AN: This chapter will be the last, but I'm working on an AU Sirius/Lupin story at the moment (it won't have magic, but it will have werewolves); if you think that might tickle your fancy, you might want to put me on author alert or check back in a couple of months. (Or, if shameless depictions of kinky vampire sex are more your type of thing, my story "The Monster and I" is already online here.)

If you care to know, the epigram beginning the first chapter and the title for that chapter are from Mark Strand's poem "The Next Time." Other chapter titles are from the following poems, in order: W.H. Auden, "September 1, 1939"; Sarah Arvio, "Wood"; Sylvia Plath, "Mirror"; Charles Baudelaire, "Get Drunk"; Arthur Koestler quoted in Roberta Hill Whiteman, "Leap in the Dark"; John Donne, "The Good Morrow."

Seven: One Little Room, an Everywhere

Snape did not continue looking for Kreacher, and he did not go downstairs to say goodnight to their guests from the Order. Instead, he slipped into the spare room, closing the door behind him gently, with a quiet click.

Snape lit the single candelabra. There was nothing in this room but cobwebs, a wood floor with a thick, dusty rug, and a pile of boxes. And the Mirror, leaning against the wall. Snape took a deep breath and stepped in front of it.

There he was, and there was Sirius. They looked just as they did now in the real world, except for those most important details—their joined hands, and the look of promise on their faces. Snape looked at them, and the longer he stood before their image the more it seemed almost possible, even almost real; and he allowed himself to admit that he wanted it to be true. He could barely stand it, in fact, he wanted it so much.

He thought about what he had said to Sirius, the night they drank the firewhiskey. He had said that Sirius was disgusting, that he should be ashamed, that his love was wrong—of course he hadn't known he was talking about Sirius. But was it true, all the same?

Snape recalled those moments when he had failed to recognize the boggart, when he had thought that Sirius was dead. Snape hadn't felt like someone who had escaped a temptation, who had successfully resisted doing wrong. He had felt like someone who had missed his chance.

There was a light knock on the door. It was Sirius, sounding tired. "Everyone's gone. Just thought I'd let you know." Snape heard him begin to move away.

"You can come in, if you like," Snape said, without meaning to, wishing he could swallow the words back as he said them.

"Are you sure?"

Snape's heart raced. He could still take it back. He tried and failed to keep his voice level. "Only if you want to."

The door creaked open, and light from the hallway passed over Snape's face, then receded again as the door clicked shut. Snape did not look at Sirius, and his body stiffened as he concentrated all his will on staying in this spot, in front of the mirror, to let Sirius come close enough to see. He heard Sirius's footfalls approach.

"I don't think it's working; I only see our reflections," Sirius said, and then, quietly, "Oh."

Snape did not think he could continue to breathe.

Snape and Sirius stood there, side by side. In the mirror, they held hands and faced each other; in the room they kept their eyes on their own reflections and did not touch.

Then Sirius turned toward him, and reached out. His hand was larger than Snape's, rougher and warmer, but gentle as though unsure. Snape gripped it only slightly, afraid to hold it too tight, but his skin was electric with all the possibilities it signified. He felt close to trembling.

He looked up toward Sirius, terrified he would find him laughing, or bored, but Sirius's eyes were sincere, studying Snape's expression.

On the edge of their vision, they saw a movement in the mirror: mirror Sirius brushing a lock of hair from mirror Snape's face.

"Did you do that?" Sirius whispered.

Was he controlling the mirror? "I don't know," Snape whispered back, and looked down, shyly. Hair fell into his eyes, and Sirius reached up to brush it away.

Then the men in the mirror kissed, and Snape said, "I think I might be."

"That's amazing," Sirius said, and slid a hand to the back of Snape's neck, pulling him close. He tasted like cherry pie and firewhiskey, his lips soft and his cheeks rough against Snape's face. Sirius's fingers tangled in Snape's hair; he took Snape's bottom lip gently between his teeth, and Snape made an embarrassing noise, but Sirius answered it with his own low moan and Snape felt it directly in his groin. They kissed less softly and more furiously, but it wasn't enough, and when they broke apart, gasping for air, they looked toward the mirror and saw skin on bare skin.

Sirius glanced to Snape for permission, then resumed kissing Snape's neck voraciously as he grappled with the buttons on his robe. Snape melted as Sirius's stubble brushed the soft place underneath his jawline.

