Story summary: Set six years after the Goblet of Fire, and almost a year after Voldemort has been defeated. How has the wizarding society changed as the aftermath of the war? How are people coping with the world around them, and with the past? Why are Sirius Black and Severus Snape sleeping in one, four poster bed?
Thanks: My thanks go to Kalena, who suffered my outbursts of creativity patiently even though it wasn't her fandom, and who has been the most wonderful friend, cheerleader, and mentor. The story wouldn't have been written if it weren't for her.
The most wonderful beta readers: Thanks to Tracey for careful continuity check, well-thought suggestions, and detailed grammar and style help; to Emcee for British English help and a thorough grammar surgery; to Johanna for helpful pointers and canon watch; and to moj, who gave the story the first reading. As I'm not a native speaker of English, I needed a lot of help to weed out grammar, spelling and stylistic mistakes. There are undoubtedly many still left. If anything catches your eye, please let me know.
Feedback: If you read the story and liked it, or didn't like it, please let me know. It's the first story I've ever written--your feedback is very important to me. Contact me at thetaeridani @ yahoo.com
The title of the story has been inspired by the following poem by Anthony Weir:
My bones were formed by sorrow
And it's a cheerful and optimistic story, don't run away!
Shade More Than Man
The word of Sirius' tutoring had spread. Arriving for his fourth class, he was surprised to find two more students: a Ravenclaw Sixth-Year and a very frightened and small Hufflepuff. The Ravenclaw girl explained that she intended to offer tutoring next year, and wanted to learn by observing him. Sirius felt self-conscious under her cold stare, but couldn't think of a way to say no. He delegated her to coach Forrest and Maximillian through their respective assignments, and focused on Narine.
Narine was turning out to be a problem. She still unfailingly exploded everything she was told to transfigure, and Sirius was at a loss. It was obvious the girl was enjoying the negative attention and did her best to get more of it. She wasn't going to make any progress.
Finally defeated, he threw all thoughts of pedagogical excellence to the winds and resorted to the Marauder approach. He took the girl aside and whispered conspiratorially,
"Narine, if you do your exercises properly I'll teach you a spell to turn people's hair pink."
Narine's eyes lighted. "And green," she bargained urgently.
"Deal." He'd have to teach the boys how to remove the charm, he thought guiltily, turning his attention to the little Hufflepuff boy who came for help with his homework.
Snape gracelessly allowed himself to be convinced that his being nice to Harry should extend to the next week, since he had no contact with Potter in the previous one. Sirius had sent the owls, and on Saturday morning they Apparated to his friends' house.
"Hello, Harry. It's nice to see you," Snape said jovially.
Harry stared at him with keen suspicion. "Hello, Professor," he answered cautiously.
"Oh, no need for formalities. Please, call me Severus." Snape was obviously entertained by Harry's discomfort. "I've brought you the list of ingredients I use for Sirius' potion. If it might interest you, I could explain their individual functions after we have breakfast."
While they ate at the huge kitchen table, Snape complimented Harry's culinary skills, his choice of kitchen decorations, and his robes. Harry was stunned and wide-eyed. Sirius was gritting his teeth. Remus was biting his lips trying not to laugh. When they moved to the living room to discuss the potion, he excused himself, claiming he needed fresh air.
Harry retrieved a pen and parchment to make notes. He threw himself into his favourite armchair and winced, squirming uncomfortably.
"Something wrong?" Sirius asked, frowning.
Harry gave him an embarrassed grin. "Nothing's wrong. I'm just a bit sore from last night... "
"I don't want to know!" Sirius protested quickly, a touch of hysteria in his voice, before Harry could go into any further details.
"Penetration problems, Harry? I could procure you a very effective Lubricus potion," Snape proffered helpfully, glancing at Sirius with a malicious glint in his eye. "The results are most pleasurable, Sirius can testify to that."
He got out to the porch and found Remus sitting on a bench, staring calmly into space. Sirius flopped down heavily beside him.
"What?" Remus asked with a small smile.
"They are talking about sex. Specifically, sex between Harry and you. My godson is discussing the pleasures of anal sex with my lover and I don't want to witness that," Sirius muttered plaintivelyand hid his head in his hands.
