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Unveiled

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“He’s got Padfoot!” Potter cried abruptly. The desperation scrawled plainly across his face. “He’s got Padfoot in the place where it’s hidden.”

Severus’s lip curled at Potter’s complete lack of finesse. Umbridge looked between them with fanatical interest.

“What’s he talking about, Snape?”

“I have no idea,” Severus said flatly. “He never had much brain to begin with. All your jostling around may have knocked the last few bits loose.”

Despair and defeat shuttered across Potter’s face. Severus wanted to slap him. Why did such an important boy have to be such a fool? Did he really expect Severus to openly acknowledge his thinly veiled cry for help?

“If that’s all…” Severus trailed off with a curl of his lip. Umbridge said nothing and Severus took that as his cue to leave.

Once free of an audience, Severus realized his heart was pounding quite hard in his chest. He’s got Padfoot, Potter had said and the thought was enough to make his knees weak.

Severus pulled their two-way mirror out of his dresser and tapped it with his wand to send a shock to the holder. Sirius’s disheveled face appeared almost instantly.

“What was that about?” he groused.

“Potter just told me the Dark Lord has you captive,” Severus said dryly. He hoped his tone masked the overwhelming relief he felt.

“Dammit,” Sirius cursed. “This is exactly why I told him to learn Occlumency.” His gaze turned accusing. “This is exactly why I told you to teach him.”

“The boy is completely unteachable,” Severus said.

Sirius just growled.

“Well, I assume you’re not carrying on this conversation while being trapped in the Ministry. I’ll let Albus know Potter’s laboring under a delusion.”

“Hey,” Sirius said. “Where is Harry?”

“Umbridge has him, trying to get information on Albus.” Severus rolled his eyes.

“That nasty cow?” Sirius barked. “The one that’s been torturing him? You left him there?”

“Did you expect me to knock out a Ministry official and four Slytherins to get him out of a small pickle?” Severus asked.

Sirius swore once again. “Harry thinks Voldemort has me captive and the only thing stopping him from getting me is a woman he despises. He’s going to be the one knocking her out.” Sirius rapped his knuckles against his head in clear frustration. 

“Fine,” Severus said. “You tell Albus. I’ll go get your Golden Boy.” 

“You better,” Sirius said. “I’ll never forgive either one of us if something happens to him.” Then Sirius was gone, leaving Severus to scowl at his own reflection. 

After a few minutes of languishing in self pity, Severus returned to Umbridge's office. He found it empty and he promptly picked up Sirius’s habit of foul language.

Severus searched a few nearby rooms fruitlessly and began to wonder why he’d never recreated that blasted Map.

Severus decided to retrieve his cloak from his room and then walked into Hogsmeade to Apparate to Grimmauld Place. The threat of losing Sirius’s affection loomed in his mind and he figured Sirius would be the best person to find Potter anyway.

The house was completely still and quiet when Severus stepped in. Instantly, a small internal alarm began to sound. Something was wrong.

“Sirius?” Severus called. No response. Severus made his way up the winding stairs and to Sirius’s room. He opened the door and found Kreacher, fluffing pillows. “Where’s Sirius?”

Kreacher turned and looked at Severus with watery eyes. Then he began to laugh. It was a wheezy, horrible sound. The quiet alarm clanged louder and louder. Severus drew his wand.

“Elf-!”

“It’s too late,” Kreacher said gleefully. “He’s gone, he’s gone, the house is clean! Oh, he’ll be dead, and the blood traitors will be dead, and the Dark Lord will rise again…”

The Dark Lord. Those words registered in Severus’s mind first.

“Explain yourself,” Severus bellowed.

“Master Malfoy has been helping me cleanse the house, I met the Dark Lord, and I couldn’t tell any secrets, no, but I could lie, and I lied so well. I lied and told the filthy boy that the filthy man had been taken. And now all the filth is in the Ministry getting cleaned.” Kreacher clapped excitedly, rocking onto the balls of his feet.

Severus killed the elf without a second thought and fled the house.

As he stepped onto the street, his Mark began to burn. Severus felt himself spinning out of control and clutched at his aching arm, struggling to regain his breathing. Sirius was at the ministry. Apparently now the Dark Lord was too. He’d have to play both sides of the duel. How best to help while appearing to hurt?

Severus spent a long time planning and rehearsing. It was time he would come to regret.

Eventually, he drew his hood and answered the agonizing call.

Severus appeared amidst chaos. Order members and Death Eaters tossed hexes across the room, ranging from a Disarming charm to the Killing Curse. Potter and his friends stood in the middle of it all, looking severely battered but holding their own.

Severus searched the room until he made out Sirius in the chaos. Despite the danger, he felt an immediate reassurance seeing Sirius alive and well. In fact, he looked happier than Severus had seen in decades. His face came alive among all the flashes of light and he danced expertly around the beams careening toward him.

The next thirty seconds happened in slow motion. Severus saw Bellatrix Lestrange draw her wand and he knew, instantly, she was going for the Killing Curse. Severus drew his own wand to cast his deflective dual charms as quickly as he ever had. They worked. He could tell. When Sirius crumpled as the green light hit his chest, he was not dead. The spells had worked.

Then his body kept falling and Severus saw with horror what was behind him.

“No,” he tried to scream but it came out a choked whisper.

Sirius’s body fell through the Veil.

By the time Severus made it to the Veil, it was like Sirius had never been there. Bellatrix was battling someone else. Hexes still flew everywhere. Severus fell to his knees, hands pressed to his chest. He couldn’t breathe. He was going to die. Could he, please, die?

He kneeled there and contemplated diving in the Veil. What could await him there? Permanent nothingness sounded blissful. And any other option would involve Sirius. It had to be superior to this cold rotten world in which he no longer lived.

“Severus?” Severus could not recognize the voice. He turned and saw it was Remus Lupin. The expression on his face was unreadable or at least it was in Severus’s current state. Severus only dimly registered that the battle had stilled around them. The room was empty save the two of them. How long had he kneeled there?

How little did he care?

“Severus, did you get hit with something?” Lupin was talking softly, the voice you’d use on a wounded animal so as not to startle it.

