Characters: Severus/Lucius, Severus/Draco, unrequited Severus/Lily, background Lucius/Narcissa
Rating: with luck, R
Warnings: AU, short on-screen torture, implied sex, implied chan (Draco is 16), a penchant for purple prose, abuse of punctuation.
Disclaimer: If these were my characters, there would be a lot more character development. As they are not, I only attempt to see that they get some (in every sense!), and make no profit from them.
Summary: I'm sorry I couldn't work with your OTPs. I hope these will do instead. I used all your prompts, just likely not in ways you expected. Still, once the muse took the reins...all I could do was stagger along behind. My beta tried to help with the semicolon over use, but I'm sure they are still abundant; any punctuation abuse remaining is purely mine. Happy NeverAfter!
*The Third: Stay In Formation!*
It had taken taken years, but his revenge was so close he could almost taste it. Here in the form of Lucius Malfoy's heir and only offspring, his years of silently suffering would soon end. Being a Slytherin, and then being the Head of Slytherin, had taught him that the best revenge comes to those who wait.
And now the Dark Lord had neatly placed it within his grasp, and Narcissa had unwittingly closed his hands firmly around it.
"Your father has given me the dubious pleasure of ensuring you have all the skills necessary to follow in his illustrious career - legitimate or otherwise." His eyes glittered with a strange light to them, but Draco brushed it off as a trick of the light and raised his chin.
"I don't need your help, Sir," he sneered with every bit of pureblood audacity he could muster.
"No? Then there's no reason to be pale as a vampire, with circles under your eyes or the severe case of nerves you seem to be suffering from. Did you honestly believe the Dark Lord wouldn't tell me of your task? I'm expected to look out for you, cover for you when you invariably fail. Grow up, you useless child!" he snarled, when Draco moved to protest. "Surely you don't think even your father has never made mistakes? He has, and had it taken out of his hide as well!"
"That's a filthy lie! No one would dare raise a hand against my father!"
"Are you claiming your father is more powerful than even the Dark Lord? Think very carefully before answer, Draco." He hid a smirk at the uncomfortable look on the boy's face and stared him down until the boy had to look away.
"Why can't my father just teach me then?" The words were sullen, the words of a spoiled, sheltered brat.
Snape leaned against the corner of his desk and scowled. "Your father, despite all his political power, is still unable to reside here at Hogwarts around the clock, nor can he explain regular visits. The Dark Lord feels I am in a better position to tutor you, I possess skills you need and yet lack, and your father agreed I should train you. Unless..." his voice lowered with threat, "you wish to tell the Dark Lord you know better than he?"
Draco opened his mouth to fire back a sneering retort and just barely managed to close his lips against it. He was impulsive and spoiled....but not, thank Merlin, entirely stupid.
* * * * *
Their 'studies' at first took place in various storerooms the Hogwarts house-elves had found for them, full of breakable and replaceable junk, and far enough from classrooms and dormitories that their chance of being overheard was slim. Just in case, Severus laid repelling wards at either end of the hallway. Like a Muggle-repelling ward, it simply convinced the person to take another route, something pressing they'd forgotten to do.
Layered inside that was a sound dampening ward - so any noise they made wouldn't reach past the hallway - and an alert ward, to tell him if anyone managed to enter. Then he led Draco halfway down the hall to a dusty storeroom filled with crates. The crates, in turn, were filled with dismantled bedframes; they'd be heavy, ensuring Draco would have to expend considerable energy to destroy them all at his skill level.
"How adept are you with a Reducto?" He twirled his wand idly, staring down at Draco. At sixteen, he looked almost exactly like Lucius had at that age. Perhaps not as cruel and hardened, but that simply made things easier.
As it was, it was ridiculously easy, almost too easy; maybe it was all the time spent with Lucius. After his...chastisement and Lily's death, Lucius had realised his mistake and desperately reached for some way to bind Severus to him. The birth of his son had given him opportunity, and thus Severus was the brat's godfather. He wondered sometimes how much ridicule Malfoy had faced for appointing a halfblood to a prominent role over his darling pureblood son.
It had worked out for the best, of course. Despite his loathing for Lucius he'd made use of his observation skills in his hours spent rubbing shoulders at Malfoy Manor. He simply knew what made a Malfoy tick. He knew the brat's habits, from favourite foods and colors to childhood pets and pet peeves.
The time it took for Draco to demolish the storeroom's contents gave him plenty of time to observe his 'student'. He was perhaps more trim, more fit, than Lucius had been. Certainly more slender, most likely something from Narcissa's line. Enough like his father that Severus need only squint a bit to see the father instead of the son. The revenge would be pleasant.
He allowed himself an inward, secret smile when Draco returned, face flushed with pleasure and exhilaration, once all the crates had been smashed to splinters. "Am I supposed to be impressed?" he mocked, bemused when the grin became a scowl. "How many times did you need to cast on a single crate to fully demolish it?
"People are easier to kill than crates!" he argued back with stung pride.
"Muggles, perhaps. But wizards and witches use shields. The stronger their magic, the stronger their shield, and therefore the more power your spells must have to break through. Currently, you're hardly a match for those in your year....much less the Headmaster. And that is your target, is it not?"
Now Draco paled and hunched his shoulders, so he changed tactics: voice soft, but unshakably firm. "If this is what you want, Draco, I will teach you. How to complete your assignment...and how to be a Death Eater. But you have to want it, to work for it. There's no halfway point."
Draco's head shot up like a puppet on a string. "No! No, I want to be. I can do it!" So like a child, eager and desperate to please.
Snape pinned him under his penetrating gaze until the boy squirmed, then relented. "Very well. Plan for a lesson when I give you a detention in class."
He spared Draco an amused glace as he began to dismantle the wards he'd put up. "I can hardly pass you notes on such a matter, and meeting alone too often is suspicious. Make it believable - but if you melt a cauldron, it'll be detention for real." His smile was pure malice, and he slipped away while Draco spluttered his outrage.
* * * * *
Snape kept the lessons sporadic and unpredictable; Albus was appraised of the lesson content, if not the minutiae. The irregularity and stress was slowly wearing Draco down and isolating him from his peers, who only knew that he was working on a project for the Dark Lord.
Severus was working on a project too, but it had nothing to do with the Dark Lord and everything with revenge.
"You've managed to marginally ramp up the strength of your attacks, so today we're going to try something different." He managed to instill disappointment into his words; he'd been wearing at Draco's attitude, chipping away at his arrogant optimism by giving him difficult tasks. He'd been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and needed to get rid of it before he choked on it.
Or Snape would choke him with it.
Today he led him not to a storeroom, but to the exit, opening the doors to reveal a familiar courtyard, grey with a steady light rain. He carried a wooden crate, like what Hagrid would use to transport animals for CoMC, under one arm. It was wrapped in a silencing charm and a shield charm. He ignored the curious glances his godson kept casting at it. "The storerooms are no longer sufficient to our needs," he explained by way of, "so we must take our lessons outside." Had things been different, they could have trained in the Room of Requirement, but the Golden Boy put paid to that.
"But it's raining!"
Snape raised an eyebrow and sneered. "Is that supposed to be a hallmark of your intelligence? Do you suppose the Dark Lord reserves his orders for sunny days and and we take tea indoors when the weather is inclement? Fool," he spat, "if this is as prepared as you are, then you might as well have failed now!"
"I get it," Draco groused, stepping out into the rain. He lacked Lucius' poise - or perhaps just his rain-repelling charms - and the rain darkened his hair and plastered it to his face. "You could have at least let me get my cloak. If I'd known we were going to be training outside, I would have worn...."
Severus let the words be recorded absently; most of it was useless drivel, anyway. He kept an eye on their progress and led them into the forbidden forest towards a clearing he knew was safe, reasonably protected, but allowed them space to move about while hidden from prying eyes. It was also exposed to the sky; were someone to actually fly overhead with a broom they would be clearly visible, but they'd also be open to the elements, and the latter was what Snape wished.
"I thought the Forbidden Forest was forbidden," Draco interjected sullenly, swiping the hair from his eyes.
Snape's expression was unreadable, but his tone was undeniably condescending. "Oh, and nothing you do is forbidden, is it? Getting a certain proscribed tattoo or plotting to kill someone isn't forbidden?"
"Merlin! Do you have to be such an arse about - "
Snape's wand was suddenly pressing into the tender skin under Malfoy's chin, forcing his face up. "Do you want to tell the Dark Lord you failed because you were an arrogant, mindless, insolent brat?" he hissed, and was gratified when Draco clenched his fists and stepped back.
"I said too much," he said stiffly.
Snape smiled thinly; cold, bloodless lips. "Indeed. Conveniently, we are here, and you can put your lips to better use perhaps." He gestured to the area; a wide clearing with a sunken centre, ringed about the edge with trees. He set the crate down behind a tree where it would be protected from stray spells, then stepped into the clearing, ignoring the way mud squelched beneath his boots. He'd stepped in worse, and he'd come prepared. His clothing was spelled against the rain and allowed him to move comfortably. "Take off your jumper and leave it here," he instructed. "You'll need it when you return, and I can't speak for the state of your clothing when we're done here."
Draco reluctantly obeyed, eyed the clearing with horror; rain drained into the shallow basin in small rivulets, and when he followed Snape down into it he discovered it was lined with slippery long grasses at the 'high' points, and riddled with mud and wide shallow puddles everywhere else. "What can I learn here that I can't also learn indoors where it's dry?" he asked petulantly.
