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Complications (Sirius)
February - March 1977


Sirius Black and Severus Snape were officially outed on February 11, 1977.

In retrospect, Sirius was surprised it took even that long; he had been hearing the rumors for several weeks by then, and nothing was safe at Hogwarts, anyway - the walls had ears, the ghosts had eyes, and the portraits had nothing better to do than gossip. The official school motto was "Never tickle a sleeping dragon," but it might just as well have been "Surrender all secrets, ye who enter here."

The fact that it was his cousin Bellatrix who let the cat out of the bag was something less of a surprise. She had always been a nosy little bitch, she was the school's leading gossip, and she hated Sirius nearly as much as he hated her. Just lately, she also seemed to be keeping an unusually close eye on Snape, and that troubled Sirius a little. Just a little. He hadn't forgotten how Bellatrix had reacted to James's attack on Snape last summer, after O.W.L.S. It had been Bella who had prevented the other Slytherins from stepping in to help their beleaguered Housemate, Bella who had urged James most enthusiastically to relieve Snape of his underpants...and, as James dangled Snape starkers in the air like a sex-party piñata, it had been Bella who had observed, with her trademark raunchy laugh, that all of Snape's best features were south of his waist - and that they were astonishingly impressive features indeed.

It had bothered Sirius then, and it bothered him now. He had no doubt that her appreciation, at least, had been unfeigned: Bella was a slut from way back, and the only thing she liked better than a bloke with a big cock was two or three or four of them.

Of course, her newfound interest in Snape's comings and goings could have been entirely innocent. Could have been. She was a Slytherin prefect, after all (which was proof, as if Sirius needed any, that the teachers all got pissed off their asses in the staff room and threw darts at a board to make these sorts of critical school decisions), and Snape did have a very bad reputation - all those issues, a target with a temper, trouble just waiting to happen. It was certainly possible that Bella was only watching Snape so closely because she didn't want him to get into some mess or other and disgrace the House of the Snake.

It was absolutely possible. Probable, even. Even if Snape liked girls - and Sirius didn't really know, or care, whether he did or not - he simply wasn't Bella's type. Big cock or no, in Bella's busy tapestry of rich boys and popular boys and charming boys and pretty boys, Severus Snape wasn't even a loose thread.

Was he?

It gnawed at him. It was a remote possibility, but it was also a disturbing remote possibility. And trust Bellatrix to be involved - Bella, who lived to be the source of disturbing possibilities. How the hell did I get saddled with her for a partner, anyway? he groused to himself, but of course he already knew the answer to that.

On Fridays, the last subject of the day for the sixth-year Gryffindors and Slytherins was Potions. Whose bright idea it was to mix the two houses that hated each other the most and put them within easy reach of knives, poisons, and flammable substances, Sirius had no clue (though that mental image of giggling, drunk-as-monkeys teachers came back to him rather often), but it had been that way ever since first year. And not just in Potions, either, but in almost all of their other classes as well. Flying. Herbology. Charms. Transfiguration. As far as Sirius could tell, it hadn't made a bloody bit of difference. The Houses of the Lion and the Snake had soared together, pruned together, made paperweights dance and turned furry hats into rabbits together...and come Quidditch Cup time, each House still wanted to thump the righteous crap out of the other.

This was, in Sirius's opinion, just as it should be.

Today the class was quiet, though not silent: the room hummed with whispered conversations, the soft, rapid thud of knives chopping up and down, the scritch-scratch of someone's quill as he or she made an occasional note. Professor Prozac, the Hogwarts Potions master, sat as his desk at the head of the room, reading a book. He was a tall, hunched, gaunt creature with a long shock of tangled white hair and pale blue eyes that never blinked. He reminded Sirius of a praying mantis that had steeped too long in formaldehyde.

Sirius glanced across the room. Prozac, no exception to the blind idiocy that infected the rest of the faculty when it came to inter-House relations, always partnered a Gryffindor with a Slytherin for lab assignments, and Snape had been paired, as usual, with Lily Evans. Prozac claimed he liked the way they worked together, the way they proved that House rivalries could be set aside for the good of a common goal. Lofty words, but Sirius wasn't buying them. More likely, Prozac knew that no one else could work with Snape for more than five minutes without either (a) drowning him in his own cauldron or (b) being turned into a pile of teeth and smoldering ash.

Gods, Prongs must be eating his heart out, Sirius thought, and one look at his friend, who had been paired off with that useless ape Gavin Goyle, confirmed the suspicion. Sirius chuckled. Poor James. But then, Snape and Lily had always been fairly chummy, and James certainly knew that. Knew it, in fact, better than anybody - he was mad for Evans, absolutely gone for her, and her friendship with Snape stuck in his craw like one of Hagrid's homemade biscuits.

Frankly, Sirius didn't get it. Evans was pretty, sure, but she was also a do-gooding, finger-wagging, speech-making little prig, and the only person at Hogwarts she seemed to dislike more than Sirius himself was James Potter. It just didn't make any sense. James wasn't as handsome as Sirius, but he was passably good-looking, he came from a rich and influential family, and he was a Quidditch star. He could have had any number of pretty girls, scores of them, just for the asking, yet he had spent six years knocking his brains out to win a bird who treated him like something nasty she couldn't quite scrape off her shoe.

A sarcastic thought surfaced - Oh, and Snape's just sending you candy and flowers every day, is he? - and he smirked ruefully. The point was taken.

