Author's Notes: Assumes some things about where the plot will go in the fifth book, but it's purely speculation. Set in October of Harry's fifth year.

These Masks

Part Three

By LadyJackyl


Sirius didn't leave the next morning, at Remus and Dumbledore's convincing. Remus insisted that Sirius couldn't just be turned out into the streets. He had to have somewhere to go, and the Shrieking Shack wasn't fit for living in. Dumbledore agreed, and made a case to the Ministry to provide Sirius with a flat near Diagon Alley, or something in Hogsmeade.

The Ministry agreed, although grudgingly Sirius was told, and intended to have him move into a few small rooms over top The Leaky Cauldron that weekend. On Friday, the children came up to help him pack.

"It's unfair!" Harry was in a particularly agitated mood. "They can't throw you out of here! It's not right! Let the gits take their kids out of school, the sods! Who wants their kids here anyway?"

"Harry…" Sirius gave him a stern look. "There's no need to take on like this…"

"But it's not fair!" Harry was pacing back and forth angrily. "When will I see you! I can't just go to Diagon Alley any time I want!"

"I'll come see you…no one else needs to know I'm here…" Sirius sat down on the bed, where his half-packed suitcase was. Somehow he had more possessions than he thought he did-everyone had been giving him things.

"It's not fair…" Hermione said pointedly. She was sitting primly in a chair by the window, her hands on her knees. "And the Ministry certainly knows it. They ought not to care so much if a few fools take their children out of school…and neither should the Headmaster."

Ron was standing beside her, Pig perched on his shoulder and twittering softly. He shook his head. "It's not bloody right, Sirius…"

Sirius sighed, and finished tossing clothes into the suitcase. "I know it's not…but there's a lot of things that aren't right that one has to live with…that's life."

They were all silent, just Pig's twittering breaking the tense quiet. Then the door opened, and Remus stepped in, more clothes draped over his arm.

"I found some more things that might fit you…" he stopped short when he saw the children, all looking glum and dejected, Harry now turned toward the window and staring out it miserably.

Sirius sighed and gave him a look, and Remus just nodded slightly. He too seemed unhappy about the situation, but he wasn't voicing his opinion on it.

"You have to go to the Masque now!" Hermione suddenly burst out. "You have to show them they can't shove you out of sight and mind!"

Sirius blinked at her, remembering Severus's words, and sighed and shook his head.

"I can't Hermione…especially now."

"Bollocks!" Ron scowled. Pig twittered agitatedly at his outburst. "You have the perfect reason to go now…you can't let those gits hold you down! You're a free man! You have every right to be a member of society and go where you wish!"

Remus gave Sirius a pointed look at this, and Sirius sighed again.

"They'd probably stone me to death the instant I walked in the door."

"They couldn't!" Hermione scowled. "Then they'd go to jail. You can't be accosted for doing nothing more than walking about in public like anyone!"

Harry had turned away from the window, looking intently at Sirius. Sirius wanted to be the big, strong gutsy man and set a shining example for his godson, but he simply didn't have it in him anymore. He was too battered, too beaten down…they'd taken all his tenacity away when they first threw him in Azkaban. Severus wanted to know if there was any of the old Sirius Black left in him…well there wasn't.

But right now, four sets of eyes were staring at him, intently, questioningly, hopefully. He withered a bit under their gaze.

"I don't have anything to wear…" he said lamely.

Hermione leapt to her feet, her eyes lighting up. "I'm sure we can find you something! Can't we Harry?"

Harry nodded, and seemed to brighten a bit. That alone made any protest left in Sirius die before it could reach his lips.

"Maybe Mum can whip something up and floo it to Hogsmeade!" Ron said enthusiastically. "She's bloody magical at making clothes!"

Hermione rolled her eyes, but then smiled, grabbing both Harry and Ron by the hands. "Come on! We've got work to do!"

Ron turned scarlet as soon as she grabbed his hand, and Harry just smirked a bit, being drug toward the door. Remus chuckled as they went out.

"Well…they're very convincing, aren't they?" He handed Sirius the new clothes.

Sirius sighed and took them, feeling a sort of uneasy sickness welling in his stomach.

"What have I gotten myself into?"


Sirius stayed at Hogwarts Friday night, and on Saturday morning he and Remus took his things to his rooms in Diagon Alley, flooing there from Hogsmeade. The accommodations were small-two little sparsely furnished rooms that had more cupboards than actual content, and a washroom he had to share with the room next door. But it was clean, convenient, and a vast improvement over a cell in Azkaban. These days anything looked like a palace to him.

