Who told you? Dumbledore?" He asked hoarsely.
"Snape did actually," Remus said absently.
Betrayal flashed in Sirius' eyes, replaced by eerie blankness.
"I think we need to talk Siri. You've been away for a long time, and I know you're hurting. I know that I am partly to blame for that, and I'm sorry," Remus was suddenly holding his hand with more force than before.
Sirius bowed his head.
"Why are you sorry? None of this was your fault. It was mine," he whispered, trying t pull away.
"But it wasn't. You may have suggested Peter, but we all trusted him, and we all trusted each other. Lily and James loved you, and would hate to see the guilt you're dragging yourself through. Harry needs you; he desperately needs that link back to his parents. You and I had the pleasure of knowing them for many years before their deaths, but he only has pictures. Come back to us, Siri,"
Perhaps it was the use of his nickname, or Remus' tone, that Sirius found a tear escaping his eyes.
"I can't come back. The person you knew doesn't exist," he murmured, clenching his teeth.
"I know that. I know you've changed. Hell, we all have. You don't have to be the same. I love you, Sirius, no matter what happens. The truth has come out, and I'm sorry I thought you betrayed Lily and James. I just want Sirius back, and would be glad for anything you can give me," Remus said softly.
"Rem…I'm sorry! I just…" but he couldn't say it. His eyes were full of tears, and his breath hitched with sobs.
"It's ok. Cry, Siri. I'm here," And Remus was there, arms wrapped around his still too thin frame. Sirius wept, feeling the full pain and remorse that time had given to him. He barely felt when his knees gave out form beneath him, and when Remus fell with him. Lost as he was in grief, he did not see the black eyes watch them with an odd longing. For the first time in thirteen years, Sirius was glad to feel pain, and have someone there to help him heal.
A/N- proof again that this story is still alive. What did you guys think? I just had to let Remus in. :3 As always, review! They make me feel inspired for more chapters, and this story is far from finished.