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!
*Prologue: Hogsmead, May, 2074*
Rain poured from the dark cloudy skies over Hogsmeade and Hogwarts on the anniversary of the Fall of Voldemort. Despite that, celebrants thronged. Most there were too young to remember what it'd been like when Voldemort was a threat, but here and there were old survivors of that war. Hogwarts always held a Hogsmead weekend - or day, if it fell during the week - for its students. The school would always remember, of course, the role their students had played, though those particular students had long since left to make their mark on the world. Nearly all the staff from that time were gone, though a white-bearded and genial Longbottom was Headmaster now.
In addition to being haunted by memories of a dark time, it was also haunted - in a sense - by a plague of reporters, all hoping to harass some veteran of the war or glean some gossip from the latest media darlings. Rhea Gosbug - the granddaughter of the late Rita Skeeter - was there as well, hoping to make her intro into the world of reporting. But each corner, as it were, was already staked out by a higher-ranking reporter! And reporters were very territorial about their stakeouts.
"This area is mine! And I don't care if it's raining crups and kneazles and you look like a drowned rat! It'll lower your chances of getting an interview, and raise mine." Sparra Sharpe pushed her rival gleefully out the door; immediately, cold rain slicked Rhea's hair to her face.
She indulged in a brief tantrum - reporters were good at that - and if stomping her foot resulted in splashing her legs with mud to the knee, well, what of it? Mournfully, she looked over her shoulder; on the outskirts of Hogsmead, the Shrieking Shack had been transformed into a memorial museum honoring the heroes - living and fallen - of the war. Along with the pouring rain, its distance from the main celebration had made it her last hope for a lucky encounter.
Sighing, she hunched her shoulders and tucked her water-proofed spiral under one arm and then wedged her Spelling Bee Quill (Potter and Granger had worked to ban Skeeter's favoured Quick Quotes quill in the media) under the cover. The feather looked as ragged and water-logged as she did. Then she turned towards Hogsmead - a pint and a meat pie were an appropriate way to drown her woes.
Until Rhea ran smack into a black-clad torso. A very tall, thin, but undeniably solid torso. She ran her eyes disinterestedly up the old-fashioned clothing - so many buttons! - cataloged the distinctive scar at his throat, continued to his face - pale, with piercing black eyes and a prominent hooked nose that twigged her memory, even as she began apologise. Her eyes skittered back to the scar, then back to his face, widening in recognition.
"I'm so sorry about th-- Snape? Severus Snape? Reclusive Potions Master, professor, Headmaster, ex-Death Eater, spy, and war-hero?" Her voice rose in pitch as she rattled off the titles.
For a long moment it appeared as if he was deciding between ignoring her and verbally eviscerating her, and she felt a thrill of delight at the prospect of being harangued by someone so very famous.
But then he shuddered as rain dripped into his eyes, and he nodded, instead. "The same."
"Can I have your autograph?" she blurted, flushing immediately after. That was not the behaviour of a up-and-coming reporter, who would act as if rubbing shoulders with heroes and celebrities was utterly normal - they would most certainly not ask for autographs!
So she was surprised when, after another long moment of scrutiny, he nodded again. She hastily handed over her quill and notebook. While he scratched out his signature in spiky, cramped writing, she took the time to look at him properly.
Time - and likely the war - had not treated him kindly. He was thin, too thin, and looked almost brittle; his thinning hair hadn't had the apparent audacity to recede, but was liberally streaked with white and grey and hung to his chin, clinging to his sharp cheekbones. His hands - twisted with arthritis and covered with scarring from countless potions mishaps - still grasped her quill deftly, and she could easily imagine those hands scribbling line after line of red ink on student essays, thin face twisted into a fierce scowl.
"I'm Rhea Gosbug, reporter for the Prophet. Could - could I interview you?" When the dark eyes snapped back to her face, she added hastily, "We could go somewhere else - somewhere dry maybe - " Though where, she didn't know. Anywhere out of the rain was staked out by another reporter, and no doubt they'd muscle in on her find. She wished, not for the first time, that she could afford a flat in Hogsmead.
But, unbelievably, he nodded for a third time, as he handed back her notebook and quill. "If you can consent to my terms, I will grant an interview." His voice was raspy and low, and she wondered if it was due to his neck injury, or from not speaking enough. She didn't dare ask, though. "As for location, here will do fine. I am quite familiar with rain; the most momentous moments of my life have all been in conjunction with weather such as this." He tilted his face back, seemingly unaffected by the pouring rain, though he closed his eyes against the stinging drops.
