sparsenicjade
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Harry set Hermione on Sirius the third or fourth day, when he'd stopped hearing echoes every time someone talked and Poppy had said disapprovingly, "I suppose he's well enough," before letting him go.

Sirius had heard the unspoken "for someone recently dead."

Hermione patiently explained it all to him, or at least, she tried. Sirius had never been much into Soul Magics. Tangible things were best for him, fur and wind and teeth. He nodded politely at all the new words she defined for him and even said, "ah," at a couple of appropriate places.

When she let him go he wandered out to the lake and jumped in naked. Reverse Horcrux Theory was all well and good, Sirius supposed, but nothing said, "hello very alive person" like a swim in stark-freezing water.

It was when he crawled out, exhausted and numb, that he remembered they hadn't yet found him a new wand. It was shortly after that, looking for his clothes so as to stuff himself inside them, that he realized someone had stolen them. And really, there was only one person at Hogwarts still likely to do that.

Sirius would have taken his time--it was summer, he couldn't be accused of child molestation for the moment--but he was nearing dangerous levels of cold, so he stalked down to the dungeons and pounded on Snape's doors, naked, angry and turning blue.

Snape threw open his door. "What is it now, Min-" He stopped upon seeing who was actually at his door and went to shut it again.

Sirius stepped inside. There was a fire, he had impetus to be quick about this. "My clothes, Snape."

"Or anybody's, really." Snape raised his wand.

Sirius pre-empted any cursing. "Just make sure it's something that will warm me up, would you?"

Snape blinked at that. Slowly, as though he were talking to someone with considerable brain damage, he asked, "What are you doing here, Black?"

"I've come for my clothes," Sirius said, equally slowly. He moved closer to the fire. The dungeons were always slightly chilled.

"Why would I have them?" Snape asked, apparently utterly stymied--and more than a little troubled--by the idea.

"I-" Now that Snape was asking, it seemed a little ridiculous to accuse him of a schoolboy prank. They might not like each other, they might even still hate each other, but Snape was busy hiding from the world in the most obvious spot and Sirius was busy remembering what it was like to be alive and neither of them really had the time or energy for that sort of thing at the moment. "You don't have them?"

Snape rolled his eyes, flicked his wand, and Sirius warmed up a bit under the influence of a drying spell. Sirius looked at Snape, unwilling to move. Snape had grown into someone whom he wouldn't feel particularly comfortable dueling even with the aid of a wand. Snape was, for the moment, feeling benevolent, obviously. But drying spells could turn into burning spells with a mere shift in level of intent.

Snape said, "Sit down."

Sirius edged toward the couch and took a seat. Snape said, "I'll return shortly, stay where you are."

Snape disappeared through the floo. Sirius thought about making a run for it, but he could only run so far. He was bound to run into Snape again, most likely before he had his wand restored to him. The castle, sadly, just wasn't as big as it had seemed when he was a kid. Also, Snape had a heavy chenille throw available for wrapping himself in, and a fire going strong, and Sirius wasn't foregoing either of those things

To his right there was a book. Sirius glanced at it, expecting some horrendously long title meant to scare off even the most tenacious of academicians. He did a double take at the simply gilded, The Dubliners.

Sirius had heard of it. Muggle, he was pretty sure, which meant Remus. Sirius ran one hand over the letters, sensation slowly returning to his fingers, allowing him to feel the smooth leather surface of the binding. Something that had made him laugh. . . Good memories from before Azkaban were nearly impossible to pull free.

Sirius closed his eyes. Remus. Schoolboy Remus. Sometime. . .after summer, yes. The summer Remus had gone to Ireland. Sirius sneaked a look at the author. Joyce. Joyce, Joyce-

Sirius grinned as the memory clicked into place. The prick with a stick. Remus had come back with absolutely no naughty tales, as was his wont, so he'd had to satisfy his friends with the limericks that Dublin-folk applied to seemingly everything.

Carefully, Sirius flipped the book up, curious to see what the prick had written. Appropriate reading for Snape, really. Sirius began the page, read and read and read until he read the lines, "Her time was running out, but she continued to sit by the window, leaning her head against the window curtain, inhaling the odour of dusty cretonne. Down far in the avenue she could hear a street organ playing. She knew the air. Strange that it should come that very night to remind her of the promise to her mother-"

He lay the book back down. Before Harry had set Hermione on him, before the echoing had even stopped, Harry had come to him, had said, "Leave Snape alone."

Sirius had heard every word three times. He would have listened, he would have, because Harry was asking him and Sirius could remember nothing of death except a promise to himself about second chances and HarryHarryHarry. Harry spoke again though, quieter, and the words blurred together from the echo but Sirius understood.

Snape had made decisions. Sirius, who had lived through twelve years of Azkaban, and after three years of death, who had survived (of a sort) all of his friends, knew he could never have made that decision. Any of those decisions.

Snape shot back out of the floo. He held out his arm to Sirius. A shirt, a pair of pants and a robe all balanced upon it. Sirius's. Sirius stood, and folded the blanket. He took the clothes from Snape. Whilst Sirius was dressing, Snape sat back down and picked up the book.

Sirius asked, "Have you. . .is this your first time reading it?"

Snape looked as though he expected it to be a trick question, but answered with a haughty, "Some of us aren't illiterate, Black."

Sirius was past being baited, at least for today. He was warm, and clothed, and curious. "What is her decision?"

Snape's smile was anything but a smile. Sirius had no words for what it conveyed. Snape asked, "You believe she truly has one?"


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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile