The summer before Harry’s sixth year, Wormtail was finally discovered. Sirius was cleared of the charges set against him. It took them long enough. He became the new DADA teacher (much to my annoyance), as the previous one had only stayed on for a year as a favor to Albus. He requested the room in the dungeons. There were few rooms down there, and chances were he would end up in quarters either facing or adjoining mine. Albus reacted to this request in his regular fashion: a knowing look and not a comment made.
The final battle came after the middle of the sixth year. Slowly, growing bolder and more daring, more violent, the Dark Lord’s attacks finally reached their culmination just after the winter break. That freezing night, death eaters surrounded Hogwarts. A few slipped through before we managed to arrange our forces. We were well trained and had them captured within a quarter of an hour. Lucius Malfoy was one of them. I’d been his favorite toy for years, before I’d turned to Albus for help. Needless to say, Sirius had a particular dislike for him. He was the one to capture the senior Malfoy, and in an ingeniously unpleasant fashion. I hadn’t even realized there was such a thing as a castrating spell. Apparently Sirius hadn’t either, because afterwards he couldn’t even remember what he’d said.
Of course, that was only the beginning of the battle. The time came for us to face Lord Voldemort directly. We had destroyed most of his adherents, and others had fled. Potter stood before Voldemort with his lover, young Malfoy, beside him. Sirius and I were on either side of them, and Granger and Weasley stood behind us. Albus was isolated from the action, trying desperately to hold up a complicated barrier which, though not as impermeable as was possible, had the unique property of letting our attacks through as they warded off Voldemort’s and the death eaters’. The dark lord made his move, and with a wave of hand, Draco was thrown fifty feet away. Harry flinched, but remained firm, yelling every curse he knew, watching as they were effortlessly batted away. Ah, always the fearless Griffindor. Voldemort then raised his wand and uttered a rare death curse, one that was in fact archaic, nearly forgotten by the wizarding world.
The principle of the curse was simple enough. It unmade a person. They regressed in age, reliving every memory, until they were no more than a child, no more than an infant, no more than a fetus, no more than two haploid cells, a sperm and egg, lying useless in the dirt. Excruciatingly painful as the curse was, it also released an incredible amount of energy, causing the victim to for all appearances spontaneously combust.
The true horror of the curse was perhaps that it left nothing to mourn, no body, no blood, nothing but a memory. And Sirius, the daft git, had to jump in the thing’s path. My protective action was automatic. I dug deep into our merged well of power and pulled the curse into myself. Sirius felt my effort and pulled back. The incantation stretched between us, and when it was spent, thanks to our unique bond, it only took half its toll on either of us. We were only stripped to half our respective ages.
I had hated being seventeen the first time. The third degree burns certainly didn’t help me appreciate my sudden return to youth.
Wizard medicine is really quite remarkable. War had even led to a few advancements. Thankfully, medicine had advanced enough to prevent us from getting any permanent disfigurement, and neither Sirius nor I had any scarring. But he looked so...*pale* lying on that bed in Hogwarts’ medical ward. I remember how he looked back when we were in school (I did, after all, pretty much stalk him). He’d been athletic and tan, overlong hair making him appear the dashing cad. Now his hair was shorter, for convenience I supposed, and though he was still muscular he had a weak look about him. He had not seen the sun at all in our time in the hospital ward, and he was almost as colorless as I was. I had always preferred stirring cauldrons in dark dungeons to outdoor exercise, so a while in Poppy’s care at Hogwarts’ infirmary did not alter my complexion overmuch.
I remember Sirius once said I was much less gangly and scrawny than he had expected. I told him it was isometric exercise, but did not bother to clarify. Being a death eater spy, and as a result, being constantly tense, helps one to develop a sort of wiry strength. The clenching of all of one’s muscles and a habitually accelerated heart rate had given my body a quality of overexertion, as opposed to the limp atrophy of one who rarely works to break a sweat. Oh, not that I never broke a sweat - it just tended to be a cold one. Sirius did say, though, that I was too thin. I had never eaten much. Extreme stress over the years meant that I rarely ate enough. Overexertion and hunger - Sirius said it was a wonder I’d never collapsed. I did not deign to mention that once I had in fact done just that - and Poppy had thereafter taken to monitoring my food intake.