“No,” Severus said. He stood. He felt carved out of marble, impossibly cold and hard. 

“So you’re alright then?” Lupin asked with clear skepticism.

“No,” Severus repeated and turned away to flee the room.

Severus felt suddenly all at once the exhaustion, the trembling of his limbs, the agony of the Dark Mark, and he shoved it all away. It paled in comparison to the searing of his heart. 

He didn’t have time to worry about himself. He had to devise a way to reach into the Veil, to pluck back what had been taken from him.

Chapter Text

Severus stepped into the elevator for the Ministry of Magic for perhaps the hundredth time. He took the visitor badge after it was spit out. His hands shook so badly that he dropped it twice before he managed to secure it on his robe.

In the past three years he’d been here more times than he could count and yet not as often as he’d liked. He’d been forced most days to play the simpering malicious Death Eater and the sneering aloof spy for the Order. He resented the roles more than ever for delaying this moment.

But that was over. The Dark Lord was dead. Now it was his time to do what he’d spent so much time dreaming about and yearning for. He’d perfected the potion that would allow him to cross into the Veil. Several doses of it clinked against each other in his pocket with each step.

Being allowed into the Department of Mysteries as he pleased to study the Veil had been the only perk to his spying ways. 

Minutes later, he stood in front of the tattered fabric.

Severus hated it unreservedly. He hated the taunting way the strips fluttered about. He hated the voices whispering, voices of people that were where Severus so desperately wanted to be. But he had come to appreciate it too. It was a puzzle he had unlocked. It had kept Sirius alive, in some form, and even safe from the war. With his impulsive nature and increasing frustration at being cooped up, he probably would have gotten himself killed some other way.

How many hours had Severus spent inside a Pensieve, reliving every memory he had of Sirius, even the bad ones, just to see him again? All to keep him motivated for this moment.

Severus pulled out one phial and drank the electric blue contents. A numbness spread over his body. After it took full effect Severus unhesitatingly thrust a hand through the Veil.

He didn’t get pulled through. 

He pulled the hand back. It looked slightly grayer than the rest of him but his fingers flexed and moved easily.

With that, Severus stepped in.

At first, he fell. There was nothing below his feet and he plummeted into total darkness. Just as he began to panic about wasting time, his feet crashed into ground. It didn’t hurt but his knees buckled and he sprawled forward. Orbs of light began to appear and illuminate the area around him.

There was a pathway, he noted as he righted himself. Constructed of black brick, it seemed to stretch on for miles. Severus took off down it, steeling himself for a long journey. Nothing could feel longer than the past three years.

Then, suddenly, a house appeared. He’d walked no more than five minutes. The house sent an invisible punch to Severus’s gut. It was Godric Hollow. It was the house where Lily had been killed.

Severus stepped inside and found it brightly lit and cheerfully decorated. Upstairs he found Lily and James Potter sleeping in their bed. No, not sleeping. They were comatose, hands folded over their chests grimly. 

Severus had a strong urge to stay. He could try to wake them up. He could bring them back, too. How happy would Sirius be to have his best friend back? And maybe he and Lily could become friends once again. 

Severus sat down at the desk where a notebook, cauldron, and potion ingredients at once appeared. He could...wait…

He shook his head and looked at the desk again. Why would the Veil supply these things? Why would it show him Lily and James? They had not fallen through. They could not be here.

Severus stood and a scream pierced through the utter silence. Stay, the voice wailed. Stay, stay, stay.

He sprinted out of the house and back to the path. He needed to find Sirius. Nothing else mattered. He passed more houses and did not go in. He drank a second dose of the potion. Then the path ended at a park.

It was a replica of a park by Grimmauld Place. A very special park. Sirius had one day, so long ago now, nearly mad from being cooped up, begged Severus to walk him as Padfoot. Severus had laughed at him, mocked him, and Sirius had still asked with wild eyes. So Severus had done it. They’d walked up and down the streets and into this park. Severus had found himself petting the dog, found himself relaxing, found himself enjoying Sirius’s company for once. Then when they’d returned to Grimmauld Place, Severus had found himself sitting down for a Firewhiskey with Sirius, and they’d...talked. For hours. They’d argued and cursed and taunted, too, but by the end of the night they’d had a real conversation. 

This park was the beginning of it all.

But was this another distraction? Another trap? Severus had no way of knowing. He walked around the grass until he came upon a large black dog, lying down, head on its paws.

Padfoot was actually sleeping, not a facsimile like the Potters. Severus reached out a hesitant hand and patted the dog on the head.

Instantly his eyes snapped open and he lurched to his feet. Then in his place sat a naked man. Sirius.

“Severus?” Sirius asked warily. His voice was hoarse.  “Is this you or a trick?”

“I have the same question,” Severus said and they just looked at each other.

“Where did we fuck for the first time?” Sirius asked, coarse as ever.

“In the attic,” Severus said sourly. Buckbeak had been a curious witness. “Now can we get going?”

“Ask me a question,” Sirius said.

“What anti-nausea plant would you find at the bottom of a waterfall?” Severus asked with a roll of his eyes. He’d barely finished expressing his disdain when Sirius grabbed his hand and squeezed, painfully hard. Severus did not complain.

“It’s you,” Sirius breathed and then tears began to fill his eyes. “How long...how did you…?”

“There’s time for all that once we get out.” Severus, belatedly, removed his cloak and handed it to Sirius. Sirius drew it across his shoulders. Then they took off back down the stone path.

Severus was wrong, of course. There would not be time for all that. He had been haunted by so many moments after Sirius fell through the Veil. Not stunning Umbridge and tying Potter down. Not heading straight to the Ministry. Not making Sirius promise to stay safe. 

Yet he had not learned to question his own judgment. A spy had to be confident, if not overly so. So Severus believed he had rescued Sirius and everything would be fine. The fact that he did not take the time to hold Sirius, to kiss him, to touch him would become yet another error to dwell on.

They held hands as they walked the path but did not talk much and when they reached the beginning, a large staircase began to build itself brick by brick.

