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Following perhaps his dozenth dinner with Sirius Black, and not entirely sure why he’d chosen this place at this time, Severus entered his home in Spinner’s End. He was several drinks deep, flushed from the booze and good company, and he made his way up the stairs with only a bit of stumbling. He entered his bedroom, lit the bedside lamp, and pulled out his two photos of Sirius.

His buzz whiplashed into something painful. Inside his chest he felt his ribs as though they were rent apart. His heart thudded agonizingly against the apparent break and then seemed to go still.

He’d had a fun evening. At this point, he’d slept with Black more than once and he’d enjoyed it each time. They’d carried on conversation that didn’t make him want to gouge his own eyes out.

And still, and still, and still. He was something great, Severus was learning, but he wasn’t Sirius.

Sirius was dead, Sirius was gone. He'd had the revelation countless times and still the thought burned in his mind as he looked down at the two photos. One moved and one laid still; both remained the last evidence of the man Severus had loved.

He was gone and would always be gone. It was an unthinkable tragedy. How had he lied to himself about peace, about moving on? There was no moving on. There was only suffering and the tears that now fell from his eyes to the photos in his lap.

Severus wept, as he had a handful of times, and fell asleep clutching the photos.

When he woke, he felt better. He saw Black again. He enjoyed himself. Their relationship grew. Eventually, he called him Sirius once more. They lent each other books. They took strolls in public without fear of Dark wizards or Ministry officials but with many sideways glances at the age difference. They weren’t cooped up in a single dingy building. They took new photos.

Some days Severus felt whole and some he felt smashed into pieces. He kept the old pictures in his nightstand. On the day Sirius discovered them, he held them in his hands. Severus wanted to snatch them back. He didn’t and eventually Sirius put them away again. They didn’t speak of it. There was a lot they didn’t speak about - too many sensitive subjects, too many past hurts. That was another small difference from the time when Severus had held nothing back.

He was happy. Sometimes blissfully so. Sometimes he laughed long and deep until his sides hurt. Sometimes Sirius shared a factoid so strange that Severus declared it incorrect until he researched it for himself. Typically Sirius was right, after all.

Sometimes they argued and very often Sirius pouted, whined, or cajoled.

Severus was happy and sewn together. But the stitches would never dissolve. He would always find those pictures in his nightstand and feel shattered anew - perhaps eventually only once a year, or once a decade.

Sirius knew, of course. He had to see the obvious flaws of his lover. He didn’t bring it up, even if sometimes he clearly sulked about it, not understanding. 

I’m right here, he would think so blatantly that Severus didn’t even have to look into his mind. What’s there to be sad about?

Severus tried to bring up Potter, once, to explain himself. The ugly look on Sirius’s face stopped him mid-sentence.

“James is dead,” Sirius said. “I’m alive. I just have different memories.” Severus agreed and let the subject pass. He didn’t explain that Sirius was dead too, dead and yet reborn, in a way that brought Severus to life too, even as it slowly crushed the breath out of him.

Severus kept the photos and kept Sirius next to him in his bed and that was how he lived his life, two loves in one body, two loves in his body - the one before him and the one, always, behind him.