They returned to Hogwarts after a quick stopover in Diagon Alley, in which Remus bought something to wear to the Masquerade and about a dozen people leaped out of Sirius's way in horror. His stomach was in knots by the time they got back, thinking about what was to come that night.

The whole school was preparing for the Masquerade, the professors decorating the Great Hall and everyone discussing what they were going to wear. He and Remus sat in an alcove off the entrance hall, talking and listening to everyone as they passed by. Sirius felt a nostalgic ache in his heart. Once, he and James and Remus and Peter would have spent all day preparing for something like this, picking out clothes and planning what mischief they were going to create, and later, who they would shag. That seemed so far away now, a time and place that didn't really seem to have ever existed…

The day crept on, turning to afternoon, then slowly to evening. Sirius's tension grew worse. He started hoping the children hadn't acquired anything for him to wear, therefore giving him a lame but valid excuse not to show up.

Unfortunately, while he was busy pacing Remus's rooms as the sun began to set-Remus was down in the Great Hall helping out-there was a knock at the door.

Cautiously, he opened it and peeked out. At first he thought there was no one there and frowned, then he realized the visitor was quite a bit shorter than the average person.

"Kirby is instructed to bring this to you, Sir!" A house elf gazed up at him with wide, bulbous eyes. He-her-it…was holding a long, flat package up to him.

Sirius took it, finding his hands were trembling a bit. "Thank you…er…Kirby."

"No thanking me Sir, Kirby is doing his job…" the little elf scampered off down the corridor, disappearing before Sirius could get another word out.

With a sigh, he pulled back into the room and shut the door. He supposed this was his outfit for the evening. Jolly.

He went over and sat it on the bed, just staring at it for a moment, then finally untied the string that held it together and took the top off the box. What he saw inside made him gasp.

Apparently the children had been incredibly industrious. He had expected a second-hand robe, something they might have found in a shop for cheap and patched up, but even still folded up, he could tell this was not the case. Scarlet velvet and silk greeted his eyes and touch as he ran his fingertips over it. There was a note lying on top of it. He picked it up, unfolding it and reading it. The handwriting was scrawled and a bit messy, probably Harry's.

You look dashingly good in red. Wear it well.

Sirius smirked, almost feeling a spark of his former self there for a moment. He laid the note aside and took the robe out.

It was gorgeous. A low v-neck with wide velvet lapels, billowy silk sleeves, and a long train. A gold silk rope was wrapped around the waist, and the silk the robe was made from was imprinted with a swirling, intricate design that caught the light. It was nothing short of stunning-nothing short of Sirius Black.

In the box, beneath it, was also a mask. Deep red velvet, made to cover the eyes and nose, with a myriad of peacock feathers, beads, sequins, and ribbons attached to it. It was very grandiose and dramatic, and something he would have chosen for himself in his youth. Looking at it, he wondered where they had gotten such a thing. Perhaps they'd made it themselves?

After some hesitation, he tried the outfit on. The robe fit perfectly, even in his rather slender state. He put the mask on and stood in front of the mirror, gawking at himself. His hair hung over his shoulders, heavy and gleaming against the red silk and velvet, and he instantly recognized the man staring back at him.

There was Sirius Black…

He was still wearing it when Remus returned to get dressed, and he stopped just inside the door, gawking at him as well with wide eyes.

"My God…" Remus said, in a hushed tone. "You look stunning."

He felt himself blush a bit beneath the mask. "I don't know where they found something like this…"

Remus came over, circling him, carefully and almost reverently touching the robe, the rope belt, the ribbons hanging from the mask. He seemed in awe.

"We're going to have to ask them…" he finally chuckled. "They're quite resourceful, aren't they?"

Sirius smiled a bit, and just then, there was a knock at the half-opened door, and Hermione came in, still in her normal clothes and looking miserable.

"Sirius, we tried and tried but-" she started, but then abruptly stopped, her eyes going wide and mouth falling open when she saw him.

"Just the girl I wanted to see…" Sirius grinned wider. "Where on Earth did the three of you come up with this? It's magnificent!"

Hermione snapped her mouth shut, looking incredibly confused. "But…that's what I came to tell you! We didn't! We couldn't find anything…"

Now it was Sirius's turn to be confused. He blinked at her, not understanding for a moment. "But…then who…" he looked at Remus questioningly.

"It wasn't me," Remus shrugged, looking equally puzzled. He looked over at Hermione, who shrugged as well.

"Well whoever it was, they have incredible taste…" she said, then her cheeks colored a bit, and she quickly looked away from Sirius. "I mean…"

Sirius chuckled a bit, though he was still confused. "Thank you Hermione…well…I guess this is what I'm wearing then…"

"You better hurry and go get dressed," Remus told Hermione. "The Masquerade starts in half an hour."

Hermione seemed to snap out of her embarrassment, and quickly nodded, looking Sirius over one last time and turning toward the door. "We'll see you both there!"

When she was gone, Sirius looked at himself in the mirror again, his own puzzled eyes looking back at him. "I can't imagine…no one but you and I and the children even knew I was going…except for Dumbledore, and he doesn't seem the type to send me something like this…"

Remus smirked a little. "Maybe you have a secret admirer…" he turned to go in the other room and change.

Sirius continued to stare at himself, mulling it over in his mind. Who would send such a thing, so fine and beautiful? Who had that much interest in seeing him there, all dressed up and magnificent like this? Who would be trying to prod him along in such an obvious fashion?

And then he realized it, his mind lighting upon one person. The most obvious answer, really.

Could it be…?

His lips curled into a smile, and he turned, looking back at the note lying on the bed. The messy, scrawled handwriting…

Was there any of the old Sirius Black still left in him?

There might be just yet.


Hermione insisted that Sirius couldn't walk into the Great Hall until almost everyone was there-going in first would defeat the purpose of shoving it in their faces. He had to make a grand entrance, and he could only do that once all the guests had arrived.

So Sirius waited in an empty room off the entrance hall, nearly sick with nerves, twisting nervously at the gold rope around his waist. Remus was there, in dark blue robes much simpler than his, and a mask lined in sequins and decorated with various shades of blue and silver ribbons. Ron and Harry were there too, Ron in blue as well, and Harry in a deep, rich violet. They had both gawked at him when they first saw him, as Hermione had done. Hermione herself had a mixture of colors on-reds and blues and greens, and a mask decorated with various feathers.

She kept peeking out the door, the noise from the Great Hall growing louder and louder each time she opened it, in parallel to Sirius's heart, which was thumping so loudly he was sure everyone in the room could hear it.

Finally she turned to them, her voice having an edge of excitement to it. "All right! I think most everyone is in there! Come on!"

Sirius found his mouth had gone very dry. Pulling away from the wall he was leaning heavily against, he drew a shaky breath and smoothed his hands over his robe. The others filed out ahead of him, Remus giving him a reassuring look from behind his mask.

"You go in after us…" Hermione said in a low voice, as they made their way out to the empty entrance hall. "You need to come in alone, so everyone can get a good look at you."

Sirius stopped just outside the doors and looked around at all of them. Remus gave him a nod and an encouraging smile, Ron and Hermione were looking at him expectantly, nearly quaking with excitement. Harry was staring at him with a soft smile on his lips, his eyes gentle and hopeful behind his mask. Their support was slowly giving him the strength he needed.

"All right…" he swallowed hard. "I'll see you in there."

The four of them went into the Hall, while he stood outside the doors another moment gathering his courage. He couldn't stand out there for too long though-if someone came along, he would look pretty silly just standing there. And they might run away or glare at him, which would destroy all his carefully steeled nerves.

You are Sirius Black…he told himself. And no matter what, that's the one thing they can never take away from you.

That thought seemed to give him the final boost of courage he needed. He took a deep breath, and pushed the doors open.

The first thing that hit him was the noise-voices, laughter, music. The place was crammed nearly wall-to-wall with students, professors, and various other adults and authority figures. Then he gasped, seeing how beautiful the Great Hall looked.

The ceiling gave a view of the night sky-deep velvet blue, speckled with stars and so clear, as the saying went, one could see all the way to Heaven. Suspended below it were thousands of candles and lit jack-o-lanterns, and weaving between them, flickering little gold and silver lights-that upon more intense scrutiny, Sirius realized were fairies.

Torches were lit all along the walls, giving the room a warm, amber glow. Streamers and banners ran the lengths of the walls, in an assortment of colors, giving the vast, stone room a surprisingly cozy atmosphere. The long tables that usually ran the length of the room were absent to provide a vast open area in the middle, outside of one, which sat along the right wall and was covered in food and drink. The staff table was still at the front of the room, and it too was covered in food, decorated and lit with candles.

Perhaps the most stunning ornament to the room though, were the people themselves. Robes in every color of the rainbow, and some shades and hues Sirius thought must have been invented just for the occasion. All sorts of masks-from the grandiose to the nearly ridiculous to simple and pretty. It was hard to make out who was who, but that was somewhat the point of a Masquerade. It was a bit like walking into some strange, fantastic, colorful dream.