“I can’t believe I’m getting out of here,” Sirius said. “This was worse than Azkaban.” Severus winced at that, of imagining the one he loved so tortured yet again. “I had no hope of escape. I tried to kill myself so many times. Jumped off the roofs, tried to start fights with the other people trapped here, even tried drowning myself in the fountain at the pond.”

“Well you’re out now,” Severus said, not wishing to hear those things. “And things are much better than you left them.”

“Is Harry alright?” Sirius asked. Severus felt a pang of jealousy. 

“Of course the golden boy’s alright.”

“Haven’t had a breakthrough with him?” Sirius asked with a sigh. The conversation felt remarkably normal.

“I can’t exactly take him for a walk,” Severus said and Sirius, abruptly, laughed. It was not his most booming, overjoyed laugh but it was a laugh. It still made Severus’s heart soar.

Severus stopped at the top, turned away from the Veil, and kissed Sirius. It was brief, so brief, and Sirius felt dry and still beneath his lips.

“See you on the other side,” Sirius said with a mock salute and stepped through the Veil. Severus counted to ten and then followed him through.

The first thing Severus did was screw his eyes shut and clap his hands over his ears. He’d thought the Department of Mysteries was dark and silent before. Compared to the world they had just exited, it was brightly lit and noisy. Someone was talking not too far away, there was some kind of choking noise, and there were so many unnecessary lights on the ceiling.

After a moment of composing himself, Severus opened his eyes. They fell upon the crumpled shape on the floor. Sirius.

Severus forced himself to move calmly as he bent and checked Sirius’s wrist. He found a steady pulse so he gently flipped Sirius over onto his back. Then Severus recoiled. It was Sirius on the floor but it was not the same one that had just crossed through the Veil. This Sirius was a child - 17 or 18, if Severus had to guess. His face held none of the wear of 12 years in Azkaban or even normal wrinkles a near 40 year old should have.

Severus cast a spell to remove any glamours. Sirius lay there unchanged. Severus wanted to try more spells, maybe even some Potions, but instead he hefted Sirius up and carried him out of the Ministry, ignoring the stares he received from the workers when he passed them by.

Chapter Text

Looking at Sirius’s youthful face was an exquisite form of torture. Questions ran through Severus’s mind, all equally unanswerable, but the one it continually returned to was the most distressing.

Would Sirius remember him, or was his mind as regressed as his body?

The door opened and Albus entered with a St. Mungo’s healer. Severus did not look at them as they approached the bed.

“Why so glum?” the healer chirped. “Your friend has to be the healthiest patient we’ve ever had. The head healer is writing up his discharge scroll as we speak.”

“He hasn’t even woken up yet,” Severus said.

“We don’t need him to wake up,” the healer said, overly kind, like she was speaking to a particularly dumb child. “We have magic. Your friend is simply enjoying a rather deep sleep. All his mental faculties remain intact. He is not cursed nor jinxed nor bewitched. His physical condition is perfect as well.” The healer looked down at the clipboard in her hands. “We need some more patient information before we can complete his discharge. His, er, name, for one, date of birth, home address…” The healer trailed off with a pleading look at Albus.

“I’ll see to that,” Albus said and accepted the clipboard with a wink. The healer left the room.

Severus watched the fingers of Sirius’s left hand scrabble lightly against his bedsheets. His hands were so smooth.

“Severus,” Albus said, taking the chair on the other side of the bed, “I confess to desiring more detailed information than simply Sirius’s name.”

“I went into the Veil,” Severus said tonelessly. “I found Black. I brought him back. He looked like this after.” 

“And your reason for all that effort would be?”

Severus did not answer. Albus was the master of waiting him out but Severus had nowhere else to be. They sat in silence for perhaps an hour, or perhaps only five minutes. The flow of time itself seemed to have changed for Severus, and wouldn’t that be fitting? Sirius reclaimed his youth and he aged faster than ever. At least it would uncomplicate the situation. Severus would get to die soon.

No. He wasn’t that lucky. 

Not for the first time, Severus seriously contemplated ending his own life. The option had always held its own appeal. Now it was downright seductive. 

“Severus?” Albus eventually prompted.

“I’ve told you everything I’m willing to,” Severus said.

Sirius’s eyes opened. They blinked and then latched directly onto Severus’s. Severus found himself holding his breath. Would he..?

“Snivellus?” Sirius asked, a grin cracking across his face. “Did James finally sneak that aging potion into your breakfast? I knew-” Sirius seemed to notice Albus abruptly and stopped talking out of self-preservation. Then he frowned. “Er, professor, did you also take an aging potion?”

Severus heard the words. He understood the meaning. Sirius didn’t remember him. Sirius didn’t just look 17. He was 17. He was a child, a child about to have his world rocked by events long past, events he simply no longer remembered.

Selfishly, Severus wanted to curse, to howl, to hex someone or something, to throw Bubotuber pus on his own face. 

He remained stoic. After all his years spying, that wasn’t hard. 

“I think Remus Lupin would like to answer that question,” Albus said gently. “He’s on his way here as we speak.”

“Alright,” Sirius said. “And where is here?”

“St. Mungo’s,” Albus said. Sirius looked at Albus and scowled at Severus.

Severus realized for the first time that he should leave. He told his legs to stand. They betrayed him. His body stayed rooted to the chair.

This was what he’d devoted three years to. He couldn’t leave yet. Albus did not have such reservations and after promising to check on Sirius soon, he departed.

Only moments later, Lupin stepped through the door. Sirius flicked his gaze between the two of them. The fingers that had twitched in sleep now gripped the sheets in a solitary sign of fear.

“Why are you all old?” Sirius asked. “Is this a prank?”

“No, Sirius, I’m afraid it’s not.” Lupin pulled the previously occupied chair right up to the bed and put his hand on Sirius’s shoulder. An absurd flame of jealousy sprung to life in Severus’s stomach. But then, the picture before him was that of a father comforting a son, not two lovers. Severus didn’t know if that made it easier or harder to stomach.

“A trick by Voldemort?” Sirius asked, voice an octave higher. “Remus, when did we first figure out your furry little problem?”

“Our second year,” Remus said gently, “and you transform into Padfoot to help me deal with it.” The little color left in Sirius’s face drained. He bit his upper lip, again and again, and then abruptly sent a vicious look at Severus.

“Why are you still here? Can’t you fuck off?” Sirius barked. Severus tried to hold onto the image of the Sirius he knew. It was getting harder the longer he looked at this teenage version. He needed to get back to his Pensieve.

“Actually, there’s parts to this that I don’t understand,” Remus said. “I need Severus to fill in those gaps.” Sirius looked, if anything, angrier at this.

“Parts to what, Remus? What’s going on? Where’s James?” 

Remus sighed, very heavily, and began at the very beginning.

It was a long tale and one Severus knew quite well. He didn’t listen. He could tell just from watching Sirius what part they were at. His face shifted rapidly across emotions - fury, grief, horror, panic. Then his expression became more muted and then, many minutes later, he cracked half a smile. He still looked so impossibly young but in that smile, now forever changed by the horrible things he’d just learned, Severus saw a glimmer of his Sirius. It was foolish sentimentality. That man was gone forever. Severus still decided to isolate this smile in his Pensieve later.

“Killed by Bellatrix, eh?” Sirius was saying when Severus finally returned to listening. “That’s embarrassing.”

“You weren’t killed,” Severus cut in and they both whipped around, startled, clearly having forgotten his presence.

“I did wonder about that,” Remus said once he’d recovered. “If the Killing Curse worked, you shouldn’t have been able to come back through the veil. The veil only traps living souls.”

“Could I have survived it like Harry?” Sirius asked, somewhat absently. His rage at Severus seemed to have abated. 

“No,” Severus said, “I stopped it.”

“Stopped it?” Remus and Sirius echoed at once.

“Deflected it,” Severus amended. “I saw you two dueling and I cast a shield charm.” The memory still burned. Countless hours had gone into analyzing every error he’d made that day. He’d decided years ago he should have been fast enough to deflect the Avada Kedavra and send Sirius flying across the room at the same time. It would have saved so much heartache.

Looking at the young Sirius’s puzzled expression, Severus suspected the heartache was only beginning.

“Why?” Sirius asked.

For perhaps half a second Severus considered being truthful but that insanity was easy to discard. The man he’d gone to such lengths to rescue was gone. The boy that remained was never going to take his place. Severus did not even want him to.

“As Lupin just informed you, I was working for the Order.” A look of clear skepticism passed between Sirius and Lupin.

“Your loyalty to the Order is why you went into the Veil for Sirius?” Lupin asked.

Severus snorted and invented a lie smoothly, effortlessly. He had decades of practice after all. “No, that’s why I saved his life. As for the Veil. Do you have any idea how much money I can make off a Potion that allows the drinker to bring their loved ones back from effective Death? The Veil was only brought to the Ministry two decades ago, even a couple living loved ones would be enough.” This was a total fabrication. Severus has no idea the history of the Veil. 

“You did it for gold,” Lupin said and twisted his mouth. “You plan to profit off grieving families? That’s detestable, even for you.”

“They may hate me, but they’ll still pay me.” Severus knew this deep in his bones. If it could have brought Sirius home sooner, he would have paid any price to any person. He would have sold his soul to the Dark Lord himself if it had meant bringing Sirius back.

Looking at the teenager in the hospital bed, Severus would still do it, for the man he actually wanted.

“Glad I could be of service,” Sirius said. “Satisfied, Remus? He can go now, right?”

Severus chanced one long look at Sirius. It wasn’t him, but it was, and it would be the last time he would ever see the face that had haunted him for so long. Sirius glared back, hostile. Severus drank it all in, noted as many details as possible - the curve of his eyelashes, the swirl of his bedhead, the length of his fingers. 

If only…

Severus left the room and started the walk out of St. Mungo’s. His mind, for the first time in perhaps his life, was still. He’d accomplished his task, at once his greatest success and most miserable failure. The Dark Lord was dead, his Unbreakable Vow to Albus was fulfilled, and his connection to Sirius was irredeemably severed.

Death was the only solution. And it was going to be quick and painless. That was more than he’d ever had any right to expect.

“Severus?” 

Severus turned and found Lupin rapidly closing the gap between them.

“How may I help you?” Severus asked.

“I saw you when Sirius fell through,” was all he said. The two men stared at each other. A harassed-looking healer squeezed her way past them and still they stood, facing off.

“He’s 17,” Severus finally said, despite himself, unable to explain why he was allowing the facade to crack. Maybe he just wanted someone, anyone to know. He’d carried many burdensome secrets but this felt the heaviest.

“Yes,” Lupin agreed.

“So what good could possibly come from telling him?” If Lupin didn’t understand that then he didn’t deserve to know. But of course he did, and had probably understood ever since he’d witnessed Severus collapse in front of the Veil.

“It would be the truth,” Lupin said after an extended pause.

“A truth that helps no one and hurts everyone involved is not a truth worth telling.” Severus had many such truths locked inside him. He had a feeling Lupin did as well for at that the man looked away.

“You did all this,” Lupin said quietly. “You must love him.”

Suddenly, quite without warning, a rage bloomed inside Severus. He wanted to hit Lupin. He wanted to hit himself, tear at his own skin, claw himself apart. The calm certainty with which he’d decided to end his own life way gave way to a furious grief. Severus was used to injustice, had long ago accepted life as a series of disconnected unfortunate events, but this...this made him want to seize Lupin by the throat and scream at him how unfair it all was.

He’d loved someone. After all this time, after Albus’s many simpering speeches, after Lily, after his father, after the evil he’d done under the orders of the Dark Lord. He’d managed it. And it had been ripped away. After Sirius fell through the Veil it had been hard, he had grieved and he had suffered, but he’d always had hope.

There was no more hope. In rescuing Sirius he’d effectively killed the one person he could and would ever love. If he’d researched more, if he’d known more, if he’d just…

What could he have done differently?