Remus smothered a snicker, then asked, "Are you still angry about it?"
"You know I'm not. Just... It's worse than catching your parents doing that."
"You'll get used to it..."
"I'll have to, with the three of you around," Sirius said acerbically. "You are careful, aren't you?" he added in a serious tone.
"I didn't do anything that could have hurt him last night, if that's what you're asking." Remus was obviously taking effort not to be offended.
"No, Moony, that's not what I meant. I don't doubt your skill. I meant... lycanthropy." He could see Remus stiffen. "Could an accidental bite from you curse him?" He never cared about it when they were at school but it seemed like an obvious possibility.
"Yes," Remus said with effort. "We are both taking the Wolfsbane potion regularly now. Severus believes... There is no way to be sure, but he believes its wild magic-suppressing components should protect Harry. And the probability of transmitting the curse while I'm in human form is extremely low."
Sirius squeezed Remus' shoulder in wordless sympathy.
"I'm doing my best to take every precaution possible," Remus continued determinedly. "I tried to convince Harry I should always be on my stomach when we fuck--"
"Oh, snakes, Moony!" He smacked Remus lightly upside the head, trying to lighten the mood a bit. "Thank you for the image. That's exactly what I did not want to hear!"
Remus grinned weakly. "All right, all right. Let's just say Harry wasn't happy about the suggestion. He says he is prepared to take the risk. And I will do everything in my power to protect him."
"You do have a lot of practice in self-restraint," Sirius observed after a brief silence. "I don't believe I've ever seen you without that mild-mannered mask, Moony." It was doubly difficult to imagine Remus impassioned, losing himself in an experience.
"I used to feel guilty," Remus explained quietly, looking into distance again. "Because I was so afraid to allow any emotions to enter my mind, I could only feel so strongly when I was transformed. I used to feel guilty for wanting to be the beast. Hunger, wrath, want, freedom, lust... I could remember them all when I woke up, and I did my best to avoid them in my human form. Wolfsbane dampens the emotional surges while I'm transformed, and I don't associate intense feelings with the beast anymore. But I got too used to filtering what I feel before I allow it to come to the surface to change it all. The sense of balance is a comfort to me."
"Sense of balance, my arse. You just like the feeling of superiority your noble detachment gives you," Sirius joked.
Remus laughed in response. "James once said to me that a good row would help remove that broomstick I perpetually carried up my bum."
"James said that?"
"We were having an argument. The poor boy was very angry," Remus said loftily, affecting a patronising attitude.
"Right. Like one could have an argument with you. Fighting with you was like banging one's head on a wall."
"It drove you crazy, didn't it?"
"Why are you laughing like loonies?" Harry asked suspiciously, sticking his head through the door.
"Potter isn't stupid," Snape observed on their way home, in a tone of pleased discovery. "I'm going to teach him how to make the Wolfsbane potion next weekend."
"All these years of teaching him and you never noticed he was intelligent?" Sirius asked wryly.
"He wasn't a bad student, but terribly unfocused, like all Gryffindors. He never displayed any interest in making potions before," Snape explained. Evidently, 'not stupid' equalled 'interested in Potions'.
"Are you sure he's prepared to make the potion himself, without your supervision? I'd rather you still prepared their monthly batch..."
"Oh, I'm going to. But it wouldn't hurt if he knew how to make it, in case of emergency. He's already learning how to make the potion for you."
"What, did you disclose the Secret of the Mysterious Weevil?" Sirius asked with mock-astonishment. "I thought it was supposed to be strictly confidential."
"It is." Snape twisted his lips. "I explained that to Potter and he promised to keep it to himself. I was reluctant to share the formula, but we need contingency planning. If something happened to me, you and Lupin would be left without your potions. They should be prepared by a healthy wizard for maximum effectiveness."
Sirius sneaked his arm around Snape's hip and drew him closer. "Nothing is going to happen to you. And isn't it the high time you patented and marketed my potion? I can't think of a better contingency plan than that."
Snape didn't answer, but a small smile tugged at his lips.
"Will the Wolfsbane potion protect Harry from the curse?" Sirius asked after a moment. "Remus said you weren't sure."
