Author's Notes: First time I've ever submitted for publication :) All characters and some mentioned events in this story belong to JK Rowling et al.


The Difference Between Darkness and Black

By Marlina D.

       

Lucius was gazing up into his eyes, Lucius' hands were clasped around the back of his neck, Lucius's sweet, sweet mouth was murmuring words that he would have given anything not to hear.

"You have always been a whining, cringing toady, Severus."

Lucius rolled over, and he was left staring glumly at the perfect ridges of Lucius's back. He slid his mouth down against them, kissing the back of Lucius's smooth neck...

But Lucius wouldn't let him nearer. "For god's sake, Severus!" he snapped, irritated. "You make me sick. What have I been doing wasting my time on you?"

"Lucius," he said tenderly. "How can you ask me to give up all I've worked for these years?" The little crease that appeared between Lucius's eyebrows as he sat up to face Severus made him shiver, a little cowed. It was never good to make Lucius angry.

Lucius's eyes narrowed in disgust as he spat out the words: "Not enough courage to get out of this hole of a school and come with me. You're a coward, Severus!" He softly hissed, "Don't you see what I'm offering you? Don't you - care enough?" Lucius's fingertips stroked his chin as he bent down closer.

But he, Severus, sat up. "Lucius, I just can't." He swept his black hair out of his eyes and looked up in time to see Lucius furiously sliding his dark robe over his shoulders and down over his muscular torso. "I can't believe I wasted all this time," he hissed. He pulled on his shoes.

"Lucius, wait! I - " But it was too late. The door of his quarters slammed shut. Severus Snape swung his legs out from the bed and sat there, his face in his shaking hands. Did this episode mean that it was all over? Why was Lucius behaving this way? Suddenly asking him to quit his job, it was preposterous.

He remembered how they had started: he had met Lucius Malfoy several times during those dark days in his career, serving,

The Dark Lord.

He had never been certain whether Lucius was one of the Dark Lord's chosen, the hoods were effective at hiding identities, but then nobody was ever given too much information, especially not Severus. Being Voldemort's spy inside Hogwarts had meant he was in a very precarious position, and when he had been forced to give information to Dumbledore after he revealed himself, he had willingly given up the names of some twenty other supporters. None of these people were crucial to the Dark Lord's plans, he thought, but he knew the identities of no others.

He got up, wrapping his cloak around his body, and went into the toilet to analyze himself in the mirror.

Just a few months ago, before the school year started, Severus had been stopping in at his favorite bookstore to look up a book on Occlumency when Lucius had caught his eye through the front window. He came in and invited Severus to the Malfoy mansion for a gathering of wizards and witches, clarifying no further. He gazed meaningfully into Severus's eyes, and Severus agreed to come, feeling slightly light-headed.

When he arrived at the mansion the following week, however, there was no meeting and Lucius had seduced him to the Master bedchamber. He whispered in Severus' ear that young Draco and his wife were gone to visit relatives. Severus came willingly after that.

The ecstasy of that sweaty night was still vivid in his memory. His head was filled with the feel of Lucius's body, the scent of his smooth golden hair, the way he looked at Severus with those deep pale eyes while his hands did terrifying things to him, drawing great gasps of passion from him -

Severus now realized that Lucius had always seen him as a child. Lucius had always been so cold, so calculating. Never satisfied. His eyes narrowed and he spat into the sink. He felt like a fool.

Then again, when did he not feel like a fool? Year after year they had denied him the job he wanted: teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts. After he was discovered to be a spy for Voldemort, Dumbledore had spared him his position but forbidden him to teach that subject. Why had the Headmaster kept him on?

But he wouldn't think any more about that. The tolling of the wall clock interrupted his thoughts. He had five minutes until the next class began. Another hour of trying to get simple concepts into simple heads. Severus sighed.

He closed his robe around his body and, selecting a small vial of calming liquid from the shelf above his bed, Professor Severus Snape whirled down the corridor to his dungeon classroom. As he swept through the door, he took a few drops from the vial. Immediately, the wild thrashing of pain in his heart became the usual focused beat of malice.

       

Severus Snape was having a bad day.

The students looked at him with apprehensive eyes. He didn't feel like teaching them today, but he had no choice. He sighed.

"Today you will be attempting to make the Potion of Eternal Hatred. This is an extremely powerful potion, so do not, I repeat, do not accidentally ingest it. The antidote is in the metal bowl on your benches." With a flick of his wand, the ingredients needed appeared on the blackboard behind him. He sat down heavily in his chair and began to watch them bungle it. For advanced students, it astonished him how little they got right. Only his Slytherin students appeared to be making any progress; and the only progress they were making was to flick bits of Rose Root at the backs of the Gryffindors.

Just then, one of the Gryffindor students turned around to face the girl behind him over her bench, whispering furiously.