"What are your conditions?" She hoped he would not charge her for the information; she was as poor as the Weasleys were said to have been before the war.
As if reading her thoughts, his mouth quirked in a ghost of a smile. "I will tell you what I want to tell you: no more, no less. You will write exactly as I tell you, no more, no less. You will neither truncate, nor augment, my words. However, while I do not shun the rain as many do, I would like to sit. I am not as young as I was. If I recall, there is a bench nearby, is there not?"
She could only nod mutely, then trot after him in disbelief as he lead his way over to the wide bench. It was a wrought iron monstrosity, dark metal curliques depicting griffins battling with great serpents. A gleaming nameplate, set in the high backing, declared it had been donated by the Malfoy family in remembrance of the Slytherin heroes of the war. Snape's step was confident, but his age revealed itself when he gripped the armrest and lowered himself to the bench seat gingerly. His shoulders sagged with weariness, and he leaned against the backrest with a sigh of relief. She perched gingerly next to him, now regretting the childish impulse that left her stockings splattered in mud.
He caught her concerned glance as he sat, and his smile was twisted and wry, but not bitter. "I am neither ill nor hurt, Miss Gosbug. I have simply seen more years than I ever expected to."
"But you can't be that old, can you? Albus Dumbledore was much older than you when he died." She was briefly puzzled when he winced, and remembered that he'd been the one to kill Dumbledore, though he'd been pardoned after. "I'm sorry, I didn't think." Flustered, she took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Her instructors had warned her that most reporters blew their first major interviews, but she hadn't expected it to be this difficult.
"So, your conditions - that's it? No demand for galleons, or publicity, or glossing over past mistakes, or - "
"Truth," he interrupted her. "Just the truth. That's all I ask." At her look of disbelief he added, "I am too cynical to find a priest to confess to, even were they to listen. But some truths must be revealed, and you will do as well as another."
For a moment she thought to take offense, then shrugged it off; it was still an opportunity she couldn't afford to pass up. Instead she flipped her pad open, admired his distinctive signature, then turned to a fresh page, quill poised to write. His conditions were - odd, but an interview was an interview; she could always add her comments in a separate article. Right next to his, of course. "Well, it's not what they teach in Wizarding Journalism 101, but I can bite. What do you want to tell me?"
He gazed out at the rainy view, but didn't appear to really see it. "The most momentous moments of my life have all been in conjunction with weather like this," he repeated, "four times in particular. I will tell you about those."
On her notebook, she wrote carefully, Four Times It Rained, then wiggled into a comfortable position. Next to her, Severus Snape - Potions Master, spy, and war-hero! - sighed and let his head tilt back, resting on the obliging coil of a serpent's back; a friendly griffin's wing curled behind his neck.
"The first two times were before Potter's time. Harry Potter's time. It will make more sense to share those from Lucius Malfoy's point of view as he figures so prominently in them, and since he so kindly shared his memories with me." From the mocking tone of his words and a certain hard glint to his eyes, she has a funny feeling the sharing was neither pleasant nor consensual. "This was during the first War - "
He looked so disturbingly old. It wasn't that he looked ancient, but almost as if he was used up and burnt out too soon. She decided she would find a way to treat him to a nice hot meal after this; Molly Weasley had had a great many grandchildren, and several of them had inherited her kitchen skills. There was a small, but very popular, diner in Hogsmead. She was sure they'd find a vacancy for Severus Snape.
But for now, she was sitting next to a hero of the war, and he wasn't waiting to see if she was keeping up with him. Rhea hastily began scribbling down his words; at least she'd had plenty of practice writing fast - she'd never been so thankful her lecturers had tended to run at the mouth!
*The First: A Pureblood's Word*
Mud and leaves marked a trail in through the half-open door, marring an otherwise impressive and spotless hallway; a steady, heavy rain blew in through the gap and puddled, mixing with the leaves and mud and ferrying them further into the hostile grandeur of Malfoy Manor. The small current diverged - picking up a suspicious red tint near a dropped cloak, a mountain of sodden wool that threatened to dam the rivulet until it found an outlet in the moisture seeping from it.
Emboldened, it wandered on until it was disrupted by two pairs of boots, the same that had tracked in the mud and leaves and left the door open to the driving rain.
