Title: The Sin in Your Grin (and the Shape of Your Mouth)
Pairing: Sirius/Snape, Remus/Sirius, implied James/Sirius
Prompt: #9 - Looking back without fondness on a deeply flawed relationship.
Content Information/Warnings: Angst, bad language, smoking, fight sex, semi-public sex, frottage, dubious consent
Summary: The Order needed Sirius, but he doubted they'd mourn him very long when he finally disappeared.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to themostepotente for the beta, and for her patience and support when this thing ballooned into a monster. Title from Archive.
The stairs creaked in complaint under Sirius' feet, the same way they had the night he ran away to live with James. He avoided touching the dusty, splintered bannister, ignored the tapestries whispering as they stretched toward the floor. Grimmauld Place had changed while Sirius was in Azkaban, was now so cold and dank and dirty he almost didn't recognise it, but the windows still strangled the sunlight and the air still itched with malice and dark magic. His mother screamed until she was hoarse, and the house-elf heads watched him blindly from the walls.
Sirius pushed through the heavy kitchen door, hoped Molly wasn't making an early start on dinner.
It had been months since Sirius had heard that voice, but it still managed to put his teeth on edge. "Snape."
The house rattled and sighed with the wind. Snape lurked near the kitchen table, a square of parchment in his hand and a book hidden under his arm. Shadows played over his sallow face as Sirius closed the door, and for a strange moment he was fifteen again -- his shoulders awkward and hunched, his hair a lank, greasy curtain, his hooked nose sharply intruding on the rest of his ugly features.
Snape's lip curled, his head tilting slightly, and the spell broke as quickly as it had been cast.
It was unseasonably warm for September; the sun cut a slow, lazy arc across the nearly blue sky, hanging listlessly over the lake, and the air seemed to twist and shimmer with heat. Sirius rolled his sleeves to his elbows, let his robe drop into a messy pool at his feet. The fat curve of Ravenclaw Tower cast a fairly cool patch of shade, but James was hogging most of it, his eyes closed and his head leaned back against the bricks. His glasses had slipped down to the end of his nose; the fag they were meant to be sharing drooped from the corner of his mouth.
"Budge up, will you?" Sirius grumbled, elbowing James in the side as he loosened his tie. "I'm roasting alive."
James opened one eye, smoke curling around his face. "You're a girl's blouse, is what you are."
Sirius reached for the cigarette, but James dodged him neatly, laughing through another cloud of smoke as Sirius cursed and cuffed his shoulder. He took two more quick puffs, then offered it to Sirius by sticking the butt in Sirius' mouth; Sirius managed one good drag before James pulled it away.
"I'll remember that," Sirius murmured, smiling a little, "the next time you're hoping to get your knob wet."
James shrugged easily, nudged his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "The next time we've had that much to drink, you won't remember anything I've said."
A sluggish hint of breeze pushed through the courtyard; it didn't make things any cooler, only agitated the thick, heavy air. Sirius crowded closer to James, until he was mostly out of the sun, and he stole what was left of the fag from James' hand. It was nearly dead and crawling with ash, and Sirius hissed as it burned the inside of his finger.
"Are you going to Divs?" James asked, tugging irritably at the collar of his shirt.
"I haven't decided yet."
"Well, let me know when you do, all right? I'd rather not -- oh, fuck it all." James glanced furtively over Sirius' shoulder, then slumped back against the wall. "Balls."
Sirius took a short, final drag of the cigarette and flicked it onto the walk. "Now what?"
"Velma Puckle," James said, nudging himself between Sirius and the wall. "She's just over there."
"By the fountain. You bloody well can't miss her."
Sirius eventually spotted her across the courtyard, shading her eyes against the sun as she peered hopefully in their direction. "And?" She was fairly fit, if a bit short and perhaps blonder than Sirius liked. "You took her out the other night, didn't you?"
"You told me you didn't shag her."
"I didn't shag her. I just, you know." James smirked, making a gesture that was terribly crude, even for him. "I guess no one has ever rang her bells before. She won't leave me alone now. Follows me all over the bloody castle."
"One of these days, Evans is going to find out about all these other birds."
"Evans can't complain about anything I do, not when she won't give me a date," James muttered, rumpling his hair. "I'm not just going to sit on my hands until she comes to her senses."
Sirius huffed out a short laugh. "It's your hands what got you into this mess. She's coming this way, you know."
"Shit." James slid out from behind Sirius, pausing long enough to dig the Map from Sirius' rear pocket. "I'll just be going, then."