Then the robe fell away, Sirius pulled away to look at him, and Snape suddenly remembered that he was scrawny and pasty, and that he had gone to great lengths to ensure that no one ever saw him like this.

But Sirius simply ran a hand down Snape's lean arm, and let the hand rest warmly on the small of his back, guiding him closer. "You're beautiful," he said without a trace of irony, and Snape, full of gratitude, nearly believed him.

Sirius's soft gray T-shirt came off quickly, and Snape found he could not resist the impulse to touch. Sirius let Snape trace the firm contours of his chest, and rewarded him with small sounds of pleasure; Snape kissed his way down until he found himself on his knees, at eye level with the fly of Sirius's jeans.

He reached out to unfasten the button, but found he could not. He wanted to see Sirius's cock—to touch it, especially to taste it—but it felt like some boundary he could not cross, some rule he could not break was staying his hands. He paused too long, angry at himself for thinking he could get away with something like this—and angry at himself for failing. He was about to apologize, to make an excuse and leave, but then Sirius was on the floor with him, and warm arms surrounded him, and Snape leaned into the close, soft, solid feeling of Sirius's skin against his back. Sirius kissed the top of his head.

"Show me what's next," he whispered, his breath tickling Snape's ear. "Use the Mirror."

It was easy; all Snape had to do was relax, and the mirror showed them lying together, the full length of their bodies pressed against each other. In the mirror, Snape was on top, so Sirius leaned back on the rug. He raised an inviting eyebrow and smirked at Snape, but his breathing was shallow and he swallowed nervously; Snape could tell how anxiously Sirius wanted him. And so he crawled up Sirius's body to kiss him, and their legs intertwined, and Snape could not help rocking his body against Sirius, to feel the rough texture of his jeans and the hard thickness that pressed into Snape's own thigh. He wanted to touch Sirius everywhere, to map and know every detail of his skin from hips to shoulder blades, fingertips to collar bone.

"Severus," Sirius gasped, and Snape wanted to hear that sound again, so he resolved his will and snapped the button on Sirius's fly, lowered the zipper and reached in. It was firm, smooth, dry, and so very warm, but wet at the tip. And Snape discovered he needed to know what that tasted like, so he lowered himself and, steadying Sirius's cock with his hand, he licked a droplet of the sweet-salt liquid. Sirius grasped Snape's arm in a way that reminded him that, if Sirius had ever been touched this way before, it would have to have been before Azkaban.

Snape was surprised and pleased by the way Sirius's shape fit so naturally against the roof of his mouth. He explored it with his tongue. He sucked and Sirius moaned softly, so he did it again, and again, in a way that he hoped was expert—or at the very least good enough—until Sirius's hands were in his hair and Sirius was saying, helplessly, "Severus—I can't—I'm going to—" which was what Snape wanted; and when Sirius pulled away Snape didn't understand, thought he had done something wrong. But Sirius said gently, "Not yet," and his eyes flicked toward the mirror, and everything was clear.

Snape did not have to look because he knew what it showed. "Are you sure?" said Sirius, with something like wonder in his voice. And Snape was terrified, of course he was, but he was also sure—intensely sure—that it was what he wanted, and that if he could face Voldemort then he could face this. He nodded, just once. Sirius moved behind him, and for a moment Snape felt alone, but then Sirius's hands were on him again, massaging him, and there were kisses all over his body, and then—oh, Christ—a strange, wet, delicious feeling—and when he realized Sirius's tongue was there, Snape was overwhelmed with mortification, but the sensation also overwhelmed him; he could feel its electricity all over his skin, almost too intense to tolerate, but it made him want so much more.

Sirius muttered a spell that—as Snape judged from the strange feeling it caused—must be for lubrication, and Snape knew that Sirius must have done this before. The thought made him jealous, but it also relaxed him a little, to know that Sirius knew what to do. Sirius kissed the space between Snape's shoulder blades before slowly, slowly pressing in one finger—and Snape gasped; this much he had done before, himself, on guilty nights when no one was there to see, but this time it was different, giving up control to Sirius's larger, unfamiliar hand. But Snape trusted him, and Sirius worked his fingers smoothly, and it seemed not long until Snape was desperately ready, until he could not stop himself from begging, "Sirius, please," and he was ashamed to admit he needed it so much. Then Sirius turned him over to kiss him ferociously, and when Snape saw the hungry look in his eyes he knew that they were feeling it together. He wrapped his legs around Sirius's body.