One pair of boots belonged to Severus Snape, who looked out of place there in his worn and faded robes and scowling face. His fierce and forbidding demeanor was marred by
hair clinging to his pallid face and overly large proboscis like black ink; his soaked trousers and robes clung to his thin frame, giving hint to the stark jut of collarbone, the too-sharp hipbones, the too-long legs with their knobby knees. His robes hung open and his shirt was half-untucked and unbuttoned, giving a tantalising glimpse of pale skin and hollowed ribs and one dusky nipple. His fingers, splayed against the wall, were long and tapered, but stained with countless hours of preparing potions ingredients.
The other pair of boots belonged to Lucius Malfoy. A contrast in every way but the ones that supposedly mattered, Lucius was light where Severus was dark; his face was chiseled beauty and classical lines. Even soaked with rain his hair hardly darkened from its platinum blond and clung to his damp cheeks in a way he was confident was sexually appealing. His skin was pale, but not pasty; the pallor of a pureblood, who never needed to labor under the sun for a living (or labor at all, for that manner). His eyes were a pale pewter grey, or ice-blue in the right light, in contrast to Snape's utterly plebian beetle-black irises. His clothing was perfectly tailored to show off his broad shoulders and narrow tapered waist and hips, all rich tones and luxurious fabric, and even the way he stood screamed wealthy pureblood right down to his waterproof, dragonskin boots.
He was fully aware of their contrasts, and delighted in it. Of course, it helped that despite being a potions prodigy, Severus was a social misfit, naive of social economics, and in possession of a delightfully tight arse. Better, he had no scruples that prevented him from sharing said arse when it furthered his own wishes, and Lucius was careful to ensure Snape got just enough of what he wanted - power, prestige, political influence - to keep him there, to keep him interested and wanting more, but never enough to be independent outside of Lucius' shadow.
Which was all to the good, as far as Lucius was concerned. Narcissa was a good political match with complementary looks, but she was frigid and despairingly boring in the bedroom. She would not allow rough passionate sex, much less rough passionate sex in the hallway.
Thus, Severus. Thanks to the power play between them and his ability to keep Severus in his debt, he could do almost anything to Severus and get away with it. His Severus, a shabby sharp-beaked rook if there ever was one, and who was currently biting his thin, bloodless lips as Lucius frotted against the cleft of his arse - no doubt the wet, clinging fabric was chafing against the halfblood's bits, but he was silent and malleable. No one would ever want him as a life partner, surely, but as a fuck, as a toy, he was more than adequate.
His Severus, who was a demon on the killing field, who was clever and cruel and caustic, who left him hard and wanting as he watched him spin and fire spells with calculated precision against his opponents, to devastating effect. Utterly without compassion or mercy...
Except for one. He felt angry, remembering the one Snape had turned from killing, whom Lucius had had to kill for him, just because she'd happened to have green eyes and ginger hair. That was almost worse, that his Severus had the poor taste to like 'carrot tops' - as common and coarse as the nickname implied, as numerous and as tasteless.
She'd screamed sweetly, though, under the Cruciatus, before he'd finally killed her.
Just remembering left him harder than before. Suddenly impatient, he bent over the shorter, wiry body in front of him, pressed his erection to the sweet curve of Snape's arse, and whispered, "Remember the last time we fucked here, against the wall?" He reached around to grope at Snape's groin - and was disturbed to find no answering arousal.
Disgusted he stepped away and folded his arms, raking his eyes over Severus as the other man straightened and turned to face him, dark eyes failing to meet his.
Severus was an awkward, ugly, ungraceful specimen of a wizard, but Lucius thought there was a quaint charm to him in this vulnerable moments; a rough, common, plebian charm, but there nonetheless.
And he made Lucius look good in contrast. That was always important to remember.
"This had better not be about the ginger," he snarled, when Severus warily met his eyes. "Is it?"
Snape turned his head away, stared at a painted tile on the wall over Lucius' right shoulder - it couldn't be that fascinating, Lucius thought with dark foreboding, all the tiles were guaranteed identical and they'd both seen them too many times to count. "Tell me!" he demanded again, and raised his wand. He wasn't above casting a body bind on him and pouring Veritaserum down his stubbornly mute throat.
But he'd hurt him before, and he'd likely hurt him again, and things would still stay the same between them. He wasn't always cruel, but he was a sadist, and confident that nothing would drive Severus away. Who else would have him, ugly as he was?
