"Severus, dear boy, how can I help you?" Dumbledore asked, smile on his lips. "They are considering awarding you with Order of Merlin, First Class for your capture of Pettigrew or Black, whichever turns out to be guilty."
"That's fantastic, Albus," he said sarcastically, uncaring. "I come at Harry's request actually."
"Oh?" he asked.
"Is it possibly for one to... take custody of, for lack of a better term, Black until his hearing? Harry obviously does not want him returning to Azkaban," Severus said.
"And you would be the one to vouch for him?"
"Not necessarily," Severus replied.
Albus considered this. "It is possible for that to be allowed but they would need my approval as Chief Warlock. It would also take quite a bit of convincing. I would have to certify that the person is capable of restraining the alleged convict."
"There are many capable of that," Severus said dismissively.
"None as capable as you," Albus said, twinkle in his eye.
"Is the world unicorns and fairy dust to you?" Severus snapped. "You think that everyone can get along just by trying a bit?"
"Yes, Severus, for the most part I do," Albus replied easily. "There are, of course, exceptions but I believe in the case of you and Mr. Black, your relationship can be repaired. Just give it a chance."
"Repaired?" Severus asked incredulously. "There was nothing to begin with."
Albus shrugged. "It is your decision, of course. Though I encourage you to keep an open mind."
"I shall go now," Severus said, scowling. With a flip of his cape, Severus swept out the door.
Severus knocked on the doorframe and Harry looked up. "Harry? I would speak with you," he said stiffly.
Harry followed him out of the room, leaving Black alone in the kitchen.
"Well?" Harry asked immediately. "What'd he say?"
"He said that he would have to approve it, being Chief Warlock. He said that he would have to certify that whoever takes responsibility for him has the ability to control him."
Harry's eyes widened. "You can do that! He would vouch for you, I know it!"
Severus's look darkened. "He would. But I shall not ask him to."
Harry's brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"
"I am saying no."
Harry looked at his guardian for a long moment. "You're saying no? You would send him back to the dementors?"
"As I told you earlier, for apparently it did not sink in, yes," Severus said, expression unchanging.
Harry's mouth dropped open and he stammered incoherent words.
"Instead of looking like a lost puppy, perhaps you should go spend the last hour or so with the mongrel," Severus suggested.
Harry's jaw clenched. "I don't believe that you would be so selfish," he said. "On second thought, maybe I do."
Severus watched him turn and head back to the kitchen. He frowned. Harry would come around. He simply did not understand his past. Severus felt fully justified in hating Black, surely he could make Harry see the truth.
"Alright there, Harry?" Sirius asked as Harry rejoined him. He was peeling an orange, dropping the scraps onto a small pile on the table.
"What was that you said about me coming to live with you?" Harry asked, rather loudly, voice carrying unintentionally into the other room.
"You are welcome to, provided I am cleared," Sirius said. "But you have Snape now," he said bitterly.
"At the moment, living with you is sounding pretty good," Harry said, angry at his guardian.
Sirius's gave him a worried look. "Did something happen?"
Harry gritted his teeth. He longed to tell Sirius about Severus's refusal to save him from returning to Azkaban. Ironically, the same hate that would bring satisfaction would also drive a larger wedge between the two and reduce the small possibility of Severus agreeing even more. "Yes. I don't want to talk about it."
Sirius shrugged. "Okay."
In the other room, Severus had stepped closer to the door to listen to their conversation. At this point, he had heard enough. What if, in trying to keep Harry to himself, Severus had really pushed him away? Maybe the boy was just angry. Teenagers had strange mood swings, or so Severus was told. Perhaps it would pass. After all, it was only a few months in Azkaban; he had already survived twelve years. Severus could tell that Harry did not see it that way. He left the rooms, returning to his office where poorly written essays occupied his thoughts.
The time ticked down. In fifteen minutes, Sirius had to return to Dumbledore's office to be taken away once more. Harry watched the clock and Sirius acknowledged the time with a sad smile.
"It's okay, Harry," Sirius said. "I'll be out in no time and we can spend more time together."
Harry stood abruptly. "No," he said. "This isn't fair." He stormed towards the door.
"Harry?" Sirius asked, concerned. He set down his glass of pumpkin juice and followed.
Harry led the way down the short hallway and swung open the door to Severus's office. It cracked against the stone with a bang. He turned to Sirius.
Sirius frowned but obeyed. Harry shut the door and cast a silencing charm for good measure. Severus watched this with interest from his desk.
"Severus, please," Harry said, a hard edge to his voice. "This isn't fair and you know it. Not for me and certainly not for him. If you insist upon refusing then maybe I was wrong about you after all. I thought that people could change but who knows, maybe they can't," Harry raged.
Severus sat silently, studying him.
"Well?" he demanded."I am considering it."
Harry paused awkwardly.
"I am still more than reluctant," Severus admitted.
Harry stepped closer. "Severus, please. For me."
Severus's eyes twitched. "Let it be known that your happiness is the only reason I am considering it. This is not in any part out of sympathy for Black."