Snape pinched the bridge of his nose at the whine in Draco's voice. Killing the brat prematurely would effectively stall his revenge, and likely end in his own death. "Today we are learning a new kind of fighting," he said, and allowed a gleam of anticipation light his eyes. Draco stepped back warily at the sight.
"You mean - Dark spells?" he asked.
"Nothing fatal." He stepped back and lowered his own wand, giving the first shot to the brat - or so the brat was to think.
Draco grinned, raised his wand, and shouted, "Expelliarmus!"
Rather, he tried to; the word was halfway out of his mouth when one long-fingered hand wrapped around his wand arm with bruising strength and pulled. By the time he'd finished articulating it, the spell was fizzling harmlessly somewhere off in the woods and Draco was sprawled face-down in the mud.
He jumped up furiously, rubbing at his wrenched shoulder; he looked so pathetic, soaking wet and shivering, that Severus struggled to hide his laughter. Scorn was what he needed. He did allow his eyes to wander over Draco's thin frame, now that he was so completely soaked. The thin cotton shirt he'd worn beneath his school jumper was so water-soaked it was nearly transparent, and it clung to him so closely Severus could see a tempting hint of dusky, pebbled nipples beneath the clinging fabric, and wondered if he could convince the brat that sex was part of training. Lucius would be furious if he learned he'd fucked his son, and wasn't that a pleasant thought?
"You cheated!" Draco yelled, face flushed with anger.
"I did not, Mr. Malfoy," he snapped back, eyes sparking a warning. "I spoke clearly the rules of this fight, and I told you there would be something new. It is entirely your own error you could not anticipate or adapt. Or are you only capable of waving a wand around like a little prince?" He spat the word like it was filth, and tried to not remember the way it had rolled off Lucius' tongue when he'd learned Snape's mother's maiden name.
"Muggles fight with their hands!"
"And yet my Muggle technique disarmed you and left you in the mud, did it not?"
"We're better than them! Everything we do is superior!"
"I do not disagree. However, the Dark Lord plans for us to destroy them. How can you consider yourself capable if you can't cast a first-year spell before they reach you?"
"I'll sneak up behind them and cast a body-bind!"
"Did you know Muggles have surprisingly advanced technology? With it, they can see through walls, and through the skin and muscle to see your bones. They can set alarms to know if someone's nearby, or has a weapon, or is even just moving. They have protective clothing that can resist the power of a Reducto, and many of them are even faster than I am. They move in vehicles that don't need to be pulled, but move on their own at their direction. They've even learned to fly, and they have weapons of their own. They have weapons that can level an entire city in seconds and poison the area for years. Unless you can manage to surprise them and cast the Killing Curse, you are only going to be a hindrance to the Dark Lord.'
He was gratified when he saw the first hints of fear and doubt cross Draco's face. "How do we defeat that?"
"Today we are going to work on hand-to-hand combat." And perhaps, afterwords, something a little more intimate.
"But I'm supposed to kill the Headmaster...can't the other Death Eaters take care of the Muggles?"
Snape allowed himself to sneer in derision at his godson's cowardice. "I suppose you've already forgotten what a Muggle-lover the Headmaster is - do you think he would hesitate to use Muggle methods?"
He had no intent to actually teach Draco to fight; that would be too useful. He spent the next hour leading Draco in a circle; each time he tried to cast a spell or hex, Severus sent him sprawling, stopping only when the brat was blue with cold and trembling.
"I can't really claim to see any improvement, but it'll soon be dark and I wish to move on to the last part of the lesson. It is high time you learned to cast the Killing Curse." He strode, still warm and dry beneath his clothes, to the crate he'd left behind a tree. He brought it into the clearing, and set it in the middle. He conjured a rope, and freed a a young crup puppy; it wiggled both tails weakly and attempted to lick him as he tied the rope in a crude leash around its neck and stepped back.
"I'm sure you know what the words and the wand motions are, and lack only experience," he said smoothly. "Cast when ready."
But Draco stared at the crup in horror. He was a pathetic sight, dripping muddy water and several long bits of grass, hair plastered to his face and face streaked with mud."He looks just like Whippy!"
"Coincidence, I'm sure." Coincidence he'd found one that looked similar to his favourite childhood pet, and a few transfigurations completed the transformation. "Now, focus on your hate, you have to really feel ang--"
"I'm not going to kill Whippy!"
It had been a ridiculous name for a crup even when Draco was a child, and it was even worse now. But Draco was reacting exactly as he'd hoped, so he couldn't complain. "It's just a crup, less than human. Kill it!"