Snape leaned over the cauldron he and Evans were sharing, bending slightly over the table, and Sirius narrowed his eyes, the smile melting into a lazy smirk. Snape's robes were too big to actually reveal anything, but Sirius knew the body beneath them well, and it was far too easy to recall Snape naked in similar positions - legs spread, back arched, that tight white ass in the air begging to be fed. What would it be like, he wondered, to take Snape like that right here and now, to fuck him while their classmates watched? His groin tightened pleasurably as he imagined it. His hand on the back of Snape's neck, holding him down. His bigger, stronger body pinning the slender Slytherin to the table, his cock ruthlessly plundering that silky pink hole. He could see it, actually see it in his mind's eye; he could hear it. He could hear Snape begging not to be taken so publicly, Snape's gasp of pain as he was thrust into violently, with no preparation, Snape's groans and low cries turning lustful as he helplessly responded to Sirius's brutal touch. Just as he had on that first night, and on so many nights thereafter.

"For goodness sake, Sirius, why don't you just bend him over the table and have done with it?" Bellatrix asked.

Sirius turned hastily back to his own cauldron. He was still toying with the mental image of naked Snape writhing beneath him, sobbing and groaning and ready to come at a word, and her taunt, so close to what he'd been thinking, brought a flush to his cheeks. "Mind your own business, you cow."

"Mind your half of our potion, and I will," she replied. Her voice was bland and cool, but her face, that delicate, creamy, cameo face, glowed with suppressed humor. There was a hard sparkle in her dark eyes. "I've no intention of flunking this class just because you can't stop ogling your bitch for more than five minutes at a time."

"He's not my bitch, and I'm not ogling him. You're mental."

"And you're obsessed. And delusional." She cocked her head at him. "Or do you imagine you're being subtle, Ri-Ri?"

Ri-Ri. Sirius gritted his teeth. It was what she had always called him when they were little, back before she sprouted the tits and the bad attitude, and her use of it nowadays never failed to irritate him. Which was, of course, precisely why she did it.

He decided the best defense was a good offense. "I'm obsessed? What about you?"

"What about me?"

"Ever since Christmas, you've been watching Snape like a hawk. Do you fancy him, Bella, or are you just mad that he has a bigger cock than you do?"

Bella grinned at him. Uh oh, Sirius thought; that was never a good sign. Bella's smile could mean any number of things, but her grin always meant trouble. Her grin meant Bella was on the hunt, Bella smelled blood, and Bella was hungry.

And, sure enough, there went her fucking hand in the air. Jesus Christ--

"Professor?" she called, studiously ignoring Sirius's frantic shushing gestures. "Professor Prozac?"

Prozac looked up from his book with a put-upon sigh. "Yes, Miss Black?"

"Sir, would you please instruct my lab partner to keep his eyes on our cauldron and not on his boyfriend's arse? It's terribly distracting."

The entire class gasped as one, and Sirius shot dirty looks all around. He didn't know what the hell they were so scandalized about: Bellatrix was always saying the most outrageous things - shock and horror were her meat and drink - and she loved to talk dirty, especially in inappropriate company. It gave her a cheap thrill, like slumming in a Muggle nightclub, or shagging someone whose father made less than a hundred thousand galleons a year.

Across the room, Snape stood frozen, staring at her in disbelief. Sirius's fellow Marauders wore similar expressions.

"Miss Black!" Prozac sputtered, when he could finally speak. "You will refrain from using such language in my classroom!"

Bellatrix gave a delicate shrug. "I'm sorry, Professor. But it is the truth. Cousin Sirius just can't seem to focus today, and every time I look up, he's staring at Severus's bum. I'm amazed it hasn't gone up in flames by now."

A burst of laughter erupted, appalled and titillated, and she beamed a serene smile around the room, like a queen greeting her subjects.

"Silence!" roared Prozac. "That will do, Miss Black!"

Bella nodded. "As you wish, sir."

"Get back to your potions, all of you; you've only twenty minutes left, and at the rate most of you are going, you won't have it even half-done." Prozac tapped his fingers restlessly on his book, waiting for order to be restored. "As for you, Mr. Black, please keep your eyes on the job at hand and not...and nowhere else, is that clear?"

Sirius flushed again as a few stray snickers greeted this directive. "Yes, sir."

The soft, busy hush fell again. Prozac swept them all with his pale eyes and then, apparently satisfied that the crisis was over, went back to his book. Gods! If he wasn't the laziest, most useless teacher on staff, Sirius was the next Minister of Magic. And he was horribly biased as well: if anyone but a Slytherin had made the comments Bellatrix had, Prozac would have had them in detention for a week, scrubbing cauldrons until their fingers bled.

At least you could have punished her for Snape's sake, you old git, Sirius thought. He's a Slytherin, too.

He glanced at Snape again - surreptitiously, lest his tits-for-brains cousin notice and rat him out again. Snape was huddled with Evans, who was talking to him in low tones and patting his arm in that irritating, patronizing way of hers. He looked wretchedly embarrassed - if anything, he was even redder than Sirius - but he also looked angry. Even as Sirius watched, Snape felt his gaze and met it, and the Slytherin's face twisted with hate.

What the fuck? Sirius thought, dismayed. I got outed, too, you little poof. Why are you glaring at me?

Furiously, he turned back to Bella, who was watching the exchange with a tiny Mona Lisa smile. "Why did you do that?" he demanded.

She looked at him, all innocence. "Do what, dear?"

"Open your big bloody pie-hole."

"Hmm. Let's see. To piss you off. To embarrass you. To embarrass Severus. To gossip. To cause trouble." She offered her most brilliant smile. "Need I go on?"

"You haven't embarrassed anyone but yourself," he spat. "You know me, Bella. I don't give a fuck what anybody thinks."

"Perhaps not," she agreed. "But it would seem that Severus does. He doesn't look very pleased right now, does he?" She added a pinch of powdered dragon horn to the cauldron and stirred gently. "Of course, he does have his little Mudblood slag to comfort him, so that should ease your mind."