But there was a rival for Snape's affections. It didn't matter if she didn't love him, because he loved her. And Lucius was jealous about his lovers, his possessions. "Inducautious," he drawled, and ropes sprang forth and wrapped around Severus, forcing him to freeze.
"Ah, I see you recognise this spell?" He traced his wand tip over Snape's cheekbone, pushing a damp strand away from his eyes. Eyes that were dark with impotent fury; he allowed himself to smile. "A strangling hex that imitates devil's snare, it remains inactive so long as the victim remains still. How still can you hold, Severus?" He lowered his wand, traced it down a long forearm, pressing where the tip dragged over the dark mark. "Could you hold still if I cut off one of your fingers? It could be reattached or grown back, of course. But it might not be up to the delicate control you'd need for your slicing and dicing. And I'm sure it would be an exquisite torture...." He placed the tip of his wand between the web of Severus' ring finger and middle finger, pinned against the wall, and leaned into it, smiling when he saw a flicker in Snape's eyes, saw the way his lips thinned as he pressed them together.
"What was that delightful little spell you created? Ah yes, Sectumsempra. Why, I could take your hand off with that, not just your fingers. Or maybe each finger, one at a time...like I did to the ginger tonight - "
Lucius loved forcing sound from Severus, shattering his rigid control. Severus liked to pretend he was above base emotions. He lifted the pressure off the skin - it left a purpling indent, already bruising, which he admired - then traced the wand point over Snape's knuckles. "Sec-tum-sem-" he sounded out the curse slowly, and was rewarded when Severus shuddered and made an inarticulate sound. The ropes tightened uncomfortably, painfully pinching, holding him still. He could see a faint sheen of sweat on the pale skin. One wrapped around his wand hand, tightly enough that his wand fell from nerveless fingers.
"Or I could just use a babbling hex and force you to tell me that way." His eyes were hard; they captured and held Severus' gaze long enough to show he was serious. "Something's eating at you, something you know about and won't tell. It's monopolising your thoughts, and you know I can't stand sharing you. And the Severus I know would never hesitate on a raid."
He dropped his wand hand now and brought up his left, gently brushed knuckles across the high cheekbones. He watched color flame with amusement. Severus could talk about fucking in hallways, drop trou anywhere at any time without concern - but the gentle touches unbalanced him. Thus he employed them when Severus was already vulnerable. "There's something more bothering you, and I need you to tell me. You assured me you were over the ginger. Will you tell me?"
Severus shuddered once more, and the ropes wound tighter, one wrapping around his neck; Lucius saw him swallow, Adam's apple bobbing convulsively. One rope wrapped tightly around his groin, which was likely the reason for the capitulation that followed a moment later. "All right," Snape gritted out, "just free me!"
Lucius raised his eyebrow at the ungracious defeat, but didn't push further; a simple Finite vanished the ropes. Severus almost fell as he regained his feet, and Lucius couldn't hide his amusement at all as his dark companion adjusted his robes and massaged his bruised hand gingerly.
"Don't do that again." Snape's voice was cold and angry. He always was when Lucius had been particularly forceful or cruel, but it was easy enough to fix: a pinch of this rare ingredient, an hour in the Malfoy lab, funding for one of his tediously dull experiments (however spectacular the end results could be).
Lucius didn't even bother to answer the demand, sliding his wand back into the folds of his robe and only then noticing the long shallow gash on his left shin, the source of the blood-tinted water. "So why the hesitation now? I thought you were over the Mudblood, especially after she had the poor taste to marry a Potter."
Severus sullenly slouched against the wall once freed. "Are you seriously trying to injure me? Or did you just want to make sure you had company when you visit a mediwitch?" He gestured down at Lucius' leg, a curt movement that showed agitation and anger both.
"Your attempts to change the conversation won't work, Severus." He leaned closer, gaze intent in a way that he knew - from experience - would make Snape back down. It always did. "Are you, or aren't you, over that ridiculous Mudblood of yours?"
"She's not ridiculous!" Severus snapped, before flushing and turning his head to the side, breaking eye contact. "I am over her. I thought. But..."
He trailed off into silence, until Lucius impatiently prodded him, tamping down the fierce surge of jealousy and rage; there was time enough for that later, when he had the privacy to let it out.
Snape's glare was calculating. "Supposedly the word of a pureblood is sacrosanct. I want you to swear on your heritage that you will never tell anyone what I tell you."
Lucious could feel his breathing quicken; this is why he kept Severus close. So audacious, so brash, even when kneeling to the Dark Lord or hunching over his cauldrons. