WARNINGS: rape/non-con, slash, …

A/N: Hooray! I'm not dead after all!

Severus had become a recluse. Well, he had considered himself as one before…this entire fiasco. But now, he refused to go out, even to the marketplace. He had persuaded (or possibly threatened) the neighbor's son into getting him food, which he paid for (of course. He did have a sense of honor, even if no one else thought so), and the boy occasionally went out to pick potions ingredients. But Severus was getting restless. The boy was fifteen. He might be gangly and awkward and easily distracted, but he should be capable of picking good fruit and vegetables. He could understand the abysmal quality of the ingredients, since the boy was not being trained in that domain, but he absolutely despised eating half rotted or unripe fruit.

Not to mention the idiot had caused his income to decline. Yes, perhaps it was somewhat in part Severus's own fault, since he didn't sell his brews at the Thursday market anymore, but he had made up for that, partially at least, by continuing his business at home. Having been innovative enough with recipes to create exceptionally potent brews, he was able to convince people to pay higher prices to receive their orders by owl. This came with several advantages: him not having to see their unpleasant faces, them receiving their orders at home, them not having to come to his house on the outskirts of the village and near the wall, and most people wouldn't voluntarily come near him after…recent events (Traitor, werewolf lover, they sneered to his face or to his back whenever he came into view). It had even been a while since he'd last seen Black, and that man usually never passed up an opportunity to annoy him.

So he was forced to leave his shelter. He told himself that he could no longer stand for subpar ingredients, especially since some customers were intelligent enough to notice the difference in quality. It was with trepidation that Severus stepped out of his house, having peered out of the window first, in order to pick a time when no one was passing by. It wasn't a much frequented street, but - his lip curled unpleasantly - you could never be too careful. He surreptitiously made his way to the gate. Even with his discretion and the hood of his thick cloak up, people still seemed to know who he was, judging by the suspicious and dirty looks sent his way. His jaw clenched subtly but otherwise didn't respond to their unkind comments or harsh glares.

The guards allowed him out, searching his bag and his person over and over again, physically and magically, until they could only grudgingly confirm that he wasn't transporting anything irregular out of the village. He duly kept quiet, not complaining when he was forced to remove his cloak, exposing his thin body to the brisk air, and patted harshly all over, nor when the guards grumbled over his provisional Potions license, wondering aloud if it was a counterfeit one, doubting aloud that the Wizengamot would have agreed to not suspend the license of a traitor.

He was silent. It was difficult. He knew it'd be all too easy to open his mouth and lay into them, lay into their incompetence and stupidity and irrational fear. It'd also be all too easy for them to curse him where he stood, possibly beat him with their fists and feet, and call it self-defense. Everyone would believe them of course. That's the way things worked.

His Potions license was thrust into his chest and he just barely caught it as it started to fall. He was shoved forward, out of the open gates and into the open world, so harshly that he fell to his knees, his hands smarting against the cold, hard ground. His cloak was thrown over his floored body.

He pushed himself up irritably, staunchly ignoring the laughter behind him, and marched determinedly towards the forest. As the trees grew thicker around him, blocking his view of the village, his determination waned and was replaced by trepidation. Despite the chill, cold sweat broke out all over his body. He swallowed heavily, and told himself he had nothing to worry about. It had been sixteen days since he'd last seen Lupin. Surely that was enough time for the beast to kidnap and molest someone else?

Despite his self-reassurances, he flitted from bush to bush, eyes darting around apprehensively, doing his best to be quiet whilst snatching up various ingredients. In his haste, he simply grabbed what he needed from the plants, not checking for quality, knowing he'd regret his hastiness later, in the safety of his potions lab, but not quite caring.

By now, he'd collected large amounts of Boom Berries, Nightshade, and various items from the Wiggentree. He'd spotted a feather in the dirt next to an enormous oak tree and approached it, wondering if there might be more within the tree's branches, hoping he wouldn't have to climb. He picked it up and inspected it. Owl feathers. He glanced up at the tree looming over him, its height striking.

A sound off of his right had him jumping, eyes wide and fingers tightening, ruining the sleekness of the feather's fibers. He scanned nervously, seeing nothing but patches of brown dirt and vegetation swaying in the bitter wind.

Forcing himself to calm down, he tucked the feather away and made his way back to the pathway, still looking about uneasily. He'd had enough excitement for today. He'd just have to bear with the guards's mistreatment and come back tomorrow.

He hadn't gone more than ten paces when there was another sudden sound behind him. He whirled around. His heart rate skyrocketed. The sight of amber eyes had him instinctively opening his mouth to draw in breath for a scream. Cold panic and a strong, searingly warm arm grasped him securely around the middle. A large, dirty hand slammed over his open mouth and his scream was not heard. They tumbled to the dirty forest floor. His shoulder smarted but Severus did not cease his struggling.