"Stick your head in that cauldron and take a deep breath - that would ease my mind."

"Is he fucking her, do you suppose?" Bella went on, as if Sirius hadn't spoken at all.

Sirius just stared at her.

"Evans, I mean. Do you think Severus is shagging her? Do you think the little Mudblood cunt is riding that enormous cock of his every time your back is turned?" She studied his face carefully, searching for the reaction he refused to give. "No? Well, perhaps you're right, then. You know him better than I do. And I'm sure you keep him thoroughly satisfied. Sirius Black is such a stud, isn't he? Certainly, none of Sirius Black's lovers could have reason to stray."

Sirius chopped a flobberworm, ignoring her. Not that that stopped her; it didn't even slow her down.

"Of course, now that he's done with you - well, that's quite a different story, isn't it? Now he's free to hump that little mongrel blue, if he wants to. Now that he's done with you, he--"

"Who says he's done with me?" It came out sharper than he had intended, but he couldn't help it - she had struck a nerve. What she was saying was too possibly true to dismiss; what she was saying put the same sinking dismay in the pit of his stomach that Snape's angry face had.

"Oh, Ri-Ri," she clucked sadly - but, oh, how her eyes sparkled! "You really are delusional, aren't you, dear? Did you see his face when I said you were staring at his arse, or when everyone was laughing at him? Did you see the look he gave you? It was poisonous, Ri-Ri, absolutely poisonous! If looks could kill, cousin, you'd be halfway to Hades by now."

Sirius glared at her. He pressed his lips together and clenched his knife so tightly his fingers went white. He didn't trust himself to say anything - he'd already said too much, probably - and the urge to pick up the cauldron and dump the contents over her head was nearly irresistible. The image of her hands clasped to her bubbling, blistering face as Flameless Fire Potion ran down her cheeks was brief, but it was vivid and satisfying.

"I don't even know which is more preposterous," she continued, blissfully unaware of Sirius's inner struggles. "One of the so-called 'beautiful people' shagging a hook-nosed little creep, or a pureblood Slytherin shagging a stupid, self-righteous, Muggle-loving Gryffindor. Either way, it's a bad match." Her eyes danced; there was a lovely, natural flush to her cheeks and lips, and Sirius thought, with a flash of dismal humor, that Bella never looked more beautiful than when she was fucking with somebody's life. "I probably did you both a favor, nipping your sorry little tryst in the bud. Perhaps you'll even thank me some day."

"I'll thank you right now," Sirius offered. "How about a nice genital-herpes hex?"

Bellatrix just winked. I'd love to see you try, that wink said, and Sirius gave up. Bella was crazy, really crazy, and you just couldn't threaten people who were that crazy. Hell, you couldn't even insult them.

Besides, crazy or not, the bitch was right. If he wasn't careful - if he didn't handle it just so - Snape was going to dump him like a bad habit over this. That look on his face may not have dropped Sirius stone dead, but it had spoken volumes: Snape thought Sirius was in on Bella's little stunt, and Snape hated him for it.

Hated him. All over again. Just as Sirius had been finally - finally! - making some progress with him.

Sirius chopped his now-pulverized flobberworm with lethal strokes. Gods damn her to hell! If she had planned to pull the rug out from under them at the worst possible time, she couldn't have been more successful. When Sirius thought of all the cajoling and coaxing and seducing he'd done, all the stupid shitty little games he'd had to play to get Snape even this far - and now, thanks to Bellatrix, he might have to start all over again - he could have killed the crazy cunt with his bare hands.

He was not, by nature, a brooding boy, but he lapsed into a morose silence for the rest of the period. Bella, always an expert reader and manipulator of people's moods, made no attempt to draw him out with any further taunts or insults; she seemed content to see him lost in the dark thoughts she had planted in his head.

He was still brooding about it when the bell rang, still brooding about it when he, James, Peter, and Remus headed to Gryffindor Tower to change for supper, still brooding about it when they entered the Great Hall. Halfway through the meal, which consisted of pushing some kind of meat around on his plate and greeting his friends' conversational gambits with sullen grunts, he realized a startling truth: he was afraid. He was afraid of losing Snape.

He hadn't been lying when he'd said it didn't matter to him what anyone thought. Despite his occasional jokes to James and Moony about his reputation, Sirius didn't really care who knew about him and Snape. He certainly didn't care if anyone knew he liked boys as well as girls; he had read extensively on the matter over the summer, and he had discovered that most young wizards and witches were actively bisexual, that it was part of their normal sexual development. Those who were totally straight, like James, or totally gay (as Sirius was beginning to suspect Peter was) were the exception. They were accepted readily enough, but they were far from the norm.

Moreover, Sirius had enough faith in his own popularity to believe he could get away with almost anything. He was a leader, he was a rebel, he was a daring trend-setter, and had he stood up in this very hall at breakfast and announced that he was fucking Severus Snape, by luncheon half the school would be trying to get into the Slytherin's robes for themselves...and the other half would be claiming they already had.

But Snape didn't have the buffer of popularity and idolatry to protect him. He would be humiliated and teased, more of a target for general abuse than ever - at, least, when Sirius wasn't around - and he would blame Sirius for it. Was already blaming Sirius, if that nasty look was any indicator.

And Sirius would lose him.

The thought made Sirius feel clammy and shaky and slightly sick to his stomach - and that reaction, so anxious and unsure, so utterly un-Sirius Black-like, was as shocking as a shower of ice water.

