Contemplation
by Tavalya Ra

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J. K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Rowling is a goddess; may she have mercy on my soul for writing this.

Author's Notes:

No backstory, no set-up, just a nice slashy romance that inexplicably developed. A short sequel will be posted next week.

If anyone wishes to archive this story on his or her site, please contact me at clearbluedelphia@yahoo.com. Comments and criticisms are welcome. Flames will be ignored.

Fanfiction.net does not seem to appreciate italics. Thus asterisks are used to indicate words that should be italicized.

* * *

Contemplation

"I understand, it's a lot to think about..."

"It certainly is, Minerva," Severus agreed, "and I have one question." He gazed directly into the headmistress's eyes. "Why me?"

"Why you?" she repeated, folding her hands upon the silver-varnished desk. She smiled enigmatically; Severus noted that her eyes had taken on the striking twinkle of the late Albus Dumbledore. "Why not?"

Dumbledore's office had, in some ways, greatly changed and- in others- not at all since Minerva had assumed his post. Most of his curious, arcane instruments remained in a rearranged state; his Pensieve, for obvious reasons, had been removed. Fawkes was gone; Dumbledore had left him to Harry Potter in his will. And, of course, there a new portrait added to the wall, one which smiled upon Severus fondly and mouthed "well done."

"Why?" he balked. "I'm the least likely choice..."

"The position bears great responsibility, which I already know you are capable of handling," she replied.

"Yes, but the position also requires certain traits both of us know very well I do not possess," Severus countered scathingly. "I am not known to be sympathetic towards anyone, Minerva, not even myself."

"I'm certain Sirius would say otherwise."

"I would hardly trust the opinion of a man who chews his own shoes," he scoffed. "You are evading the point. There must be a better choice."

"Really?" Minerva queried, casting a bemused glance into her teacup. "And who would you suggest?"

"Flitwick."

"Filius is far to absent-minded."

"Apparently not enough to prevent him from managing Ravenclaw," Severus reminded.

"House Ravenclaw does an excellent job of taking care of itself."

"Now you are stereotyping," he said, bristling. While the other Houses might pride themselves upon the traits for which they were known, the stigma upon Slytherin he abhorred.

Minerva sighed. "Severus, must you be difficult?"

Severus's lips curled into a sudden and unexpected sneer. "Minerva, you've seen me difficult. You know I am nowhere close to it at the moment."

"You are only cooperating because I am headmistress."

"That's the only reason I cooperated with Albus half the time. Do you want me to find a better one?"

Severus found something unsettlingly calculating to Minerva's smile. "There. That's why I think you're an excellent choice."

He shook his head and blinked. "Excuse me?"

"I need someone who is willing to argue with me, who can see the other side of the matter," she said. "I know my own faults, Severus. Compared to Albus, I'm myopic. I'm asking you to take on the position because, frankly, I think you're the best equipped to help me."

"Must I compose for you a litany of my flaws?" Severus demanded coldly. "I am not known for compassion or unbiased judgement-"

The headmistress was unfazed at his ranting; her face remained as cool and contemplative as a Cheshire cat.

He swallowed. "You're not listening to me."

"I know you to be unlike your reputation, Severus. You don't give yourself enough credit."

"I don't much think I deserve credit."

Minerva rose and shook her head despondently. "Can't you ever get over-"

"I was not thinking of the Death Eaters," he retorted acridly. "And I think it should be obvious now I've gotten a bit better at getting over things."

He clenched his right hand into a fist as if to make the dual-colored band on his ring finger more obvious.

"Well, are you refusing the position, then?" she asked plainly.

Severus hesitated. He worked the black cloth of his robe between his fingers, fidgeting.

"I need time to think."

"Yes," she agreed. "Please do."

"Am I dismissed then, headmistress?"

Minerva clicked her tongue in amusement at his small infraction of etiquette. "Quite."

* * *

Severus stalked through the halls, sneering at random students purely for sport; his mood was more perplexed than foul. He had witnessed many changes to Hogwarts and many changes, too, in himself. He was no longer feared as he once had been, but he had grown lax in maintaining his reputation. Once he had given up his grudges, he had been left with nothing to be bitter about, making it difficult to wallow in misery.

He paused before an ornate door, carved with the icon of a dragon in battle with a lion. Again, he cursed its sick sense of symbolism.

The location of his quarters was a compromise; it was equidistant from the dungeons and the Gryffindor Tower, a necessity for himself and his lover. It was, however, also attached to one of the more public halls and he quite commonly received leers from some of the bolder seventh-years. No one knew the details of what when on inside the room, but everyone in the castle (excluding the first-, second-, and some particularly daft third-years) had a pretty good idea nonetheless.

"Hello, you," a soft voice teased almost seductively as he shut the door. Arms encircled him, loose but possessive, and teeth nibbled gently at his ear.

"Do you have to play with me the moment I get in the door?" Severus demanded irritably.

Reluctantly, the other man drew back his embrace and sighed, "Still mad about this morning?"

"You mean that most inappropriate snog at breakfast in front of the entire school?" Severus sneered. He preferred his private and his public lives as two very separate things, but his lover's reckless streak was not helping. "I have some words about that, but no, right now there's something else on my mind."

Years ago, he never would have spoken openly or willingly of his internal thoughts and, most assuredly, he never would have confided in Sirius Black. But, he thought again of his ring, things had changed radically since then. It was comforting to have someone to talk to, someone who, in his own way, understood perfectly.

Sirius leaned against one of the four posterns of their bed as Severus settled himself into an armchair. Severus glanced at him and shook his head.

"You in your Gryffindor red."

"You in your Slytherin green," he countered, which was not completely accurate. Severus was dressed in black. "Honestly, Severus, what do you expect me to wear? I am the Head of that House."

Severus grunted. They had made many compromises for each other, but they had never agreed upon the color scheme of their room. He insisted on emerald, where as Sirius would not budge on vermilion. The result was a chamber gaudily decorated in Christmas colors. The bed was the worst; its sheets were red and green striped. He supposed the bed's appearance hardly mattered compared to its feel; it felt very good, especially with Sirius in it.

"What's troubling you?" his lover asked.

"It's Minerva," he replied. "She wants me..."

"Yes?" he prodded.

"She wants me to be deputy headmaster."

Sirius's face was blank. "So?"

"So?" Severus exclaimed, leaping from his seat. "*So*?! Is that all you can say?"

He shrugged. "Well, won't your position be mostly ceremonial? Yes, you'll have greater latitude over the students and school affairs, but it's Minerva who has the final say. Isn't it mostly composing the acceptance letters and presiding over the Sorting Ceremony?"

Severus groaned and fell back into his chair. "Oh, Merlin. The Sorting. Can you imagine? I'll be the first thing the students see when they get off the boat."

"I'm sure they'll turn right back around and dive into the lake."

He snorted. "Thank you for that encouraging thought."

"Well, really, you do look a lot like a bat."

"Are you going to insult my appearance further?" he inquired dryly.

Sirius left the postern and approached. "Oh, cheer up," he said. He bent down and kissed him on the nose. "You know I think you're beautiful."

"You know I think you're blind and an idiot."

"You're so tactfully charming," Sirius remarked, idly fingering the curve of his cheek. He knelt beside the chair, leaning his head upon the armrest. "So, what's wrong? You don't want to be deputy headmaster?"

"I... I don't know," he confessed. "I- I feel so overwhelmed, Sirius. So many changes..."

"I know," he agreed. "I've been a free man less than a year. I know exactly what you mean."

Severus could not help but beam him a smile. His life last year had been a whirlwind and was only now settling down. The death of Dumbledore, followed shortly by the defeat of Voldemort at Harry Potter's hand... Sirius's trial, the rearrangement of the ranks at Hogwarts... Minerva had asked Severus if he wanted to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts and he had laughed in her face. He had never wanted the position and was amazed she had believed the rumors. Together, he and Sirius had cajoled Remus into accepting the post again, and as Sirius was a natural at Transfigurations, he was the obvious replacement for McGonagall...

And then had come, perhaps, the most difficult question of Severus's life, the one to which, although clearly he knew what his heart felt, he had been hesitant to decide. He had said yes, knowing and accepting completely everything that tiny word meant.

He looked again to his hand, to the band of red and green running side by side. An enchantment was upon it; when they spoke their vows, the red and the green would become intertwined, as would that of the twin on Sirius's hand.

"Have you decided whether it'll be Snape-Black or Black-Snape?" Sirius asked.

"Black-Snape," Severus replied.

Sirius raised a questioning eyebrow. "Really? I thought you would have wanted your name first."

He shrugged. "Black-Snape sounds better."

Sirius chuckled and kissed his hand.

"What?" Severus asked.

"It's funny."
"What is?"

Sirius glanced askance and sighed. "You. Me. Us. Everything. I don't know... but back to the topic, what's so bad about being deputy headmaster? I rather like the idea of shagging somebody with authority."

"No, you don't. You're just saying that because you're randy and you're hoping to get some tonight."

"Alright, so I am. Still... why are you hesitant?"

Severus paused and folded his hands. "It's tradition that the deputy headmaster succeeds the former headmaster upon retirement. Minerva knows this. She knows that's why Dumbledore chose her for the position. I... I don't think I'd mind being deputy headmaster, but... headmaster? Hell, Sirius, I can't run the bloody school!"

"Mmm..." Sirius replied. "Mind moving your hand back where it was? I was nibbling on that pinky."

Severus scowled. "I'm aware of that fact. I'm just a giant chew toy to you, aren't I?"

"Yeah, but you chew back."

Severus huffed and crossed his arms, securing his hands within the folds of his robe.

"You know what I'm thinking?"

Severus flashed him an irritable look. "'Shag me now'?" he asked sourly.

Sirius burst into a hearty laugh. "No! At least, not just yet." He cleared his throat, calming himself. "I think you're worrying too much."

"What do you mean?"

"Minerva's not going to retire anytime soon," Sirius said. "If she does name you as headmaster, it will be years from now and you can always decline. You want to be deputy headmaster. I think you should accept."

"Maybe."

"You're going to. You know it."

Severus shrugged. "Maybe."

"Now you're just trying to be annoying," Sirius remarked. "Besides," he continued his voice becoming low and seductive, "if you did become headmaster, we'd have a whole tower full of rooms to play in. We could take the day off and do unmentionable things."

"Knowing you, you'd want a whole month," Severus muttered.

Sirius laughed. "Probably, love, but we'll worry about that later. Come to bed now?"

"Is that your solution to everything?" he asked.

"It ended an old grudge, didn't it?"

Well, Severus thought as his lover scooped him into his arms, he certainly could not argue with that.