There was a moment, when Sirius's cock touched him, that Snape panicked—it was too big; what if people found out; this was dirty; it was disgusting; it was wrong—but he looked up at Sirius and saw the attentive way he was watching Snape, looking to see what would make him feel good, waiting patiently but desperately for a sign to continue. Then Snape realized that as much as he wanted this for himself, he also wanted it for Sirius, and so he concentrated, relaxed, and pushed back to let him in.

At first, it ached in a way that was only half pleasing, and then it was all pure, delicious sensation, and Snape could feel every infinitesimal movement Sirius made; and when Snape moaned he could feel Sirius twitch and expand inside him. Their movements were slow, and soft, until Snape pulled Sirius closer to show that he wanted more, harder, and Sirius obliged, and reached down to grasp Snape with his warm, dry hand—and Snape's mind emptied of everything except Sirius, and his own body's pleasures unfolding.

When he came, it felt like falling apart, but it also felt like becoming whole.

June 1996

Sirius Black listens to the muted, bustling tick of the clock on the nightstand, its rhythm blending with the regular sound of Severus breathing in his sleep. Sirius likes to see him like this, his features soft and defences laid aside. His smooth hair has fallen across his face, and his extended arm is wrapped around Sirius's middle. He looks so vulnerable, so careless this way, but Sirius knows better; knows, for example, that a few weeks ago Snape discovered how to place on himself a suspended Avada Kedavra curse—one he can enact with only a thought—so that when he is next needed he can fight Voldemort without the risk of being captured alive. Sirius knows, too, that without Snape's connection to the Mirror of Erised it would have taken much longer for them to retrieve the mysterious map that Voldemort had hidden there by enchantment, just as Dumbledore suspected. They have given it over to Dumbledore, of course, but he has not explained what it means, what could possibly link the marked locations—Little Hangleton, Sirius's house, Gringott's, Hogwart's, and one mark that moved.

Downstairs, the grandfather clock chimes the hour.

Until recently, Sirius had fully expected to die in the course of this war, and he thinks that Severus had, too—but it seemed that they had less to live for, then. Now, he very much hopes to survive it, and to make a home with Severus, in this house or another; perhaps they will get a motorcycle, or a dog, and perhaps Harry will come to stay in the summers. Sirius has the money to take Severus anywhere, to make their lives whatever they want, when the war is over.

Of course they will still give their lives for the cause if they have to, but maybe not quite so freely, not quite so willingly as they would have when it had seemed their lives weren't good for very much else.

Sometimes, Sirius has a dream that he is falling from the land of the living into the land of the dead, that he tries to stop the descent but can't because he is so heavy—his body is tied up in chains and weighted down by the corpses of his friends. He used to dream that he fell straight through the veil, like plunging into water, and landed in a colourless place where his dead friends stared at him with empty eyes and opened and closed their mouths without speaking. In the dream, he wandered there for years. But now, when he dreams that dream, sometimes he doesn't fall all the way; sometimes Severus catches him.

Tonight, Snape and Sirius will receive a message, and when they learn that Harry Potter is in danger there will be no stopping either of them from going to the Department of Mysteries to defend him. That place is full of danger, and the Death Eaters are very strong, and the most likely thing is that Sirius will die in the fight. But maybe—just maybe—he will fight just as bravely but not quite as recklessly as he would have, if it weren't for Snape fighting with him, and that will make the difference.

Sirius, of course, does not know what is coming tonight, but he has a plan for the day ahead. He will not wake Severus, but will stay here until Severus wakes on his own. He will not let Severus out of bed until they have made love, even though Severus will be shy about it and will want to shower first. Sirius may let him up after that, but only so they can have breakfast, and then they will go back to bed and they will talk until they are ready to make love again. Severus is reluctant to tell stories from his past—especially ones in which he was brave—but Sirius will coax them out of him, and will tell stories of his own, from the years before Azkaban. And maybe later they will put on a record, or play a game of wizard chess (Severus may be an excellent strategist, but Sirius can more than hold his own). Or they will read together, sitting with their limbs entwined and sharing passages that are particularly funny, or interesting, or wonderful.

All over the house, the clocks are ticking. Snape and Sirius have about twelve hours until the message reaches them.

Severus opens his eyes.

Someone has very generously nominated this fic for an HP Fanfic Fan Poll Award! If you're interested in voting for the awards, there's a link to the site on my profile page. Either way, thanks for reading. :)