Draco swallowed, then raised his wand, pointing it at the crup, who was licking one paw, unaware its life was in danger. Then Draco turned away. "I can't do it, Professor. It's - it's never done anything to me!"
"If you can't kill a crup, how do you expect to kill a Muggle? When there's an angelic, wide-eyed, blonde-haired child with wide blue eyes staring up at you tearfully, and you're supposed to kill her - Muggle, not magical! - are you going to tell the Dark Lord 'I can't, she's just too precious'?" His tone was mocking.
He was pleased when Draco paled, though he hid it. "What if you have to kill a Muggle who looks like your mother? Will you refuse because of the resemblance? What if you're ordered to kill a relative who betrays the Dark Lord - like your Aunt Andromeda? You could even be called upon to kill other Death Eaters, if they displease the Dark Lord. Suppose your father failed him badly enough to warrant death? Do you think you'd survive if you said no?"
Draco abruptly sat on the ground and stared with horror at the crup, heedless of the wet, though even the puppy was beginning to shiver now in the cold rain. "He wouldn't do that to his followers," he whispered, "would he?"
"He can, and he has." He would have to finish this quickly; the brat was shivering more violently than before, and not all of it was cold. Severus dropped to his own knees next to him, and draped a comforting arm around the brat. He hid a smile when Draco leaned into the warmth of the half-embrace. "He is....sometimes merciful," he said, gentling his tone. "Perhaps he will be so with you."
"Why should he?" He raised wide, fearful eyes to his godfather. "My spells aren't anywhere as powerful as yours, I can't manage against Muggles, and I can't even cast the killing curse!"
Snape let the silence draw out between them after that until Draco's terror became palpable. "The Dark Lord is a - strict master," he said with feigned reluctance, then added silkily, "But Death Eaters know how to derive strength and comfort from each other."
The vulnerability and hope in Draco's eyes filled Severus with exultation; he even allowed it to show in a thin smile, knowing the brat would think he was remembering fond times. "Let me take you to my private rooms," he whispered. "We'll get you dried off and warmed up, some firewhiskey in you - and then I'll teach you what Death Eaters do with their wands in their free time."
They stood and started walking out; Draco retrieved his sweater. "What about the crup, Professor?"
"I'll tell Hagrid he's here." Likely the acromantulas would find him as soon as he left.
"Ok." The fear was already fading, but Severus knew he'd remember when the time came - and it was coming soon, preferably before the brat had time to grow up. He'd make sure of it.
*The Fourth: Inevitable*
The face that had stared back at Severus in the mirror that morning was one that showed strain and fatigue. He knew he was playing a dangerous game. Being a spy was one thing; pretending to be a spy for both sides was madness. He had to choose carefully what information to divulge and which to hoard; at times he thought for sure it would be his death. It was certainly a thankless job, on either end. Despite the untold danger he flirted with daily, no one was certain of his ultimate allegiance, and he knew several in the Order would far rather spit on him than listen to him.
But sometimes, he exulted in the strange, twisted power it gave him. Knowledge was power, was it not? And he had knowledge from the two leading powers. Who would attack, and when; who would likely not survive another night. Knowledge was also dear coin, and it was the currency of his own freedom; the coin that ensured Albus Dumbledore's protection. So long as he was useful to the Order, the Ministry could not get their itching fingers on his person.
But things were rapidly changing. Severus knew about the Horcruxes, of course; he was helping look for them. He'd be happier with the Dark Lord gone. Betrayals aside, no one deserved to live forever. And the fact that the Dark Lord had looked on in enjoyment while Lucius had tortured him, and then had him chained in the dark like a criminal while they killed the only woman he'd ever loved - well. He would rather the Dark Lord fall at his hands, but a Prophecy said otherwise. So for now he played the role of loyal Death Eater and planned revenge on the ones within his reach.
But even with his knowledge on both sides, he hadn't been prepared for the speed at which things unraveled and came to a dangerous precipice. The only warning he had was that the Death Eaters imprisoned in Azkaban had been freed, and then somehow he was facing Albus Dumbledore next to Draco, and there were Death Eaters storming Hogwarts -
He hadn't had time to reinforce Draco's weakness, and his heart nearly stopped when Flitwick had told him they were under attack; he'd expected the brat to at least keep him somewhat informed, after all. And if the brat had been smart enough (and brave enough) to find a way to get Death Eaters into the castle, he feared he'd be capable of killing. He was relieved to find Albus still alive - though disarmed - when he arrived at the tower. But he didn't have a chance to prey on Draco's fears, not with Bellatrix and Fenrir there and all but drooling at having Dumbledore at their mercy.
