Sirius sighed heavily and took another drink from the vodka bottle in his hand. He preferred his drink directly from the bottle. Shot glasses only allowed him to keep track of the sorrows he was drowning. He had deposited Harry into bed an hour earlier. Harry had cried himself into an exhausted stupor. At least he would finally sleep through the night.
Sirius leaned his head back on the wall he was sitting against. The flat was freezing but the alcohol in his system warmed him up slightly. What the alcohol wasn't doing was taking his mind away from the troubles he was trying to forget.
It wasn't fair. Harry wasn't supposed to hurt so much. Sirius was angry with himself. He was free to live without fear of going back to Azkaban. He was free to take care of the one person he lived for, but he couldn't comfort Harry. He couldn't help Harry get over his pain. Sirius frantically tried to think of something he could have done to prevent all this anguish from affecting his godson. There were millions of things he could have done differently.
He could have hunted down Voldemort himself, before the deatheaters had taken Summer. He could have killed that rat when he had the chance, thus preventing Voldemort's return. He could have taken Dumbledore's advice and stayed at Hogwarts after James and Lily were murdered. He shouldn't have confronted that rat. He would have been able to see Harry grow up, been able to have been a real Godfather to him. So many things he could have done.
Sirius took a long swig from the almost empty bottle and slammed his fist into the wall out of anger.
"What did the wall do to you?" said a voice from the hallway.
Sirius looked up suddenly and saw Severus Snape standing in front of him.
"What are you doing here?" asked Sirius tiredly.
"Well, it looks like now I'm saving you from drinking yourself to death," said Severus as he walked over and tried to take the bottle from Sirius' hand.
"When did you ever start being concerned for my health?" asked Sirius as he tore his hand away from Severus' grip. "You know, a year ago, you wouldn't have cared if I died."
"No, probably not," said Severus as he gave up trying to take the bottle and instead, he sat next to Sirius on the floor.
"Really Snape, what are you doing here?" Sirius took another swig from the bottle.
"I couldn't sleep," said Severus as he leaned his head back on the wall. He looked at the bottle in Sirius' hand. "I thought I'd pay you a visit. You're not planning to drink all of that are you?"
Sirius held up the bottle and swirled the remaining liquid around.
"Maybe. Why, do you want some?"
Severus grabbed the bottle from Sirius' hand. He looked at the label, shrugged, and took a drink. His face twisted into an odd grimace.
"Why do you insist on drinking this awful cheap muggle concoction?" Severus handed the bottle back to Sirius.
"Why do you insist on trying to tell me what to do?" asked Sirius as he rolled his head to the side and locked into Snape's black gaze. Severus looked at him for a moment and then turned his head and looked into the dark hallway.
"How's Harry?" asked Severus as he grabbed the bottle from Sirius and took another drink. Sirius jerked the bottle back from him and shot a dark glare at him as he tipped it to his mouth. "Am I right in guessing that he is the reason that bottle is almost gone?"
"I want to help him," said Sirius as he dropped his head onto his arms that were resting on his knees. "I want to help him forget everything and try to help him have a normal life. I talked to him tonight. I finally got him to talk about Summer."
"Well that's good, right?" asked Severus.
"I guess, except he's blamed himself for her death. He's blamed himself for everything."
"Merlin," muttered Severus as he shook his head. "It's not his fault everyone made him the martyr of the wizarding world."
"He's so like James," said Sirius. "James was always so critical for himself. Always blaming himself for everything."
"You mean Mr. Arrogance?" said Severus with a slight sneer. "Potter was self-conscious?"
"You didn't know him like I did," said Sirius. "Remus is the same way."
"You know," said Severus after a short pause, "Harry was never arrogant like James. I mean, I always claimed he was, but he never did like to show off."
"James wasn't arrogant," said Sirius as he looked up at Severus and rested the side of his head on his arms. "You were just jealous."
"He didn't mind getting all the attention, though."
"Maybe, but James wasn't famous before he could walk. It always happens to Harry."
"Everything. No matter what I do, I can't help him."
"Don't start Black," said Severus. "Don't start blaming Harry's troubles on yourself."
"Snape, when did you honestly start to care about what I do to myself?"
"When I realized you weren't as horrid as you made yourself out to be."
Sirius brought his head up off his arms and looked at Severus quizzically.
"Did you miss the rhetoricalness of that question?"
"I. . . well, I didn't. . ." Sirius cut him off.
"Oh no, you started to answer. Spill. You said I wasn't horrid."
Severus sighed heavily.
"I said you weren't as horrid. That doesn't mean I don't think you're an annoying disgusting creature."
"Now that's a complete lie," said Sirius, laughing for the first time that night. "You wouldn't apperate to my flat in the middle of the night if you didn't have a trace of friendly feelings toward me. Really, when did you stop hating me?"
Severus sighed heavily again before answering.
"Alright. It was when Dumbledore made you stay with me. You know, after Halloween."
"Yeah, I figured that's when you took a liking to me."
"What? Then why did you ask me?"
"Oh," said Sirius with a tired grin. "I just wanted to hear you say it."
"You really are vile," said Severus. "I hope you know that."
"Yes, but I'm comforted by the fact that you like me just as I am."
Severus snorted as he stood up.
"I'd love to stay and finish this little conversation but I really must be getting back. Dumbledore and his infernal morning staff meetings. Give Harry my regards."
"And no more drinking."
With a pop, Severus was gone. Sirius smiled slightly to himself. Wherever James was, he was definitely rolling with laughter. Sirius Black friends with Severus Snape? That was very laughable. Who did they have to blame for this relationship? Why, Dumbledore, of course.
Sirius leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. His thoughts drifted back to the previous year.
Sirius' mind slowly began to comprehend his surroundings. He was warm and resting on something soft. He was also in a lot of pain. Sirius slowly opened his eyes. His surroundings were dark and unfamiliar. He was resting on a giant couch and was covered by a thick blanket.
His first reaction was to transform and run away. He was still wanted by the ministry and waking up in a different place than where one remembered being was not a good sign. Sirius tried to sit up but stopped when moving so quickly caused him great pain. He let out a low moan and slowly laid his head back down. His eyes began to frantically search his surroundings, trying to figure out where he was and how he got there.
The last place he remembered being was in an alley in London. The Daily Prophet could no longer be reliable in informing the wizarding world on Voldemort's activities, so Sirius had began to rely on muggle papers for news that could possibly be related to the deatheaters. This was the reason there was a large black dog sniffing around an alley. Sirius was in London with Remus, who was across the street at The Leaky Cauldron.
As a giant black dog, Sirius had searched the alley and found a knocked over garbage can. He started to dig through the contents of the can when he heard a noise that caused him to turn around, ready to attack if need be. He could see, at the end of the alley, three figures walking towards him. They seemed to be walking with great difficulty and were obviously drunk. As they got closer to Sirius, he raised his hackles and gave them a warning growl. One of the figures nudged another and all three turned in on Sirius, laughing.
"Oi, he's a tough on, isn't he," said one man to the rest. Sirius could smell the alcohol on his breath.
"Let's see how tough he is," said another as he threw an empty bottle at Sirius. It broke at his feet and he backed away, stepping on the broken shards. Sirius yelped in pain and tried to run off to the side. Normally, he was good for a fight, but not against three drunk muggles. One of the men jumped to the side and blocked his escape.
"Where are you going pup? Thought you was a tough guy," said the third man as shoved Sirius in the side with his foot. Sirius jumped back and started to bark. The bark turned to a yelp of pain as the man who threw the bottle kicked him the ribs, causing him to fly against the brick wall. The rest was a haze and the last thing he remembered was a bright white flash.
Sirius was brought out of his daze by the sound of raised voices. Sirius tried to lift his head off the couch but the pain was still there. Instead, he listened and tried to figure out who was talking. He could make out a bit of the conversation.
". . .rooms. He cannot stay here. Find somewhere else to dump him. Hey, here's an idea. How about Azkaban?"
"He's injured. Quite badly. You saw him. I'm surprised he's still alive."
Sirius strained his mind, trying to place the voices.
"Severus, Remus is right. We can't leave him the Hospital Wing for obvious reasons. You are the only other teacher we can trust."
"And we can trust you, right?"
So, that's where he was. The dark room he was currently was resting in belonged to Snape. He also owned one of the voices. The other two belonged to Remus Lupin and Dumbledore.
"Maybe we should ask Black what he wants to do," said Snape, spitting out Sirius' name.
"We would but he's been unconscious for the last four days," said Remus.
Unconscious for four days? Had it really been that long?
"You can ask me now," said Sirius. His voice was surprisingly weak and raspy.
The voices went silent and Sirius could hear three sets of feet walking his way. The three men came into view a moment later. Immediately, Remus dropped to his side.
"Padfoot, how are you feeling? Do you need anything?"
Sirius smiled at his friends concern.
"Have I really been out for four days?"
Remus nodded, his face visibly saddening.
"We thought we were going to loose you. You were beat up pretty badly."
"What happened?" asked Sirius. "How did I end up like this?"
"I waited for you to come back to the pub but then I thought that you had lost track of time. So I walked across the street and saw those muggles . . . beating you. I hexed them and memory charmed them and apperated you here."
Remus stopped and looked sadly at Sirius. Sirius smiled and weakly laid a hand on his friends shoulder.
"So what were you going to ask me?" asked Sirius as he looked up at Dumbledore. The headmaster sat down in a chair next to the couch.
"There were some complications in your treatment. Because you suffered them in your animal form, they will not heal by magical means. That means you'll need to spend some time in the care of someone trained in medicine. We can't leave you in the Hospital Wing and the only teachers who know about you are Remus, Severus, and I. Out of us three, Severus is the only one with medical training. That's why you are here."
"I've been here for the last four days?"
Remus nodded. Sirius looked up at Snape. He looked disdainfully at Sirius. At least he had been unconscious.
"So does that mean I have to stay here?" asked Sirius.
"Unless you know of someone you can stay with, yes, you'll have to stay here," said Dumbledore, as he cast a look at Severus.
Sirius smiled. He remembered that night like it was yesterday. He and Snape had had the worst verbal fight ever. Even in Sirius' weakened condition, he put up a fight. Sirius remembered the month that followed. Spend that much time with someone you hate and you either a) kill each other or b) learn to get along. Yes, James was definitely rolling in laughter wherever he was.