As he moved into the room, more than a little apprehensive, people started to glance his way. A few of them appeared indifferent and must not have recognized him, while others stopped and stared. Either they knew who he was, or they were taken aback by the way he looked.

He saw Remus and the children off to one side, smiling and nodding to him. He saw McGonagall, and-dear Merlin-the woman couldn't even make herself festive for a party. She was actually wearing gray robes and a plain black mask. In sharp contrast, he saw Albus Dumbledore standing near the staff table, looking like a peacock had exploded on him. His multicolored robes were iridescent and shimmering, and he had a huge, feathered mask on that was very nearly horrific.

Sirius felt like turning and quickly leaving, but he steeled himself, one breath after another, and continued to move into the crowd. People parted for him as they realized who he was, and he heard a few gasps and whispered words. Just like in his youth, for better or worse, all eyes were on him.

Maybe they wouldn't even have noticed, if he weren't dressed so finely…but he was, and it was attracting their attention, and they were all realizing who it was.

"Sirius Black!" McGonagall's clipped voice. She loomed in front of him like a rain cloud suddenly, eyes snapping behind her mask. "What are you doing here?"

"I've got as much right to be here as anyone…" he was glad his voice came out sounding as strong as he wanted it to. "I'm a free man now."

More people were looking his way now, as a ripple of recognition and whispered words spread through the crowd. It was becoming rather quiet all around him, all attention diverted away from the merriment and conversation to look at him.

"You're not supposed to be at Hogwarts!" She hissed at him.

Remus was suddenly at his side, looking darkly at McGonagall.

"He's no longer living at Hogwarts, as per the Headmaster's request…however, this is a special function, and he's permitted to be here."

McGonagall shot him a sharp, icy look, but Remus didn't back down. He continued to glare at her. Sirius noticed the children had followed him over. He also caught Dumbledore's eye, who was now looking in their direction as well. Even from behind the garish mask, Sirius could see his eyes were twinkling, and the thin, triumphant smile tugging at his lips.

He was wanted here…no matter what anyone else said.

"There will be consequences for this…" McGonagall turned her dark gaze back on Sirius. "Mark my words. When the parents find out-"

Her words were cut short suddenly, by a disdainful, familiar male voice.

"Oh do be still, Minerva! You never quit prattling on, do you?"

McGonagall gasped, her head whipping around so fast Sirius was surprised it didn't come off and roll away across the floor. Everyone else turned to look as well, a few echoing gasps going through the surrounding crowd.

People moved back to let the offending party through, and this time it was Sirius's breath that caught.

He might not even have recognized the man as Severus Snape, but it was…if nothing else, the voice gave it away. Only he could hurl an insult with that much venom and impact.

He was dressed in a very shape-flattering emerald green robe, cinched at the waist with a black leather belt that showed that he was indeed slender, but not scrawny, and definitely shapely. It had a scooped collar and appeared to be made of a very fine silk. Over top that, he wore a darker, deep green robe of crushed velvet, with gold weaving around the billowy sleeve cuffs, one arm decorated with a gold snake that wound all the way up it. The mask he wore was simple, but stunning. Dark green like the velvet robe, in a design where the top was drawn down into a v-shape, making it look reptilian. The edges were decorated in deep green sequins, and there were a few thin, black feathers that protruded from each side in a delicate spray. The colors looked magnificent against his pale skin, and his dark eyes behind the mask gave it a very deadly yet alluring quality. His hair, oddly enough, looked like he had done some work with it-it had none of its usual slick, greasy quality, hanging straight and ebony and silken around his face, curling a bit against his shoulders. As he drew closer, Sirius realized there were also streaks of green glitter through it.

"Severus!" McGonagall drew herself up stiffly, glaring at him. "How dare you insult me in public like this!"

"And how dare you insult him in public like this!" He stopped before her, dark eyes catching the light and glimmering in the depths of the mask. "He's been acquitted. He goes where he pleases, just like any of us! I think the entire lot of you need to be taught a lesson in humanity!" His dark gaze swept the crowd, and more than a few people stepped back nervously.

Sirius smiled softly, feeling something inside of him thawing, coming back to life. He could feel his heart pounding, spreading heat through his veins again.

"This man was wrongly accused, and now you stand here, all of you, and accuse him falsely again!" Severus was continuing to glare around at the crowd, and a hush had fallen over all those gathered around. "And this is why the Dark Lord walks among us and takes what he pleases! Because you can't stand together, you can't see beyond your own upturned noses! If you can't be taught to think for yourselves instead of accepting every lie that you're spoon-fed by those in charge, then I see some very dark days ahead for this place and all the people in it!"

Sirius had never seen him so impassioned-nor had he ever known him to have the courage to address such a large assemblage of people. Apparently shy, quiet Severus had died while Sirius was in Azkaban too.

Severus turned his flashing gaze back to McGonagall, who looked quite stunned and nearly petrified with shock.

"This is a disgusting display!" He hissed at her. "And if you turn this man out simply because you can't push your selfish pride to the side for one moment, then I will resign my position here and leave with him."

There were more shocked gasps, a few murmurings. McGonagall just gaped at him, her mouth opening and closing as though she wanted to say something, but no words were coming out.

Then the Headmaster was there, stepping between them, and looking around sharply at the crowd.

"Sirius Black is here at my invitation…" he said, quite firmly. "And as such, I expect him to be treated with the respect you would treat anyone here. That goes for all of you…students, guests, and staff alike." He turned his still benevolent, but decidedly harsher gaze, on McGonagall.

She backed down at once, nodding slightly to him, her voice much softer now. "Yes, Headmaster…"

Everyone else seemed a bit surprised, even chagrined. But no one seemed eager to defy Dumbledore, and when he waved his hands and ordered brightly that they all go back to the festivities, most of the people moved away, though plenty of them were still staring at Sirius.

The people drifted away around them, leaving Sirius and Severus staring at each other. Remus gave Sirius a firm squeeze on the shoulder and a warm smile, then moved away as well, drawing the children along with him. McGonagall quickly disappeared in the direction of the doors.

For a moment, neither of them spoke or moved, then Sirius came forward.

"Why did you do that?"

Severus just stared at him for another long moment, his eyes perhaps betraying the faintest bit of emotion behind the mask, then he said coolly, "I told you I can't stand injustice. This was a terrible injustice that needed righted."

Sirius smiled, standing still there for a moment-then he reached up, gripping the edge of his mask, and slid it up, pulling it off and shaking out his hair. It was a symbolic gesture, and he felt the emotional impact of it at once. He was not going to hide any more.

"There's one more injustice that needs righted…" he said softly. "And this is one only I can right."

Severus looked wary for a moment, but then he nodded, tilting his chin up a bit, giving him a pointed look. "Yes…I think you'd better."

Sirius smiled again, and let the mask slip from his fingers, dropping to the floor. Then he reached out, grabbing the edge of the green reptilian one Severus wore, and pulled it up. He pushed it back, up onto the top of his head, and Severus stared at him steadily, his eyes glittering in the light.

Sirius leaned forward, capturing his chin delicately in one hand-his skin was still as soft and smooth as he remembered it. And as he had been dreaming about for all those long, wasted years, he leaned forward and captured his lips. They hadn't changed a bit either.

He was almost afraid Severus would jerk back, or slap him. But he did neither. Instead, he responded to the kiss, returning it with as much enthusiasm as Sirius gave it-apparently he had been dreaming about it for as long as him.

There were several shocked gasps around them, but Sirius wasn't sure of the reason-was it because he was kissing a man? Was it because he was kissing Severus Snape? Or was it simply because Sirius Black was kissing someone, right there in the middle of the Masquerade, creating an even bigger scandal than he already had just by showing up?

Whatever the reason, he ignored it and just lost himself in the moment, and the kiss. It was the most blissful thing he had felt in a long, cold season of ice and desolation.

When they finally broke apart, Sirius felt a little dizzy. He knew he must be grinning like an idiot. As ever, Severus was perfectly composed-except for a bit of a flush in his cheeks and a twinkle in his eye.

"I'm finally in a place where I can be with you…without my foolish pride getting in the way…" Sirius said softly. He looked over, seeing Remus some distance away, smiling at him, Harry standing in front of him and Remus holding his hands over his eyes. Harry's mouth was hanging open. Sirius had to chuckle.

Severus pulled Sirius's attention back to him by grabbing his cheek and turning his head toward him again, giving him a stern look. "Good. It's about bloody time."

Sirius grinned, feeling a sort of happiness spreading through him that he hadn't know for a very long time. "Wanna dance?" He took Severus's hand.

Severus snorted, and pulled his mask back down over his eyes. "You really do look dashingly good in red. Now pick up your mask, dolt. That's why it's called a Masquerade."



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