Sirius was not a stupid boy by any means; some tended to think him so because of his simple, pared-down view of the world, but he was much sharper than most people realized. He knew perfectly well that his feelings for Snape had changed, and he knew perfectly well how bizarre that was, but there it was: indisputable, real as raindrops. It had been there since that day in Hogsmeade, when he had watched Snape make love with Lucius Malfoy and the jealousy had burned in his belly like acid. At first, it had been the petty jealousy of a child forced to share his favorite toy, but it had evolved, over the course of that one hour, into something more. And the dream he had had that night, of holding Snape and kissing him and having him, having all of him, just as Malfoy had done, had sealed the deal.

Snape fascinated him - that was the simple truth of it. He was a mass of contradictions that Sirius found endlessly intriguing: fear and aggression, aloofness and loneliness, cold disdain and raw, desperate desire. It had been these contradictions that had attracted Sirius from the beginning, and weeks of intimacy had not dulled their peculiar allure; if anything, their sex only heightened it. In their lovemaking, Sirius saw the two sides of Severus Snape clash most powerfully, and the battle never failed to enthrall him. And when the battle was over, when the metamorphosis was complete, when the eyes that could slit with cruelty and freeze a basilisk in its tracks went hot and soft and drowsy, when the body that was so graceless and stiff and self-conscious by day began to arch and fall in languid waves, flowing through his caressing hands like warm water, Sirius would think: I'm doing this. Me. Sirius Black. I change him. I complete him. I make him beautiful.

But it had never occurred to him, until much too late, that Snape could change and complete him as well.

For a short while - a blessed few days, at most - the novelty of discovery and the thrill of his own sexual power over Snape had been enough; after that day in Hogsmeade, however, Sirius had discovered that he wanted more. More precisely, he had discovered that there was more - that there was a Snape who existed for Lucius Malfoy who did not exist for Sirius Black, a Snape who said and did all the things Sirius wanted him to say and do, without force or qualification. Sirius had been uneasy about Snape at that point, anyway, fretful and frustrated; the relative ease with which Snape had surrendered his body had not translated to the addictive worship that Sirius had expected and craved, and it had been eating at him. Seeing Snape direct that worship at someone else - at Malfoy, no less, who was such a waste of magical space he should have been euthanized at birth - had been salt in a festering wound.

And so had begun what Sirius thought of as Phase II of their relationship. He had begun to soften his approach, taking the advice he had given himself that night, following Malfoy's unwitting example. Keep it rough, but not too rough. Temper the insults with humor, and with affection. Talk to Snape, listen to him - or at least pretend to. It hadn't been easy, gods knew; Sirius had done his best, but being nice to Severus Snape was work for a saint, and Sirius recognized he fell somewhat short of that standard. Snape seemed to delight in provoking and insulting him, taunting and even physically attacking him, until Sirius exploded. Sometimes Sirius punished him, always, he fucked him; usually, he did both. And at these times - and they were more frequent than not - Sirius would think, with Snape's ass glowing red beneath his slapping hand or sucking greedily on his aching, thrusting prick, that Snape was not worth even faux kindness or attention, that this was all Snape was and all he was meant to be: a gorgeous, ripe, utterly perfect little bottom that was, unfortunately, attached to a bad-tempered, foul-mouthed, manic-depressive creep.

But there were other times, too. Times when Snape didn't goad him to violence or drive him away to sulk in a cold bed, times when Snape let himself be almost human...and it was these times, even more than the fantastic sex, that kept Sirius coming back for more. On these occasions they would play games, games gentler and more erotic than their usual fare, and Sirius would be able to surprise the Slytherin into a word of grudging approval or a small hint of a smile. Or Snape would have one of his nightmares, and Sirius would hold him until it passed, murmuring and stroking his hair or his face, pretending he didn't know the precise moment when Snape slipped from the dark dream's grip and into wakeful awareness. And even that was all right, because Snape always pretended the same.

And sometimes - on one or two very special occasions - they talked. Their conversations were stilted and wary and brief, but in them, Sirius got just enough glimpses of the real Snape to make him hungry for more. In those rare moments, Sirius saw a Snape he never would have credited, a Snape who showed flashes of dry wit, of insight and even humility, and a thin, hard core of stubborn self-discipline the Gryffindor rather admired. Sirius had not set out to see these things, but what had begun as a performance crafted to seduce the other boy had, somewhere along the line, become real; Snape had become real, and Sirius was shocked to discover that the real Snape was rather ordinary. Rather normal, actually. He was certainly neither of the two caricatures Sirius had created for him - neither an ugly, curse-spewing monster nor a panting bitch in heat, but a kid, just another kid, brighter than most, sadder than some, and as clueless and vulnerable as the rest of them.

That was the Snape Sirius wanted now.

This would have been a disturbing realization for most people; a deeper, more complex individual - a more complicated individual, one might say - perhaps would have had trouble eating and sleeping, would have let his studies suffer, would have become moody and withdrawn from his other friends. Sirius did none of these things. What was the point? His feelings were what they were; nothing could or would change them, and he had to face facts. He was not in love with Snape (he told himself this quite firmly, and he believed it for as long as he possibly could), but he was hooked. Oh, yes. Right through the bag and back, as the Muggles liked to say.

And now - maybe - it was all for naught.

He looked across the room to the Slytherin table. He gave Bellatrix no more than a passing sneer; she was hardly worth the energy it took to hate her, and really, he would have expected no better of the heartless tart anyway. But Snape...He let his gaze drift along the row of bobbing, talking, eating heads until it landed on the black-haired boy. Snape was looking fixedly at his plate, fork in hand but not eating, his long hair hiding his face. He did not look up at Sirius, and suddenly Sirius was throbbing with dull fury.