"Five points from Gryffindor, Weasley," the Professor intoned.

The red-haired boy spun around. "B-but sir, "

"And a detention, Weasley."

"Sir, she was hitting me on the, " Percy spluttered indignantly.

"Ten points from Gryffindor and two detentions. Would you like to keep going, Weasley?"

"No, sir." Weasley had looked as if he was about to explode. His ears were turning a nasty shade of red and he was breathless with fury. Yet he bowed his head in defeat.

"Good. Carry on," said Professor Snape with a dismissing wave of his hand, dangerously calm.

A few minutes later, one of the Gryffindors managed to up-end his cauldron all over the floor, and under the influence of the fumes began to argue violently with his desk-partner over whose fault it was. The professor shouted at them to clean it up, and ten Gryffindor points later it was gone. They shot each other dirty looks for the remainder of the class.

In the last few minutes of his seven year period, Severus Snape tried to concentrate on a list of ingredients he needed delivered from outside Hogwarts. The students began to pack up their books, bringing him back to the classroom. That boy was in the next class, he thought. Damnation. Potter was worse than his father had been. Professor Snape gave an involuntary shudder of hatred; the calming potion was wearing off.

The class ended. As they filed out, a whispering student mentioned Sirius Black. Severus almost dropped the list. Suddenly, he couldn't stop the memories from coming.

Year after year, throughout his time as a Hogwarts student, Severus had watched Sirius Black. Worshipped him, even. But James Potter had spoiled it all with his sly, smug grin and his humiliating practical jokes; poor Severus had always been Potter's favorite target. All because Severus wouldn't acknowledge his natural superiority, like everyone else. Everyone except Sirius, that is.

He absently wiped the last class's notes off the board with his wand.

As a boy, whenever Severus could find a picture of Sirius, he cut it out and put it in his secret hoard. How he had longed and longed and longed to touch that silky black hair, run his hands through it, kiss Sirius's lips. Night after night he dreamed of Sirius, and woke up gasping, drenched in sweat, ejaculate staining the front of his pajamas.

But Sirius had only taken notice of him to taunt him. He and Potter (how he still hated the name!) humiliated him, tortured him. Every look of contempt from Sirius made Severus want to die. Oh, he had tried at first to earn Sirius's respect, affection even, but every attempt failed and he was reduced to greater wretchedness, sworn to vengeance on Sirius for breaking his heart and making him miserable.

Yes, and for almost killing him, too.

"Settle down, settle down," he said to the new class, thoughts still far away. Draco Malfoy, Lucius's son, had walked in late. Harry Potter was glaring at his professor and Malfoy alternately, for some unfathomable reason. The boy was demented. The very picture of his father.

Back to his bitter reverie.

Severus had been seduced into Voldemort's service a few years after he graduated Hogwarts. Once initiated, he had been one of the lower ranks, a mere informant. Voldemort listened to him. He sympathized when Severus spoke of the horrors of his high school years. The Dark Lord understood him. Severus even told him about Sirius - and Voldemort smiled - perhaps a little too widely.

When he heard later what his trusting confession had brought about, when James Potter was dead and Sirius Black locked away, he turned away from the Dark Lord in horror and self- loathing. He decided to switch sides and work for Dumbledore against the evil forces. He couldn't undo the evil he had already caused, but he could stop more from happening. Severus didn't like to think of those days. The Dark Mark never burned on his arm any more.

Until a few months ago, Sirius Black had been imprisoned in Azkaban, the most terrible prison a wizard could be sent to. Severus shuddered to think that Sirius had escaped. He didn't know the exact facts of Sirius' involvement, but having felt Sirius's malice himself, didn't put it past Sirius to kill his best friend and a street full of people.

The Longbottom boy was carefully screwing up his potion again.

"Orange, Longbottom," he said, "Orange. Tell me, boy, does anything penetrate that thick skull of yours?" A look of blinkered idiocy spread across the cowering boy's face. The Granger girl, in her usual know-it-all fashion, was offering to help with Longbottom's potion.

"I don't remember asking you to show off, Miss Granger," he snapped.

Severus was relieved when the class was finally over. As he walked between the benches, correcting the class's mistakes, he overheard a few more students talking about Sirius Black, and had had to take another sip of the calming liquid before demonstrating the effects of the Shrinking Potion to the class, on Longbottom's toad.

He locked the door of his classroom and went to lunch.

       

After lunch, he walked through deserted corridors toward the teachers' lounge, thinking. He supposed he'd better start working on the Wolfsbane potion.

Not only one former classmate had come back to haunt Severus recently. Oh no. One of Sirius's best friends, Remus Lupin, an accursed werewolf, had returned to fill the post that should be rightfully Severus's. How many years had he been trying to get that position? And Dumbledore gives it to a werewolf, a dangerous half-animal who had once, at the encouragement of Sirius and Potter, almost killed him? It made him want to strangle the monster. He wouldn't be surprised if Lupin started killing students, he really wasn't - He took yet another sip of the calming liquid.