"Oi, I need that," Sirius said, snatching at James' wrist, "if you want me to get MacDonald's knickers for that thing we're doing tonight."
"I'll give it to you later."
Sighing, Sirius picked up his rucksack and robe. "I still haven't decided if I'm going."
"If you want it back, you'll go," James called over his shoulder. "I'm not sitting through that rubbish alone."
"I'd kill you, Potter," Sirius shouted after him, "but when you didn't show up for Quidditch practise, people would start asking questions."
Sirius rounded the Tower and crashed right into Snape.
"I'd kill you too, you filthy fuck," Sirius snarled, as Snape glared at him, his hair shrouding his face in heavy, greasy clumps, "but then I'd have to do something with your body, and I don't know any decent Gardening Charms."
"Something stinks of bird droppings," Snape said slowly, his eyes narrowed on Sirius. "I just now noticed it, so I suppose it's you."
Sirius leaned back against the door, folded his arms across his chest. "It might be me, at that. I'm bunking with a Hippogriff."
"Ah." Snape's mouth twisted a bit more. "And the Firewhisky?"
"I had half a bottle of Ogden's Old for lunch, if that's what you're asking," Sirius snapped, louder than was probably wise. He didn't bother keeping secrets from Harry, but Molly was only willing to overlook so much, and she constantly complained to Arthur and Remus about the bad example he set for the children. "Now it's my turn for a question, Snape -- what the bloody fuck are you doing in my kitchen?"
"I need to speak with Potter."
"Harry is busy at the moment."
A muscle twitched in Snape's jaw. "I assure you, Black, this will not take long. I have no desire to spend any more time with Potter than is absolutely necessary."
"Perhaps Harry doesn't want to speak with you."
Snape sighed under his breath, slid his hand over the back of the chair waiting at his hip. "Do you remember the last war, Black?"
"Then you should also remember that fighting a war and winning it have very little to do with what one wants."
A suit of armour creaked, and a sharp, speculative murmur whipped through the quickly swelling crowd.
Sirius slammed his fist into Regulus' smirking, pureblood mouth.
Regulus reeled back against the wall, clipping his shoulder on a portrait frame as his wand clattered to the floor. The crowd buzzed with excitement, louder than before; it was larger now, spanning the width of the corridor, comprised mostly of Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs drifting toward third-year Potions. Regulus cocked his head, favoured Sirius with a dark, appraising look. His lip was split, and he washed away the blood with the tip of his tongue.
"Toadying bastard," Sirius snarled.
Sirius was taller than Regulus and broader across the shoulders, and four years of swinging a Beater's bat had made him a good bit stronger, but Regulus was quick and clever, and Regulus was completely fucking ruthless. He flew at Sirius, barely stumbling as his robe swirled around his legs, had his hands in Sirius' hair and his knee in Sirius' bollocks before Sirius found the chance to dart back or slide away. The pain was sudden and crushing; Sirius' legs shook and his stomach twisted with nausea. Staggering, Sirius cursed and swung his elbow into Regulus' gut.
"You're a disgrace," Regulus gasped, sucking in short, ragged breaths between his gritted teeth. "Duelling like a Muggle."
"So are you, you worthless, Slytherin shit."
Regulus wiped his mottled mouth with the back of his hand, spat blood onto the flagstones, right next to Sirius' feet. "You started this."
"And, what? You plan to finish it -- just like a Muggle," Sirius demanded loudly, "even though it's so far beneath you?"
"Everything you do is beneath me."
The crowd was huge now, milling and pressing closer to the fight in a tight circle, and it erupted with a bright shower and cheers and taunts as Sirius launched himself at Regulus. Regulus swung for Sirius' face, but Sirius was ready for it this time; he caught Regulus' wrist, twisted Regulus' arm as he kicked at Regulus' feet.
Regulus crumpled to the floor, his knees bending under his body at sharp and painful angles, and Sirius pulled his wand -- he could do this like a proper pureblood prig, if that was what Regulus really wanted -- but a hand suddenly snagged in his sleeve, fingers bruising into Sirius' skin as Sirius was roughly hauled around.
"That's enough, Black." Snape's voice was too calm and quiet for the narrow hatred in his eyes.
Sirius wrenched his arm from Snape's grasp, shoved Snape away by the shoulder. "Mind your own business, Snivellus."
"Leave him alone."
"This is a family matter," Sirius said snidely, barking out a short, mirthless laugh. "Apparently, my brother thinks I'm shaming all my noble and most ancient ancestors."