For a moment he thought all his careful plans were crashing to ruin about his ears while he stared at Draco, Draco who had his wand pointing firmly at the Headmaster, who had already disarmed him, and who knew the Death Eaters at his back would tolerate no weakness.
And then he saw the fear, and the way the brat's resolve wavered, and knew his lessons had been successful. Inwardly he crowed with exultation; outwardly he pulled on a mask of scorn and impatience as Albus turned from talking the boy down to looking at Severus.
He knew what Albus was going to say, even before he felt the pressure of his Legilimency. Don't let him sully himself with murder. Secure your position as spy. I'm dying anyway. No concern, of course, for the state of Severus' soul; he knew he was little more than a pawn and a tool to the Headmaster, who wielded his weapons with nearly as much brutality as the Dark Lord.
Besides, what was one more murder? He'd killed, and would kill again, at the Dark Lord's orders, as long as this war stretched on.
But he'd never had to kill a friend, a mentor before.
He swallowed down bile, and forced his emotions back behind Occlumentic walls with almost brutal efficiency, allowing only his hate and rage to remain. There was plenty of source material to draw from. With all his positive emotions locked away, it was almost too easy to summon the hate, the anger, and direct them at Albus, master manipulator, and hiss the words. It was almost a relief to see the green jet of light hit the old man in the chest and send him flying, and know he was down to one Master.
Almost. He still felt a pang of loss, and imagined another scar on his soul...one of many. Later, when he had time to let down his walls and remember, he knew he'd pay for the brutal suppression of his emotions.
Then Bellatrix laughed and conjured Morsmordre, and Potter appeared out from under that accursed invisibility cloak. Hastily he spun to leave before Potter could recover his shock; he knew the brat would be vicious in grief and rage, though he doubted him capable of casting the Unforgiveables, yet. He dragged Draco with him until he found his own momentum, vaguely amused at the green cast to the boy's skin.
Thunder rumbled ominously in the distance as they reached the Apparition point and popped away.
* * * * *
The Death Eaters, routed from Hogwarts, Apparated to Malfoy Manor before crossing the wards onto the grounds by foot. The sky had opened up and begun pouring as they began trickling in by ones and twos, many looking worse for wear; even Lucius slipped on the wet glass, leaving a smear of mud down his expensive robes. None of them had thought to apply an Impervious charm before fleeing Hogwarts, and now they shambled up the cultivated lawn to the Manor in various states of sodden disarray. They looked far more like vagabonds than pureblooded aristocrats.
They halted just outside the manor doors; the Dark Lord had set up an awning over one of the doors and installed a ridiculously throne-like chair beneath it, Pettigrew fawning about his feet like the terrified, spineless sycophant he was. Severus fought to not roll his eyes at the statement of power; the awning was only big enough to keep him dry. His followers were forced to stand underneath the cold rain, exposed to the thunder rumbling overhead despite the availability of the enormous manor.
He forced aside his cynical thoughts and regrets when he and Draco shouldered past the tight half-circle into the Dark Lord's presence and he found himself face to face with the sneering visage of Lucius Malfoy. He found his doubts fleeing as all the old memories and betryals rose in force; only practice and force of habit allowed him to give his customary sneer and breeze past. His Occlumency barriers were up by the time he dropped smoothly to one knee before the Dark Lord; how far he'd come since that day the Dark Lord had wrestled the prophecy from his head!
From the corner of his eye, he could see Draco do the same. The brat was white with fear, eyes wide - no doubt remembering, too late, what the Dark Lord did to those who failed him. No doubt wishing he'd stayed to beg Sanctuary at Hogwarts.
But there is no Sanctuary, Severus thought viciously, no safe haven but which you carve out for yourself. His mind tormented him by replaying the scene in the Tower, the eyes which twinkled at him so infernally going dull and lifeless as glass, and he forcefully reminded himself that it was mercy; Albus had been dying already. But it didn't ease the ache, and he cursed Albus for that.
"My Lord," he said smoothly, "I bring good news; the old fool, Albus Dumbledore, is dead." Silently he added, and you're not worth the socks on his feet, impossibly matched as they were.
Voldemort's eyes gleamed with maniacal glee. "At last! See how my enemies fall before me!" he shouted to the gathered witches and wizards. "Even the oh-so-powerful Dumbledore has fallen at my command!"
Severus wisely sneered at the other Death Eaters, though he wished he could sneer at the Dark Lord himself. Cold rain soaked through his robes, plastering his hair to his forehead and trickling down the back of his collar, awakening old memories and hurts.
Voldemort stood, stepping to the edge of the canopy's protection, and looked down at Draco. "I am surprised you were successful; I admit I had not thought you capable."
The brat didn't even have enough cunning to form a palatable half-truth. "I-I couldn't," he stammered, white visible all the way around the irises, grey as the rainclouds overhead. "S-s-snape had to." He looked utterly miserable.