"Finally," the beast said, voice raspy with satisfaction despite Severus thrashing about, doing his best to free himself from the beast's grasp. "I've been waiting for ages."

"No!" he tried to say through the beast's large and filthy hand. If he had been heard, he had been ignored. The beast's leg, terrifyingly large, lifted itself and clamped across Severus's hips, pulling him and holding him close to the beast's body. This freed Lupin's other arm, which disappeared and came back with his wand. Severus's eyes widened as it was pointed at him. He waited, eyes shut, trying to fight his fearful trembles, waited for his clothes to disappear and for the chill air to touch his skin, waited for heavy chains to close around him, waited for pain to explode in all of his senses, … but nothing of the sort happened. He heard Lupin pocketing his wand, and the beast's smothering hand left his face. Severus's eyes snapped open, looking at the beast in confusion.

"Get off me!" he shouted, but there was no sound. He looked at Lupin in horror. The beast looked back at him, a strange and feral glint in his eyes.

"Let's go home, Severus," Lupin said evenly, and within two seconds had hauled Severus up and over his shoulder. Severus kicked and silently screamed, and Lupin's arms clamped firmly around his thighs and calves, and put a heavy hand on his arse, making Severus freeze.

(GET OFF!) he screamed, as loudly as he could. Still there was no sound to be heard.

The trip to the cave was dreadfully short. No matter how much he resisted, how much he beat his fists on Lupin's broad back, how much he leaned up, how much he twisted his hips, how much he flexed his leg muscles and tried to kick, the werewolf continued keeping a firm hold on him whilst navigating the terrain effortlessly, going through the foliage nearly noiselessly. Too soon, the mouth of the cave loomed into view. Severus fought harder, but wasn't foolish enough to raise himself upright and risk hitting his head on the rock and giving himself another concussion.

Lupin had apparently been thinking of the same scenario, and put him down just in front of the mouth of the cave. "Wouldn't want you hitting your head again, hmm?"

Severus snarled at him, spitting unheard insults and curses at the mangy brute, face red from his own exertions and from being upside down for so long. Lupin gave him a placating smile, though his eyes were steely. He grasped him firmly by the arm and tugged him, easily despite Severus putting all of his strength and weight in the opposite direction, into the cave, ducking down appropriately. Severus grudgingly ducked as well, still fighting, despite the feeling that between the two of them his arm might be pulled clean off. Lupin led him to the wolf skin and forced him to sit.

(Lupin! Let me go!) he said, still cursed into silence. (Please! Let me go!)

"I've missed you, Severus," the werewolf said, almost endearingly, and ran a rough hand through Severus's hair. He shuddered at the feeling of the beast's nails against his scalp. He shuddered further at the feeling of Lupin's chapped lips against his own.

Severus wasn't sure what he hated more: the pain and pleasure he had endured during his rape, or the humiliation he'd felt afterwards. His sense of self-worth was trickling out of him just as Lupin's semen was trickling slowly, drop by disgusting drop, out of his bottom.

The silencing spell still hadn't been lifted, and he cried mutely, curled up in a ball, tearing at his hair while Lupin slept peacefully, his heavy arm around his waist and holding him in place.

He had fought as best as he could, but his arms were made for stirring cauldrons, not for fighting off amorous and rabid werewolves. His clothes had been torn off as if they'd been made of paper. He had been held down as if his comfort or silent pleas had meant nothing. The first push of a finger inside him had made him scream and buck, though the first was not heard and the latter was disregarded completely. The feeling had been utterly foreign and utterly unwelcome, burning his insides. The finger had pulled out and was replaced by a tongue, stirring up feelings of disgust, at the beast for doing this and at himself for enjoying it. He had been licked thoroughly, his body shuddering and stiffening traitorously, and the beast's finger had reintroduced itself inside, his tongue not ceasing its movements. A second finger had been put in, with some more burning, soothed somewhat by the horridly insistent ministrations of the beast's tongue.

The introduction of a third finger had hurt him and he had bucked again, only causing himself further pain as he jostled the werewolf's fingers inside.

"Stop that," Lupin had growled, voice low with lust and danger. "You need to relax."

How could he have possibly relaxed? Tears had made their way down Severus's face. The beast's tongue had returned to its work and his calloused hand had grasped Severus's stiffening prick. He had cried out and attempted to move away, but the suddenly tight grip on his member had forced him still.