The crowd was thinning this close to the start of class, a frenzied exodus that swept Regulus up in its tide. Sirius didn't watch him go, didn't bother trying to follow; he was probably heading for the dungeons to have his broken lip healed by the likes of Avery and Rosier. A group of Hufflepuff girls pushed past Sirius, giggling as they separated him from Snape like a wall. Sirius blotted the blood on his chin with his sleeve, turned to go as Snape sighed under his breath.
Sirius spat out a Trip Jinx, badly aimed but enough to send Snape twitching back toward the wall. "Sorry. I didn't catch that."
Snape swung at Sirius before his wand hit the floor, arching away from the statue at his shoulder to throw his fist into Sirius' side. Sirius punched Snape in the jaw and chest, then in the gut, smiling as Snape hissed and doubled over with a harsh grunt. Kicking Snape's wand down the corridor, he caught Snape around the throat and bore him back against the wall, his fingers digging bruises into the sallow skin under Snape's chin.
"Regulus is a stupid, useless little fuck, but he's my brother," Sirius growled, low and thick and right in Snape's ear. "You stay out of my business, and you stay out of his."
Footsteps sounded at the end of the corridor, and Snape jerked his head around, tried to slither away from Sirius and the wall. His hair was softer than it looked, slipping away as Sirius tried to knot it in his hand; he pressed closer to Snape, his fingers hooked in Snape's collar, and pinned Snape to the wall with his hip.
Snape's prick was hard, pushed against Sirius' thigh. Through a sharp wave of revulsion, Sirius realised he was halfway there himself.
Snape's mouth curled into a strange line, softer than his usual sneer. He shifted a little closer to Sirius, fisting his hand in the front of Sirius' shirt, and Sirius choked out something wordless and throaty and startled.
His hand was still on Snape's neck, his thumb brushing the twitch of Snape's pulse, and Snape's mouth opened a little, a hint of teeth and a slick flash of tongue.
"Do it, Black," Snape said quietly. He sneaked his fingers under Sirius' shirt, touched skin through a gap between the buttons. "I won't tell anyone."
Remus' hand slid over Sirius' shoulder, pausing warm and familiar at the back of Sirius' neck. Snape narrowed his eyes, twisted away from Sirius and the wall.
"Moony, I was--"
"Not fighting in the middle of a bloody corridor when you're meant to be in class, I'm sure," Remus said brightly, "or I'd have to take points, and you know how much I love doing that." He frowned suddenly. "You've broken your nose again, haven't you?"
"I think so, yeah."
"Thanks. Look, it wasn't--"
"Never mind that just now," Remus said, tugging on Sirius' sleeve. "Let's go. McGonagall will go spare if you miss Transfiguration again."
"What about Snivellus?"
Snape hadn't quite left; he was lurking at the mouth of the corridor, watching Remus and Sirius intently. His robe was ripped at the collar and the point of his chin was purpling with a bruise.
"What about him?" Remus asked, his prefect's badge glinting weakly in the poor light. "It's a shame he fell down that staircase, innit?"
"Just tell me why you're here," Sirius said, taking a seat across from Snape. "He's my godson. I have the right to ask."
Snape pushed the square of parchment at Sirius, bracing the table with the heel of his hand when it listed sharply to one side. Sirius recognised the handwriting straight off, as precise and eccentric as Dumbledore himself; he stopped reading after important and necessity and everyone's cooperation.
"Potter has already been sent for," Snape said, far too lightly. "It was never my intention to ask your permission. For all her faults, I find Molly Weasley far more agreeable."
"Damn it, Snape. If you--"
The door interrupted Sirius with a harsh groan. Harry paused in the doorway, his hand waiting nervously on the lintel; he darted a quick glance at Sirius, frowned uncertainly at Snape.
It was strange to see that expression on Harry's familiar face -- James had never been uncertain about anything. Except Evans.
"Sit down, Potter."
Sirius cleared his throat loudly, leaning his chair back until it tilted up on its rear legs. "You know, I think I prefer it if you didn't give orders here, Snape. It's my house, you see."
Harry perched on the chair next to Sirius; Snape sneered at them both.
"I was supposed to see you alone, Potter, but Black--"
"I'm his godfather," Sirius snapped.
Snape's sneer twisted, sharpened around the edges. "I am here on Dumbledore's orders, but by all means stay, Black. I know you like to feel... involved."
James found him on the creaky iron balcony off the choir room, shivering under a grotty scrap of blanket and blowing thin trails of smoke into the frigid air.
"Wotcher, Prongs," Sirius said quietly.
"How long have you been out here?"
"I don't know. Since you lot went down for supper, I guess."
A sudden gust of wind shot around them; the tails of James' scarf danced for a moment and his fringe swept over his glasses.
"Budge up, then, before I freeze to death," James said, his teeth chattering loudly. He squeezed onto the cramped bench as Sirius shifted over and offered him one end of the blanket. "You can't keep on like this forever, you know, sleeping in the common room and begging food from the house-elves."
Sirius shrugged, flicked his spent fag over the rusted railing. "The house-elves aren't fussed."
"Fuck off, James," Sirius said, his breath taking shape in front of his face. "Did you come out here just to take the piss?"
"Of course not. It's too cold for that shit."
An owl hooted softly, somewhere above Sirius' head. James huffed and burrowed under the blanket, snagging his fingers in Sirius' sleeve and digging his knee into Sirius' thigh.
"Go bother Evans, will you?"
"Shame, that. She starts taking funny turns if your tongue isn't in her mouth every ten minutes."
"I'd rather be snogging her, if you must know, but she's busy just now," James said, knocking his shoulder against Sirius'. "She's doing her -- oh, wossname. Careers Assessment. You know, with McGonagall."
The wind blew past them again, icy and quick; the ironwork rattled and the loose edge of the blanket flapped around their feet. James dug his cigarettes from his pocket, the bench creaking in protest as he moved, and lit one with a bright spark from his wand. He smoked in silence, frowning sharply and shooting sidelong glances at Sirius, until Sirius finally sighed and pinched James' leg.
"What the fuck do you want, Prongs?"
"I want to know if you're done being an arsehole."
"I'm never done being an arsehole," Sirius said, staring down at the blanket, at the hard outline of his hands underneath. "That's just the way I am."
"Now who's taking the piss?" James snapped, smoke curling from the corner of his mouth. "Leave it out."
The moon was waxing gibbous and nearly yellow, large as it loomed over the Forbidden Forest. Sirius hated it.
"Is Moony still sore?"
"A little, yeah. Mostly he's naffed off because you're avoiding him." James paused for a moment, brushed ash from the sudden, round point his knee made in the blanket. "He's in love with you, you know."
"Shut it," Sirius snapped, fumbling around for his own fags. The box was crushed and empty; he shook the last one loose and lit it with a vicious Incendio. "Don't say that kind of shit."
Sirius blew smoke up at the night sky, watched it fade into the stars. "You're out of your tree."
"I'm not -- oh, fuck you, Sirius." The bench shrieked as James turned to face him, as James jabbed his knuckles into Sirius' side. "You know I'm right. You just don't want to hear it."
"No, I don't," Sirius said honestly.
James narrowed his eyes, poked Sirius' side again. "You've been shagging him for three years. What the hell did you expect?"
"It hasn't been that long. Two and a half, maybe, and he's been on and off with Octavia Whimple for most of it."
"More on than off, and he still thinks you don't know."
"What, about Whimple?" Sirius asked incredulously. "Not bloody likely. That bird couldn't keep a secret if you hexed her with laryngitis."
"Look. Moony is... we're just, you know." Sirius sighed and twitched the blanket over his feet. "It isn't... I'm not bent."
James snorted quietly. "You've sucked more cocks than I have."
"You've sucked plenty."
James scratched the side of his neck, looking up at the stars. "Moony doesn't remember it. That means it didn't happen."
"That just means you give lousy head, Potter."
"Tosser," James said, killing the end of his fag on the rail. He leaned closer to Sirius, and his head nearly eclipsed the moon. "Why did you do it? Snape, I mean."
Sirius closed his eyes. He could still feel Snape's hand inside his shirt, Snape's fingers on his skin, Snape's prick hard against his. If Remus hadn't come along when he did, Sirius might've kissed Snape, might've touched Snape, might've grabbed Snape by the hips and rubbed his prick against Snape's thigh.
"I don't know, really," Sirius muttered, looking down at the cigarette burning to ash between his fingers. "He was there, and Moony was there, and I... it didn't seem like such a crap idea at the time."
"You're lucky I was there," James said loftily, flashing one of the arrogant smiles he usually saved for Evans, "otherwise, Moony'd be expelled and you'd be in Azkaban."
"Yeah, okay, you're a right little hero." Sirius nudged James' foot with his toe. "You still give lousy head."
James laughed at the moon. "Come back upstairs, Black, before I bloody well kill you."
Sirius leaned across the table; the legs of his chair levelled with a loud thump. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Merely that I'm sure you must feel," Snape paused, seemed to choose his next word carefully, "frustrated that you can do nothing useful for the Order."
Heat crept over Sirius' skin, furious and bright as it burned on his cheeks, at the back of his neck. Snape's mouth curved with something close to a smile -- sharp, darkly satisfied -- and Sirius looked away, traced a gouge in the table top with the tip of his finger.
Snape very deliberately turned his attention back to Harry. "The headmaster has sent me to tell you, Potter, that it is his wish for you to study Occlumency this term."
"Study what?" Harry asked slowly.
"Occulmency, Potter. The magical defence of the mind against external penetration. An obscure branch of magic, but a highly useful one."
Harry's eyes widened in a way that made him look very much like James. "Why do I have to study Occlu -- thing?"
"Because the headmaster thinks it is a good idea," Snape said, his voice dangerously smooth. "You will receive private lessons once a week, but you will not tell anybody what you are doing, least of all Dolores Umbridge. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Harry shifted in his seat; the table wobbled as his elbow banged into it. "Who is going to be teaching me?"
Snape's mouth hardened, sharpened. "I am."
"Bloody fucking broom cupboards," Sirius grumbled, jerking his foot away from a pail of manky rags. "Bloody fucking James Potter."
Chuckling quietly, Remus hunched closer to the Map. He had it pinned to the door with the palm of his hand. "This isn't James' fault. Not really."
"Of course this is James' fault. This was James' brilliant fucking idea."
"You agreed it was a brilliant fucking idea," Remus said, peering at something near the bottom of the Map, "until the Tracking Charm went to shit and we had to hide from Filch's cat."
"In a broom cupboard," Sirius stressed.
Broom cupboards had never been Sirius' favourite -- too dark, too close, too often crawling with dust and spiders -- but this one was probably the worst Sirius had ever been in. It was so small they'd barely been able to shut the door behind them, so crammed with rubbish that they didn't have room to sit down. A mop handle was digging into Sirius' side and his elbow kept jabbing something wet and everything smelled like cleaning solvents and forgotten bed linens.
Remus chuckled again, leaning back against Sirius a little, and Sirius steadied him by the hips.
"It could be worse, I suppose," Sirius said, to the back of Remus' neck, the slow curve of Remus' shoulder. "I could be stuck in here with Peter."
"Why, because Peter won't let you grope under his shirt?" Remus asked, twisting a little as Sirius' thumb slid over his rib. "You can stop that, by the way. Your hands are freezing."
"Peter sings to himself, sometimes. Is that why? Or because he smacks his lips when he eats crisps?"
Sirius pulled Remus closer, hid a soft kiss in Remus' hair. "Because he rabbits on about Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle like anyone cares, and he bloody well had a second helping of beans at supper."
Remus laughed, low and throaty and warm, and Sirius pulled him closer. Sirius' prick was hard, had been since Remus first shoved him into this ruddy broom cupboard, and he slowly -- very slowly -- rubbed it against Remus' arse.
"I wonder how James is making out with the Bubotuber pus," Remus said, tracking a movement on the Map with the lighted tip of his wand.
"I don't much care, really."
"I still say we should've stashed those sneezeworts in the Owlery," Remus continued, pushing his arse back against Sirius' prick in a lazy, off-hand sort of way. "It's less stairs than the Astronomy Tower, and closer to the target."
Sirius mouthed at the skin behind Remus' ear. "Fascinating."
"Are you even listening?"
"Of course I am. James Potter is a prat with Bubotuber pus for brains." Sirius snapped his hips into Remus, smiling at the filthy noise Remus nearly made, and slid his hands around to Remus' belt. "The sneezeworts should be in the Owlery, and you should take your trousers off."
"Balls," Remus hissed, twitching a fold on the Map that sketched out one of the upper floors. "Oh, fuck me."
Sirius smiled. "We don't have enough room in here, I don't think, but I'm keen to try if you are."
"No, no -- I mean, I would be, but." Remus twisted around a little and shook the Map in Sirius' face. "It's Peter. He's going to walk right into Filch if he keeps on the way he's going."
"Oh, that's okay. He can just go rat and run right between Filch's dirty feet."
Remus batted Sirius' hands away from his flies. "Yes, and he can Transfigure a statue into a titchy sled and drag those boxes of Stinkpellets down to the Great Hall."
"I'll be back, once I get Peter sorted," Remus said, pressing a warm, wet kiss to Sirius' jaw. He quirked an eyebrow, brushed his knuckles over the hard line of Sirius' prick. "Save that for me."
Remus stepped out into the hallway, the door creaking as it fell shut behind him.
"He gets me all worked up, and then he leaves me," Sirius complained, to the dust creeping inside his nose, to a faded tapestry rolled into the far corner, "and then he tells me to save it for him, the git. Not bloody likely."
The door creaked again, just as Sirius slipped his hand in his trousers, and Sirius smiled.
"Snape," Sirius snarled, his breath catching in his throat. "What the fuck are you doing in here?"
"I could ask you the same thing," Snape said quietly, pausing at Sirius' open trousers, at the way Sirius was still kind of fucking into his hand, "but I think the answer is fairly obvious."
"Get out of here," Sirius snapped. He was so close -- too close -- could feel it building in his bollocks, in the low of his gut, even at the backs of his knees. "Get out of here, or I'll hex you into next week."
Snape almost smiled. "Accio!"
Sirius' wand spun out of his pocket in a slow, graceful arc, and Sirius stared in horror as it clattered at Snape's feet, as Snape hid the handle under the toe of his boot.
"Sorry. I didn't catch that."
Sirius leaned back against the crooked, three-legged desk behind him, steadied it with his hands when it tipped him toward the floor. "What do you want, Snape?"
"I want to know why you tried to kill me."
The accusation waited there, trapped between the shadows and dust, and Sirius curled in on himself a little, felt the weight of Remus' lost secret heavy on his shoulders. In the poor light, Snape's sallow face was nearly grey, and his sneer was sinister, edged like a knife.
"I didn't try to kill you," Sirius said finally.
"You nearly fed me to a werewolf."
"No," Sirius hissed, stepping closer to Snape. He couldn't reach his wand, but he could still smash Snape's teeth in. "It wouldn't have... I don't give a shit about you, but I wouldn't have done that to Remus."
Snape tilted his head, his greasy hair curtaining his face. "I almost believe that."
"You should believe it, Snivellus. I wouldn't have risked that much, not for you. If Remus had actually hurt you, the Ministry would've had him fucking exterminated, or whatever the bloody Werewolf Registry is calling it these days."
"He's a dark creature," Snape said simply.
Sirius punched him squarely in the jaw. "You're a dark creature."
Snape was silent for a few moments, his eyes narrow and sullen as he rubbed at the red mark Sirius' fist had left behind. It would bruise darkly by tomorrow evening, purple and yellow and blue.
"You wanted to scare me." Snape pushed away from the door, locking it with a spell Sirius didn't recognise, and moved in close, too close. Sirius could hear him breathing. "Why?"
"You've been following us around for months," Sirius said sharply, hedging back a little, "always bothering Evans, or watching Remus." His arse bumped the wobbly desk, and Snape's hand slid up his chest. "I figured it was time you buggered off. I wanted you to leave us alone."
Snape twisted his hand in Sirius' tie and pulled, dragging Sirius closer. He kissed Sirius hard and fast and rough, his hip pinning Sirius to the desk and his hand sneaking down to curve over Sirius' prick.
"I want you to finish what you started in that hallway, Black."
He kissed Sirius again, his teeth flashing at Sirius' lip; he pushed his tongue into Sirius' mouth, and all Sirius could taste was his own blood.
"Get away from me, Snivellus."
"Close your eyes. Pretend I'm Lupin, if that will make it easier," Snape said, his mouth wet as he reached for Sirius' open flies. "All dark creatures look the same with the lights off."
"Why can't Dumbledore teach Harry?" Sirius demanded, his hand gripping the back of Harry's chair. "Why you?"
"I suppose it is the headmaster's privilege to delegate less enjoyable tasks," Snape said easily, his voice like a snake twisting through soft grass. "I assure you I did not beg for the job." He stood slowly, favouring Harry with a hard, disapproving frown. "I will expect you at six o'clock on Monday evening. If anybody asks, you are taking Remedial Potions. Nobody who has seen you in my class could deny you need them."
Harry nodded, his face paling slightly. He seemed small next to the grotesquely ornate kitchen chair, looked nervous and defeated and very, very tired.
"Wait a moment," Sirius called, as Snape reached the door.
"I'm rather in a hurry, Black... unlike you, I do not have unlimited leisure time."
"I'll get to the point then," Sirius growled, rising to his feet. Snape was shorter than him, always had been, but it didn't carry the same comfort it had back in school, back when Snape was a hunched, awkward thing that barely spoke and rarely looked people in the eye. "If I hear you're using these Occlumency lessons to give Harry a hard time, you'll have me to answer to."
"How touching," Snape said, a sneer crawling over his words, "but surely you have noticed that Potter is very like his father."
Sirius' chest ached around the hollow James had left behind. "Yes, I have."
"Well, then, you'll know he's so arrogant that criticism simply bounces off him."