Because he had expected more of Snape, hadn't he? Bella was Bella, but Snape should have known better. Snape had to know how hard Sirius had worked - was still working - at their relationship, even if he would die before acknowledging it. He had to have noticed all the little changes in Sirius's approach, all the subtle concessions Sirius had made...hadn't he? Sirius hardly ever tied him down anymore, unless it was part and parcel of whatever game was on the evening's agenda. He still spanked him rather often, but only because Snape truly enjoyed it, and - except for one explosive evening a month or so earlier - never as hard as that first time. He rarely called him "Snivellus" anymore, nor "Snivvy," nor "Sniv" - it was either "Snape" or (on extremely special occasions) "Severus." He even studied up on the latest in Potions and the Dark Arts, Snape's two favorite subjects, so that he could have something of interest to say in the rare event of conversation.

And the shit Snape didn't know about could fill a bloody book! Did the little git even once stop to think that Sirius Black might be the reason he was no longer tripped or pushed or taunted in the halls? No longer the target of every passing thug's frustration, or every tired teacher's ire? No longer the last to be picked for anything that had to do with brooms or bludgers, poisons or hexes? Sirius had done all of that, quietly and unobtrusively, and he had asked for nothing in return other than the pleasure of watching as, little by little, that fascinatingly normal inner-Snape crept cautiously out of his shell.

Truth be told, it all made Sirius feel rather noble...and Sirius had discovered he liked feeling that way. Was hooked on it, so to speak.

Like that business with the cloak. It had been no big deal to Sirius, really - he had bought the thing mostly to one-up Malfoy, and he had more money than he knew what to do with, anyway - but Snape's reaction had caught him completely off-guard. Sirius had expected surprise and suspicion, perhaps even a defensive sort of anger: for a boy who had so little, Snape also had considerable pride, and Sirius could see him bristling at the suggestion, however true, that his old cloak was not getting the job done anymore. At best, Sirius had imagined he would get a tight-lipped nod, or - if Snape was feeling particularly generous - a terse "Ta" and one of the Slytherin's frighteningly skillful blowjobs.

But Snape had seemed genuinely grateful. No, more than grateful, actually: he had seemed overwhelmed. Pleased and flattered, and too flustered to hide any of it. His obvious and unstudied shock at getting such a gift (perhaps at getting any gift, though it certainly appeared that Malfoy was rather generous with him) had startled Sirius, and embarrassed him a bit, but it had also made him feel ten feet tall. Conversely, it also made him feel slightly ashamed: until that evening, it had never occurred to him that even Snape might not be immune to a simple kindness.

And it had made him want to do more.

Not that he could now, of course. If he tried to give Snape anything now, the Slytherin would think it just a cheap trick, a tactic to soften him up for more humiliation. It was too bad, really - Valentine's Day was just around the corner, Sirius had Snape's gift all picked out...and chocolate-covered Snape was a gift both of them could enjoy.

He was still staring at Snape; Snape was still staring at his plate. He didn't seem to have any more appetite than Sirius did, and that gave Sirius pause. And hope. Was Snape upset as well? Did the prospect of breaking off their - what was it Bella had called it? their "sorry little tryst"? - trouble him as much as it did Sirius? And did he really think Sirius was such a miserable little craven that he would let the worthless opinions of others decide their fate?

You don't know me very well if you believe that, kid, Sirius thought. You don't know me at all.

Snape looked up then, directly into Sirius's eyes, and - although he wouldn't realize it until much later - it was at that precise moment that Sirius fell in love with him. The look on Snape's face was the same look that had tugged so unexpectedly at Sirius's heart on their second night together, the night Sirius had first held him through one of his bad dreams. It was helpless and wise and sad and uncertain, all at once. It was vulnerable, and it made every scrap of Gryffindor protectiveness in Sirius Black's body surge to the fore.

It was clearly asking a question.

With no other way to answer, Sirius shook his head the tiniest bit - no, I didn't put her up to it; no, I didn't know she was going to do it; no, I don't care who knows or who doesn't - and smiled. He was careful to keep it genuine, a kind, warm, let's-be-mates smile with no trace of mockery or lechery. Apparently, he was successful: Snape's uncertain face relaxed a bit, and after a moment, he nodded. He didn't smile back - in fact, he frowned, but Sirius read no anger or disdain in the gesture, just a thoughtful sort of resolution. Sirius saw the slim shoulders move up and down in a small sigh as Snape returned his gaze to his plate and, at last, began to eat.

Relief and good humor flooded Sirius. Little git, he thought affectionately. Worrying yourself sick about nothing. He entertained these thoughts with no sense of irony whatsoever - his own worries of the past hour were already gone, gone as if they'd never been, his heart wiped clean as a blackboard. He reflected again that it just wasn't in him to be miserable for long.

His stomach growled suddenly, and he attacked his own food with newfound vigor. Mmm. Beef stew- one of his favorites. He wolfed down a mouthful, then another, and another, plans for later that evening beginning to buzz happily through his head.

He was going to be nice to Sniv - to Severus tonight. Very nice. He wasn't even going to punish Snape for that nasty look he had gotten in Potions. Yes, it had been uncalled-for, and yes, Snape should have known better, but, still, old habits died hard. And everyone was entitled to a mistake now and then, weren't they? Of course they were. Anyway, what was more important was the fact that Snape had obviously gotten over his little snit. Getting past such things was not Snape's forte, Sirius knew, and he thought such an extraordinary effort should be rewarded.

Rewarded handsomely. As often, as hard, and in as many different positions as Sirius could manage.

"Welcome back to the living," James drawled in his ear. Sirius turned a foolish grin on him, cheeks stuffed with stew, and James snorted a laugh. "But what the hell's so funny?"

***

Sirius was as good as his word. That night he was extraordinarily nice to Snape, so nice that they both ached in every limb and slept well past noon the next day.

Neither of them mentioned Bellatrix Black.