"There is no way to be sure unless you test it," Snape shrugged. "And exposing a human to a Dark Creature to test a potion would land me in Azkaban quicker than an Unforgivable. I was thinking about transfiguring an animal into human form and testing the potion on it, but after what you said about the blood staying the same after transfiguration I don't think it'd do any good."
"Definitely not," Sirius agreed. "Plain Transfiguration changes shape, not species. Are Muggles affected by a werewolf bite the same way wizards are?"
Snape's eyebrows crept up. "You can't be suggesting I used Muggles for testing."
"No, of course not!" Sirius was scandalised. "I just thought I might be able to transmute an animal into a humanoid if innate magic wasn't an issue. It'd require extensive research, of course, and the transmutation wouldn't be full, it'd only occur on physiological level... I'll think about it. There are some Muggle physiology studies I'd have to look through."
"It'd be definitely worthwhile if you could develop a methodology for acquiring test subjects with human physiology," Snape admitted. "But it wouldn't completely replace actual tests on wizards. There would still be too many variables and uncertainties. We wouldn't know whether a potion blocking a curse in an artificial humanoid would behave the same way in a natural Muggle, not to mention a wizard."
"Then perhaps you should look for people who have been bitten only recently and need all the help they can get."
"I'm not sure Wolfsbane would do any good if administered after the curse had been bestowed. And with lycanthropy being so rare these days, chances of finding anyone are low."
"Nevertheless, you should publish your findings to spread the information," Sirius insisted stubbornly.
"I haven't completed apprenticeship--I don't have any academic support," Snape explained, shrugging. "Revolutionary findings from a compromised schoolteacher--all the fat scholars would laugh so hard their bowels would burst."
"All the more reason to publish," Sirius pointed out. "Apart from thinning out the competition by means of auto-induced intestinal explosions, you'd gain some recognition in the academic circles. Notoriety at first, yes, but when they try to refute your claims they will find out there's merit to them."
"Want to have a famous boyfriend, Black?" Snape quipped. "Stop nagging. I'll publish when I'm ready."
"As long as it's within the next eighty years..." Sirius acquiesced good-naturedly.
After much thinking, Sirius decided to explain to Derek exactly what had happened and ask for his advice. Derek already knew about the existence of the Wizarding world; the more distant relatives, though, had to be given an edited version.
Derek's reply came almost immediately, delivered by Muggle mail to Harry and then owled to Hogwarts.
'I told everybody you had been mistakenly arrested, that you are cleared now, and that it's all confidential so you can't speak of it. When you have a break, come to us, or meet me in London if you prefer--I want to see for myself that you are all right. Christ, Sirius, we thought you were dead! And then when we saw on the news that they were looking for you and calling you a dangerous murderer, we didn't know what was going on.
About the other thing... I didn't tell them you were gay. I'm not sure what to say. Of course I knew; I remember you used to talk to Grandpa about it. You weren't exactly shy about it then. It's not like I disapprove or anything, and it's not like you are the first in this family. Or the last. But let's talk about it in person. I'd like to meet this man of yours, too.
I understand it's busy now for you, and I'm buried in work myself. How about visiting for the first week of July? Bring Harry Potter, of course, and that other friend of yours--Remington? Remigius? The quiet one.'
Sirius was shocked; he had completely forgotten that the Muggle police had been alerted after his escape. He wondered briefly if the search for him was ever called off; if not, it was another thing he had to resolve with the Ministry before he started going out into Muggle London.
Severus had read the letter, and spent the entire evening sniggering about 'Remington'.
As his classes progressed, Sirius found tutoring to be more and more enjoyable. Snape was right--the chance to go out, talk to people, focus on something beyond his own recuperation, was making him feel much better. His world didn't revolve solely around Severus, Remus and Harry anymore. He had grown to like his students, and found that being able to help them learn was profoundly gratifying.
Narine, lured by the promise of being shown an 'illegal' spell, put her heart into studying and was soon able to complete the most basic exercises. Sirius taught her the hair-colouring trick and she practised it happily without realising she was learning more Transfigurations in the process. He felt proud when she managed to turn Forrest's robe pink without being explicitly shown how to, and when Forrest quickly found out how to change it back to the basic black. Even Maximillian had apparently decided that having to spend an extra year in school would be too much hassle and mustered some energy to study.
