*"Number twelve, Grimmauld Place!" Harry said loudly and clearly. It was one of the most curious sensations he had ever experienced; he had traveled by Floo powder before, of course, but then it had been his entire body that had spun around and around in the flames through the network of Wizarding fireplaces that stretched over the country: This time, his knees remained firm upon the cold floor of Umbridge's office, and only his head hurtled through the emerald fire. . . . And then, abruptly as it had begun, the spinning stopped.

Harry opened his eyes to find that he was looking up out of the kitchen fireplace at the long, wooden table, where a man sat poring over a piece of parchment. "Sirius?" The man jumped and looked around. It was not Sirius, but Lupin.

"Harry!" he said, looking thoroughly shocked. "What are you — what's happened, is everything all right?"

"Yeah," said Harry. "I just wondered — I mean, I just fancied a — a chat with Sirius."

"I'll call him," said Lupin, getting to his feet, still looking perplexed. "He went upstairs to look for Kreacher, he seems to be hiding in the attic again. . . ."

And Harry saw Lupin hurry out of the kitchen. Now he was left with nothing to look at but the chair and table legs. He wondered why Sirius had never mentioned how very uncomfortable it was to speak out of the fire — his knees were already objecting painfully to their prolonged contact with Umbridge's hard stone floor. Lupin returned with Sirius at his heels moments later.

"What is it?" said Sirius urgently, sweeping his long dark hair out of his eyes and dropping to the ground in front of the fire, so that he and Harry were on a level; Lupin knelt down too, looking very concerned. "Are you all right? Do you need help?"

"No," said Harry, "it's nothing like that. . . . I just wanted to talk . . . about my dad. . . ."

They exchanged a look of great surprise, but Harry did not have time to feel awkward or embarrassed; his knees were becoming sorer by the second, and he guessed that five minutes had already passed from the start of the diversion — George had only guaranteed him twenty.

He therefore plunged immediately into the story of what he had seen in the he had finished, neither Sirius nor Lupin spoke for a moment.

Then Lupin said quietly, "I wouldn't like you to judge your father on what you saw there, Harry. He was only fifteen —"

"I'm fifteen!" said Harry heatedly.

"Look, Harry," said Sirius placatingly, "James and Snape hated each other from the moment they set eyes on each other, it was just one of those things, you can understand that, can't you? I think James was everything Snape wanted to be — he was popular, he was good at Quidditch, good at pretty much everything. And Snape was just this little oddball who was up to his eyes in the Dark Arts and James — whatever else he may have appeared to you, Harry — always hated the Dark Arts."

"Yeah," said Harry, "but he just attacked Snape for no good reason, just because — well, just because you said you were bored," he finished with a slightly apologetic note in his voice.

"I'm not proud of it," said Sirius quickly. Lupin looked sideways at Sirius and then said, "Look, Harry, what you've got to understand is that your father and Sirius were the best in the school at whatever they did — everyone thought they were the height of cool — if they sometimes got a bit carried away —"

"If we were sometimes arrogant little berks, you mean," said Sirius and Lupin smiled.

"He kept messing up his hair," said Harry in a pained voice.

Sirius and Lupin laughed. "I'd forgotten he used to do that," said Sirius affectionately.

"Was he playing with the Snitch?" said Lupin eagerly.

"Yeah," said Harry, watching uncomprehendingly as Sirius and Lupin beamed reminiscently. "Well . . . I thought he was a bit of an idiot."

"Of course he was a bit of an idiot!" said Sirius bracingly. "We were all idiots! Well — not Moony so much," he said fairly, looking at Lupin, but Lupin shook his head.

"Did I ever tell you to lay off Snape?" he said. "Did I ever have the guts to tell you I thought you were out of order?"

"Yeah, well," said Sirius, "you made us feel ashamed of ourselves sometimes. . . . That was something. . . ."

"And," said Harry doggedly, determined to say everything that was on his mind now he was here, "he kept looking over at the girls by the lake, hoping they were watching him!"

"Oh, well, he always made a fool of himself whenever Lily was around," said Sirius, shrugging. "He couldn't stop himself showing off whenever he got near her."

"How come she married him?" Harry asked miserably. "She hated him!"

"Nah, she didn't," said Sirius.

"She started going out with him in seventh year," said Lupin.

"Once James had deflated his head a bit," said Sirius. "And stopped hexing people just for the fun of it," said Lupin.

"Even Snape?" said Harry.

"Well," said Lupin slowly, "Snape was a special case. I mean, he never lost an opportunity to curse James, so you couldn't really expect James to take that lying down, could you?"

"And my mum was okay with that?"

"She didn't know too much about it, to tell you the truth," said Sirius. "I mean, James didn't take Snape on dates with her and jinx him in front of her, did he?" Sirius frowned at Harry, who was still looking unconvinced.

"Look," he said, "your father was the best friend I ever had, and he was a good person. A lot of people are idiots at the age of fifteen. He grew out of it."

"Yeah, okay," said Harry heavily. "I just never thought I'd feel sorry for Snape." *

Sirius looked a bit angry at that and he got a distant look in his eyes. "Harry," he said slowly. "We lived in difficult times. There was a war out there. Voldemort was operating openly. People were dying. Almost everyday came an owl carrying news about another death of someone's family."

"And imagine there is a group supporting Voldemort openly." Added Lupin.

"Half of Gryffindor tower couldn't properly sleep at night. And other houses were even worse. You know why? Because we were the only ones who fought them. Everyday someone ended in the hospital wing because of Snape and his group."

"Snape was a marked Death-Eater when we started seventh year, Harry." Added Lupin.

"What do you think you would do?" Asked Sirius. "Draco Malfoy is only annoying bug in comparison to Snape and his group. They were terrorising entire years. Yes, we were idiots at the time, but Snape got what he deserved. Do you think James or I were never caught alone? You know how many times I run through the corridors after watching the map, only to find James unconscious, bruised and bloodied?

Lupin was nodding slowly, as if only now remembered. "They targeted even first years, little girls . . . "

"And you feel sorry for Snape?" Sirius almost shouted. "On the basis of one memory? You certainly haven't thought this through."

Harry saw Sirius this angry only when someone mentioned Pettigrew. They was long silence. Eventually Sirius croaked. "I am sorry, Harry. I shouldn't have lost my temper like that."

Harry nodded. "That's alright, I understand. You are right, I never saw any other memory . . . " he run his hand trought his hair tiredly, instantly make Sirius and Remus smile.

"Merlin, how many times James did that . . ."

"Look Harry. Your mother tried to see something good in Snape. Eventually she understood he was an evil git."

"Dumbledore trusts him." Lupin pointed out.

"Yes, yes. I know." Muttered Sirius.

"Maybe he has changed. I don't know. Dumbledore trusts him and that's it for now. Maybe he is really reformed." Lupin said and Sirius snorted, clearly implying what he thought about it. "But he wasn't reformed at school Harry."

"Your father didn't need anything to happen to know what was good and what was evil. While Snape was fighting for the other side, your father risked his life to protect people from Death Eaters. It doesn't matter that he was an idiot in school. He grew up and fought the dark arts. He sacrificed himself for you." Sirius was on the verge of tears. Lupin sighed heavily.

"We can show you some memories during the summer. We can borrow Dumbledore's pensieve. Don't let Snape besmirch your father's memory, Harry. He was a good man." Sirius croaked.

"I won't."


* From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix