"That was great!" Harry exclaimed, swinging his leg off of the parked motorbike. "You should've come, Severus."
Severus raised a brow without comment.
Sirius flipped down the kickstand and dismounted himself. "Gosh I've missed this beauty." He looked the bike over with a fondly appraising eye. He turned to Severus. "You sure you don't want to go? Don't want Sevvie to feel left out."
Severus's glare was something to behold. "Do you recall what I said about watching your tongue?"
Sirius shrugged with a sly grin at Harry. He clapped him on his shoulder. "Come on, let's go get something to drink."
"Alright," Harry agreed, walking with him to the kitchen. He looked back over his shoulder. "You too, Sev!"
Severus followed, scowling. "When have I given you leave to use that nickname?" he grumbled.
Harry rolled his eyes. "'Severus' takes too long to say. I like 'Sev'."
"Me too," Sirius agreed. "It makes you seem almost human."
Severus glared at them both. As if reading their minds, Midgy was waiting in the kitchen with three ice cold butterbeers. Harry took a seat and sipped his gratefully. He looked around, stomach rumbling. Harry wondered idly when lunch was. Just as he thought that, it appeared on the table before him.
"All right!" Sirius said happily. "I've missed house elves almost as much as my bike."
Harry helped himself to a hot panini and a handful of chips. As they ate, Harry caught Sirius's expression slipping into one of brooding. Harry tried to draw him out, asking meaningless questions, but when the conversation lulled, the brooding silence would overtake him once more. Harry frowned as he finished off his meal. He wanted to say something to comfort his godfather but came up with nothing.
"Are you ready?" Severus asked abruptly.
"What?" Sirius said, snapping out of his reverie and looking up.
"Are you ready?" Severus asked again, slower this time, as if talking to a child. "The veritaserum?"
"Oh, right," Sirius said. "Yeah, let's do it."
Severus pushed his chair back and rose. He walked with slow, precise steps up to his potions laboratory. When he returned, he had three bottles of clear liquid in his hand. Severus gestured towards the sitting room and Harry and Sirius rose to follow him.
"This is safe right?" Sirius asked.
"Of course," Severus replied.
"And you won't ask me anything without Harry here to supervise?"
"No," Severus replied curtly. "Contrary to popular belief, I am not interested in whatever rattles around in that absurdly large head of yours."
"Good," Sirius said, then paused. "I think."
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Harry asked as Sirius took a seat on the couch. "You really don't have a whole lot to hide."
"It won't hurt," Sirius said. He took a deep breath. "Let's get this over with."
Severus uncapped a bottle and handed it to him. "This is a .450 molarity solution. They will most likely give you a .600 M. It is doubtful that you will be able to think through this, but after it wears off, we will increase the concentration and hopefully you will be used to it by the end. I should warn you that it will take a lot of effort to prevent it from clouding your mind. You will have to work hard in order to even remember what they asked you, let alone change the responses."
"I hope you have the mental discipline for this," Severus muttered. Sirius looked to be wondering if he did.
"Go on, Sirius," Harry urged. "You'll be fine."
Sirius looked at the little bottle with apprehension. "Six moths ago, if you had told me that I would willingly drink a potion given to me by Severus Snape, I would have denounced you for the liar you were," he said with a hint of dark humor as he downed the bottle.
In seconds, Sirius went limp, eyes glazing over.
"What is your name?" Severus asked.
"Sirius Black," came the prompt reply.
"When were you born?"
"October 26th, 1959," Sirius replied without thinking.
"Lie to me, Black," Severus commanded in attempt to reach Sirius beneath the effects of the potion. "What was your mother's name?"
"Walburga Black," Sirius replied.
Severus looked at Harry. "Is that right?"
Harry shook his head that he didn't know. It was doubtful that he would make up such an odd name, but it was possible.
"Are you an animagus?" Severus asked. "Lie."
"Yes," Sirius replied automatically.
Severus shook his head. "This isn't working. We can only hope that this will prepare him for the effects of the more potent potion during the next round. We ought to just let this wear off."
They waited a good twenty minutes, Harry opened a book to pass the time. Severus scrutinized Black. He still seemed to be under the full effect of the potion. Severus knew full well that it could last for a decent amount of time if the antidote was not given. He could get it now or he could ask Black a few more questions. This was Severus's one opportunity to get revenge on his long time enemy.
"Harry," Severus said, "would you go to the kitchen and get a glass of water? I plan on administering the antidote if he does not wake up soon and he will be dehydrated."
"Sure," Harry said, leaping up. He walked leisurely into the kitchen.
Severus had only moments. He opened his mouth to ask a question with which he could blackmail Sirius, then paused. Why not ask something that he was actually interested in hearing the answer to?"What is your impression of my adoption of Harry?" Severus asked, surprising himself. He truly did not know why he was interested in the answer; why he cared what Black thought. Perhaps it was because he was an outsider yet knew them both better than others. Perhaps it was because he wondered at Sirius's true feelings being that he hated Severus. With this question, he could tell where his true intentions lie.
"Shocking but acceptable. It is obvious that Harry loves you and it seems you feel the same way," Sirius said in a lifeless voice. "I have come to peace with it and am happy for Harry and jealous of you."
Severus was taken aback. He had honestly expected the complete opposite answer. And to be jealous of him? Severus was jealous of Sirius for bringing out the playful side of Harry that generally eluded him. He looked at the limp man in a new light. Yet he still did not particularly care for him. Perhaps he was not quite as abhorrent now.
Harry came back in, setting a tall glass of water on the end table. Severus looked at him. Sirius had said that Harry loved him. His lip curled into a small smile as Harry looked at his godfather. Harry looked his way and Severus adopted his normal blank visage.
"I will go get the antidote," Severus said, rising and stepping out of the room. His thoughts were churning as he climbed the stairs towards his lab.
"What would my dad really think of me now?" Harry asked Sirius, knowing that he shouldn't. His eyes flickered to the doorway guiltily, wondering how long it would take Severus to return.
"He would be proud of you," Sirius said. "He would have been glad to know you know the truth about what he died for and that you knew me. He would have never accepted your adoption by Snape."
Harry frowned. "And my mother?"
"She as well would have been proud of and afraid for you. She would have been fine with you and Snape."
The moment Sirius stopped talking, Harry heard footsteps down the hall. He sat back hurriedly and opened his book, trying to cover up his racing emotions. Would his father really have rejected the notion of Harry's adoption? Sirius certainly believed so. It disturbed Harry but not as much as he would have thought previously. Severus was his father, not James. Even thinking that made Harry twinge with guilt. He frowned into his book as Severus returned with a purple bottle.
Stepping up to Black, he pulled open his mouth less than gently and dropped three drops inside. After a few moments, Sirius's eyes cleared and he came back to reality. Harry handed him the water which he accepted gratefully.
"So how'd I do?" he asked after taking a sip.
"The fact that you cannot remember whether or not you did well is not encouraging," Severus said.
Sirius frowned. "I don't remember anything. Did I say anything embarrassing?"
"Nothing more than usual," Severus replied snidely.
Sirius looked at Harry who shook his head. He let out a frustrated breath. "So what do we do now?"
"You should recover a bit, work on disciplining your mind, then we will up the dosage," Severus said dryly.
"Up the dosage? If I couldn't do the weak one, what makes you think I can handle a more potent one?" Sirius asked.
"I do not think you can but it does not hurt to try," Severus replied. "Perhaps you will prove me wrong and you will use the experience of the first time to drive the effects from your mind the second time."
Harry could tell that was intended as a challenge. Sirius acquired a determined look and Harry's respect for Severus grew. He knew exactly what to say to get Sirius to try his hardest. Harry hoped it worked.
They bided their time in relative silence for a half hour or so before Sirius professed his desire to try again.
"Occlumency would help in your success," Severus commented. "Have you cleared your mind?"
"It's a little difficult," Sirius said darkly, "what with my fate being determined tomorrow."
Severus shook his head and sent Harry an "I told you so" look. "No discipline," he said.
Sirius glared at him. "Come on, give me the potion. I'll do my best."
"First we must establish one thing," Severus said. Sirius looked at him worriedly. "Was your mother's name really Walburga?"
"Unfortunately," Sirius replied with a scowl. "Why?"
