AN: I wrote this because I wanted to write something a bit more... English. I haven't quite finished it yet, but I wanted to upload it as it's been sitting in my document folder gathering metaphorical dust. Enjoy!
It was a balmy Friday evening in June, perfect for watching the sunset by the lake. Unfortunately, half of Hogwarts had the same idea and all along the grassy banks, students were lounging in the last few rays of the sun. James, Sirius and Remus sat in the popular spot under the magnolia tree, sprawled on a burgundy paisley bed-sheet they had stolen from the dormitory. For refreshment, James had managed to steal four bottles of ale from Hogsmead that he'd cunningly enchanted to look like Butterbeer. As far as James was concerned, the infamous marauders were the only ones who were gutsy enough to partake in underage drinking. In fact, just inches from him, a group of Hufflepuffs were drinking a bottle of red wine with a very poorly enchanted label that read 'Grap Juce.'
"Detention's going to be busy if the profs find us," Remus said, trying to sound casual. His anxiety betrayed him as he kept sniffing his bottle with mild revulsion.
"They're all too busy getting pissed themselves," scoffed James. He shook his artfully mussed hair out of his eyes and took a long swig of ale, trying to look as though he enjoyed the taste. "Speaking of getting pissed, Peter's a bloody lightweight, isn't he?"
Poor Peter had drunk only half a bottle of Puddlemeads' Real Ale before having to go and lie down. Remus made a sympathetic noise, and looked over at his unusually silent friend Sirius. Sirius was lying propped up on one elbow with a curtain of long black hair flapping over his face.
"You haven't said a word all day," frowned Remus. "Don't tell me you're still sulking about David Bowie."
Like an outbreak of particularly bad Frogmeasles, Muggle pop culture spread through Hogwarts faster than you could say sequins. It all started when a Hufflepuff prefect, Ben 'Chocka' Bossley brought a transistor radio to school and played it at the table during breakfast. Then Kate McGee started flashing her weekly copy of the New Musical Express around the Great Hall, making girls swoon for David Cassidy's wholesome looks while the boys drooled over Stevie Nicks' blonde hair. With the mad interest in music came all fashions and trends from the afros and hotpants of Disco to the studs and sneers of Heavy Metal. Despite his strict wizarding background, Sirius was one of the biggest Muggle music fans there was, and frequently changed his look to fit in with fleeting fashion fads. He currently sported feather-cut chin-length hair, black eyeliner and very tight drainpipe jeans in homage to the aforementioned Mr Bowie.
James belched loudly and unashamedly. "Yeah, come on mate. I was only joking when I called David Bowie a tranny. Besides, he brings it on himself by wearing all that crap on his face."
Determined to get a rise out of Sirius, James threw out his arms and sung "Ziggy plaa-aaa-aaayed guit-aaaa-aaar!" in a tuneless falsetto. When Sirius merely sighed in response, James waved a hand in his face to check that he was still present.
Remus nudged his friend's shoulder. "What's the matter?"
Sirius rolled over on to his back, revealing a Dark Side of the Moon tee-shirt that he'd customised with slashes up the sleeves. "I feel a bit... weird, you know."
He watched through one eye as James and Remus peered into his face and recoiled in horror.
"Come off it, it's just eyeliner."
James shrunk further away from him. "It's not that, mate. Your face... It's..."
Ever paranoid about looking less than perfect, Sirius' hands flew to his face. "What, what's wrong with my face?"
Remus put on the soft, gentle tone you use when talking to the very unfortunate. "Sirius... Don't freak out, but you've got green spots all over your face."
"Green spots," reiterated James, looking truly horrified. "Seriously, mate – you need to get to the Hospital Wing."
Remus held out a small silver pocket knife so that Sirius could examine his reflection in the blade.
"Green spots!" moaned Sirius, covering his offending face. "Green spots! What if they're permanent? What if I'm dying?"
"All the more reason to go to the Hospital Wing," said James in a less than helpful manner.
Sirius unwillingly let out a canine whimper. "Can one of you go with me?"
James backed into a nearby tree, holding his hands out in self defence. "No way. It might be contagious!"
"I know it's uncool, but James is right," Remus, the kinder of the two said. "If it's contagious, you don't want to put everybody else at risk of catching it."
Sirius didn't have Remus' capacity for thinking of others, so he simply scowled at the pair of them. "So you're making me walk up there on my own? I could be mortally ill. Thanks a bunch!"
"I can't risk getting ill, I've got a big match coming up," James explained. "And Remus can't be stuck in the Hospital Wing over a full moon, that'd be a bloody disaster!"
An image of a werewolf bursting out of striped pyjamas and savaging the portly nurse Madam Crimp swam into Sirius' mind. Indeed, it would be bloody...
Remus shrugged apologetically at Sirius, who was smiling at the thought he'd just had. "I'm sorry, Sirry. Look, I'm sure it's nothing serious. Once you find out what's up, I'm sure we can come and visit."
"Suppose you're right," Sirius sighed. After a long pause, he scrambled to his feet, feeling a light-headedness that had nothing to do with the booze. He shook his hair out of his green-spotted face, trying his best to look fashionably nonchalant instead of feverishly woozy.
"Yeah, that's all totally cool, you know, totally cool boys. I'm toooo-ooo-oootally fine. See you around."
And, with a clumsy wave, Sirius set off on legs that felt like they'd been hit with an extra powerful Jelly hex. He kept his head down as he walked past his fellow students, for even a trendsetter like Sirius Black could not carry off a faceful of green pimples.
Remus and James watched Sirius wobble away like a fawn walking for the first time. In his six years at Hogwarts, Sirius had never suffered from anything worse than a cold. Remus bit his lip nervously when Sirius disappeared into the distant castle and out of sight.
"Poor sod," James remarked, shaking his scruffy head slowly in sympathy.
They raised their bottles, and drank to their sickly friend.
As soon as Sirius opened the door of the Hospital Wing, Madam Filoxenia Crimp clocked his peculiar complexion and immediately pulled a mask over her nose and mouth.
"Merlin's tit, another one!" was her muffled shriek. She grabbed Sirius' elbow and manoeuvred him sharply to another room before he could protest.
"Sit," she ordered, forcing him down onto a rickety iron bed.
Madam Crimp didn't waste any time. She flicked her wand in mid-air and muttered, "Sterilise." Then she began to poke and prod Sirius in the nose, throat and ears with her wand, making little humming noises all the while. Sirius looked at his modest surroundings. He had been in the Hospital Wing several times during his years at Hogwarts, but he had never seen this room. It had no windows, and with its simple white walls and minimal furnishings it looked more like a prison cell than a place of rest.
"Of course it is, of course it is," she sighed, shaking her head. She flicked her wand again to sterilise it, wiping it on her prominent bosom for good measure."Well, my sausage, we're going to have to keep you in quarantine for a few weeks."
Sirius blinked up at her. Quarantine! That was what happened to Zebedee Morgan when he came back from summer holidays in Jamaica and kept sneezing blue sparks. Zebedee was kept in one room for six whole weeks with no visitors allowed – it sounded very boring, not to mention lonely. Well, there was no way Sirius was lying in this horrible, uncomfortable bed for hours on end with nothing better to do than staring up at a plain white ceiling! He was a free spirit, an animal; he did not 'do' confinement.
"Don't fret, lovie," Madam Crimp crooned, misinterpreting Sirius' dismay for fear. "You've got a rather nasty case of Snorfpox, that's all. Won't do you any harm, but we don't want all of Hogwarts catching it, do we? Spreads like bloomin' wildfire, does Snorfpox."
"What, so I just stay in here until it's gone?" sulked Sirius. He thought of his friends playing devilishly clever pranks and running about the dark forest in animal form while he lay cooped up covered in hideous green pimples.
"Unfortunately so, dumpling," clucked Madam Crimp. "Lucky for you, there's another patient in here with Snorfpox to keep you company – wonder if you caught it off him? Now we have two cases we're going to have to do an Immunisation charm to stop anybody else getting it, beats me why we didn't do one before. I said to Professor Strudel, I said, you can never too careful, not when there's children inv-"
"There's someone else here?" Sirius interrupted, waving away her chatter. He had a feeling that she was going to become very annoying over the next few weeks.
She smiled a large, gummy grin. "Ooooh yes, chicken! Came in today, like you. Isn't that right, Severus my pudding?"
At the name Severus, Sirius' heart sank and he sincerely hoped that the illness might be playing tricks on his mind. However, at that point Madam Crimp stepped sideways to reveal a sullen, unmistakeably hook-nosed boy sitting on the end of another rickety iron bed with a scowl that could cut iron.
"You're going to be such good friends by the end of this!" trilled Madam Crimp, teetering away with a loud clip-clop as her clogs hit the tiled floor.
Perhaps Madam Crimp would have changed her mind about this if she had seen the identical glares of ultimate loathing that the green-speckled boys were sharing...
After several hours of ignoring his fellow Snorfpox sufferer, Sirius could bear it no longer. He rolled over onto his side and raised a snooty eyebrow at Severus, who was lying on his back with his eyes closed trying to block out the world.
"Snivellus," Sirius announced. "Just my luck to get stuck in here with the most boring drip in the world."
Severus didn't open his eyes. "Of course, I'm thrilled to be sharing what is essentially a prison cell with you."
Sirius sat up, reclining like a classical statue. "Do you know, green spots are actually an improvement on your ugly mug..."
"And the insults begin!" sang Severus to the ceiling, oozing contempt. "What creative remark will you make next, I wonder?"
"What cre-aaaa-tive remark will you make next, I wooooonder?" mocked Sirius in a monotonous drawl. "You're such a bloody boff."
Severus made a hoot of disgust. "Some people do have vocabularies that exceed 'I'm fabulous', you know. Mind you, it's a good thing you love yourself so much – rumour has it your mother doesn't..."
Severus smirked contentedly as Sirius' face turned white with rage and he stood up suddenly, reaching into his robes for his wand.
"You can't use magic in here," Severus sneered. "Everybody knows that."
An angry Sirius bared his teeth at Severus, wishing that he could transform there and then and sever the boy limb from limb.
"Piss off! You have no right to talk about my mother; you don't know anything!"
Severus laughed softly, relishing the opportunity to hit Black where it hurt. "Actually, everyone knows. Didn't you see your name in the Obituaries of the Daily Prophet? 'Sirius Black – Disowned.'"
Sirius pointed a shaking finger at Severus. "You shut up. Fuck right off or I swear I will kill you."
Severus shrugged languidly, pale elbows protruding from the obligatory striped pyjamas. "Just stating the truth, Black."
"Well, don't!" Sirius said stiffly. "Shut your nasty slimy gob, alright?"
The boys spent the next few minutes in total silence. Sirius stared sulkily at his toes, wiggling them every now and then to check that he hadn't died of boredom yet. Severus lay completely still, reciting all the jinxes and hexes in his head that he could use on Black and his horribly arrogant ringleader, Potter. How he'd love to give Potter permanent acne, see how he coped with being "a greasy, spotty bastard." And of course he'd have to do something about Sirius' good looks – how would Black like an enormous hooked nose, he wondered?
He heard the clicking of heels and both boys looked up to see Madam Crimp totter into the room. Sirius hoped that it wasn't time for more of the repulsive cabbagey tasting medicine she kept pouring down their throats. He decided to feign sleep in the hope that she might leave him alone for once. No such luck.
"Wakey wakey, sugarlump!" she trilled through her mask, prodding Sirius in the side with a fat finger. Sirius lifted his head morosely, anticipating the vile medicine.
"And you, butterpat!" she said to Severus, tickling the sole of one of his long, twisted feet. He opened his black eyes, looking strained by her cheery disposition.
"Don't worry," she chuckled, jiggling like a blancmange. "This is something you'll like, my kittens!"
She leaned in close to Severus, who looked terrified by the close proximity of her formidable bosom.
"When we've got patients in quarantine, we allow you two things to keep you in touch with the outside world," she explained, making Sirius' ears prick up. "Now, we can't allow you visitors but you are allowed to send letters. On sterile paper, of course!"
Sirius gave a sigh of relief. He already had so much to tell James and Remus, and they could fill him in on what they were getting up to. Then again, he imagined it would be quite boring without his mischievous master-plans.
"Yes, I thought you'd like that, bumblebee!" As if she sensed that Severus had nobody to write to, she slung an arm around his shoulder, making him flinch with disgust. "And you're also allowed one thing from your dorm to keep you entertained. Good deal, isn't it, sweetness?"
Now it was Severus' turn to breathe a sigh of relief. He'd been wishing fervently for a distraction from the egocentric Black, and he knew exactly what he was going to choose.
Madam Crimp released Severus and stood in between the two boy's beds, beaming at the pair of them. "So you just tell me what you want, pumpkins, and I'll summon it for you. As long as it's an inanimate object, the world's your oyster!"
Severus and Sirius both spoke at once, each boy as eager for their item as the other.
"Cor, one at a time, one at a time!" sang Madam Crimp, practically vibrating with glee.
Sirius glanced at Severus, wondering what he would pick. Not that it mattered, he knew exactly what he wanted and it was the perfect thing to drown out Snape's awful whinging voice.
"My radio," Sirius stated firmly, eyes glittering with excitement. He could spend all day and night listening to the hot songs of the moment, catching up with new bands, finding out who was going out with who...
Madam Crimp clapped her hands happily. "Always nice to have a bit of music, isn't it Sev? And what would you like, my little pancake?"
Severus sniffed in disapproval of being called a pancake, or any kind of culinary item for that matter. "Pestle's Posthumous book of Potions, "he said, ignoring the inflammatory way that Sirius mouthed 'boffin' at him. "Please," he added politely.
Madam Crimp's brow creased at the rather macabre choice of reading material. "Right you are then," she said with a shrug. "I'll get those items to you in a few ticks. Just need to see to Mr Malfoy – he's got a rather delicate problem. Oops, shouldn't divulge!"
She tapped herself on the wrist with her wand to reprimand herself, and clopped out of the room humming loudly. Immediately, Sirius rounded on Severus.
"Ppppestle's Pppposthumous book of Ppppotions, pppplease!" Sirius simpered; spittle flying from his lips at every 'p' sound.
Severus folded his arms primly. "Mock my book all you want to, but I know you're just jealous because you can't read."
Sirius' mouth flopped open and closed like a landed fish. "I can read!"
"Oh please!" purred Severus, beginning to enjoy himself. It was surprisingly easy to wind Sirius Black up. "It takes you about an hour to read a sentence aloud in History of Magic."
This was quite a sensitive subject for Sirius. Although he was one of the brightest in the year, his reading and spelling were weak for his age. Remus was always nice about it and helped him where he could, but everybody else seemed to find it hilarious.
"Well, it also takes me about an hour to give your Mum the best shag she's ever had," Sirius shot back in an extremely cheap but satisfying shot.
Severus' eyes narrowed and his voice dropped to an icy nastiness. "At least I still have a mother."
Sirius was about to launch into an extremely profane tirade when the door flew open and two flat rectangular items zoomed through it before the door slammed shut again.
"Thank Merlin and all his little gnomes for that," sighed Sirius, cradling his radio as it flew into his arms. "See this?" he said, pointing the aerial under Severus' nose. "This means that I don't have to listen to your stupid drivel anymore."
This did not warrant a response from Severus, who was perfectly happy with Sirius' stupid radio if it meant that he wouldn't speak to him anymore. Severus immediately opened his book and began reading, a sheath of oily black hair falling over his face.
"Well then!" announced Sirius, who felt slightly deflated by Snape's ignorance. "I'm going to listen to Muggle music all day and night, and if you don't like it, you can shove right off."
Like all slimy Slytherins, Severus hated Muggles. Sirius felt mischievous spite bubbling up in him at how much Snape would hate having to listen to Muggle music all the time. To his disappointment however, Severus merely shrugged and turned the page with a definite flourish. He was learning very quickly that the best way to annoy Sirius was not to react to anything.
Morning came, and the boys had still not spoken since receiving their items the previous evening. Although Severus knew all of Pestle's Posthumous Potion recipes off by heart, he had only put the book down briefly to sleep. The book had been his grandfather's, and it was so old that dandruffy flakes of paper fell into his lap whenever he opened it. It was leather-bound in malevolent serpent-green, which happened to be his favourite colour. The book had the added bonus of being very large, so that it blocked out any chance of seeing Sirius Dogbreath Black out of the corner of his eye.
The radio didn't bother Severus very much. When he was reading, he found it easy to get thoroughly absorbed in the words. However, Sirius was trying every trick that he had to distract him and it was getting very tempting to throw the book at Black's perfectly feather-cut head.
"Crazy horses, WAAAAAAAAH! WAAAAAAH!" Sirius screeched along to the radio.
Severus cleared his throat and began to read aloud. "The main purpose of the Ignition Potion is not, as you may think, to set somebody alight but to -"
"- inspire emotions of the greatest degree that are already present in the partaker, such as courage, desire -"
Severus raised his voice a little, trying not to rise to Sirius' obvious bait. The boy could shriek and swing his ridiculous hair about all he liked, but he wasn't going to get any attention.
"For this recipe use twelve fireprongs, extract of fresh -"
He saw movement in the corner of his eye and unwillingly looked up to catch Sirius Black throwing himself around in his pyjamas as though he'd been struck by a huge electrical current.
Sirius' eyes twinkled. "Not disturbing you am I, Snivels?"
Severus coughed haughtily. "Not at all. Please carry on having your seizure."
This made Sirius roll his eyes like a teenager towards an extremely outmoded parent. "I'm 'rocking out', man."
"Oh," said Severus disinterestedly. "Well, perhaps you could go and 'rock out' on your side of the room?"
"Trust you to be such a square," Sirius huffed, plopping back down onto his bed. "A big, snivelly square, that's you."
When Severus made no reply, Sirius sighed loudly. He was bored, absolutely fatally bored. Though he had been incarcerated for less than a day, Sirius felt like he had been there forever. Remus hadn't written yet, neither had James. Then again, it was a Saturday and everybody slept in until at least twelve. It was currently nine-thirty.
"Bloody HELL!" he moaned, passing his hands along his face. There were twice as many green spots as yesterday, making him look frog-like in complexion. Not that it mattered; he was still a hundred times better looking than Severus. How much joy could somebody get out reading a book, anyway? Every time he looked over, the boy had his nose practically stuck to the page as he took in every single word. Probably looking for a Potion to make him look human, Sirius thought nastily.
He took a quill and sheet of a sterile paper from a small iron table with twisted legs. Luckily, the table and paltry rigid-backed chair were on 'his side of the room.' Why was Snivellus getting territorial about their stupid quarantine room, anyway? What next, would he commandeer the bathroom and forbid Sirius from using it? Sirius shook his head in disbelief and sat down at the table. He picked up the quill, and began to write slowly and carefully.
'Prongs and Moony,
HELP! Got snorfpox. Stuck in quoronteen (spelling Moony?) with wurst person ever. I'll give you a clue – greasy hair, big hooter, snivles a lot... He is so boring, I'm going mad.'
He began to sketch a crude cartoon of Severus reading his book (which Sirius titled 'Wanking for experts.') He took extra care to extend the nose to ridiculous proportions, making it drop all the way to Snape's feet. The hair he drew as two single lines, adding some flies buzzing around it for good measure. He knew that James would love it.
"Oi, Snotty!" Sirius called to Severus, who fixed him with his best death glare. "How do you spell gorgeous?"
"G, O," Severus began in a bored-to-death drawl. A sneer curled his lip as he watched Sirius write it down. "A, W, A, Y."
Sirius swore and scribbled out what he'd written. "Hilarious. And to think I was going to title my drawing of you 'My gorgeous roomie.'"
He thrust the drawing in Severus' face, snickering cruelly.
Severus turned white under his green blotches and started as though he had been stung. It was just a puerile cartoon, but he could definitely recognise himself in it. Did they really think that he had no idea that he was ugly? Oh, it was alright for James and Sirius with their perfectly formed noses, good skin and fashionable hair. He, Severus Snape, was uglier than a pregnant, slime-spewing toad and he did not need to be reminded of that fact.
No longer wanting to be visible, Severus shoved his pillow over his head.
"Don't snivel, Snivellus!" mocked Sirius. As far as Sirius was concerned, it served the nasty little slug right if he was upset by the drawing. He himself was still smarting from Snape's acidic comments about his family removal, or effectively getting dumped by his own mother. A jibe like that was below the belt; the drawing was just a bit of fun.
All was silent for several minutes; then Severus sneezed so violently that his pillow fell off his face. He sneezed again, and again, and a third time, hair billowing around his face like the sails of a ship as he sneezed.
"Bless you," remarked an amused Sirius as the boy launched into another sneezing fit, snorting and hooting loudly in between positively seismic sneezes.
When the sneezing subsided, Sirius quirked an eyebrow at a recovering Severus. "Any more sneezing and you'll blow the bloody walls down."
Instead of sounding sarcastic or vicious, Sirius was genuinely in awe of the multitude of Snape's sneezes.
"You'll most likely start soon," Severus said, dabbing his nose with a grotty looking navy handkerchief. "Snorfpox is infamous for the sneezing fits it brings on."
"Well, if I sneezed anything like you just did I'll probably have a heart attack too. Seriously, those were bloody epic sneezes."
A wry smile crossed Severus' face. "You know what they say. Big nose, even bigger sneezes."
It was surprising enough for Sirius that Severus was aware of his aesthetic impairments, but the fact that he was almost joking about it almost made him fall off his bed. He felt a momentary flutter of shame for the cartoon, but then he remembered that this was pathetic sleazy Snape – sworn enemy of the marauders.
"You can leave off the insults now, Black," Severus sniffed, crossing him arms in a defensive pose. "I really am bored of your childish name-calling. If we're going to be stuck in this room for the best part of a month, I suggest we leave each other alone."
"Most sensible thing you've ever said," yawned Sirius, crossing his slender arms behind his head. "But just so you know, we are never ever going to be friends. I'd rather die."
Severus made a clicking noise with his tongue and narrowed his dark eyes. "I'd rather have to live in this room for my entire life than be your 'friend', Black. I'll not mince my words, I find you disgusting."
Sirius let out a blare of laughter. "Feeling's mutual. And as far as I'm concerned, 'disgusting' counts as an insult."
"It's not an insult, it's a fact," Severus hissed back. In a gesture of closure, he pulled his pillow back over his face.
"Fine, bugger off then!" Sirius snapped, grabbing his radio and turning the volume up loud. He couldn't believe that minutes ago he'd nearly sympathised with Snape – now he wanted to grab his magically-redundant wand and shove it somewhere less than enchanting.
In a moment of perfect irony, Carole King's voice resounded from the radio singing 'You've got a friend.'
The next few days passed in a long, tedious blur. When Sirius and Severus weren't sneezing, they were either sleeping or amusing themselves. Severus was content to sit all day and use Pestle's Posthumous Potion recipes as a reference point for creating his own unique brews. Since he had no friends to write to, Severus used sheet after sheet of sterile paper to draft recipes and ideas. His favourite invention by far was the 'Honest Friend' potion which, when taken, could reveal one's deepest flaws. Sirius Black considered himself faultless, but if he took the 'Honest Friend' potion he may at last learn that he was disgustingly vain, impulsive and ignorant. Not to mention messy. Sirius' side of the room was like a ransacked house, all inside-out clothes and scrunched up bits of parchment. Severus, on the other hand, was obsessively neat and even folded his underpants into little triangles to "keep things orderly."
While Severus got no letters at all, Sirius had several deliveries from Madam Crimp a day and spent a lot of time writing replies to friends. Remus was predictably reliable and wrote at least one long letter a day to keep his friend amused and to let him know that Remus was thinking of him. James' correspondence was less frequent, but he sent witty anecdotes, drawings and sections from the Daily Prophet that Sirius might like. As Sirius guessed, Peter hadn't written but he had sent on some sweets and Muggle music magazines in sympathy. On top of this, Sirius had received several notes and gifts from a collection of female admirers, including a six inch chocolate sculpture of himself entitled 'Sirius – U R So Sweet!'
"Being popular with the ladies is such a drag," Sirius remarked as he bit off his own chocolate head. Seething with envy, Severus imagined biting off Sirius' actual head, even if it did taste of surplus hair products.
Sirius had abandoned the David Bowie look for an altogether more 'Rock 'n' Roll' style. While lying on his sickbed, Sirius had heard a song called Dazed and Confused on the radio that belonged to what would become his all-time favourite band, Led Zeppelin. After writing to Chocka Bossley, Hogwarts' own Muggle music expert, Sirius received an article from NME about the band. Deciding that Jimmy Page was the epitome of all things cool, Sirius lay the eyeliner on thick and tousled his feather-cut into a birds nest.
It seemed extremely unfair to Severus that people were falling over themselves to communicate with Sirius Black. Severus had not even had a letter from his mother. Then again, that would be his father's doing. Hogwarts and magic were banned topics in the house when Mr Snape was around. Severus knew that on more than one occasion, his father had ripped up letters from school before his mother saw them. Sirius thought that his mother was bad, but the snobbish Mrs Black was not a patch on the dour, aggressive Mr Snape.
And why hadn't Lily written? Certainly, they'd had their differences but Severus thought that they were still friends. She was probably too busy fawning over that disgusting Potter, who didn't even care about her. James was only after Lily because he wanted to break up her friendship with Severus. Didn't he have enough friends already without having to steal the best person in Severus' life?
Still, Severus didn't want to get all sensitive about it. People were unreliable at the end of the day. Life went on, even if was a very lonely life. The radio kept playing this song that summed up Severus' feelings perfectly – the man sang, "What is a man? What has he got? If not himself, then he has naught." Well, Severus had himself alright, even if he would rather have Lily.
And as for the Snorfpox; the boys showed no sign of recovery. Their skin was now almost entirely green, which Madam Crimp assured them was "bloody ugly but only temporary, my lambs!" Apart from the green skin and dramatic sneezing fits, the boys felt surprisingly well. Of course, this made quarantine all the more unbearable and each day passed in a thrum of letters, pop music, sniffles and page-turning.
Severus rolled up his pillow on either side to cover his ears.
He breathed deeply. If he didn't acknowledge it, it didn't exist.
If he didn't acknowledge it, it didn't exist.
"Here, Froggy Froggy Froggeeeeeeeeeeey..."
If he didn't acknowled –
"Ouch!" protested Severus as the sharp corner of an envelope poked him in the eye.
He squinted up at the envelope and reached for it, just as the annoying person holding it wrenched it away.
"Snivellus has actually got a letter!" Sirius announced, eyes glittering with malevolent glee. "Question is, who the bloody hell would want to write to you?"
Severus jerked upright defensively. "Just give it to me, Black. I don't mess about with your letters."
"Hey, I'm just curious," Sirius insisted, dropping the letter into its recipient's lap. "Maybe it's Lucius Malfoy asking for a Potion for whatever's wrong with his knob."
Indeed, Lucius Malfoy had been in the main dorm of the Hospital Wing on two occasions since the boys had been there with what Madam Crimp called "troubles I can't mention." Sirus had spent a lot of time speculating out loud what could be wrong with Malfoy; anything from getting his wand stuck up his backside to having genitalia so microscopic that he kept losing it.
Severus opened the letter with an air of great apprehension, holding the paper so close to his face that he could barely see the words. Unfortunately, Sirius could, and he was none too subtle about reading a private letter from father to son.
"Simon?" Sirius blared over Severus' shoulder. "Who on earth is Simon?"
As Severus drew in a long, calming breath, his nose whistled almost comically. "I am," he said through gritted teeth.
Clearly Sirius could not read Severus' 'clear off' vibes, as he remained hovering over Severus' shoulder with an expression of sheer confusion on his face. "You mean your real name is Simon?"
"No, it bloody isn't!" Severus hissed. "If you're that desperate to know, it's what my prick of a father chooses to call me."
"Simon!" Sirius repeated, shaking his rapidly-growing hair out of his face. Deep in thought, he sat down on the edge of Severus' bed without realising that this was the closest he had ever been to Snivelly Simon Snape. "Why does he call you Simon?"
"It's a Muggle name," Severus sighed with disdain. "He's anti-Wizard."
Sirius' eyes widened. "So you're -?"
"Half-blood, yes. Ironic for a Slytherin, isn't it? Luckily he gave me the necessary hatred of Muggles."
"Bloody hell," Sirius digested. Indeed, it was pretty earth-shattering news that Severus Snape, the slimiest of all Slytherins, was not in fact pure-blood. Not that it made him any less evil, of course.
Out of nosiness, Sirius continued to read the letter over Severus' bony shoulder. It surprised him that the boy made no real effort to hide the letter; it was almost like he wanted him to see it.
Don't think for a second that I sent this letter to your school myself. Your mother did it for me. I've nothing to do with your poxy little world and don't you forget it.
Your mother says that you are ill. One of your letters must have got to her before I got my hands on it – if you've got any sense at all, you won't write to her again. You know perfectly well that she won't reply, don't you? God help the pair of you if I find you've been going behind my back, writing pathetic letters to each other saying you're hard done by. Work in a mine, lad – then you'll know what real hard work is.
This is a warning, Simon. No more letters. Your mother and I don't need your whining.
When you come home for the summer, we will not be there.
Sirius sat in silence for a moment with a horrible leaden feeling in his gut. He watched Severus face contort into a bitter, animalistic snarl as the boy balled up the letter in his fist and threw it as hard as he could into the wall. It ricocheted off a framed photograph of famous wizarding Healer Panacea Poultice, who ducked out of the picture just in time. She returned to her frame looking very disgruntled, straightening out her crumpled damson-coloured hat and muttering to herself.
"Blimey," Sirius offered. He puffed out his cheeks, trying to find the right thing to say. He found himself singing along to the radio instead. "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right - here I am, stuck in the middle with you. And I'm wond'r'in' what it is I should do -"
"Bastard," Severus hissed. "I'lll bloody kill him."
Perhaps rather unhelpfully, Sirius said, "Looks like you've been disowned too."
This was met with a look so vicious that it could have melted Sirius' eyes.
"Sucks, doesn't it?" Sirius said in a softer tone, feeling the pain that he had been trying to deny for so long. "Parents are meant to love you no matter what... And then they ditch you like rubbish."
Severus looked at Sirius as if he was seeing him for the first time, looking beyond the eyeliner and frivolous hairstyle. Not only was Sirius opening up, but he was accurately describing the way that Severus felt as if he understood, as if they had something in common. Severus inhaled deeply through his nostrils, knowing that he had to swallow his pride.
"Sorry I said those things about your mother," sniffed Severus. He didn't like apologising one bit, especially to arrogant twerps like Black. "Given the circumstances, I can see how unkind I was."
"Very big of you, Snape," Sirius replied. Oh god, he was going to have to thank Severus Snape and be civil for once. "Thanks. And, er, I'm sorry too."
Although this alleviated the tension between the boys, it left an unbearable awkward silence.
Sirius, who was never very good at keeping quiet, laughed bitterly. "I haven't really spoken to anybody about my mum, you know. There isn't really anybody who'd understand it."
Severus arched a haughty eyebrow. "What about your 'Marauder' friends? I thought you were all thick as thieves." 'Well, certainly thick,' he added mentally.
"Well, yeah, but.. James thinks everybody has a perfect family like his, and Remy tries to be understanding but... well, his parents actually give a damn. It's hard to understand unless you're in the same situation, you know?"
"Yeah," Severus said warily. What was Sirius getting at? Was he really saying that Severus was the only one who could understand him – essentially, the only person he could talk to? "Except your mother hates Muggles and my dad hates Wizards. We should get them together and watch them fight to the death."
Despite himself, Sirius snorted with laughter at Severus' dark humour. "Your dad sounds like a right wanker," he said with his trademark unintentional lack of tact. "Calling you Simon and that..."
Severus frowned and scratched a particularly pox-ridden elbow. "Like I said, Black, Simon is a Muggle name. It's also my real name. I only go by Severus in the Wizarding world."