Gideon leaned back in his chair, restlessly drumming his fingers on his knee. His frown was thoughtful and sharp, his mouth creased with a scar cut into his lower lip by a curse, and his reddish hair flickered copper and gold in the glow from the hurricane lamp on the table. He looked tired, worn thin, as frayed around the edges as Sirius felt; the skin under his eyes was the colour of an old bruise.
The Order had kept a dingy, rented loft in Diagon Alley, down one of the dark and narrow passages with tuffets growing between the wet cobblestones, but Bonfire Night had brought a Death Eater raid that wounded three members and nearly destroyed their intelligence network. It met in random places now, presently the remarkably tiny London flat Lily wouldn't let James smoke in, and it communicated through coded owls and covert hand signals and a variety of other schemes that Sirius found tedious and confusing and faintly ridiculous.
He'd never expected to fight a war after leaving school, rather wasn't prepared for it. None of them were. Aside from Dumbledore and Moody and a small handful of rebel Aurors, the Order was just a bunch of kids, scarcely of legal age and freshly off Hogwarts' leading strings.
"All right, all right," Gideon said finally, his voice low and hoarse, "let's try it again, shall we?" He sighed and rubbed his face. "Maybe we'll think of something we missed on the last go."
"I rather doubt it," Peter complained, one of Lily's cranberry scones paused halfway to his mouth. "I mean, Islington could've been an accident. Faulty structuring, the Muggle papers said."
"The Muggle papers print all sorts of rubbish, I've noticed," James countered, from the niche that made up the tiny flat's even tinier kitchen. He had his arm around Lily's waist; a brown bottle of Muggle beer waited for him on the sideboard. "The Telegraph thought all those fires in Covent Gardens were caused by a gas leak."
Benjy snorted loudly. "Of course they did. The blokes from Muggle-Worthy Excuse are pretty handy with a Memory Charm. A man wouldn't know his own mother after twenty minutes in a room with them."
"Frank, what's the Ministry word on Islington?" Gideon asked. "Have you heard anything through channels?"
"Not a dickey-bird," Frank admitted, shaking his head. He shifted on the ugly, sagging settee, laid his hand on Alice's knee. "The MLE would insist there was no magical involvement."
"Balls," Sirius grumbled.
"I still say Islington was Dolohov," Alice added, lacing her fingers with Frank's. She had a soft smile and a round, friendly face, but Sirius had seen her kill a Death Eater nearly three times her size with a casual flick of her wrist. "Those Muggles were hospitalised with unspecified internal injuries, same as that family in Hackney, and we know that was Dolohov."
Benjy narrowed his eyes, made a quiet, thoughtful noise. "Could be Dolohov, at that. That purple curse of his is nasty business. Fires were set at both places, too."
"Might be Nott, with the fires," Lily ventured, twisting her long hair into a hasty, crooked bun. "You know he's not happy unless something is burning."
Gideon grunted. "Neither is Bellatrix. Any of the bloody Lestranges, really."
"I just don't see a connection," Peter argued quietly, frowning and fiddling with the last bits of his scone. "I mean, those Muggles in Hackney, they had a son at Hogwarts, and--"
"A daughter, I think," James said, taking a long swig of his beer.
Peter huffed irritably, pushed his plate away with a harsh scrape. "All right, James, all right. A daughter at Hogwarts, then, and we know You-Know-Who doesn't hold with that sort of thing. The Muggles in Islington were just... Muggles."
"He might've decided to stop splitting hairs," Frank said slowly. "The Death Eaters have gained a lot of ground in the last few months. A lot of followers. If they want to kill Muggles for no reason, they're strong enough to do it now."
A faint pop sounded from the fire escape, then Fabian poked his head in the kitchen window, his cheeks flushed pink and his mitten-covered hands curled around the sill. His hair was normally brighter than Gideon's, but the dusky, late evening shadows dyed it the colour of good wine. Sirius wondered when he'd last been home; he was wearing the same wrinkled, hex-scorched shirt Sirius had seen him in three days ago.
"Someone left Lupin out here with the pot plants." Fabian smiled and jerked his thumb over his shoulder, didn't quite look at Sirius. "Shall I leave him out here, then, or is he meant to feed the Prophet owl in the morning?"
"I only just arrived. I was on my way in," Remus said, laughing as he elbowed past Fabian to climb through the window, "when some giant, clumsy Quidditch hooligan Apparated on my foot."
"Oh, is that what that was? I thought I splinched my toes."
Benjy quietly vacated the chair next to Sirius, perching instead on the arm of Frank and Alice's settee, and Sirius pretended not to notice. Everyone knew Remus lived with Sirius in Alphard's ancient Bethnal Green flat, one bedroom with a single bed and a lumpy couch that didn't fold out, but no one ever mentioned it, and Sirius preferred it that way.
"Well, kids," Fabian said, humming happily as Lily passed him a steaming cup of tea, "what did I miss?"
"Alice thinks Dolohov did for those Muggles in Islington," Gideon said.
Fabian nodded slowly, turning a hat-rack into a dark blue pouffe with a lazy gesture and a sigh. "Of course she does. She's the only one here with any sense at all." He sat, sipped his tea. "Well, her and Evans."
"Watch yourself, Prewett. She's a Potter now," James said proudly.
"So she is, so she is." Fabian gave James an appraising look, then winked at Lily over his teacup. "I still can't believe you married this git."
Lily's mouth curved with an arch smile. "Most days, neither can I."
"Budge up, you two," Remus muttered, squeezing past James and Lily with a damp scarf in his hands and a bottle of beer floating at his elbow. He slid into the empty seat next to Sirius, smelled like rain and cold wind and two or three nights spent sleeping under hedges. Sirius hadn't seen him in close to a week. "What about you, Fabian? I thought you were up visiting Dorcas."
"I just came from Dorcas' place, actually," Fabian explained, "and there's some interesting news out that way." His jaw tightened slightly. "Every Apothecary in Manchester's Wizarding district was raided last night."
"That is interesting," Frank said, shifting as Alice curled closer, tucking her feet under her arse and resting her head on Frank's shoulder. "What did they take?"
Fabian paused long enough to sip his tea. "Knotgrass, fluxweed, boomslang skin, lacewing flies."
"Oh, fuck me," Benjy grumbled. "Polyjuice Potion."
"Ten points to Ravenclaw," Fabian said brightly, his smile not quite reaching his eyes. "They could make gallons of the stuff, with the amounts they took."
"It'll be a month before they can do anything with it," Lily said, her hand knotted in James' sleeve.
Gideon grunted, tapping his fingers on the table; the hurricane lamp sputtered and spit. "That's all we need, Death Eaters with gallons of Polyjuice Potion."
"It doesn't have to be Death Eaters," Peter said quietly, a frown pulling at the corners of his mouth. "Anyone could want Polyjuice Potion."
"Leave it out, Peter. It was definitely Death Eaters." Fabian narrowed his eyes at Sirius. "Black, when was the last time you spoke with your brother?"
Sirius sighed under his breath, took a long swig from Remus' beer.
"From what Dorcas could tell me, the MLE found a broken wand inside one of the shops," Fabian continued, waving his empty teacup into the kitchen. It landed on the sideboard with a delicate clink. "Ollivander identified it as--"
"Right. It's my brother's." Sirius sighed again, washed away the hot, twisting knot in his throat with another mouthful of Remus' beer. His skin felt tight, and heat was crawling over his cheeks, along the line of his jaw. "We haven't... it's been years. I was still in school."
"They'll have us looking for him by tomorrow morning," Alice said, her voice soft and careful, "if they don't have us doing it tonight."
Sirius shook his head, barked out a cold, harsh laugh. "You'll never find him, if he's gone home to our mother. I mean, the house is heavily protected, and that, but... Regulus is all the old bitch has left. If he's really in the soup, she won't take any chances. She'll get a Secret Keeper, if that's what it takes, or she'll stash him with Aunt Lucretia."
"Sirius," Frank said, clearing his throat lightly, "if he doesn't go home, where... who was he friends with, at school?"
"Avery and Rosier," Sirius replied, shrugging. "Wilkes, maybe. One of the Lestrange bastards."
"Snape, I think," Peter offered slowly, his head tilted and his round eyes wide. "Wasn't he friends with Snape?"
Sirius thought of Snape's dark eyes narrowing in the shadows of a dusty broom cupboard, of Snape's tongue in his mouth and Snape's hand on his prick and Snape's fingers digging bruises into his hip. A few weeks later, Snape had caught Sirius alone on a late night fly, had sucked him off right on the Quidditch pitch, the grass itchy and wet under Sirius' body and the House banners fluttering quietly in the wind. Sirius had come as the stars watched and the waxing moon hid behind a cloud, his knuckles in his mouth and his own blood salty and sharp on his tongue.
All dark creatures look the same with the lights off.
"I guess, yeah," Sirius muttered, his hand finding Remus' knee under the table, "he might've been friends with Snape."
(continued in part two)