***

The rest of the month passed in a pleasant blur. Sirius was happy and busy. Classes and homework and Quidditch practice took up most of his days; his nights were spent either with his friends (good) or Snape (better). He found he was enjoying Snape more than ever. Perhaps it was only relief - perhaps the brief scare Bella had put into him had given him a new appreciation for what he had in Snape, who was a partner and a plaything and a pet all rolled into one. Or perhaps it was the fact that he had someone to take care of, a purpose and a goal beyond his own fleeting pleasure, for the first time since Regulus had turned on him and become, in their parents' eyes at least, an only child. Sirius didn't know, and in truth, he didn't give it much thought; it wasn't in him to analyze anything too deeply, especially not anything that felt this good. Whatever it was, it was brilliant, and Sirius would later think - when he could bear to think of it at all - that those six weeks in the late winter and early spring of 1977 were the happiest of his life.

There was just a single cloud. A small, annoying, too-blond-by-half cloud named Lucius Malfoy. Spring holiday was rapidly approaching, Snape had been invited to spend it with Malfoy - and, over Sirius's most vehement objections, Snape was planning to go.

It irked Sirius to no end. After an initial angry outburst, he had ignored it, assuming Snape was only trying to make him jealous, or get a rise out of him. Just lately - and he supposed he should have caught on much sooner, but, well, he simply wasn't the suspicious type - he had begun to realize that Snape often did such things deliberately, that he enjoyed irritating and needling Sirius into a temper. If he refused to take the bait, Sirius reasoned, perhaps Snape would eventually tire of the game and drop the matter altogether.

But as the weeks went by and vacation loomed ever closer, Snape continued to insist that he was going. Oddly, there was none of his usual sneering defiance in this pronouncement, none of the bitchy, bratty challenge that always made Sirius want to flame his ass and then fuck him silly. In fact, the prospect of spending a fortnight at Malfoy Manor seemed to depress and upset him - but going he was nonetheless.

By then, it more than irked Sirius; by then, it bugged the living shit out of him. He found himself thinking about it more and more frequently: in class, during meals, even during kitchen raids and late-night Forest runs with his friends. One night, toward the end of March, he finally brought it up in bed.

"I don't want you going off to Malfoy's."

They were in a long-abandoned storeroom high in Gryffindor Tower, lying between silk sheets on a huge four-poster bed. Sirius had transfigured this regal confection from an ancient sagging sofa, and it looked as out-of-place amongst the rest of the rotting, dusty junk as a swan among vultures. Still, it was warm, and soft as a cloud, and they were quite comfortable. And quite safe: Snape had put a rather ingenious glamour on the door, and even though it was still a door from their point of view, anyone passing by in the corridor outside would see only a blank stone wall.

Clever little sod, Sirius thought fondly. Even the simplest glamours were highly-sophisticated magic, well beyond most sixth-years, but Snape had managed this one with flash and ease. It was funny, really. He'd always known how smart Snape was, how brainy and clever and cunning, but it hadn't really occurred to him before now that Snape was also powerful. He was as powerful, certainly, as James, or Sirius himself. It puffed Sirius up a bit, like the old joke about the nerd who married the beauty queen, although he supposed it was foolish of him to actually be proud to have such a smart lover. The dumb ones were so much easier to control.

Snape was dozing; Sirius was playing with Snape's ass. There was nothing particularly sexual about the playing: he simply liked the way it felt, cool and creamy, filling his palms with a pliant softness that warmed sweetly under his touch. And Snape liked it too; it never failed to put him in a drowsy stupor, his body draped boneless and warm over Sirius's, his hair a silky fan across Sirius's chest.

At Sirius's words now, however, Snape lifted his head, going tense despite the caressing hands. "We've been over this, Black."

"Not to my liking, we haven't. You know how I feel, but you still say you're going. Why is that?"

"Because I hate you, and I enjoy making you miserable."

Sirius ignored this completely, though that same comment would have thrown him into a rage even a month earlier. "Besides that, I mean." He tightened his hands briefly on the other boy's bottom, dragging a teasing finger along his cleft. "You do know you'd have more fun with me than with that little poof, don't you? Mr. Sixty-Seconds. And wait until you see some of the things I have planned for the holiday - they'll make your nasty little head spin."

They were pressed chest-to-chest; he felt Snape's heart speed up, and he hid a smile. Now he had Snape's attention. Well, why not? Especially given the last few weeks. Sirius had been a very busy boy of late, even when he wasn't getting busy with Snape. He had read everything he could about wizard sexuality, from the most clinical texts to the smut monthlies Peter got seemingly by the cartload; he had ordered erotic toys and studied spells designed to heighten and sustain and even conjure pleasure. It was intensive work, anathema to a boy who never cracked a book and still managed solid grades, but it had paid off handsomely on their nights together. He knew he was dazzling Snape with every new trick, breaking down the other boy's defenses with a sensual onslaught a professional whore could not have matched, and Snape had responded beautifully. Was responding: with every game, every sensation, every orgasm, he was giving in a little bit more.

Surely, he would eventually give in on this.

"It's only two weeks, Black. I daresay I can stand the suspense." His tone was dry, and light, but evasive. Sirius wasn't falling for it.

"You don't even want to go," he accused, and Snape pulled back and looked at him, his expression startled. Sirius snorted. "Oh, what, you think I can't see that? Merlin's balls, Snape! You really do believe everyone else in the world is a complete idiot, don't you?"

"No, not everyone. Just you."

Sirius smacked his ass. "Don't change the subject. Is Malfoy forcing you to go? Is that it? Because if he is, and if it's for the reason I think it is, we've got him, Snape. We can nail him. You're underage, and he-"

"And he is Lucius Malfoy," Snape finished for him. "He's untouchable. I'm nobody. No one would take my word against his." He slid out of Sirius's arms and sat up, facing him. "Besides, he isn't forcing me. I made a promise to go, long before you - we - long before any of this." He waved a vague hand, encompassing the room, the bed, their bodies. "I promised."