Harry frowned. Rightfully, he thought that this decision should be made purely out of sympathy but he did not say that. That change of heart could come later. He had only minutes left now.
Harry could all but hear the seconds tick down as Severus pondered the situation. Harry grew agitated, shifting his weight from foot to foot.
"What?" Harry asked in surprise.
"Do not make me repeat that or you might not hear the answer you desire."
Anger gone, Harry's face broke into a wild grin. He flew to his guardian and enveloped him in a hug. He received a pat on the back.
"Thank you, Severus," Harry said, pulling away with a smile.
Severus nodded and favored Harry with a soft look. "I will go speak to Dumbledore now. I assume you would like the opportunity to break it to our new house guest?"
"Yeah," Harry said, still smiling. "Thank you."
"You are welcome."
Harry rushed back to the door to tell Sirius the good news.
"So you came around after all?" Dumbledore asked with a small smile.
"Yes," Severus growled. "Against my better instincts."
"I do hope that I will not disappoint," Albus said nonchalantly.
Severus's brow raised. "What do you mean? If you cannot make this happen, Harry will be crushed."
Dumbledore steepled his hands as was his customary position. "As I said, it will take a lot of convincing. I will have to speak carefully with the minister."
"You owe me, Albus," Severus said. "That was the deal for going to fetch Harry years ago. You owe me."
Albus gave him a looked that bordered on amused. "You forget nothing, do you? How ironic: only hours ago, you would have fought to keep Black away. Now you are fighting for him."
Severus glared at the meddling old man. "This is all for Harry."
"So do I truly owe you anything?" Dumbledore asked, sly twinkle in his eye.
Dumbledore waved his hand. "I will make it happen Severus. Have no fear."
"Sirius!" Harry said, breathless with excitement.
"Deep breath, Harry," Sirius said calmly. "I have to go now."
"No you don't," Harry said with a smile.
Sirius's brow furrowed. "What?" What do you mean?" he asked, voice containing a note of desperate hope.
"Severus is talking to Dumbledore now," Harry said, trying to explain. "They're going to let you stay with us until your trial!"
Sirius looked to be discerning whether or not Harry was being serious. "Snape agreed to this?"
Harry nodded. "It took a lot of pleading and arguing," he said. "That's why I was angry earlier. He had said no but I changed his mind."
Sirius stood, looking at Harry for a moment before pulling him into a rough embrace.
"Thank you, thank you, Harry!" Sirius said, eyes moist. "I will do everything I can to be the best godfather you could ask for," he said as he pulled away. "You deserve it, being the best godson I could ask for."
Harry grinned. "I couldn't let you go back there."
"Snape would have," Sirius pointed out.
Harry's mouth twisted. "I know. We'll work on you two."
"We?" Sirius asked. "I don't have any desire to become best friends with Snapey."
Harry rolled his eyes. "We'll talk about that later."
"You're right," Sirius said. "Thank you." He hugged Harry once more, overcome with emotion. Harry's spirit soared; things were finally going his way.
Severus came sweeping into his chambers as Sirius and Harry broke off their embrace. He stepped right up to Black and grabbed his collar, roughly dragging the slightly shorter and much weaker man into Harry's room down the hall. He shoved him roughly on the bed. Sirius glared at him, annoyed, and rubbed the back of his neck.
"Ow," he complained.
Severus's gaze held no pity.
"I trust Harry has told you of the arrangements being made?" Severus asked stiffly.
"Yes," Black replied in the same tone.
"If this is to proceed, I shall establish some rules and you shall follow them, agreed?"
"I guess," Sirius said grudgingly. He really had little choice in the matter which placed Severus in the perfect position.
"First, you must understand that I have placed my neck on the line for your filthy self. Therefore, you will obey me in all things, from actions concerning Harry to the rooms you are confined to in the house. Understood?" he snapped.
"Whilst at my house, you are not to leave the premise and you are not to do anything irresponsible that places Harry or myself in danger," Severus commanded. "Since I realize that will be a difficult rule to abide by, I shall not stipulate that you cannot put yourself in danger. By all means, go ahead."
"Essentially, you are to obey me as a house elf would. If you do anything that endangers Harry or encourages him to endanger himself, you will be back in Azkaban before you can say 'dementor'."
"Yes, master," Sirius said snidely.
"Finally, you will watch. Your. Tongue," Severus said slowly. They matched glares at each other from across the room. "Be aware that I am doing this for Harry only. I feel no need to become friends," he put a certain amount of venom in the word, "with you, so do not consider me so."
"That shouldn't be a problem," Sirius said honestly.
Severus sneered. He flung the door open and returned to the sitting room.
"What was that about?" Harry demanded.
"Laying down some ground rules," Severus said brusquely.
"So Dumbledore is going to allow it?" Harry asked, hope evident in his voice.
Severus looked at him. "Yes. He must first speak with the council but assures me that it will go through."
Harry smiled. "Perfect."