A/N: What? Another transitional chapter? You are killing me Reyem! Hey, it can't always be about Severus and Hermione. I have to make this story a bit more dimensional or it's crap.
Summer stuff is keeping me busy. I'm tweaking the wedding plans, and I got suckered into directing a musical this summer. It's my first shot at directing. I hate it. Well, I guess I don't hate it, but I started out excited, and then after auditions it just left a bitter taste in my mouth (theater drama - don't ask) that I can't seem to get out. Oh well. Another six weeks and I'll be home free, ready to start packing up for the big 500 mile move!
This story has over 300 reviews! While it's not much comparing to other well written works, I am so touched and honored that I've reached that point. You folks keep me writing, and I appreciate it so much. I think there might be four or five chapters left in this portion of the saga, but I'm working on another parallel fic that corresponds with what all Hermione has done. I hope all of you follow that one. I just want to let you know that nothing is going to be resolved at the end of this story. You'll have to wait until the other fic is done. Maybe that will be your motivation to follow? Hmm? I usually hate long a/n's, but I wanted to touch base with all of you. Thanks again, y'all!
CHAPTER 36: PARLEY
There was something soothing about patrolling the quiet corridors of the castle at night. Severus could sense an ancient serenity built deep within the stone walls. He envisioned the thousands of students who past through the hallways over the centuries, and he couldn't help but feel a regal pride in sharing – in being a part of the rich history of the school.
Not many witches and wizards would pass through Hogwarts's gates and say they impacted the future of the world. Most would be completely ordinary. They would find ordinary jobs, live and ordinary life, breed more ordinary children, and die without leaving behind a huge legacy for the next generation. But Severus knew he wasn't going to be one of those wizards. He was on the road to becoming the youngest Potions Master in the whole continent – probably the world, and from there on out, he would have the rest of his life to change the way those ordinary witches and wizards lived their life.
Sometimes, Severus had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming. Everything was falling into place. Sure, it wasn't what he initially planned. He wasn't going into Mediwizardry, but a Masters in Potions was a hell of a Plan B. Once he completed the coursework and thesis, if the cause was so desired, he could easily go back to become a Healer. The laws were bound to change someday. But for now, it would do. He would have no debt since his education would be fully sponsored. He would be leaving Spinners End for good. And best of all, he had Hermione to share it with.
It was strange. Hermione made him feel he could accomplish anything on his own. He didn't need the government or riches to get him where he needed to go. But that's was what disturbed him the most. A lot of decisions he made before he met the girl was to appeal to those who could help him gain leverage and power, specifically the Death Eaters. He had made them promises that now he wasn't sure he wanted to keep. His new-found reluctance was a dangerous threat to his life, especially if the Dark Lord ever sensed it.
Severus sighed, the thoughts pressed heavily in his mind. Perhaps with him being out of the country, his participation in the Death Eater's….battles…could reflect the distance that separated him from Britain. That seemed plausible. He was under the impression that Mr. Karkaroff, which was a name that was spoken often at revels, was under similar circumstances. Maybe he could start a network of sorts in the North. Severus knew once the Dark Lord revolutionized Britain, he would begin the conquest throughout the rest of Europe.
A tinkle of broken glass alerted Severus he was no longer alone. Automatically, his hand unsheathed his wand and he stiffened, waiting for the intruder to arrive. However, as the unknown wizard immerged, stumbling and cursing, Severus was slightly shocked to see Sirius Black in such a state.
The Gryffindor slouched against the wall, squinting ahead to get Severus's identity. "Bloody hell. Of all people I had to run into…" he swore again loudly.
"Fancy seeing you too," was Severus's response, laced with equal bereavement. He gave him the once over, noting the disheveled appearance, bloodshot eyes, and the hind of a shadow across his jaw. "And, in such lavish estate, as well."
Sirius gestured rudely and tried to head back towards where he came from. "Piss off, Snape. I look better than you even in a drunken mess than you do at your best, you ugly, greasy git. Go wash your hair."
"Resorting to named insults? How little have you changed over the past seven years. You may be more physically appealing than me, but that will fade with time. I, on the other hand, am creating a legacy for myself. Can you say the same?" Severus expected an angry retort back in defense, or some snide comments about the Death Eaters. But Sirius threw a curve ball.
"No, I can't," he replied as he slid down the wall and collapsed on the floor into a helpless heap. He began laughing hysterically, almost coldly as Severus stood there frozen in shock. "How the tables have turned," the drunken Gryffindor commented, "that the pureblood wizard leaves Hogwarts with zero indication of a worthy future, and the half blood from the slums graduates with the whole world at his feet and a beautiful woman on his arm." He stared dejectedly at the ground. "I hate you for it."
Hesitantly, Severus walked toward him. "If you must know, all that didn't just fall into my lap. I worked for each and every one of my accomplishments. The only person you should hate is yourself."
"Who says I don't?" Sirius asked with hatred and bitterness in his slurred speech.
"Self loathing doesn't suit you."
"Seeing that you don't approve of it, I will loathe myself more, just to spite you." He pulled a flask from the inside of his robe and held it out as a mock toast. "To your future! May it shatter and leave you destitute."
"And likewise. Oh, I beg your pardon, you don't have a future."
Sirius snarled and took another drink. After a moment of heavy silence, he asked Severus an interesting question. "How did you manage living alone?"
"Well, ever since you fucked it up with Evans, you kind of became a loner. How did you manage it? Didn't it eat you from the inside out?"
Severus blinked twice, completely perplexed with the behavior of the troubled young man. Boldly, he joined Sirius on the cold floor. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't. I was in denial for two years, and it took an annoying twit of a witch to remind me that no man is an island."
"Surely you realize how lucky you are."
"Yes, and I know I don't deserve any of it. At all."
"Can't agree with you more," Sirius replied, handing the flask over to Severus. At the look the Slytherin gave him, the Gryffindor rolled his eyes. "I didn't poison it, Snape. You just saw me take a shot."
Severus snorted, but then accepted the flask. As he tipped it back, feeling the soothing burn of the liquor sliding down the back of his throat, a curious thought entered his mind. "So, why are you drinking alone?"
"I'm not alone anymore, as you can see," he replied slyly.
"Our differences aside, just humor me, Black."
Sirius exhaled slowly, shaking his head. "Well, between Peter acting like a lump, Remus playing catch up and recovering from his transformations, and James planning his wedding, there isn't anyone to drink with."
"Fair enough," was Severus's reply as he took another drink. "Still, must be hard not being worshipped."
"It definitely is an adjustment," he joked snidely. "D'you realized I have no home to return to after graduation? My mother has all but written me out of the will, and that is looking like the case if my father snuffs it before she does."
"From what I hear, it's not much of a home to return to."
"Ha! You've been talking to Reg, have you? The twit got everything he ever wanted from mummy. Don't know why he would speak ill of her."
"And it's obvious that you haven't spoken to your brother," Severus said defensively, "for if you did, you'd understand that after you ran away, your mother focused her attacks on him."
"That's hard to believe," Sirius replied skeptically.
"Trust me. I was there over holiday. The woman was relentless. She was still ranting about his average O.W.L.S., saying he wouldn't be worth more than dirt under her shoe and a disgrace to the family if his N.E.W.T.S. were comparable. She even tried to throw me out of the house when she realized who my mother was. All for being half blood."
Sirius raised his eyebrows as Severus spoke. "Well, she has good reason to throw you out of the house, but I am rather shocked she would say those things to Reg. He was always her favorite. Who does she cater to now?"
"Looks like the house elf. She wouldn't let him leave her side."
"Kreacher," Sirius snorted. "If mum could adopt him as a legal son, I'm sure she would. She loves that pitiful flobberworm more than me."
"You shut your mouth, Snape, before I sew your lips together permanently."
Severus released an amused snort. "I'll drink to that," he said, reaching for the flask. The two enemies sat in silence, the Slytherin observing the dejected Gryffindor curiously. "Would you believe me if I said I understood what you're going through in regards to your family?"
Sirius glared at him, but the usual loathing was not visible in his features. "I highly doubt that I would."
"My father is scum," Severus interjected. "He is lazy, a drunkard, and feels entitled to beat my mother and myself when he is the one that fucks things up by not holding down a proper job. Then, you have my mum, who in some ways is worse than him because she feels nothing anymore. The biggest difference between you and me is that you have a brother who understands and has experience how terrible it has been for you."
"And you had no one," Sirius said almost stoically.
Severus clenched his jaw and looked away. "If you don't count Evans."
Sirius sighed, resting his head against the wall. "Reg never gave a damn about me," he said through clenched teeth.
"You are his older brother. Don't be ridiculous."
"If he had to pick between his own personal endeavors or helping his brother, he would choose himself."
"That's the Slytherin in him. Personal determination. It's not a crime to try and make something of yourself."
"It is if you are doing something illegal!"
Severus rolled his eyes. "Because you and have never done anything illegal. I'm sure I don't even know the half of it." To his surprise, Sirius looked away guility. "You know, since we are on al roll of making you feel worthless, Black, may I remind you of something else to add to the lengthy list?"
"Will it stop you if I said to bugger off?" he replied and snatched away the flask.
"The first time I ever talked to your brother was in my second year. I, for one, automatically assumed he was just as spoiled rotten as you. Then, about eight or nine weeks into term, I found him crying alone in the Common Room. You know why?" Sirius didn't respond, so Severus continued his story. "He was upset because his big brother told him to sod off and slither back to his hold where he belonged. Normally, one would write this off as a plain argument between two brothers, but when it happens in the public eye in the middle of dinner, well, I guess it would leave a mark."
"The boy was smarter than me!" Sirius snapped. "I was a second year who couldn't turn a teacup into a mug, and my younger brother was showing me up by performing fourth year magic in front of me!"
"For Merlin's sake, Black, he was excited and wanted to share it with you! There was no personal vendetta. It was your own jealousy and insecurity lashing out, and you never tried to make amends for it."
The silence hung heavily in the air. Severus couldn't tell which direction Sirius was going to go after his long diatribe. But all of it was true. Sirius and Regulus never could get back on the right foot after that night, only because Gryffindor pride got in the way. And that made Reg more motivated to supersede Sirius at everything, even if it meant getting involved in Dark activities.
"I'm a jealous, hot headed, selfish, and arrogant prick," Sirius spoke out, barely audible and almost incoherent with the effects from the alcohol. "It's my fault my little brother hates me. Gods, and it took you, of all people, to make me realize it."
Severus snorted. "Well, I've only told you a million times. It was bound to sink into your think skull eventually."
"Do you think I am too late to fix things?" he asked somberly.
"For us, damn right it is too late. For Reg…" his voice faded, seriously contemplating the situation. "You might still have time. I know he has a lot on his mind. Personally, the bloke will not leave me alone. I think that should be the role reserved for a brother."
Sirius staggered to his feet. "Strangely enough, I agree with you."
Severus saw something in his enemy's eyes that he couldn't recognize. Behind the glazed, bloodshot shadows of alcohol, it was almost as if the Gryffindor was staring at him with a new…perspective. Oh yes, the usual hard coldness, the grudged indifference was still there. But the undiluted loathing and hatred was kept at bay. There was something keeping that back. Severus swore it was something of a respectful acknowledgment as equals.
The Slytherin followed suit, getting up on his feet and dusted off his robes. He nodded toward the Gryffindor politely. "Then you should go help your brother."
Not another word was spoken between the two enemies. Sirius and Severus went off in opposite directions. Both understood that as morning crept into the castle, the usual animosity and bitter loathing would return in full, despite their brief parley. But even though civility would never be restored between them, a door had opened for two brothers. Perhaps this chance meeting was the catalyst to reunite a family who was torn in the midst of a brimming war.
Who would have thought it would have taken a nemesis to start it?