“I loved him,” Severus whispered, finally, “but now he’s gone.” He didn’t wait for an answer but instead turned on his heel and made a swift exit

Chapter Text

Severus truly did intend to kill himself. He woke the first morning after the visit to the Veil quite determined to do so. He sat down with an index of poisons and selected one that was quick to brew and painless to ingest. He sent out an owl order for those ingredients which could not be found in the Hogwarts store room. Then he drank an entire bottle of Firewhiskey. He had never been one to self-medicate and he decided the next morning, stumbling around brewing a hangover cure, that he wouldn’t start now at the end of his life.

The ingredients took three weeks to arrive. In that time he fell back into his routine of angrily teaching, brooding in the Great Hall during meals, and taking Sleeping potions as soon as dinner ended to minimize the time he had to be awake.

By the time his order was delivered, Severus admitted to himself that death had lost a little appeal. He wasn’t fearful of dying but neither was he intensely interested any longer. He tucked the ingredients away in his room and tore the recipe for the poison out of the book to make it more easily accessible. Then he went back to teaching, eating, and sleeping.

While working to retrieve Sirius from the Veil, Severus had found a best friend in his Pensieve. Now he loathed the device. He glowered at it while he dressed. How dare it show him images of the man he would never meet again. One evening, after a particularly stressful lesson teaching first year Hufflepuffs, Severus Vanished the Pensieve. It did improve his daily mood if only infinitesimally.

There was a Hogsmeade weekend in March, three months after the failed rescue. Severus decided to go. He needed a few potions ingredients and a visit to the Hog’s Head didn’t sound too horrendous.

Surely it wasn’t self-medicating if he did it in public. 

Severus had trained himself throughout his years as a spy to think as little as possible. He shut his thoughts off and functioned mostly on autopilot derived from simple plans. The plan that day was: go to Hogsmeade, procure supplies and alcohol, return home.

His plan ground to a halt (possibly his brain short-circuited) when he walked by Honeydukes and saw three very familiar brunettes and a redhead seated right at the front window. Severus stopped and stared through the window. Perhaps he should have expected it, prepared himself somehow, but he had been entirely convinced he would never see Sirius Black again.

Yet there he sat, his teenage self, crowded into a booth with Potter, Granger, and Weasley. Empty and half-empty bottles scattered the tabletop and Weasley shovelled some sort of food in his mouth while Potter and Sirius talked.

It was only logical. They were the same age and Potter’s infuriating resemblance to his father had to be comforting to Sirius. Severus still felt an ugly stab of jealousy. Potter had his godfather back in, arguably, an improved form. Now they could truly be friends on equal footing. Lupin had regained the friendship too.

It was only he, Severus, who had lost everything.

The four stood, exited the booth, and headed toward the front door. Severus watched. He couldn’t help himself. There was the jagged scar across Sirius’s forearm, the one he had always refused to explain. There were the long black tresses Severus had stroked, kissed, pulled. And underneath it all, there was the damnably young face.

If only he wasn’t young. If he’d just forgotten, it could be salvageable.

“Professor Snape?” This was Granger. The four teenagers had stopped short before him. Severus almost smirked thinking of how he must look. Standing in the chill, staring them down. And imagine if they could read his thoughts! It was close to comical. “Are you, er, alright?” Potter and Weasley looked as though they couldn’t determine who was more insane - Severus or Granger. It made Severus’s stomach twist when he realized Sirius looked only at him, even though the look was bordering on cold.

“You all go on back to the castle,” Sirius cut in. “I need to talk to Snape.” 

Severus should have fled then but instead he stood still, watched the three Gryffindors walk away, and turned to face Sirius. The teen’s eyes burned as though they were dueling and he was selecting his next hex.

“You lied to me,” Sirius said. Severus recoiled. Had Lupin said - ? “I looked it up. The Veil has been in the Ministry for over two centuries. No one’s buying your potion. So, why did you do it? There has to be another reason. I deserve to know the truth, Snape.”

“What are your theories thus far?” Severus asked, stalling. Sirius snorted.

“How the hell would I know? Some sort of dark magic, some sort of trick, maybe you were going to sacrifice me in the Veil and accidentally brought me back, maybe you were going to kill me here but got spotted first. Am I even close?” Sirius exhaled and in that breath Severus realized he’d been suffering in the search for understanding. 

Lupin had held up the truth as a golden paragon. Sirius seemed to want it as well. Severus owed him nothing and yet...and yet…

“I can’t tell you,” Severus said and Sirius hissed in frustration. “You won’t believe me.”

“I’d believe anything at this point,” Sirius muttered. “I’ve practically time traveled 20 years in the future. What could be stranger?” 

“This,” Severus said. “This is definitely stranger.”

The longer they talked, the more deluded Severus became. Was his age really such a barrier? 17 was of age. He’d only look less like a child every year that passed. Maybe when he was 20...and Severus was 43? Ha.

It wasn’t about him. It was about Sirius. Severus had tried to tell a lie, let things pass and give him a chance at as normal a life he could hope for, but Sirius was insisting. So, what else could he do?

“We,” Severus tried but stopped. “I.” He shook his head. 

“Tell me,” Sirius snapped.

“I love you,” Severus said and took in Sirius’s disgusted grimace with stony acceptance. It was only fair. His reaction, had he been the one regressed two decades, would not have been any more pleasant. In truth it would have been rather violent.

Maybe he shouldn’t have led with the love bit. 

“So you’re saying,” Sirius said, speaking as though each word pained him, “that you brought me back to life because you have some creepy crush on me?”

“No,” Severus said. “I brought you back from the Veil because you loved me too.” It was quite an odd sensation to tell someone else that they loved you, especially when you went your whole life unloved, and even more so when they currently hated you.

“I’m going back to believing you did it for money,” Sirius said and turned on his heel. Severus let him go.

A week later he received an owl.

There’s a hippogriff in Grimmauld Place. Remus tells me his name is Buckbeak and I used to be fond of him. Can’t imagine why. Guess I liked a lot of things I shouldn’t.