It was his fault, partly. Linked as we were, I’d often shared his more traumatic experiences at Azkaban. It was a fairly fair tradeoff for those traumatic experiences of mine as a death eater that he had had to share. I think I hated the Dementors even more than Sirius did. I hated them for hurting him.
So I knew he’d suffered. We’d lived each other’s sufferings. Still, it had been an awful shock seeing Sirius looking nearly as badly off as I when he transformed from Padfoot at that momentous meeting in Dumbledore’s office at the end of Harry’s fourth year. His hair was uncut and unruly and he looked haggard. I had felt a rising well of concern and worry and ruthlessly suppressed it with a sneer. I had hated that I couldn’t help my feelings for Sirius - not back when I attended high school, not when we ravaged each other in that alley, and certainly not during that meeting - after sharing our pain and pining for the other’s company for too, too many years.
But I didn’t mind so much anymore. Which is why I walked over to his hospital bed. “Time, to wake up, Sirius,” I murmured, and kissed him awake.
He opened his eyes, blinking in surprise. My face hovered a mere inch above his own, my lips pressed to his in a chaste kiss. Suddenly, feeling self conscious, I drew away, allowing my scowl to drop over my features. Sirius grabbed my hand before I could retreat to the other end of the room and used it to pull himself into a sitting position. “Severus?”
“Harry’s fine, I think. I can’t recall very clearly. In any case, the killing spell Voldemort cast didn’t hit him. You saved him from that.”
“And you saved me.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. I certainly didn’t enjoy being reminded of how much danger Sirius had put himself in, and I’ve never taken compliments well. I suppose anger was as good a defense as any. I snapped my hand away. “Yes. I saved you. What were you thinking, Sirius! You could have died!” I roared in aggravation, and flinched away when he put a hand on my shoulder.
“Well, we’re here, so Harry must have killed Voldemort - which he wouldn’t have done if he had died, which could well have happened if I had been bothered with an overabundance of thought. And you could have died too, with that risk you took. I felt you, Severus. You would have taken that whole curse into yourself if I had let you.”
“I saw what happened, Sirius, and Harry had a morphio spell half cast by the time you leaped. He had his situation under control. What you did was stupid and unnecessary.” He put his hand on my shoulder again, and I spun around in anger, seizing him by the shoulders and...kissing him? Yes, because his full lips were dark pink and beckoning. Because he was beautiful, even pale and worn in a hospital gown. Because I needed to taste him, to remind myself that he was really there. Because I’ve loved him since I was nine years old and I was so scared of losing him I nearly died trying to save him.
“I love you Severus,” he sighed.
“Oh, do shut up,” I said, before I moved my mouth down under his chin and lower, sucking lightly around his Adam’s apple. He sighed again and began to slide his fingers up my hospital gown.
“Why do you look like you’re seventeen?”
“Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“Actually, you’ve sort of left my peripheral vision.”
“Shutting up, Sev.”
Some time later Poppy walked in to find us wrapped in post-coital bliss on my infirmary bed. Unaware of our involvement (we had never actually told anyone about it) her eyes widened remarkably for a moment, then snapped back into a blasé expression. “I see you’re both ready to be up and about.” She proceeded to explain the events that had occurred after our unfortunate incident. I had already figured out why we had regressed in age, having recognized the spell when cast. She saved me the trouble of explaining it to Sirius. I was surprised to discover that Potter and Draco had defeated Voldemort. Their combined rage from the injury on each other and each of their respective mentors - Sirius and I - had created a force nearly powerful enough to destroy the Dark Lord. They drew on the explosive energy produced by Voldemort’s death curse to finish the job. Any surviving death eaters who had not yet fled did at that time. We were then carried back to the hospital wing of Hogwarts.
Poppy finished her tale, and then left us to absorb the information. “I’ll inform the headmaster of your improvement,” she said. Her scandalized expression reemerged as she left in a flourish.
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