And then the hands and tongue left him. He had felt briefly relieved, but that had soon been replaced by shock and horror as Lupin's weight collapsed on top of his body. He screamed. Lupin's lips attached themselves to his neck and Lupin's prick forced itself into his body. He screamed louder. It had been like nothing he had felt before. Even the fingers hadn't been enough to prepare him for the excruciating stretching and burning of his insides. He had screamed and turned his face into the wolf skin, tasting fur against his tongue and wondering if he could suffocate himself with it. He had done his best to.

Of course, he hadn't been fortunate enough to actually suffocate.

Which is how he found himself lying next to Lupin, the beast's seed trickling out of him. He wondered if he should attempt to leave. He didn't know what time it was. He was on a probationary Potions license, meaning his gathering time had been reduced from five hours to two. He had surely gone over his allotted time. If he went back, his license would surely be suspended. He would surely be put on trial for treason this time. He would surely be put to death.

He couldn't stop his tears, no matter how hard he tried. He couldn't block out the pain below his waist, no matter how much of his hair he pulled out and how hard he gripped at his scalp with his nails. He couldn't stop the feeling of shame coursing through him.

Lupin's chest hair rubbed against his back as he rumbled in his breathing. A hand came over him to grip at his wrist.

"Severus," he growled, voice low with sleep. Severus froze. The werewolf's whiskery mouth attached themselves to his neck again and he pulled Severus even closer to him. "My Severus. My Severus." Then the werewolf stopped suddenly. "Severus?" he repeated, sounding…confused. He sniffed him several times before turning Severus over onto his back. "Severus?" Lupin repeated again, sounding horrified. He took in the sight of Severus's tears, the many marks on his neck and shoulder, and his nakedness.

He sat up suddenly. "Oh Merlin…Severus, I am so sorry." Lupin continued babbling false apologies, and Severus tuned him out, staring at the dark and sloping ceiling of the cave. Magic washed over him and he flinched, sitting up and scrambling away. "No, no! It's alright!" Lupin said, hands up to show he intended no harm, not making any moves to come closer. "I was just…cleaning up."

Indeed, Severus shifted his legs and didn't feel anymore residual stickiness. But that didn't stop his feeling of dirtiness. He could smell Lupin all over him. He could see Lupin's tongue and teeth on him. He could feel Lupin's hairy body on top of him.

"Severus?" the werewolf asked, in such a sweet and gentle voice that Severus's stomach turned.

(Stay away) he begged, not caring for his pride anymore. He attempted to wave the werewolf away. Lupin came closer, but did stay out of arm's reach.

"Severus. Please say something," Lupin begged in turn.

(I can't.) he said. (You bastard.)

"Severus," Lupin's voice had turned desperate. "Please." The werewolf's hands ran over Severus's arms. "Did I…" he broke off, eyes searching. Then he moved away towards the shredded clothes near the wolf skin, and dug through them. He uncovered his wand and turned back towards Severus, who ignored him, his face impassive, though tears streamed down his face. He jabbed his wand at the motionless man, and suddenly, Severus's breathing was audible again.

Severus sighed, and hearing the air rush out of his nose was relieving. The werewolf moved towards him cautiously.


"STAY AWAY FROM ME!" Severus shouted, making Lupin flinch. His posture slumped and his forehead knitted. The beat-dog demeanor only fueled his indignation. "Get that blasted look of your face! You don't deserve to feel sorry for yourself, you goddamned monster!" And just like that, his fury had returned with a vengeance. He seized the closest thing to him – his bag he had brought out with him – and hurled it at the werewolf's head.

Lupin dodged it with no trouble, though that pitiable despondent look remained on his insufferable face. "Severus—" he crooned, and the man in question launched himself at him.

Lupin was surprised at his sudden action and it showed in the fact that he didn't attempt to move out of the way. Or perhaps he knew that Severus couldn't really hurt him. Severus knew it. But his rational thought had been overthrown by his more primal need to see the beast physically suffer.

Of course, he hadn't been fortunate enough to actually make it happen.

He had launched himself at Lupin, who received a few hits to the face and chest, but then grasped him by the waist and flipped them over, pinning Severus down with his weight. Severus gasped, his thought process vanished, to be replaced by feelings of terror and memories of pain and helplessness. His breathing quickened. His heart rate skyrocketed. Lupin's weight shifted off of him, his chest hair sending uncomfortable jolts through his nipples.

"Calm down," Lupin said steadfastly. Severus did not react. Eyeing him further, Lupin leaned back until he was sitting on his heels. "Calm down," he repeated. "I'm not going to…hurt you…again." Severus's teeth clamped down on the insides of his cheeks and did not outwardly react. Inside, his stomach twisted into a mass of knots.

Lupin fidgeted. "Severus?"

"I'm going to kill you for this," he murmured under his breath, but Lupin suddenly became very tense. "You're going to die slowly."

"I'm sorry, Severus." The werewolf fidgeted some more. "I'm going to…step out for a bit."