Severus read and reread the letter until he memorized the shape of each letter. Then he folded it neatly and placed it under his pillow. When he went to bed, he kept a finger on the parchment. Right on the very edge of wakefulness, he could almost pretend it was something soft and familiar, maybe the skin on the back of Sirius’s hand. 

Chapter Text

The morning he was to depart Hogwarts for Spinner’s End, Severus woke drenched in sweat, heart pounding, hands tight at his side, bedsheets clutched in each fist. 

He’d forgotten to take a Dreamless Draught the night before. A matter of distraction. There had been a staff party after the end of year feast and Severus had downed a few too many glasses of wine. Not enough to leave him hungover now but clearly enough to have affected his faculties.

It was a mistake and one he had no intention of repeating. The dream had featured Sirius, naturally, and so it had been unbearably enjoyable. Sitting in the early morning darkness, alone, the dungeon’s chill wrapped around him despite the season, Severus regretted the dream very much. Awake, he could feel dream-Sirius slipping further and further away while his mind turned to the Sirius of present day. The distinction was agonizing.

It was hard not to think about him when he persisted in bombarding Severus with owls so regularly. The notes were always short and frequently devoid of meaning. They were closer to fragments of a diary entry than something penned to a companion.

They weren’t companions, anyway, of course.

Severus slipped out of bed and got dressed. Then he began the short task of packing his small suitcase. He owned very few personal belongings. He packed his set of lounge robes, a small selection of books both academic and literary, and his Pensieve. He’d come to regret his hasty Vanishing and had purchased another one. He was able now to view his memories of Sirius predominantly with longing, though the anguish continued to linger in the background as well.

Then Severus lifted his pillow. He plucked a note at random and read it, though the parchment was mostly unnecessary. He had them all memorized in chronological order.

Went to the pub today with Remus. The bartender asked if we were father-son and these two witches gave us the ugliest looks the entire time. Imagine if it was you and me and there was actually something to be outraged about?

Imagine if it was you and me, Sirius wrote. The words infuriated him when he first read them. He’d had to quell a desire to burn the parchment. Rereading them still sent a thrill of anger coursing through him.

As if Severus ever imagined anything else.

He was struck by the foolish sentimentality of standing there, clutching the note, allowing emotions to wash over him. He retrieved an envelope from his desk and placed the notes inside them. He also plucked a certain package from his bookshelf and stowed both the envelope and the package into his luggage before zipping it shut.

Task accomplished. Severus sat on the edge of his bed and waited until it was time for breakfast.

Spinner’s End was never an enjoyable place to return after a year of all meals, chores, and errant wishes being magically provided. This summer there was additional pain as Severus looked around and spotted reminder after reminder of his failure.

He burned books and Vanished the ash. He smashed rare Potions tools and threw out equally valuable ingredients. He rearranged, Transfigured, and cast cleaning spells until the downstairs was barely recognizable as a place he’d seen before, nevermind the one he’d spent so many hours researching and brewing for one failed purpose.

Severus climbed the stairs and entered his bedroom. He had watched countless memories in the Pensieve and seen Sirius then but the pictures on his nightstand were worse. He wasn’t in a memory, watching. He was in his life, staring at the remnants of his brief and singular happiness.

There were only two photos, both on the nightstand. One of Sirius, black and white, unmoving, in a simple silver frame. Sirius loved Muggle photos for some reason Severus had never discerned. 

The other photo laid flat. It was a magical print out and within the small borders he and Sirius embraced while disrobed. Taking the photo had embarrassed Severus and looking at it he flushed with a familiar combination of shame and arousal. 

Severus contemplated destroying them both but instead he opened the top drawer and hid them under the books he kept there.

With that, it was as though, at least within the house, Sirius never existed.

A week later, Severus received another owl.

Chapter Text

Severus stopped outside the Muggle pub, eyes flicking up to the neon sign that displayed the name Sirius wrote within the letter. He cast various detection spells, seeking ill intent or dark magic. It was an old habit before entering a building and Severus felt comforted, if only mildly, from the lack of response to his spells. 

He stepped inside and was further pleased to find the room nearly empty. It made sense, being three in the afternoon. Severus swept his gaze over the bartender, the two Muggles sitting at the bar, and landed on Sirius, sitting at a table. He was dressed in ridiculous Muggle clothing and spun a bottle cap on the table top. Severus watched him and debated turning around.

“You lost?” the bartender asked and Sirius looked up. The bottle cap went flying and clattered somewhere unseen. Out of options, Severus shook his head in answer and walked over to Sirius.

“Hello,” Severus said and sat down in the chair opposite Sirius. 

“I wasn’t sure you’d come,” Sirius said.

“I wasn’t either,” Severus said. Sirius made a noise in his throat. Then he leaned over and scooped his bottle cap off the floor. He resumed spinning it, eyes fixed downward.

“So, we had sex?” he asked. Severus couldn’t contain a snort of derision.

“You and sex. That’s the first thing you talked about in the Veil, too.” It was still bizarre to rope this teenager to the man he knew but certainly not as agonizing as it had been before. Not if he just didn’t think about it too hard.

“I was probably horny as fuck after three years,” Sirius said. His hands stilled, he lifted his eyes from the bottle cap and, with infuriating indifference, openly looked Severus up and down. “Was it any good?”

Severus couldn’t say why he sat there and allowed Sirius to look and at the same time mentally reviewed their always furtive trysts. Very, he thought but didn’t say.

“Have you considered you could recover your memory?” Severus asked instead and Sirius blinked.

“What?”

“At first I believed you were actually your younger self but the more I consider the possibility, the less sense it makes. How would the Veil be able to alter time and space to bring you from the past without any repercussions?” Severus kept his tone flat as he spoke though inwardly his heart raced. Since the idea had come to him, late one insomniac night, he had been unable to reason his way out of it. This could be his Sirius underneath it all.

Severus thought he’d exhausted all foolish hope but there it beat inside his chest anyway.

“The healers checked for memory spells,” Sirius said dismissively. “And glamors and anything else they could think of. Nothing.” He sounded bored. Severus felt his lips curl with anger.

“In case you’ve forgotten, official channels also said the Veil was unbreachable yet look what I accomplished.” 