Severus turned around a corner and came to an abrupt halt.

Lucius Malfoy was walking towards him. Thanks to the calming liquid, his heart gave only a small lurch. They looked evenly at each other.

"Ah, Severus, there you are," Lucius purred. "Do you have some time?"

Severus considered. Under Lucius's sultry gaze his resentment began to shrink. "I have to give a class in an hour, but before that - "

"Oh good. I was about to leave when I remembered I'd - left something in your apartment." Severus looked searchingly into his eyes and Lucius gave a knowing smirk.

Besides, Severus thought, maybe Lucius had decided to give up their argument.

Ten minutes later they were in each other's arms again. Severus moaned as Lucius stroked his nipples roughly with his tongue, then ran it across his stomach. He began to run his mouth softly up and down his erection. He sucked on the very tip and then moved his mouth down, sliding his tongue down the underside towards the base. Severus's grip tightened on the wrought-iron bedstead as Lucius began to suck him. He closed his eyes. Clouds of fantasies began to descend slowly on his mind.

His eyes flew open again when he realized who he had been thinking about. But oh, it had been so irresistible -

He let out a cry as semen shot from him, arched his back and then collapsed. Lucius was smiling triumphantly up at him. Lucius, not Sirius.

Then Lucius's tongue was in his mouth, and he had slipped his hand down between them, grasping the Potions master as his knee forced Severus's legs apart. He flipped Severus over and put a hand between his buttocks. Lucius was making low excited noises in his throat as he guided himself inside Severus. Severus steeled himself.

Lucius pulled his hips up as he began to thrust back and forth into Severus. His hands gripped Severus's body with iron strength, and he pounded against him in a fast rhythm. Severus wanted meekly for it to be over, feeling a bit seasick. As Lucius collapsed on to his back beside him, he silently waited for whatever Lucius had to say.

"Oh god," Lucius panted.

Severus closed his eyes.

"That was the worst you've ever been."

Severus got up abruptly and went to clean himself, slamming the door to the toilet behind him. He couldn't stand it anymore. He was immensely tired.

When he came back out again, Lucius was gone and the bell was tolling again, announcing the start of the next class. Severus thought moodily about funeral bells, and threw his robes back on.

       

A few hours later, it was time for detention. He got back to the dungeon classroom, and Percival Weasley, the Head Boy, was already sitting at his bench, waiting expectantly.

"Ah, Professor Snape?" the boy started.

"What is it?" he snapped.

"Well, Sir," Weasley hesitated. "I was wondering if - well, you see, I'm very proud of my school record."

Professor Snape looked at him sourly.

"I've never gotten a detention before, Sir, in all my seven years. I'm sure the Ministry - "

"Oh. I see," Snape snarled. "Since you've been such a good boy, you expect me to help you out and not put this on your school record? Is that what you're asking me to do?"

"Er - well - yes, Sir," Weasley was going red around the ears again, reminding Snape unpleasantly of the rest of his family.

"Certainly not. I do not let students who have made a travesty of my classroom off easily, Weasley. You should know that by now."

The boy actually tried a defiant look before his shoulders slumped. He quickly snapped back into his usual strained upright posture, though.

Snape got back to the business at hand. "Today, Weasley, since you're such a favorite of mine, you are to inventory every single potion of the five hundred on these shelves, along with its serial number, molarity, molality and magic number. Then, you will list all the ingredients I am running out of on another piece of parchment, first putting the bottles on that table over there." Weasley ran to obey.

While the boy began examining bottles and writing down their information, Severus sank his head down onto his chest and began to think.

Why had he suddenly begun to fantasize about Sirius while he was in bed with Lucius? He hated Sirius. Didn't he?

He remembered the day Sirius and his friends had snuck into the Slytherin quarters, no doubt using their infernal invisibility cloak, probably bent on finding something to embarrass Severus. He was always trying to get them expelled; they wanted to blackmail him. They certainly achieved their objective, his collection of pictures. The pictures of Sirius. After that, Potter had teased him unceasingly and had spread it around the school. Sirius had never looked at him again, not even contemptuously. The other boys who had beds in his dormitory room locked him in the toilets while they changed. Eventually, tired of this game, they requested that Severus be moved to another room. He ended up sleeping in a cramped broom closet until they could find another room. He was completely alone there, but at least he didn't have to listen to their whispered taunts at night.

In the halls between classes, though, he was never left alone. It became the fashion to pinch his bum or grab his crotch and say, "How'd you like that, Snapey? Did it excite you? Going to start collecting pictures of me and wanking in front of them?"

These memories flooded, unstoppable, through his brain, and his face burned hot with shame. Forgetting for a moment that the Weasley boy was still in the room, he covered his face and whimpered, "No - "

He looked up to see Weasley staring at him.

"I'll expect you here tomorrow, Weasley," he dismissed him. The boy scurried out of the room.

       

The Wolfsbane potion was bubbling on the stove as Severus extinguished the torches in his bedroom and prepared to fall asleep.

Almost as soon as his head touched the pillow, they began: strange, dark dreams filled with shifting shapes and weird shadows. He kept glimpsing familiar faces, contorted and mutilated.

He was lost in a labyrinth of doors. He turned the handle of the one in front of him, and it swung slowly open. Behind it was Lucius, naked. Behind him, Severus could see the silhouette of the Slytherin boys' dorm. As he watched, Lucius's head began to transform.

It became unmistakably the Dark Lord's.

The dream Severus fell back in fear as Lucius/Voldemort came closer, wand pointed at him. The Dark Mark imprinted in his forearm began to burn as the wand's point pierced the skin over his heart -

He woke up to see a tiny dark shape scuttle across the floor. A shadow fell across it, and across Severus's bed.

He must have been still dreaming. He must have been. With cold dread, he pinched himself; it hurt.

Sirius Black, tall and gaunt, stood in the patch of moonlight coming from the window.

"Where did he go?" Black growled.

"W-who? What do you mean?" Severus was reaching for his wand. Dream or no dream, he was dealing with a man who had shown himself to be quite capable of murder.

But Sirius was quicker. With a word, Severus' wand flew obediently into his hand. He pointed it downward and peered into the shadows under the bed. "Lumos!" he commanded, and the tip of the wand shone brightly.

Severus stared.

Sirius had changed drastically since the time they had last met, Severus thought, his eyes tracing the silhouetted frame of the enemy he hadn't seen for thirteen years. His body looked thin as a knife blade underneath his heavy cloak. His cheekbones stood out sharply, and eyes that once gleamed had become dull with pain. His long, dirty hair showed signs of graying, surely because of the time he had spent in Azkaban. Severus shivered. He was glad Black was ignorant of his own part in sending him there.

"A rat. He was running across the floor just now. You must have seen him." Sirius narrowed his eyes. "Don't be such a fool, Snape. Where did he go?"

"You really are mad, Black," he whispered.

A bolt of energy from the tip of the wand incinerated the lamp just beside his head.

"Well, go on. If you want to kill me, do it now," Severus snarled.

"Snape, I wouldn't waste my time trying to hurt you." There was the same familiar contempt. Severus glared at him.

"Why not? That's not the same attitude you had twenty-five years ago, when you sent your werewolf friend after me."

Black sat heavily on a chair, still carefully pointing the wand at Severus, who dared not move. Then he turned his head away.

They sat for some minutes, oddly silent, Severus trying frantically to think of a way to escape. Flashes of old memories, irritatingly, pushed their way forward in his thoughts. He waited tensely for Black to do whatever it was he came to do.

Black stood biting his lip, his eyes roaming the shadows. He was running his fingers absently back and forth along Severus' wand, sending small sparks of magic flashing up and down its length. Severus was almost hypnotized following the movement of his hand. He was connected with that usurped wand.

Black turned back towards him with a scowl on his face and Severus closed his mouth quickly. "Severus, I'm innocent."

They gazed at each other. With the pain in those eyes, Severus was almost compelled to believe him.

"Give me back my wand, or at least stop stroking it like that," he said, sulkily.

Black sprang. Severus tensed, ready for the blow.

When the other man started kissing him, there wasn't room for any "why's" or "which's" or "how's", only an emphatic "what?"

"What are you doing?"

Sirius didn't answer him, but tilted his head to get a better angle.

Severus began tentatively to return the kisses, drinking deep from new sensations. Sirius was a surprisingly light weight on his body, and felt painfully thin, but his arms clasped Severus to him with unexpected strength.

Severus thought about trying to push him of, this was a mass murderer, he thought, but his body had other ideas. He almost couldn't bear it when their lips parted again.

Sirius paused, breathing heavily. They rolled over and lay side by side, the sheets thrown back. They looked at each other with shock. For a brief second Severus caught the scent of Lucius on his pillow, but it was very faint.

"I've been waiting for this for twenty-five years," Sirius gasped.

"What?" Severus had never wanted anyone so much in his life. Sirius looked on the verge of fainting. He groaned.

"I'll be right back," Severus said. He went to the potion cabinet beside the door. "I can make a Reviving potion. It always restores one to health, even if the one who takes it is close to death. You look like you need it." Looking back at Sirius, he saw that the other man was following his movements closely.

He poured the contents of the vials he selected into a wooden goblet, where they hissed and sparkled as if they had a life of their own. He carried the cup to where Sirius lay.

"Here, drink this."

Sirius looked into his eyes for a brief moment, wary like an animal. "You put a sedative in it. I saw you."