Severus made no move to stop him and was left alone.

Severus didn't know for how long Lupin was gone. The minutes seemed like hours. He was terrified that the beast would return, the madness back in his eyes, the blood back in his prick. The image shook him to his core and he only barely managed to make it to the mouth of the cave before he vomited. His throat burned horribly from the acid, his back and bottom ached, and he felt worse than before. He collapsed against the stone and the tears started flowing. He was sobbing uncontrollably within moments.

(I can't believe this)

When he finally managed to stop the flow of his tears, the sky had noticeably darkened. He returned inside the cave, but stayed away from the wolf skin. Even several meters away, he could smell the lingering odors of sweat and sex. Nausea hit him again.

(I can't stay here)

But he couldn't go back. He'd be doomed to wander the wilderness forever…or at least until he was eaten by a different beast. If he made it to Hogsmeade, the guards wouldn't take him seriously. Perhaps they'd want to check to see if his claims were legitimate and rape him themselves.

His breath hitched.

Or perhaps they'd want to rape him just to hurt him for every nasty comment he might have directed their way over the years. Perhaps they invite everyone he might have insulted in his life and invite them all to come and hurt him. Perhaps that was why Lupin had done this to him.

He sniffled loudly.

He couldn't quite recall any instances where he was rude to Lupin. He remembered forcing himself to be nice – by his standards – since he had saved his life. Perhaps Lupin would have been less violent if he'd just agreed to stay in the cave with him. Perhaps he would have been nicer if Severus had reacted less extremely to his lycanthropy. It wasn't his fault he was afraid of wolves!

He sobbed noisily.

His thoughts circled in similar patterns until he fell into a fitful sleep on the stone.

He woke up in a cold sweat, feeling matted fur and sticky clothes underneath his skin. He sat up immediately, ignoring the ache in his back, knowing that his clothes had been torn to shreds and that he had purposely not gone to sleep anymore near the skin.

"Shh," came Lupin's voice from behind him, and he jumped, scrambling clumsily around and away. Lupin looked sorrowful but determined, thankfully dressed as well. "It's alright. Try to go back to sleep."

Severus leveled a glare at him, trying to get his internal terror under control. "I'm not going to sleep anywhere near you," he replied vehemently.

Lupin shook his head. "I will never do anything like that to you again, Severus. I swear."

The force of his glare did not waiver. "I know you won't. You're not coming anywhere near me."

Something went through Lupin's eyes, but a moment later he nodded demurely. "As you wish, Severus."

Severus tensely lied down, Lupin still remaining in his field of vision, still staring at him ceaselessly.

Moments passed. It could have been hours. Severus could not sleep. Lupin's eyes were heavy against his skin, even clothed as he was. Every tiny movement the beast made had him on edge. He tried to close his eyes but every time he did, the image of the werewolf attacking him overwhelmed his mind with fear.

Lupin sighed. Severus's eyes were open and on him within the same instant. "I'm going to sleep outside."

He nodded tersely, and watched Lupin get up and leave. The moment the werewolf's figure disappeared, he let out a breath he didn't realize he had been holding. His body relaxed and he managed to fall asleep.

The werewolf was lurking on the other side of the cave when Severus woke up, his eyes dark and fixated on Severus's thin form. The look in his amber eyes made him shiver. The beast crept closer.

"You must be hungry. I've got some blackberries for you." His grubby hand extended, holding out a small leather pouch.

Severus shook his head. He was hungry, but refused to eat any more things the beast provided for him.

Lupin approached slowly. Severus tensed with every step. The pouch was dropped in front of him, but he did not reach for it. "Go on," Lupin encouraged gently. "You need to keep up your strength."

Severus snorted, never taking his eyes off the beast. "I would have thought me not eating would make things easier on you."

"I want you healthy, Severus," Lupin replied simply.

He opened his mouth to let out a nasty retort, but his stomach chose that moment to growl loudly. Lupin's mouth twitched, as if he was doing his best not to smile. Severus irritably snatched up the satchel and ate.

"What are you doing?" came Lupin's voice behind him.

Severus tried hard to contain his flinch, and turned around slowly to face him. "I'm leaving," he replied, voice steady.

Lupin looked confused. "Why?"

Severus didn't respond right away, continuing to try to make less of a mess of the broken vials in his bag, keeping Lupin in his field of vision. "You can't make me stay here," he said instead.

Lupin approached. Severus froze, gripping at his bag. The stick of wood was brought out and pointed towards him.

He was standing in an instant, the bag held desperately in front of him as if it was some sort of shield. "Don't you dare—!"

The pieces of glass zoomed together to form intact vials. He looked at the werewolf incredulously. The beast refused to meet his gaze.