“That was different,” Sirius said. “The Veil was uncharted territory and so you were the first to explore it. Groundbreaking, sure. Memory charms and glamors are common knowledge, well researched for centuries. You can’t reinvent the wheel as a sphere, Snape.”

“The Veil could have a different form of magic,” Severus argued. “One we can’t detect.”

“Sure, and I could wake up tomorrow with two heads, but will I? No. And does the Veil? No.” Sirius scratched his nose and then sighed. His tone became gentle and somehow that enraged Severus further. “Look, I know this is difficult for you-”

“So you won’t allow me even the attempt?” Severus interrupted. 

“I will,” Sirius said. “On one condition.”

Severus quirked an eyebrow. “And that condition would be?”

“You can experiment on me all you like if you suck me off,” Sirius said. “More than once, preferably, it could be like a routine, you know-”

“I despise you,” Severus whispered, his hatred and fury choking out his voice. His hands shook from the effort of not strangling Sirius - no, Black, this was definitely Black. And, yes, he could absolutely see now that this was not Sirius under glamors. This was the abominable teenager that had tortured him at school, unleashed back on the world without the imprisonment in Azkaban to humble him. 

Severus escaped out to the street. Flooded with anger, he strode toward the back alley. When he felt a hand on his elbow, he turned, wand already out.

“Going to hex me?” Black asked. 

“I’m going to jam this up your nostril so far that it punctures your minuscule brain,” Severus snarled.

Then he turned on the spot, thrusting his body into the snug nothingness of Apparition. When he landed on the doorstep of Spinner’s End, he spun again, and again and again, rocketing around in that unique space where he couldn’t think and didn’t feel, and only when he splinched himself, leaving a pinky behind, did he stop. 

Chapter Text

The good thing that came from the meeting was that Severus learned to bury Sirius under his white-hot hate for Black. Whenever his mind tried to dwell on what he’d lost, he would simply pull up the image of Black smirking, demeaning him, and his trickle of grief dried up within the resultant rage.

There was one downside. Severus could barely get through a single page of a book before the words suck me off would begin to bounce around his head and he’d lose all focus.

Then there was a second, related downside. One time out of every hundred, recalling the words twisted his stomach in pleasure rather than anger. It was as though he detested Black so much he no longer had the mental space to care about his youth and he only saw someone that looked an awful lot like his lover propositioning him.

In a way that only made Severus dislike him more.

Letters arrived from Black and Severus Vanished them all without opening a single one. He destroyed the ones from Hogwarts as well. Why had he kept them in the first place? What delusions had he been laboring under to believe they’d been worth anything?

He remembered holding them at night and his insides writhed with humiliation.

Even the comfort received from the Pensieve was abolished. When he saw Sirius, he saw Black. Separating them became impossible.

He had to think of nothing and do nothing to make it through the day. It was like he’d been the one to travel in time now but back rather than forward, back to when he’d been a spy and a devout Occlumens. At least then his time had been filled with teaching, meeting, lying, plotting.

Now Severus stared out his front window for hours at a time and practiced living as a body without a mind. He focused on the cloth under his fingertips, the pressure of his legs against the armchair, the tension in his shoulders as he sat upright, and other than that, nothing at all.

Eventually, after much practice, Severus was able to read an article in a newspaper or complete a few lines in a crossword puzzle. Then he graduated to a chapter in a book and preparing next year’s coursework one lesson at a time.

By the end of summer he felt productive once again. He completed his lessons, he read a few books, and, though he did contemplate it a few times, he never opened the package of poison ingredients he’d brought with him.

Not that he was proud of any of it. He felt very little at all by the time September rolled around. Even the first day of classes, usually a spectacular abomination, failed to rouse the littlest bit of annoyance. He taught flatly and minimally and decided if Albus had a problem with that, he could fire him, and then Severus would make use of that poison after all.

It didn’t come to that. It was the first new school year after the Dark Lord’s defeat and everyone’s spirits were too high to focus on such a little thing as a withdrawn Potions professor. Severus was confident that even if anyone noticed, they would find it preferable to his usual insults and snide remarks.

And so it went.

Chapter Text

It was perhaps an hour til midnight and Severus sat in his quarters, grading the recent submissions and feeling certain that the students grew more dimwitted by the year. This quarter had certainly been his most trying, interpersonal conflict notwithstanding. He was even beginning to find the ire within him to snap at students again. It was at once invigorating and trite.

The grading and the brooding were interrupted by a furious pounding on his door. Before he had time to determine who was on the other side, a familiar voice called, “Open the door!” 

A litany of curses ran through his mind, both swear words and spells. Severus’s grip on his quill tightened but he kept on grading. He’d allowed Black to disturb him far too many times already.

The pounding ceased and then Black said the only words that could draw Severus to his feet. “I remember.”

Severus crossed the room and wrenched the door open. Sirius Black promptly pitched through the open doorway and tumbled onto the floor. He laid still, chuckling, and Severus knew at once the boy before him was blindingly drunk. He swore aloud then.

“You didn’t remember a thing, did you?” he snapped.

“Nope,” Black said. “But I needed you to open the door.” He sat up with what appeared to be great effort and then used the arm of a sofa to haul himself to his feet. “I needed to talk to you about, you know, the pub.”

“For your own health and longevity, I suggest you leave. Now.” As Severus spoke, he fantasized about knocking the drunk back on his ass and then stomping him into the ground like the little roach he was.

“Did you know about my diary?” Black asked heedlessly. Severus raised his wand and Black hurried to add, “Not my diary, old me, and diary is a bit generous. It’s more like a sex inventory, isn’t it? Anyway, I wrote all kinds of filthy stuff in there about you, and I was led to believe you enjoyed certain, ah, activities. Do you know what I’m saying?”

“No, I don’t understand your blathering whatsoever,” Severus said and though he held his wand aloft he’d yet to cast a spell. Even if only in his own mind, he couldn’t explain why not.

“For fuck’s sake, Snape, I was flirting. Or whatever the fuck you want to call it. Trying to seduce you, does that sound more adult? I didn’t think you’d get all bothered.” Black raked his hand through his hair and added nonsequentially, “I wish you’d left me in the Veil.”