"Well, isn't that sweet," Sirius sneered. "Honor among Slytherins. What a concept."

"Better than big-headed Gryffindor arrogance," Snape shot back. "Responsibility has no meaning to you at all, does it, Black? To any of you lot. All that matters to you Gryffindors is getting what you want, and getting it as quickly as possible, any way you can."

Sirius snorted. Maybe he had missed something, but it seemed to him Snape had just given a pretty apt description of every Slytherin who had ever lived. "Talk about the cauldron calling the kettle black! 'Any way you can' could be your bloody House motto...and if you and Malfoy aren't just using each other like a pair of knut-grubbing whores, I'll eat my pointy hat."

Snape looked down at the bedspread, nervously plucking out little puffs of chenille. Sirius read uncertainty in the gesture and plowed ahead.

"Anyway, what 'responsibility' do you have to Malfoy? Seems to me he ought to be doing things for you; you're the one who puts your arse in the air for him."

Snape's eyes flashed. "Lucius does plenty for me."

"Yeah, I'll bet." Sirius snorted again. "And to you, as well, I'd wager. Too bad he can't do it for more than a minute at a go."

Snape looked him dead in the eye. "Lucius does things for me you couldn't even imagine," he said softly, and for some reason the look on his face - hard and set and sad - sent a shiver down Sirius's back. Because they weren't talking about sex anymore, were they? Oh, no. They were talking about power now. Not magical power, but political and social and financial power. Most Slytherins craved it like air or water, and Snape was no exception. Sirius imagined Snape wanted it even more than most; after all, it was Sirius who held him during his nightmares, and those nightmares were frequent enough to give Sirius a pretty bleak picture of the rest of Severus Snape's life.

If you need someone to protect you from your old man, there's me, you stupid little toad, he thought, and only when he saw Snape's face tighten did he realize he must have spoken it out loud.

(But I didn't, I didn't speak at all, I didn't even open my mouth, and sometimes I think Christ! it's like the little sod's reading my mind or something)

Without a word, Snape started to slide off the bed, already reaching for his clothes. Sirius moved to stop him, laying a hand on his wrist and tugging him gently forward, but Snape wrenched free.

"Let me go!" he hissed. He scrambled off the bed, his robes and shorts fisted in one hand, his face miserable with shame.

Sirius sighed. Time for the trump card, he reckoned.

"I think you're forgetting something, Severus." He sat up as well, leaning back against the headboard. "There's a reason I don't have to tie you down any longer when we screw. The same reason you come to me no matter what, the same reason you jump every time I say 'frog.' I saw you in Hogsmeade."

Snape laughed. "Is that what you think, then? Gods! You really are almost too stupid to live. If you think I have no choice in any of this, Black, you're dead wrong. If you think I give a shit about you and your ridiculous threats, you--"

"Oh, I think you do," Sirius interrupted. "I think you're hell-bent on protecting your secret."

Snape's lip curled. "Lucius doesn't need my protection. I told you before, Black - you can tell your tales until you're blue in the arse, and it won't matter. Nobody's going to bring down Lucius Malfoy."

"I wasn't talking about Malfoy." Snape gave him a puzzled frown. "I was talking about the other bloke, Severus. The hard case with the dodgy red eyes. The one who pimped you to Malfoy." Snape's face was frozen, his eyes getting bigger with each word, and Sirius felt a flash of the old, mean glee. "Yeah, I know. You didn't know I saw him, did you? I couldn't have kept quiet about that all this time, could I? Not big dumb Sirius Black. Big dumb Sirius Black isn't smart enough to sit on a card like that, is he?" He leaned forward and grasped Snape at the waist, drawing him back down to the bed; Snape allowed himself to be drawn, too stunned by Sirius's revelation to resist. "But I did. I saw, and I sat on it. I thought it might come in handy one day. Rather Slytherin of me, don't you think?"

Snape was shaking his head. "You can't - you don't know--"

"I know what I saw, and I know you and Malfoy didn't want anyone to see. I reckon old Red Eyes wanted to keep it quiet as well. For obvious reasons."

"You didn't see anything!" Snape nearly shouted. He glanced around quickly and lowered his voice. "You didn't see anything, because we didn't do anything."

"Oh, I saw enough," Sirius countered. He chose his words carefully, keeping his tone calm and thoughtful. "It's true I don't know who the man is, or even what he was doing there - besides tossing you to Malfoy like a table scrap, I mean - and he didn't actually fuck you himself. But I know you talked, and it didn't look like good talk. I know he bought you a drink you're too young to drink and told you to fuck a bloke you're too young to fuck. And I know you're scared of him."

And this he did know. He felt the slender body trembling in his grip, felt the sudden fear rolling off Snape in cold waves; being naked with him was like standing in a soft but icy breeze, and Sirius knew it was not just fear of Sirius Black or his big talking gob that was doing that.

A hard shiver coursed through Snape even as Sirius completed the thought, and he wrapped his arms around the Slytherin, pulling him close.

"So what I think you should do is just tell Blondie you'll be spending the spring holiday here at Hogwarts, ta very much...or else I may have to go to the Headmaster."

"Black, you just don't know-" Snape began again, but Sirius shushed him with a quick, hot kiss, stroking his back, carding a hand through his hair. He was waiting for the trembling to stop, for Snape to sigh a bit and relax against him in his usual silent surrender; this technique, this odd juxtaposition of gentle touches and harsh, stern, even threatening words, always worked on Snape like a charm.