Sirius gawped. He'd always taken Snape for granted because, well, he wasn't the most attractive or friendly of people. Now he was beginning to discover that Severus or Simon Snape was actually quite interesting. Curiosity got the better of him, and he found himself asking some quite impertinent questions.
"If your dad hates magic so much, why did he marry your mum?"
"He's that sick," Severus muttered bitterly. "He likes to punish her. Loves the control he has over our magic."
It was inconceivable to Sirius, perhaps through his family's ancient snobbery, that anything or anyone could prevail over magic. "That's mental. How can he control your magic? You're a wizard, you can hex the pants off him, make a potion to kill him, enchant objects to beat him up... What bigger threat is there than magic?"
Severus made a cynical "Hah!"; flaring his nostrils like a frustrated horse. As he spoke, his anger built, voice gradually escalating to a full-blown yell. "So naive, aren't you, Black? If it was really that easy to stand up to him, don't you think I'd have done it? Are you really so moronic? I've told you, Black, he's a bully. Do I need to spell that out for you? If I use magic, he'll hit her. And me. Do you think I bloody want that? Good riddance to the evil bastard, I hope he fucking rots in hell, and my pathetic bloody worm of a mother – they can both FUCKING ROT!"
Just as Sirius was recovering from the shock of hearing Snape swear, Madam Crimp stuck her extravagantly bouffanted head around the door and waved a fat finger in reprimand. "Tsk, tsk, pickles. What a lot of shouting! What in the name of Filbertina's Flobberworm Fancies is going on in here?"
Because Severus was still too livid to speak, Sirius answered for him. He was particularly skilled in the art of charming – so skilled, in fact, that he could get away with murder if the judge happened to be female.
"We're rehearsing for a play," he explained with a positively twinkling smile. "Sev and I want to start an inter-house Drama society. Being stuck in this ward together has done us so much good; we've really set aside our differences, and we have you to thank for that, Madam Crimp."
"A play! Oh, my boys!" Madam Crimp sang, seizing both boys by the shoulders, each one jammed into a massive starched-robed breast. "My lovely, lovely Snorfpox sweethearts! Friends! Against all odds, well I never... Well," she sniffed, wiping her eyes on the back of her hand. "I'd better let you get on, hadn't I?"
With that, she released both of the boys and left the room with a knowing smile and a cheery waggle of her fingers. Severus blew his nose with a sound that resembled a foghorn and turned to face Sirius.
"I suppose I ought to thank you for that, Black. So what shall we call our Drama society?"
Sirius frowned. "What?"
"The Drama society," Severus repeated. "I've got some ideas for plays we could do. Ever heard of Shakespeare? I know he's a Muggle, but he's got witches and fairies in his plays. And we could rehearse in the Room of Requirement on Wednesday evenings, we'll place an advert in the -"
Sirius cleared his throat awkwardly. "Er, about the Drama thing... That was just a joke, I was only -" He paused, taking in Severus' arched eyebrow and slight twitch of the upper lip. "You're not serious, are you?"
Severus' lip twitched even more. "No, Sirius, I'm not serious."
"You're actually rather funny," Sirius replied as if this were the greatest revelation since the fact that not all wizards have beards. It was a shame that they'd never given Severus a chance. Now it was too late to be friends – they both knew that the minute they left Quarantine, they'd have to go back to pretending the other didn't exist or worse, bullying each other.
"Look," he said, eyes turning softer with kindness (or was that the smudged kohl?) "We've got a bit more in common than Snorfpox, haven't we? Why don't we just try to get on for the rest of our time in here?"
Severus squinted at Black suspiciously, but his incredible need for friendship, even a brief secret one, overrode the doubts. "Alright," he said. "Alright, Black, we'll try to get on. Stick the radio on if you want," he added, attempting to show that if he could tolerate Sirius Black, he could tolerate Sirius Black's terrible Muggle music.
"Don't mind if I do!" cried Sirius, flicking on his beloved radio. He fiddled with the knobs for quite some time, playing little snatches of The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel while he searched for Led Zeppelin. Eventually, he came across the end of a song that was unmistakeably Led Zep (Sirius had learned that it was fashionable to call them this rather than their full name.) He tossed his messy head about for ten seconds until the song finished, and the cheesy sounding DJ announced that the song had been Black Dog.
"Oh, this is just bloody perfect!" grinned Sirius, clapping his hands with glee. "Did you hear that, Sev? Black Dog! It's my song!"
"Rock 'n' roll, man," Severus replied ironically. Funnily enough, he never forgot that song. Whenever he thought of Sirius, the music would scream in his ears and remind him of a green spotted boy rocking out in pyjamas, a green spotted boy who understood about his dad, a green spotted boy who had very briefly been his friend.