“No you don’t,” Severus said. The familiar sting at his own failure returned and he focused on that rather than Black’s rambling admission. “You’d been trying to kill yourself.” 

“So not much different than now, then?” Black asked and the smile that curled over his lips was cold.

Severus, seized by a sudden madness, admitted, “I have wished many times that you were still there. I would go in again and this time stay with you.” Why did he confess his pathetic endless fantasy to Black? He couldn’t say.

“Sounds fantastic,” Black said. “Two morons driving each other mad for eternity.” Apparently finished wobbling on his feet, Black sank back onto the sofa and rubbed a knuckle into his forehead. “I’ve been having dreams, too.”

“Humans tend to do that. Even magical ones,” Severus said. Black laughed, a raspy laugh, a tortured laugh that thudded so familiarly in Severus’s ears. “You are suffering.”

“The suicide reference didn’t clue you in?” Black asked. “Imagine you fell asleep in your bed at Hogwarts and woke up twenty years later and the only time you don’t feel like you’re being drowned is when you talk to the one person you hate the most.” Black lurched off the couch as he spoke, voice gravelly, and moved toward Severus.

Severus was blank, returned to his summer stupor, only now he had no control over it. He wanted to protest, to hex Black out of his room, or even just merely think and instead he stood still and watched him approach. Where were the cutting returns? Where was his damn mind?

“Hated,” Black continued. “I hated you the most. Not anymore. I hate Peter more, that traitorous fuck, and-”

Severus reached out. He regretted it even as he did it. His fingers closed around Black’s robes and he pulled. Black came willingly, face just the slightest bit upturned, and then Severus crushed his mouth to Black’s.

Black stank of booze and Severus tasted it on his lips. That was nothing new - how many times had he kissed a drunk Sirius? Countless. The lips against his felt achingly familiar. The taste and touch combined was better than the faint kiss in the Veil. It was real; it was almost like he actually held Sirius in his grip.

Severus threaded his hand through Black’s hair and pulled, tilting his head back to run his tongue and teeth along his neck, and Black moaned, again and again, openly falling apart in Severus’s arms. 

He was still too young. Severus lifted up Black’s Muggle shirt and Black shrugged it off easily.

He was also drunk. They kissed again. Black pulled the front of Severus’s robe open.

He wasn’t Sirius. And for that, Severus did pause. He pulled away and looked at Black, who opened his eyes at the loss of contact.

“Don’t chicken out on me,” Black said and it was so moronic a sentiment that Severus laughed. He rarely did. The chuckle came and left quickly, barely begun before it was over.

Black smiled. Severus drank in his smile - it wasn’t the bitter expression he’d worn only minutes earlier. He was happy. He was also  impossibly young, drunk, and a time travelled teenager in the body of his dead lover.

Undoubtedly, Severus was a fool because something inside him broke past caring about any of it. He pushed the thoughts away, intentionally this time, and reached out once again.

Chapter Text

Severus regarded the sleeping boy beside him with a blank expression that belied none of his inner turmoil. Rage, grief, denial, disgust - it all ran through him concurrent to the lust that stirred in his gut remembering what they’d done.

It hadn’t technically been wrong. Black was of age, had been even at 17, and he’d had a birthday since the Veil so he was even older at 18. He was too old to be a student; Severus hadn’t violated his position as a professor.

The excuses sounded pathetic even in his own mind.

It was done, though. Hadn’t he spent enough energy on regret and rumination for one lifetime?

Black’s eyes opened, smoothly as though he hadn’t been asleep but merely pretending. Severus knew he had slept, at some point. He remembered pulling Black to his chest, stroking his hair until he fell asleep, and feeling as though he’d fallen through his own reality into an entirely foreign one.

They looked at each other but neither spoke. Then Black reached out and threaded his fingers through Severus’s. Severus let him, looked at their joined hands and the dark eyes staring at him, and continued saying nothing. 

“You’re pretending I’m him,” he said.

“That pretense would be impossible,” Severus said. “You don’t talk like him, laugh like him, or smell like him.” There were glimmers, of course, and he looked like Sirius, of course, but it wasn’t him.

Somehow, for the first time, Severus felt a moment of peace with that.

“Do I taste like him?” Black asked slyly, a grin playing on his lips.

“You certainly have his sense of humor and the innate ability to annoy me,” Severus said.

“If I tried to be with you, you would never see me,” Black said.

“Be with you?” Severus repeated mockingly and Black pulled his hand away.

“Exactly my point.” Black slipped out of bed and began to dress.

Severus remembered Black claiming the meeting at the pub had been some sort of attempt at flirtation. He remembered all the notes Black had written him. He remembered Black saying the only time he felt happy was around Severus. Was Severus happy? Not quite. The rage and grief that had battled inside him for years laid ever present but calmed. He was, perhaps, content. 

“Will you meet me?” Severus asked as Black shrugged on his t-shirt. 

“I don’t need pity,” Black said tightly.

“You don’t have it,” Severus said. “And for future reference, I don’t enjoy being sexually propositioned in public.”

“You want to rehash this now?” Black asked. 

“I want to tell you I saved all the letters you wrote me. Until your insulting words at the Muggle pub, then I burned them all. Before then, though, I also felt…”

Severus stopped because it felt like a betrayal, all of the sudden. He’d pledged many things to Sirius, a number of them only in his head, and now he was going to belie quite a few of them.

But didn’t he need to move on? Didn’t he deserve a chance at happiness too? And was it betraying Sirius by feeling something for someone who looked just like him? It was more like honoring him, wasn’t it?

Severus decided it must be.

Black stood there in the silence and Severus felt relieved he hadn’t fled. “Come sit,” Severus commanded, indicating the bed, and was pleased when Black did so.

“The drowning sensation,” Severus continued and Black stiffened a bit. “I feel you have been a sort of lifeboat, as well.”

“What a couple of saps we are,” Black said. They leaned in, kissed again, and Severus did his very best not to compare.

Chapter Text

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.