Severus grabbed suddenly for his wand. He wasn't fast enough, though. Sirius had it in his hand, Severus was blinded by a flash of purple light, and didn't wake up again until the morning had come.

       

He sat up and groaned, his head feeling like it had been used to play Wizard Bowling by a first-time player.

Before breakfast, Dumbledore had heard some of Sirius Black's midnight visit. He hurried down with Severus to his chamber.

"But how did he get in?" Dumbledore asked.

"He must have gotten in through a window somewhere."

Dumbledore tut-tutted at this, and examined the window, muttering about the security charms put on the castle walls. Severus stood across the room by the bed, twirling his wand nervously between his slender fingers.

"Maybe we will have to give the dementors more freedom around the castle," Dumbledore sighed.

"Headmaster, he said he was innocent."

Dumbledore quirked an eyebrow in his direction.

"I'd like very much to hear his story," the Headmaster added slowly. "He was looking for someone in your chamber, you say? If he is innocent, this is very important information. It's strange that he missed the chance to kill you, Severus." He peered over his half-moon spectacles at the Professor, a small smile forming in the creases around his mouth.

"I tried to give him the Sleeping potion, but he sensed something. I wanted to bring him to you," the embarrassed Potions teacher muttered.

Dumbledore's face turned serious again. "After what you've told me about your hand in his capture and arrest, I'd advise you to be very careful, Severus. I'll look into this matter. If he does visit you again, I'd like to know. I suppose we don't have to tell the dementors just yet."

The Potions master nodded to him and then stalked silently out of the room.

       

That afternoon, at the beginning of the detention period, Weasley was once again sitting at his bench when Snape strode through the door. The professor signaled him to begin where he had left off with the shelves with a wave of his hand. The boy slunk off with his quill and parchment, and the professor put his feet up on his desk and watched him out of the corner of his eye, going through the first two inventory lists on his lap.

He remembered that he had wanted to check on the condition of a couple of the rarest solutions, and called the boy over.

"Weasley, get me that jar of concentrated Proserpine nectar. And not the one with the red label, the one with the blue."

The young man slid out from between the bare metal shelves with the jar clutched in his hands, hurrying to avoid Snape's displeasure. The jar was a quarter-filled with deep yellow syrup that sloshed stickily as he approached the teacher's desk. As he set it down on the cold stone surface, Snape noticed that there was some crystallization occurring on the inside surface of the glass. Still, there seemed to be enough to last at least until the end of the school year.

"Thank you, Weasley. You may put it back now. Be careful with it - "

The boy snatched the jar off the desk and turned around, but his robe caught on the edge of a bench and he tripped. The jar slid out of his hands and crashed on to the floor. Some of the syrup splashed up onto the front of his robe and hands.

Severus cursed and whipped out his wand.

Percy turned around slowly. There was a dreamy look in his eyes. As the aphrodisiac soaked into the boy's skin it took quick effect, and Severus knew that the only antidote took a week to prepare. He blamed himself for allowing a student to handle the powerful chemical.

"Oh - Professor Snape," Percy's eyelashes were lowered and he took a step towards Severus.

"Reparo." Severus pointed his wand at the shattered jar, and it flew back together again. Percy was only a few feet from him. As he stepped around the desk to clean up the liquid, he found his way blocked by his student. Severus tried to push him out of the way, but the boy would not move. Instead, he put a hand on Severus's face.

As Weasley tried to kiss him, Severus pushed him angrily away and stepped around him, pointed his wand at the mess on the floor and watched as it drained slowly away into thin air. That left only one problem. The young man had come up behind him, wrapped his fingers in Severus's hair and was kissing the nape of his neck softly. Severus shuddered as he felt the passion in the thin, taut body pressed against his. Those lips were maddeningly soft.

"All right, Weasley, up to the hospital wing."

"But - " Percy's mouth turned downwards. "I want to stay with you."

He grabbed the Head Boy by the upper arm and propelled him through the winding corridors and up flights of stairs. The boy was not particularly strong. He wailed his everlasting love at every step. "Professor Snape, I love you! The feelings I bear you will never diminish - until I die in love."

He tried to look Severus in the eye, but they marched on.

When they got to Madam Pomfrey's domain, she looked in bewilderment at them. It was quite a sight. Severus Snape was holding Percy Weasley, the Head Boy, by the neck of his shirt, his dark eyes flashing angrily. The red-headed student was warbling a sort of love song, sobbing brokenheartedly. As Snape let go, pushing him into the room, the boy sank to his knees.

"Weasley had an unfortunate accident with some concentrated Proserpine nectar," Snape said curtly.

Percy was holding the hem of his teacher's robe to his cheek. "Tell me what I must do to win your favor, my love," he moaned.