"Be safe, Severus," Lupin said quietly. "I'll probably never see you again. Won't you take the rest of the blackberries?"

"No," he replied automatically.

"I'll escort you back to Hogsmeade, if you like."

"No." That response came even quicker than the last.

"Alright," Lupin replied, without difficulty, but there was something in his gaze. It wasn't quite like the blatant wildness that he'd seen before, not being nearly as intense, but it still made Severus shiver. "Goodbye, my Severus."

Severus stepped away quickly and Lupin made no move to reach for him. Instead, he stood stock still, body almost tense. Severus kept the beast within his sight until he reached the mouth of the cave and dashed out.

It had taken him a while to reach Hogsmeade. He wasn't as jittery as last time he'd been wandering around the forest, even if he was walking slower. He'd put on his boots this time. He wasn't hungry, having eaten a few Boom Berries and semi-regretting not having taken the blackberries. There was no more threat of possible rape above his head.

But morbid thoughts made their way through his head. What could he do? Hogsmeade would not welcome him with open arms, not that they ever had.

The enormous stone walls came into view. His stomach churned. Bile lapped at his throat. He approached the gates feeling as if he were walking to his execution.

Within twenty meters, the gates had opened and half a dozen guards had poured out, wands out and pointed at him.

A jet of red light was shot at him as they came into formation in a circle around him. A brief shock went through his body, forcing his arms to come up and his fingers to straighten out. He knew this spell would force him to lose any weapons he might be holding. Another spell had magical shackles binding his wrists together behind his back. Rough hands grabbed him and dragged him forward.

Severus couldn't quite remember what had gone on. He remembered being hissed at, being hit by objects, being hit by hands and feet. He had been thrown into a cell – who knew if it was the same one? They were all made to look alike – and left alone. He remembered going over to the lumpy mattress and lying down on it, turning to face the wall. He remembered feeling his throat close up and moisture pour down his face. He cried himself to sleep.

Black's quiet, urgent voice roused him from sleep. "Severus. Severus!"

Severus groggily turned around, not quite willing to face him, but the corridor was empty. He frowned, wondering if he was imagining things. He had never let himself be affected by loneliness, but even having Black around might have been preferable at this moment. He turned back around to face the wall, and as soon as the bars were out of his vision, his name was called again.


He groaned and reluctantly turned around again. Black's face was floating in the air. Severus gaped at him openly. Wow, his imagination was really reacting to his death sentence.

"It's an Invisibility Cloak," Black explained, at Severus's bewildered look.

"Black?" he asked instead. The other man shushed him, and he continued on in a lower voice. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to get you out of here—"

"Never mind, I know you're a hallucination," Severus said, his voice rising. He sat up, wincing as pain shot through his spine, but swung his feet over to touch the floor. "Black, I want to tell you that I despise you with every fiber of my being. You've been nothing but trouble for me."

"Shut up!" Black hissed, eyes darting around for guards.

"No, you shut up, Black. I'm the one that's going to be put to death tomorrow. I need to say some things, even if you're simply a figment of my imagination."

"I'm real! I'm here!"

Severus ignored him. "You have never been polite in the least to me. You dared to come to my home and insult me, when it was you that needed something from me. I could tell you exactly kind of a person you are, but that would probably take the rest of my life."

"Shut it down there!" shouted the warden from down the corridor. Black pulled some silvery fabric against his face as he peeked in that direction and prepared to hide himself.

"It's your fault I'm even here," Severus continued, in a quieter voice. "You, your bloody aconite, and your goddamned silence. Your fault completely."

"I came to set you free, you idiot!" Black whispered furiously. There was a ripple in the space underneath his floating face and fingers came out clutching a key.

Severus's mouth opened and a not quite hysterical giggle came out. "My imagination's working overtime!" Black groaned his frustration. "I suppose I could go along with it," Severus muttered to himself. "I'm not doing anything else." He got up and waddled closer to the bars. Black started fumbling with the lock. "But even if you could get me out, what am I going to do? I can't go home."

Black paused in his fumbling. "But you'll be alive," he murmured, grey eyes looking surprisingly emotional. He seemed to hesitate. "Go…go to Hangleton if you have to. Go to Remus if you feel safe enough."

Severus started at the mention of the beast's name. His eyes narrowed. His teeth clenched together. His muscles went tight. His back suddenly hurt a thousand times more. "I will die before I return to that monster," he said starkly.

Black stared at him for a long time. "Did he…what did he do?" he asked. His sudden stillness and hesitance implied that he didn't want to know the answer.

Severus didn't answer right away. The events played in his head. He swallowed. "He forced himself on me." Saying it aloud suddenly made his inner loathing so much more intense, so much stronger that he felt as if he'd been punched in the stomach.