Severus looked away from the boy's miserable form. He shouldn't feel guilty, not when he'd been forced into making a Vow for the brat, not when the brat himself had so eagerly wanted to learn to be a 'proper' Death Eater. He shouldn't feel guilty over having to kill the Headmaster in his stead, when he knew that it was what Albus had wanted. Had ordered, in fact.
And he definitely shouldn't feel guilty if everything went according to plan and Draco was his to punish. To kill, to betray Lucius as Lucius had betrayed him in killing Lily. To take away the most precious thing in Lucius' life...
But all he could see was Albus Dumbledore falling, and the sick terror in Draco's eyes.
It was ironic, he thought; he spent years, a small lifetime, playing nice to a tormentor who had far surpassed the petty pranks of the Marauders. In contrast, seeing Harry Potter as an individual would have been easy, but he hadn't thought it worth the effort. Not only did it go counter to his role as a spy, it had made him feel ill to contemplate yet another to pander to. His father was no longer alive to plot revenge against, which was all that made it worthwhile.
"Issss this true, Severus?"
How he hated the way the Dark Lord's words had taken on a sibilant hiss, a constant reminder that he was somewhere between living and dead, and trapped between human and monster: a monstrosity, an aberration of nature. At one time he'd been charismatic and almost good-looking; now he was a grotesque caricature of his former self, and too blind to see it.
He focused on the water cascading from the edge of the awning, in effect creating a fine 'barrier' of rain, silver in the sporadic flashes of lightning. It was easier than looking his 'Master' in his inhuman eyes. "Is is, my Lord," he said neutrally, "Narcissa and Bellatrix begged me to take an Unbreakable Vow, to succeed if Draco should fail." It was only a slight stretch of the truth, and ensured that if punishment was meted for interference, they too would take the fall. From the corner of his eye he saw Bellatrix shoot him a furious glare and move forward as if to hex him, only to be pulled back by her sister. Narcissa, he saw, was controlling herself rigidly; Lucius wouldn't have tolerated any Black madness or weakness in his wife.
For a long moment, Voldemort stared at him measuringly; but Snape didn't drop his guard and was prepared when the Dark Lord hissed "Legilimens!" and plunged into his mind. Willingly, he pushed forward carefully selected memories: the Vow. Training Draco, failing to make him heartless, but ostensibly appearing to try to do so. And finally, the battle at the tower: Draco's seeming cowardice, Albus Dumbledore's death at Snape's hand, and the flight from Hogwarts.
When he sat back and withdrew from Severus' mind, it was with a gleeful grin - no doubt at having seen his enemy falling, after appearing to beg for his life. "You, Sssseverus, have proved yourself a worthy and loyal servant," he said, and Voldemort's eyes lingered on his kneeling form long enough for Severus to shiver. Then the red eyes cut over to Draco, who trembled beneath that malevolent gaze. "I am inclined to reward you, Ssseverus, while at the same time punishing one who has fallen from favour." His eyes cut from Draco's to find and pin Lucius beneath his gaze, and Severus dropped his head to hide a smile when the elder Malfoy blanched.
"This is my merciful ruling, Lucius," Voldemort sneered, as if he were a pureblood aristocrat himself. "As Severus' reward, he shall have Draco to do with as he wishes. Whether as a toy, a slave, a lab rat, or a corpse, is his to decide." His smile stretched deliciously wide as he stared with morbid anticipation at Draco, who if possible paled even more, and shook hard enough to rattle apart at the seams. He looked to Severus in panic, eyes pleading with him to do something.
Severus did intend to do something, but it wasn't what Draco expected. He didn't really want to torture the brat - insufferable, cowardly, arrogant swot that he was - not when he knelt and shivered like a half-drowned kneazle. And not when he still had the memories of seducing him, taking his innocence, showing him how Death Eaters rutted behind closed doors. That lithe white form arching beneath him, lips kiss-swollen and round in an 'o', eyes fluttering -
He'd meant to kill him. His plans, his hopes, his thirst for revenge, all pivoted around this boy dying. He'd imagined it so many times - he'd make Lucius beg, grovel, promise the moon - and then kill the brat anyway, and the desolation, the rage, the grief, the utter powerlessness in Malfoy's eyes would slake his burning thirst for retribution.
Only he'd forgotten, in all his plans, that Draco was an innocent, as much as Lily had been. Draco was not - yet - his father, and separated from him could possibly become someone much greater. But Lucius still needed to be punished -
The plan was only half formed as he raised his wand, and uttered the Cruciatus; as he held it on Draco and watched him scream and writhe in the mud, eyes wide in agony and betrayal, the plan crystalized, and he looked over his shoulder to smirk at Lucius. "Do you know," he inquired conversationally, "I remember every curse, every hex you've cast on me? Even unconcious - there are medical spells for cataloging damage and what caused it. Every pain spell, every bruise, every humiliation. Every Cruciatus....I had time to recover in between, but shall Draco be so lucky?" He blinked, as if surprised, and looked back at Draco, still writhing under the curse, and lifted his wand.