Madam Pomfrey couldn't help it, she burst out laughing. Snape frowned menacingly at her. "I will bring the antidote to you once I have it finished, in a week." He stormed out.

"No, don't leave me..." Percy wailed.

She looked down kindly at his tear-streaked face and then picked him up off the floor. "There there," she soothed briskly as she led him to a bed and then spelled him to it. "Love can be cruel, and don't I know it."

Out in the hallway, Severus drained the vial of Calming potion.

       

For weeks after that brief hour of pleasure with Sirius, Severus found it very hard to sleep. At night, he jumped at every sound, imagining it to be Sirius's quiet footstep outside his window. As a result of his insomnia, he became even more irritable and nasty. Often he would take points from his students' houses for the slightest mistakes, though markedly less often for Slytherin. The students parted before him in crowded hallways, cringing against the walls lest his wrath be released upon them, and the teachers teased him very little about the affair with the Weasley boy, afraid that he might actually snap.

Lucius came back to the school a couple of times, on pretense of business of some kind or other, but seemed to be waiting for Severus to make reuniting moves. Severus was not at all inclined to make them anymore.

Apparently, Sirius Black had been almost caught inside the building once or twice more, in the dormitory where Famous Harry Potter slept. This news threw the entire school into a panic. It also meant more watchfulness around the castle, and soon rumors of the visits stopped.

He kept cursing himself for that sleeping potion.

One night, as Severus couldn't sleep, he heard faint movements outside the window. He sat up silently, alert, and his ears strained for any sound. He didn't know whether he should be rejoicing or ready to fight.

His room was pitch black. The only light was that of the pale moon, trickling down from the window set into his wall. He had left this open, as he usually did, to try and cool the room. It had a powerful charm on it, though; he was awakened the moment it was disturbed. Were the sounds simply a hallucination, a symptom of his anxiety, or something else?

His question was soon answered, as nothing happened. He lay torturously awake for another hour, staring into the darkness, until finally his brain slowed down and he relaxed into a relatively peaceful -

The window was definitely being disturbed now.

Once again, Severus sat up in bed, wand at the ready. A silhouette the shape of a man had fallen across the moon. Every nerve in his brain was screaming at him, and sweat prickled on his upper lip. A dark leather boot had planted itself cautiously on his windowsill. A few minutes later, another set down next to it.

Severus slid silently out of bed.

The figure sat down smoothly on the sill, then his legs slid down against the wall.

He took his chance. "Lumos!" he declared, and pointed his wand straight at Sirius Black's chest. He strode forward.

"Don't move," he said.

"Severus," breathed Sirius. He looked panicked.

Sirius's eyes were pleading with him. Severus tried to resist. Soon, their faces were inches away from each other. Sirius was still half-sitting on the windowsill.

"You stunned me with my own wand. Do you expect me to welcome you back?" growled Severus.

"You tried to drug me. I came back anyway," answered Sirius desperately.

Severus tried to frown, but his voice sounded husky with desire. "I doubt very much that I was the reason for this secretive return," but as Sirius slid down from the sill, he lowered his wand slightly.

His mouth seemed to move closer to Sirius' of its own accord. As their lips met, everything seemed somehow slightly better than it had for a few weeks.

He dropped the wand as Sirius embraced him, and felt the ridges of the fugitive's ribs noticeable against his own. The warm wetness of the other man's mouth contrasted starkly with the papery dry feeling of his skin. He slipped his hand downwards between them.

Sirius stopped. "Have you ever done this before? With a man, I mean?" he whispered.

"Yes." Severus felt the other man grow hard beneath his hand. He was large, oh god. He was huge -

"Oh." Sirius looked nervous. But he made no move to stop Severus.

Severus kissed him again, slowly and warmly on the mouth. He slid his tongue between Sirius's lips briefly, teasing. He kissed his jaw line, nuzzled the tender skin beneath his ear. He left soft kisses on his neck, each one lower down. Severus felt Sirius's heart beat faster as he realized what was coming.

Severus knelt before him, stroking him to even greater hardness with his white, bony fingers. All his nerves were on fire as he took Sirius into his mouth.

Soon Sirius had his hands in Severus's hair, gasping with pleasure. He thrust again and again, barely noticing the cold stone wall or the windowsill cutting into his back. Then, with a great cry, he released it all and at the same time howled reflexively, his dog instincts coming through.

They pulled apart. Severus stood as if transfixed, looking at him. Sirius was amazed at the change that had come over the cold Potions Professor; his sallow face was flushed and his coal-black eyes were kindled. Sirius could almost feel the heat coming from them. They moved together to the bed.

Later, Severus sighed quietly. "The wizarding world doesn't like our kind."

Sirius turned and looked at him with tired eyes. "Wonderful. Another thing to add to my list of ‘reasons the world wants me dead.'"

Severus wrapped his limbs about the other man's body, thinking how much worse his own life could be.

       

Sirius came back again and again after that. Severus never tried to give him another sleeping draught.

Sometimes, they played the part of boys in love. They would talk about the old days in awkward, short sentences and Severus would explore his lover's body as if it were a map, tracing lines on it with his wand, and his tongue, until the skin tingled with magic. Then they would drink their pleasure of each other until they were exhausted.

Sometimes, though, they didn't speak to each other at all. As soon as Sirius slid through the window (it was always open now), they held each other silently and came together desperately, almost violently. Halfway through, though, Sirius would suddenly push him away in shame, scowling as though they still hated each other. Then Severus would stand watching angrily and almost guiltily as Sirius climbed out the window.

One night, as Sirius came into his bedroom, Severus didn't look up from the Wolfsbane potion he was mixing. Sirius didn't say anything, but came up behind him and gently put his hands on his shoulders. Severus added another measure to the mixture on the gas burner from the vial in his hand and tapped the cauldron with his wand.

"Listen, Sirius," Severus started, "I, "

He had been determined to tell Sirius the secret guilt he felt, burning in his heart. All day he'd been thinking of what to say: ‘It was me, I helped send you to Azkaban'? But the words wouldn't come.

Sirius stepped away. "I have something to say first."

Severus stared at him.

"This - is the last time I come to your room, Severus." Sirius's voice trembled. "I can't do this any more."

Suddenly Severus was very angry. He stood up very fast. "Are you ashamed of me? Of our lovemaking?" he spat the words at him. "Coward. You're sleeping with a man. Sirius, you like men. You can't avoid it forever."

Sirius avoided his eyes. Severus turned away and put his hands on the desk. He wanted very much to smash something.

Time stood still.

"Severus, Listen - you don't know what it's like..."

Severus shot him a hard look that softened when he saw how Sirius was fighting to compose himself. He crossed the room and slid his arms around his careworn lover. Sirius buried his face in his neck. They stood that way, holding each other, for a long time. Severus's mind was in turmoil.

They were interrupted by the sound of the door swinging open.

"Severus," hissed Lucius Malfoy. His face was contorted with fury as he saw their embrace. Sirius stepped quickly behind Severus. What would everyone say if they knew the Potions Master harbored a wanted murderer?

Lucius whipped out his wand. "And who is this?" he asked as he stepped forward, a nasty smile on his face. Then he stopped short. He recognized Sirius's face in the shadows. Severus turned away from him and toward the fire, thinking furiously. His wand was across the room, on the desk. If he tried to get it, Lucius would surely stop him.

Sirius grimaced. "What are you doing here?" he challenged.

Lucius sneered. "I might ask the same of you. Severus asked me here tonight to shag him silly - unfortunately, I see now that he's too busy playing with animals."

Severus whirled around. "Sirius, it's not tr, " With a flick of his wand, Lucius silenced him. No sound came from his throat. Lucius stood directly in front of the desk, now. Lucius took in Sirius' furious expression with visible delight. "Oh, so you imagined you were special, did you?" he continued softly, coming closer. Sirius could feel the rank breath on his face and turned his head aside. "Severus's one and only beloved, did you? Let me set you straight."

The blond man paused, a mocking smile on his lips.

"Severus would fuck anyone if they'd let him." Taking advantage of Sirius's distraction, Lucius grabbed Sirius's crotch and squeezed hard. Sirius doubled over, tears in his eyes.

But as Lucius turned his attention back to Severus, he was caught off guard. He fell to his knees, winded by Sirius' punch to his solar plexus. His wand fell to the floor.

"Did you think I was still sensitive to pain, after my years in Azkaban?" Sirius growled. Lucius crawled backwards towards his wand, fear in his eyes.

As soon as he had recovered it, he raised it to Sirius' chest. Ropes flew out, binding Sirius tightly.

Another jab of his wand and the back of Sirius's head hit the floor with a sickening crack. He stayed deathly still.

Severus found his voice again. "You ass," he hissed, trying to maneuver around to the desk.

"Severus, I must admit I'm surprised at you," Lucius said, standing up. He kicked Sirius in the stomach and Sirius groaned through the ropes binding his mouth shut. Lucius's wand was trained on Severus, who was now just next to his wand. One quick movement - "I didn't know you were capable of such bad taste in men," Lucius sneered.

"I didn't know I was either, Lucius. Now I realize my mistake," Severus said nastily, snatching for his wand. A blinding light shot out of it, catching Lucius off guard, throwing him to his knees. Lucius rose again, face twisted in anger. A flick of his wand and Severus felt his throat become silent once more. He was helpless.

"Imperio."

He tried to fight the soothing, slippery voice in his mind, but he was almost helpless before it. Come to me, it suggested. Lucius beckoned, and he came. On the floor, Sirius woke again, and struggled weakly. Lucius took his wand and stuck it in his belt.

"Poor traitor," hissed Lucius, trailing his fingers over Severus' chest. "It's almost too easy to kill you."

Relax. Let it happen, the voice continued.

Lucius kissed him, forcing his tongue deep inside Severus' mouth. Then he stepped back again, and motioned him onto the floor. Severus knelt, shaking. The slippery voice droned on.

"Don't try and resist me, Severus. It will only hurt more." Serve me.

"Too, too easy," Lucius murmured, staring off into space as Severus unbuttoned his robes and reached for his cock. "I shouldn't have bothered trying to get you to leave the castle, to some anonymous spot in the hills - too easy to say that you were killed with your own wand by the famous murderer, Sirius Black. Wouldn't the Dark Lord be pleased!"

The black-haired man stroked him faster, his eyes glazed over. Lucius gave an involuntary moan of pleasure before continuing. "How ironic! I like that. Perhaps I could deliver that very same Sirius Black to the - ah - authorities - oh - myself - " he gasped, leaning back against a bedpost and closing his eyes.

Sirius tried to curse, but the bonds were too tight about his mouth.

For a moment as he climaxed, Lucius relaxed his grip on Severus' mind; in that one moment Severus jumped back.

"NO!" he shouted.

"Silencio," said Lucius quietly, and Severus fell back into mechanical obedience.

Does it taste good? asked the slippery voice as Severus licked Lucius' cum off his palm. Lucius smirked and stared at Sirius.

"Maybe I should let you join us," he said, and raised his wand.

Very slowly, as if bowing under the weight of mountains, Severus stood up and knocked Lucius's wand arm to the side. Lucius whirled around, surprised. The wand fell out of his belt unnoticed and lay only a few feet away on the floor.

"Crucio."

Severus writhed in pain. Lucius stood over him, sneering down into his face. Severus' bones were on fire, but he couldn't scream.

The pain diminished and Severus looked up to see Lucius with a strange look in his eyes. His mouth pulled slowly into a grin. It was frighteningly full of concentrated - enjoyment. Severus was reminded briefly of Voldemort.

Then he convulsed again, helpless to stop the curse that shot through him, tearing him limb from limb. He felt a white-hot hatred such as he had never felt, never felt since Voldemort. His eyes rolled up into his head, his mind slipping into insanity.

Suddenly, Severus heard himself making sounds of absolute agony; his vocal chords worked again.

But the curse was getting worse. He had to stop it before he lost consciousness - He gathered all the mental strength he could, reached for his wand and croaked, "Impedimentia - "

Lucius flew back against the wall, eyes wide in surprise, and the pain finally ceased. As the blond fell to the floor, the wand in his hand snapped in half.

The next thing Severus knew, Sirius was holding him, calling his name, eyes full of urgent concern.

"Severus, I love you, please be all right."

He was sincere, Severus thought vaguely, with wonder. Then he closed his eyes and everything was no more.

As Severus slept, Sirius picked up his wand and strode over to where Lucius sat, stunned. "So," he barked. "You've been sent by Voldemort to kill Severus."

Lucius laughed nastily. "Wrong. You can't prove I'm still a Death Eater, Black. Who would believe you, anyway?"

"It would be Severus' word against yours," said Sirius quietly.

The blond man's face turned shark-like. "He could expose me as a Death Eater, and I could expose him as a man who harbors dangerous international fugitives."

"I should just kill you now," said Sirius, glowering at him.

"You really are a murderer," said Lucius silkily.

A shadow passed over the fugitive's face.

Malfoy continued, "I could tell you things that would change your perspective on your beloved Severus, you know."

"I know he was a Death Eater before he switched sides," said Sirius impatiently.

"Oh, yes," smiled Lucius coolly. "That's common knowledge. But did you know that he helped put you in Azkaban?"

Sirius stared coldly at him. "Liar."

Lucius was gleeful. "He never told you? About how he went to the Dark Lord and told him how you tortured him in school - about how he lusted after you and you snubbed him? He never told you that it was he who encouraged Voldemort to go after James and Lily Potter?" The grin on his face made Sirius sick as he tried to fight with his inner conflict.

At that moment, the man on the bed groaned. Sirius rushed to his side, and the Death Eater slipped out of the door into the hallway.

       

Severus awoke, carefully. A cool hand touched his cheek. He opened his eyes.

Sirius was there, sitting on the edge of the bed. Severus felt his chest tighten with emotion. Sirius looked so forlorn - Severus reached up and pulled his lips to his own.

At that moment there were raised voices in the hallway outside. "Sirius Black? Are you sure, Lucius?"

Sirius slipped silently to the window and disappeared into the night.

Severus, watching him leave in the moment before the rest of the faculty burst into his room, knew somehow that the beautiful thing they shared was flickering dangerously. As he lay back into his pillow, he groaned.


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