He didn't see the door open nor hear Black calling his name. A touch on the hand had him sharply flinching away, the present situation coming back to him as he took in Black's guiltily startled face.

"Sorry," the man muttered. "Are you OK?"

He swallowed and glared.

"Look, you'll have to come under the Cloak with me. We'll have to be in close quarters but that's the only way I can get you out undetected. Are you going to be alright with that?"

"I'll live, if that's what you mean. The damage on my psyche might be permanent, but no one's ever seemed to care anyhow."

Black took this to be an agreement, and came closer. Already, Severus was feeling uncomfortable, and he knew he'd have to endure this for several minutes if they were to make their way out of the village. He made a swinging movement, revealing the fluid, silvery inner material, and the Cloak slid over Severus's head like water. He had never felt something so cool and agreeable.

"It's beautiful," he muttered forlornly. "I can't even begin the amount of damage you could do with something like this."

"It's not mine," Black said, coming even closer, Severus's bony shoulder colliding with Black's muscular chest. He flinched and received an awkward "sorry" as the nobleman checked him over quickly to make sure he was completely concealed. "James lets me borrow it sometimes."

"James? Potter?!" He couldn't help his shudder as he thought about the disgusting Potter residue that must be on the cloak.

"Yes. Now come on." Black seemed to be satisfied with their coverage and made their way outside the cell. The door had been left open, the key still in the lock. "You'll need to be very quiet. And we might have an easier time maneuvering if one of us…I mean, you stand behind me. Put your hands on my shoulders so we don't move too far away." Severus did his best to ignore his inner trepidation and attempted to remind himself that he was in control. "Remember, be as quiet as you can."

They made their way through the corridor, and through what Severus suspected might be some secret passages, judging by how cramped and dark the areas were. Their brief trips in public parts of the castle and its courtyard were nerve wracking; if Severus wasn't nervous enough on his own, worrying about the possibility of a passing person (guard or not) hearing their footsteps or his breathing, he could feel Black's muscles tensing each time under his hands.

Once they finally reached the streets, bustling with life, and more importantly, noise, Severus felt it was safe to whisper, "Can we go to my home and get some things?"

"I guess we could try. Last time I saw it, they were ransacking the place. I don't think you'd find anything useful."

"But it's close to the city wall. I…we could get out."

Black nodded jerkily. "We'll try."

The place was a mess. Severus openly cringed at the sight of his expensive ingredients and already made brews lying strewn in globs and pieces across the floor. Some of the mixed brews had burned smoking holes into the ground. There were scorch marks across some surfaces. They carefully made their way across the room, doing their best to not step on broken glass or goopy animal body parts.

"Do you know what you need?" Black, asked, still quiet.

"I wanted to have some of the more survival-related potions, but I'm not sure if any of this will be salvageable," Severus said, surveying the room sadly.

"Look," Black said, "go pack up some clothes. I'll stay here and look to see if there's anything that's still useable. I'll cast a Disillusionment Charm on you."

"You mean I didn't have to be cramped under there with you during all that time?"

He gave an irritated huff. "The Cloak works much better than the Charm. I wasn't going to risk both of our lives just because you didn't want to be next to me!" Severus gave his own huff and slid out from underneath the Cloak. "I'm going to tap on your head now." Immediately, he felt the thin stick of wood tap twice firmly against his head, and the magic slid over him, feeling as if a chilled egg had been cracked open on his scalp and the cold yolk was trickling down and covering his entire body. "Try not to get anything on you; it'll make you visible."

Severus nodded, and realized Black wouldn't see it. "Alright. I'm off." He crept off to his bedroom. The room had been similarly destroyed: the mattress was propped up against the wall across from the bed, the wardrobe doors were open and clothes were scattered across the floor

The first thing he grabbed was a bag, bigger than the one he had used before, which had been confiscated by the guards as he had come back to the village. He stuffed a quick change of clothes in, along with his heavier winter cloak. Searching through his wardrobe, he was dismayed to discover that the concealed compartment he had there stuffed with some of his more valuable and not-for-sale potions had been confiscated. Hurriedly, he shuffled under his bed, and pried open a loose floorboard. To his relief, the even-more-valuable brews and rare ingredients, along with a small coin purse, were still hidden. He took out all of the Healing Potions and money, and debated a bit before taking out some of his more creative and undetectable poisons. The bag was full already but he dashed into the kitchen, where the cupboards were hanging open, the teapot had been smashed, and the bread was in the sink.

Severus grabbed the few things that looked like they hadn't been too badly damaged: some of the bread, a few fruits and vegetables; filled up a couple of water bottles, and stared at the kitchen knives before taking two and wrapping them up in his spare clothes. He returned to the living room.