The sudden silence after Draco's screams stopped was only broken by Bella's mad giggle, and the quiet susurration of steadily falling rain. Severus took the sudden pause to look Draco over clinically; he was soaked to the skin and covered in mud, but his pallor didn't appear to be a sign of shock - yet. Small spasms trembled through his sprawling limbs and he panted for breath raggedly, lips bloody where he'd bitten them in his convulsions. Severus ruthlessly suppressed the sudden urge to spell the blood away, and looked back at Lucius.
"Let's see," he mused aloud, "we all know how this shall end - " he smirked when Lucius flinched, and opened his mouth to protest, " - but a better question is, I think, where to begin? So much history!" He imbued the word with all his scorn and derision. "Perhaps another round of the Cruciatus to kick us off?" Voldemort watched with hungry approval as Severus again pointed his wand at Draco, who looked ready to vomit at the thought of such agony again.
"Wait!" Lucis stepped forward, eyes wide with fear for his son and hands outstretched in supplication. Severus noted with amusement that they trembled, ever-so-faintly. "What do you want for my son's sanity and life? Name it, and it shall be yours," he said desperately. Behind him, Narcissa made a sound like a choked sob, and Bella hissed - likely at Lucius, for showing weakness so early in the game.
"Want?" He let himself smile, and saw Lucius shudder and step back. It was the reason why he smiled so rarely; his smile was a predator's smile, cold and vicious. "Revenge, Lucius. For everything you've done to me, everything you've taken from me. I can make him sob in agony and beg for mercy - and I can make him scream my name in ecstasy, and beg for more. I can break him, humiliate him, and know all you can do is watch. Just as I was held powerless once in your dungeons, so now I chain the one thing you value more than your life. And the bitter thing, Lucius?" He leaned forward, over the shivering, whimpering tangle of limbs that was Lucius' son, and whispered into the shell of the other man's ear, "It'll be your fault, for failing to raise your son." He meant that last, though not in the way Lucius thought.
The flare of agony in Lucius' grey eyes was like an elf-made wine; effervescent, sweet-sour, and frighteningly potent. "Don't touch my son," Lucius whispered brokenly, "I'll do whatever you want. Anything!" His eyes turned to Voldemort, who watched him with disgust. "He's my only son. You can't - "
"You never were one to understand the word 'no', Lucius; is it so impossible that I wouldn't, either?" He reached down with one arm and hauled the boy up by his collar; then pulled him close, and kissed him brutally, biting at the savaged lips and plundering deep with his tongue, tasting and saving the copper tang of blood and salty tears and the clean rain, stopping only when Draco began to respond to the kiss.
Roughly he shoved him back, smirking at the thoroughly debauched image the boy presented; hair tousled and rain-slicked, eyes wide and dazed, cheeks high with color and lips swollen and red. One glance at Lucius and Snape knew he was broken.
"Please, Severus," he whispered, "I promise you anything! What do you want? Do you want me to beg?" He dropped to his knees before Severus, ignoring the way his knees squelched ungracefully in the mud.
Severus pretended to consider. "What if I asked you to beg, to crawl on your belly like a worm, and lick the mud from my boots?" he mocked, then turned serious. "What if I demand an equal substitute? Will you give up your pride, your name, your wealth, your social standing, your freedom, your life for the spoiled, coddled coward you call your son?"
Lucius' harsh breathing filled the space between them like a palpable thing, and part of Severus thrilled at the sound. Dimly part of his conscience clamoured, but he muffled its distant din with memory upon memory of Lucius forcing the same sounds from his own lips. He refused to show him mercy; mercy was for Gryffindors, for Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws.
Slytherins showed no mercy for each other, because only the strongest survived in the snake pit.
"Yes, damn you!" Lucius' hoarse confession rang out, as Severus knew it would. He also knew that Lucius would likely try to slither out of it later, or find a way around as he had in the past.
And he had no intention of letting him. Not this time. "And if I require an Unbreakable Vow?"
Even Lucius felt the noose tighten about his throat, and jerked in response, but Draco whimpered when Severus raised his wand. Lucius bowed his head in acceptance. "I'll do it."
"Very reasonable of you, Lucius," he smiled, "and I'm sure lovely Narcissa would love to be our bonder, after her previous experience with the Vow?" He knew that would be punishment enough for her. Every day she would remember that though Severus spoke the words of the Vow, it had been her hands locking the collar about his neck. In time he would resent her for it, as well.