One May Monday, Sirius received a surprise inspection.
His students were toiling at their respective assignments, and Sirius was discussing the finer points of Argonne's anti-resonance principle in relation to supercondensing highly magical fluids with his Ravenclaw 'assistant' Amanda Blair. Amanda had solid theoretical knowledge, even if she lacked practical skills, and Sirius found their more advanced discussion refreshing.
Just then, the door to the classroom opened and Professor McGonagall came in, herding a small group of Gryffindors in front of her.
Sirius froze in mid-word and had to cover it by clearing his throat loudly. "Hello, Professor," he croaked.
"Mister Black." She was smiling at him radiantly. "I see the rumours of secret Slytherin tutoring classes are indeed true."
"Severus asked me to tutor some students who fell behind in their studying," Sirius explained carefully. He hoped she wasn't offended. Why hadn't he asked Snape what she would think about him teaching her students?
"And the class is open to students from all houses, so it's hardly 'Slytherin' tutoring," added Miss Blair, pointing to Tommy Grier, the tiny First-Year Hufflepuff who had got into the habit of coming to Sirius' classes to do his Transfigurations homework.
"I see. That's excellent, because I've brought some more students for you, Mr. Black," McGonagall said with a glint of humour in her eyes. "They will undoubtedly fail their next Transfigurations exam unless they improve greatly," she turned to glare sternly at the embarrassed Gryffindors. "I would like to make similar arrangements as Professor Snape had, and ask you to tutor students from my house."
Sirius' lips twitched with restrained laughter. Similar arrangements? What could he blackmail McGonagall with?
"Let's step outside for a moment," he suggested.
Closing the classroom door behind him, he said, "Professor McGonagall, I'm sorry I haven't discussed the tutoring with you. Severus asked me to supervise three students while they studied for their make-up exams. I wasn't trying to disrupt your syllabus..."
McGonagall was shaking her head, still smiling at him. "Sirius, my dear, I'm thoroughly grateful for what you did. And please, stop calling me McGonagall. Minerva is just fine."
"Minerva," Sirius smiled. "I was afraid I might have offended you."
"By no means. We can't afford to devote extra time to individual students right now, even to those who want to learn. Your help is greatly appreciated. If it weren't for you, I would have had to give up my free Sunday afternoons to work with them. I didn't mind Severus organising private classes for his 'special cases', and I wouldn't have interfered--but LeMarchant's progress has been so unexpected I had to find out who was teaching her. I should have known it must have been you! It's good to see my brightest student come back to Hogwarts." She laughed a little at Sirius' embarrassed blush.
"You didn't know I was staying with Severus?" It was a bit of a shock to realise that avoiding being noticed had become such an integral part of his behaviour that he didn't even control it anymore.
"I'm not on the best of terms with Mr. Snape," Minerva observed with wry humour. "I thought I'd seen you once or twice on the school grounds but I wasn't sure."
"I need Severus' potion-making skills, so I'm living in his quarters temporarily," he said vaguely. "Since I'm basically on Hogwarts' keep, my time is at the school's disposal. I'll be glad to help your students if I can."
Minerva accepted his oblique explanations without comment, but a shadow of worry passed through her eyes.
"You shouldn't have much trouble, except possibly with Brawnes," she said. "He is blocked in some way. You'll have to watch him carefully to find out why. The others just need to catch up. You have my authority to assign detentions if necessary, although if you managed to tame Miss LeMarchant I doubt you'll have any problems with discipline."
"Oh, I had to resort to bribery with Narine," he laughed. "But on the whole, they were all amazingly well-behaved. I'm surprised. Severus has done a good job with his students."
"Let's hope mine won't ruin your opinion of me," Minerva joked. "Are you sure you have no other obligations? No work to come back to?" She was regarding him speculatively. Sirius squirmed under her penetrating gaze.
"None at all," he said a bit too sharply, and regretted his tone immediately. "I haven't been employed since the war," he added to mollify the bluntness of his remark.
"I see..." Minerva was still looking at him with a strange expression on her face. "Oh, well. Don't let me detain you. You have a class to teach. Good luck, Sirius!"
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