It was disconcerting seeing vials and ingredients moving around by themselves, but he could hear Black muttering under his breath.

"Have you found anything?" Severus asked.

"I found this," Black said gruffly, and an intact vial containing a poisonous green substance was held up.

"That's no use. It's an insecticide."

"Well, it doesn't look like they left anything else intact."

Severus sighed. He set his things down on a table that didn't have too much broken glass on it and began perusing through the ingredients cabinet. Most of the things were out of place, but he immediately recognized the ones he could take with him.

"Is that what you're taking?" Black asked.

"Yes, on the table," Severus replied, still taking out ingredients. He heard Black stepping away and muttering incantations, the ones Severus recognized as being Feather-light and Bottomless Charms, presumably on his bag. Once he felt he had taken all he could, Severus returned to the table, accidentally bumping into Black.

"Sorry," he muttered, and stuffed in ingredients in.

"What do you need all these for? Are you bringing a cauldron too?"

"I suppose I could. Should I?"

Black sighed. "If you have to. Just hurry up."

Severus fetched the smallest one he had, along with other necessary equipments, and put it in the bag.

"Is that all then?" Black asked, sounding anxious.

"I suppose," Severus replied.

"Let's go then. Step on under and I'll take the Disillusionment Charm off."

Severus complied, taking the bag underneath the Cloak with him, and Black felt around for his head, accidentally hitting his nose a few times. "Sorry," he said, and was about to tap him on the head with his wand when a siren suddenly went off. Severus jumped a fraction, while Black went white. He swallowed heavily and rapped his wand firmly on Severus's head once more. This time it felt as if the egg had been heated before being cracked open atop of his head, and within a few moments, he was visible again.

"Come on, hurry up." And Black grabbed his hand before leading them out of the house the back way.

"What's that alarm for?" Severus asked. They wove through his garden and jumped over the neighbor's fence.

"They sound it when convicts escape," the nobleman replied tightly and stopped in front of a shadowed section of the wall, easily four times their height. He cast a Notice Me Not Charm around the area.

"You need to go," Black said, looking surprisingly reluctant. And that was it; Severus's heart started hammering against his rib cage. He was about to become a fugitive. Who knew if he could even make it to Hangleton? And if the beas—

"Attention, citizens," a voice said, so close to Severus that he jumped and collided into Black, terrified that they had been caught. But there was no one around.

"Shh! It's OK," Black whispered, arms closing around Severus's narrow shoulders to hold him still.

"The felon Severus Snape, convicted of high treason, has escaped the Hogwarts dungeons. Citizens are encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the guards."

"You need to go!" Black hissed, as the voice continued, giving a detailed description of Severus.

He nodded hastily. "Thank you…Sirius."

Black's face smoothed out pleasantly and split into a roguish grin. "I can't believe it took me putting my own life on the line, rescuing you from certain death, to finally call me by my first name."

Severus scowled, suddenly aware of the other man's arms. "How am I supposed to get out of here?" he asked, and his trepidation had returned.

Black's cheerfulness disappeared instantly. His hands dropped to his sides. "I was going to levitate you over, but the guards will undoubtedly see you. I could Disillusion you again, I guess, but I don't know how you'd get visible again."

"What if you give me the Cloak? I'll leave it in the forest for you."

"James'll kill me! It's a family heirloom."

"Anyone found having assisted the felon Severus Snape will also be charged with treason."

"Black…" Severus started uneasily. He may not have liked the man at first, but he didn't want him to suffer for having helped him.

"I'll be fine," he replied hastily.

"Maybe you should come with me," Severus offered reluctantly.

"I'll be fine," Black repeated, sounding as if he were trying to convince himself. "You'll have to take the Cloak, then. Let me put a quick Tracking Charm on it." But he didn't move immediately, a strange, hesitating expression on his face.

"What is it?" Severus asked.

"Nothing," Black replied dismissively, but continued looking at him rather seriously. He narrowed his eyes and licked his lips. His left hand came up and rested on Severus's shoulder, close to his neck. "Look…Severus…if this is the last time we see each other—"

"So much for the better, I'd think," Severus said quickly. "Perhaps you could tell everyone that I assaulted you or such and forced you to help me escape."

Black faltered. "Yeah. Of course." There was a pause, during which Black seemed to battle with himself. "I guess…you need to go now."

"Yes," Severus said, feeling far more anxious than impatient.

Black pulled his wand out, and waved his wand about. A little red light came from the wand's tip and dissolved into the Cloak. He tapped himself on the head, and Severus was left disconcertedly watching Black being swallowed up by the background. The silvery material lifted as he stepped out.

"Ready?" he whispered.