But not this time. This time, the body in his arms remained tense and cold, the trembling grew even fiercer, and Sirius felt a touch of unease. Was he making a mistake, pursuing this with Snape? Pursuing this at all? He still recalled, all too vividly, the jolt he'd felt when he had first looked at the stranger holding forth in the Hog's Head, the sense of power and charisma that had just poured from the man and hit Sirius like a roundhouse slap. And those eyes of his...jokes aside, those eyes were creepy. For a moment, some of Snape's fear communicated itself to Sirius, and the question he had asked himself that day came back to him again: What kind of human being has red eyes?

Then all that was Gryffindor in him, the good and the bad, rose up and righteously crushed these doubts. Powerful or not, Snape's mysterious benefactor had a secret, a secret Sirius Black knew...and people with secrets could be controlled. If the Machiavellian scum he called a family had taught Sirius nothing else, they had taught him that.

"I know you're afraid of him," he reiterated. He spoke quietly, hands still stroking and soothing and reassuring. He wanted to add, Don't blame you one bloody bit, but he didn't. There was a lot he wanted to add - he was bursting with curiosity about the red-eyed man, especially now, in light of Snape's violent reaction to the mere mention of him - but this was not the time. "And it wouldn't do to cross him, now, would it? To make trouble for him, or drag his name through some scandal involving booze and sleazy pubs and teenage boys?"

Snape was silent.

"Would it?"

Nothing.

"I said, would--?"

"You fucking bastard," Snape said. He sounded furious, sullen, trapped...and, if Sirius was not mistaken, just the slightest bit impressed.

"I'll take that as a yes," Sirius chuckled. He bit gently at the pouting bottom lip. "So you see, then, how it would be best for everyone if you just told that albino faggot to go hang and stayed with me instead." His hand was straying, sliding down the flat belly until it just brushed over Snape's cock. Snape pushed ever-so-slightly into the touch; Sirius doubted he was even aware he was doing it.

"I have to go," Snape whispered, and Sirius grinned. He smelled the concession in those words the way a shark will smell the first threads of blood in the water, and, happily, he moved in for the kill.

"Bollocks. Malfoy has no power over you. Perhaps the old bloke has power, but he can't reach you here at Hogwarts." He stroked and petted and kissed as he argued, hitting all of the lovely little sensitive spots he'd mapped out over the last few months: he nuzzled the patch of smooth skin just under Snape's ear, bit lightly at his jugular, rolled a nipple as soft as whipped cream between his fingers until Snape was breathing hard and fast. He was trembling still, but it was not the fearful trembling Sirius had felt in him earlier. His eyes were closed, and he had that furrow between his brows that meant he was thinking hard. Clearly, his resolve was weakening, and even Sirius wasn't big-headed enough to think it was entirely due to his attentions. Snape really didn't want to spend the holiday with Malfoy. Something - or, more likely, someone - was making him go.

Someone or something with red eyes? he wondered, and that flicker of fear came and went again, quicker even than the thought.

"Perhaps...perhaps I wouldn't have to stay the entire time," Snape whispered. It was an unsteady whisper; Sirius had him on his back by now, and was tonguing his belly-button in lazy little swirls. "Perhaps I could just - mm - go for a few days, and - oh - then I...I could...l-leave..."

"No." Sirius pulled back and shook his head. "That wouldn't work, and you know it. Once he had you there, Malfoy would find a way to keep you there."

"But I have to go. I-it's important. I can't not go. There's no way out of it."

"What kind of a Slytherin are you?" Sirius teased. He nosed through the dense black curls at Snape's groin, breathing the musk of growing arousal. Snape squirmed. "There's always a way out, Severus."

"No. Not this time."

"Leave it to me."

"I don't trust you."

Sirius smiled. Snape was more or less panting now, his hips jerking in tiny thrusts; his cock was fully erect and rubbing at Sirius's cheek impatiently, demanding attention. "You trust me at least as much as you trust Malfoy, or we wouldn't be here. If you didn't trust me, you wouldn't let me do the things I do to you." He turned his head and took the head of Snape's prick into his mouth. He gave it a good hard suck, tongue swirling, head bobbing, until Snape was groaning and bucking and clawing the blankets into shaking fists. Then he let it pop free and licked his lips. "Besides - I have an idea."

"Gods...help us," Snape managed to sneer.

"No, I actually do." Another quick, hard suck; another abrupt release. Snape made a frustrated sound and glared shakily at him. "But I need to think on it a bit more."

"Don't hurt yourself."

Sirius scowled. "I'll hurt you, you shirty little brat," he said, and flipped Snape over on his belly. Inside, he was laughing. He couldn't help it; now that he knew Snape a bit better, Sirius rather got a kick out of his mouth. In his own mean, sarcastic way, Snape was very funny sometimes - and who else but Snape could manage to be horny and snarky at the same time?

The first smack was hard enough to make his hand sting. It left a clear red imprint on one pale cheek, and Sirius traced it with a gentle fingertip before smacking him again. And again. Once, twice, three times, a dozen times, two dozen...he didn't count. He just spanked until the pretty bottom was pleasantly pink and pleasantly warm and Snape was squirming, rubbing himself shamelessly against the bed. It was, as always, a mouthwatering picture.

Then Sirius parted the glowing buttocks and pushed himself in, all the way in with one smooth thrust, so deep they both shuddered. Snape lifted his head with a short, sharp cry - it was not a pain cry; they had already made love once, and Snape was relaxed and ready for him - and pushed back as hard as he could.

"Mine," Sirius whispered fiercely in his ear, and when Snape did not challenge him, he said it again - "You're mine, you're all mine" - and began to move, in and out of a silken warmth that felt like home.

***

Continued