"Because we could not tell if you were lying."
Sirius grinned and accepted the potion from Severus's outstretched hand. "For future reference, my dad's name was Orion."
Severus raised a brow. "And people ask why you ended up so Sirius."
Sirius stared at him in shock. His mouth dropped open and he looked back and forth between Severus and Harry.
"Did you just make a joke?" he asked, incredulous. Severus gave him a flat stare. Sirius collapsed back into the couch. "Merlin. Severus Snape made a joke. A poor one, but nevertheless..."
"Drink your potion," Severus snapped.
"Yes, sir," Sirius said, downing the bottle.
And so round two began.
Harry rubbed his eyes and glanced at the time. It was getting late.
"How long are you going to let him like that?" Harry asked.
"Until he can throw off its effects," Severus replied curtly.
"He's probably getting tired," Harry pointed out. He shifted in his chair, trying to get comfortable.
"And he most likely will be tomorrow," Severus said. He turned back to Sirius. "What was your mother's name?"
There was a brief hesitation before he replied, "Walburga."
This was the third potion. If Sirius could not get it now, he would not master it at all.
"What was your father's name?" Severus asked, a note of irritation mixed with desperation in his voice.
"Or-" Sirius stopped. Severus leaned forward. "Aries," Sirius forced out with a gasp.
Harry and Severus shared a grin. Well, Harry grinned and Severus looked pleased.
"Where were you born?" Severus asked.
"...your face," Sirius said with visible effort. Harry chuckled. Severus rolled his eyes.
"Fetch the antidote, will you, Harry?" Severus asked of him. "I believe we are done for the night."
Sirius came back to awareness grinning. "I remembered that one," he said with a teasing look at Severus. Again, Severus rolled his eyes.
"Since you insist upon acting like a child, I recommend you go to bed," Severus said.
Harry looked at him. It was as if he was trying to mask helpful advice in an insult. Naturally, Severus couldn't be seen being nice to Sirius. It was against everything he was.
"Good idea," Sirius said with a yawn. "How do you think I'll do tomorrow?" he asked Harry.
"You'll be fine," Harry said encouragingly. "You're innocent; they have to see that."
"I hope so," Sirius said. "Severus?"
Severus looked at him in mild surprise. "You are asking my opinion?"
"Yes," Sirius replied. "You'll be honest."
Severus paused. "You will have to be a little smoother at lying through the veritaserum. As long as they do not catch onto that, I do believe you will be acquitted."
Sirius nodded. "Thanks."
Harry stood and stretched. "I'm off to bed," he said. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight," Sirius said.
"Goodnight, Harry," Severus seconded.
Harry left the room, looking forward to a full night's sleep before whatever tomorrow would bring.
Sirius stood at the doorway of Harry's room, soft light from the hallway spilling partway across the floor and illuminating Harry's sleeping face. He leaned casually against the doorframe. Sirius did not hear Severus come up behind him. In an unexpected move, Severus actually joined him at the door, standing next to Sirius in the doorway.
Sirius turned and studied Severus's face, framed by long black hair. His hooked nose stood out prominently in this light and somewhere deep inside, Sirius wished he could retract the hurtful comments he had made about it so many years ago. Watching him look at Harry now, it seemed as if Sirius was seeing a completely different Severus Snape than he had known as a boy.
"Severus, promise me something," Sirius said abruptly, prompting Severus to turn towards him.
"What?" he asked warily.
Sirius drew in a deep breath. "If... if I am convicted tomorrow, take care of Harry."
Severus raised a dark brow. "Have I, in any way, given you the impression that I would not?"
"No," Sirius said quickly, honestly. "I just..." Sirius shook his head. "I saw what fear did to people. The last time. If you really think He is going to come back... I just don't want that to happen to Harry. He deserves more. Promise that you will do your best to shield him from that? He, of all people, is entitled to his childhood."
Severus nodded curtly, once. "I swear I will do my best. That is my desire as well. It may not be possible, however."
Sirius nodded, looking back at Harry. "It's just so unfair."Severus was silent. Sirius could feel his dark eyes upon him. He closed his eyes for a long moment, took a steadying breath and when he opened them, Severus was gone.