"Yes," Severus replied, gripping his bag tightly. A few whispered words later, Severus found himself being lifted up into the air by invisible arms. He panicked, the magic reminding him of the strength of the werewolf's arms, the strength of the hold the beast would have over him if he got caught.

"Take it easy!" Black stage whispered from beneath him. Severus bit his lip, a habit he thought he had broken from his childhood, and nodded jerkily, clenching his muscles into stiffness. He was levitated higher into the air, his eyes darting around nervously as the Invisibility Cloak flapped around him in the wind as he was lifted higher and higher. He was reaching the top of the wall now, and over he went, the tip of his boot scraping the stone.

A guard was patrolling the wall, eyes narrowed and suspicious. Severus's heart leapt up into his throat. He curled his legs up and did his best to be quiet as he was floated over the wall. He did not take his eyes off of the roaming guard even as he floated downwards to the ground.

Solid ground could not come soon enough under his feet. He landed gracelessly, clamping his lips together in an attempt to be as silent as possible, and ran as hard as he could, not glancing back at the village, knowing that if he was caught, he'd hear it far before he'd see it.

The trees had never seemed as foreboding and welcoming as they did now. Severus darted between the foliage and slipped behind a tree to catch his breath. He rested for a few moments and turned slightly to peek out from the side. The grass rustled with a sudden gust of wind, but otherwise, nothing indicated that guards had followed him. He breathed a sigh of relief and collapsed contentedly against the bark, eyes closing in bliss.


His heart plummeted.

Severus's time – the time that wasn't occupied by school, helping his mother around the house, brewing potions for Madam Bones – was mostly spent worrying about his mother's declining health.

He had hardly expected her to be nonchalant about Igor's death, but he hadn't imagined she would be hit this hard by his absence. And now, with Severus off with Madam Bones, she had even more alone time to wallow in her misery. Well, even when Severus was present she seemed detached from the rest of the world, moving about slowly, if she moved about at all, and staring blankly into space.

If that was all she did, Severus would worry less. But at night, he could hear her crying herself to sleep. When she finally did fall asleep, it would be a fitful sleep, wrought with cold sweating and nightmares. During the day, she looked pale, though her eyes were surrounded by dark circles, and coughed a great deal. She went to work as usual, and came back in the evening, her demeanor not having changed. There was talk that she would take over Igor's work, transporting goods. She hadn't discussed it much with him, she'd barely spoken with him at all, but Severus didn't like the idea. The job would get them more money, something they desperately needed more of right now. However, not only would he see his mother less, but he knew that traveling the roads alone was dangerous, even more so as a lone woman denied access to magic.

He thought long and hard about it as he laid in bed, doing his best to block out his mother's sniffles across the room. He might be young, but he couldn't think of any positive outcomes. Their family had always had rotten luck; he'd always had rotten luck. It wasn't just that he'd been born illegitimate, but they'd been chased out of Hangleton, and he'd been chased through and out of school on more than one occasion, and he'd been chased by wolves, and –

He exhaled sharply. He did his best to clear his mind. Thinking of bad things never helped him go to sleep.

"I've never asked you what year you're in at school, Severus," Madam Bones said, one day, while they went through the marketplace. The merchants stared suspiciously at Severus but didn't dare say anything in the presence of the noblewoman or her bodyguard.

"I'm in the last year now," he replied, looking at the sweet rolls at one stand, ignoring the pooling of saliva in his mouth.

"Have you thought about what you want to apprentice in next year?"

"A little." In truth, he'd thought about it a lot, especially given his new experience as Madam Bones's little…well, whatever he was.

"Tell me, child."

He sighed. "I've been thinking about Potions…of course. And… about…transporting," he ended with a mutter.

"Transporting?" Madam Bones seemed bemused. "You're far too intelligent for such mundane work, Severus."

He felt a little bit of heat in his cheeks. "Thanks," he said quietly.

"No need to thank me for telling the truth," she replied. "Perhaps it's due to the fact that I don't know many children, but I don't know any that can brew potions without help or instruction."

Severus didn't know how to reply. He didn't.

"I've been in talks with certain people," she said, cryptically. "I've you're serious about apprenticing in Potions, I believe you have the potential to do great things."

Something swelled inside of Severus's chest. He didn't know what it was.

He didn't reply. He suddenly didn't know how.

A/N: just a little clarification: it says Severus is in his final year of schooling but that does NOT mean he's seventeen or done any Hogwarts-type curriculum. It's more like he's finishing the primary/elementary equivalent, and he's around 11 or 12 years old in these flashbacks.

Special thanks to all the people who reviewed and kept me steadily writing, even if it took ages…: queenawesome100, SeverusDmitri18, S.K.Y cyrus, and my two anonymous reviewers: KB, and yurfuturemanga-k

Reviews make me happy! :)