The furious glare she sent him told him she knew very well what he was doing, but when Lucius beckoned her she unhappily came forward and stood between them. "And what will you have me swear?" Lucius said heavily, holding his hand out to be clasped.
He clasped Malfoy's cold, trembling hand in his own and waited for Narcissa to place her wand on their joined hands before speaking. "Will you, Lucius, do everything in your power to ensure my well-being in every aspect of my life, according to my standards?"
Lucius inhaled sharply, but hissed, "I will." A thread of flame wrapped around their hands.
"Will you, Lucius, act to the best of your abilities to protect me from harm on all levels, even at risk of injury or certain death to yourself?"
The watching Death Eaters were silently entranced by the unfolding drama, while the Dark Lord watched speculatively. "I will." A second rope of fire joined the first, twining around it.
His last and final request seemed the least harmful, but it carried a hidden bite - one that would hopefully be discovered too late. But none could answer for him, and Lucius didn't always think well under pressure. "And will you, Lucius, aid me in those of my tasks I require of you?"
The elder Malfoy watched him suspiciously for the span of several minutes as the rain began to lighten, then finally he nodded, jerkily. "I will." The words were almost inaudible, but a third tongue of fire joined the other two, braiding itself into them until the three were almost indistinguishable, before sinking into the skin of their hands.
Severus stood, smirking. "Fetch me a glass of water, would you, Lucius? No need to send a house elf, your hands and feet should do the job."
Shock, horror, and rage washed over the man's face in rapid succession when the Vow forced him to his feet, but it was despair that won out. "You've made me into a house elf!"
Severus stretched; overhead, the clouds were beginning to clear. He saw a small patch of blue.
He wondered what it would be like when the war was over, if he'd be alive to see it. He found he was tired of revenge...though not so tired as Lucius would be.
He accepted the glass Lucius brought when he returned, and made a show of drinking the cool, pure water appreciatively. "You should have known, Lucius, when you broke your word as a pureblood.....revenge was inevitable."
*Epilogue: Hogsmead, May, 2074*
Rhea Gosbug scribbled frantically, dotting the last 'i' with a ferocious enthusiasm, thankful for the advent of impervious ink, which didn't bleed or run in rain. "What a brilliant line! But why is the Vow so important? It's not against wizarding law." Rain still poured steadily around them, and she fancifully imagined she could hear the echoes of rain from bygone years in the rain drumming against the bench and the sidewalk and pattering against the leaves.
His eyes still closed against the stinging drops, he turned his face slightly towards hers, brows furled. "What shall happen when I die, Miss Gosbug? Who shall hold Lucius Malfoy's reins then?"
"But Malfoy Senior is an upstanding citizen!" she argued, "He reformed after the fall of Voldemort. He donates huge amounts to charity, helps in research, speaks at fundraisers, and helped the Aurors hunt down countless dark wizards. He - "
"Miss Gosbug, did you listen to what I just said? Lucius Malfoy was acting under the constraints of the Unbreakable Vow. He did what I required of him. Do not, for one moment, assume he is reformed or tame. When I am gone, the Vow will no longer hold him. I will not release a Dark Wizard on an unsuspecting populace; I saw enough death and darkness to fill several lifetimes."
He sighed, a long weary exhalation. "I have come a long way from those times of pain and betrayal. I have learned to forgive them, even Lucius. But now - " His voice dropped to a whisper so low she had to lean close to hear it. "Now, I think I am ready to forgive myself."
She waited several minutes to see if he'd add more, but when he didn't, she ventured, "Likely long overdue, sir."
Still, he didn't answer, so she leaned over and touched his shoulder. When she shook it gently, calling his name, his head rolled back limply, and after a moment of shock, she cast a Vital Sign detection spell. It admitted a dull tone.
Severus Snape, reclusive Potions Master, professor, Headmaster, ex-Death Eater, spy, and war-hero, was dead.
Rhea blew out her breath suddenly. "Well, bugger it all. No-one told me they might die when they're interviewed," she grumbled. She doodled in her notebook under his last words while she decided what to do.
He looked - peaceful. The signs of strain and worry was still there in the deep lines around his mouth and eyes and the permanent furrowed brow, but there was a restfulness she hadn't seen once in their conversation.
Impulsively, she leaned forward and brushed the hair from his face, tenderly. "I hope wherever you end up, you get some blue skies for once. Just between you and me, I think you've seen enough rain for a lifetime."
She looked at her notebook one last time, before she went to summon the authorities and break the news about Snape's death. It needed something....more.
After a moment's thought, she scratched out the title and wrote, all in flourishes,
Five Times It Rained, by Rhea Gosbug.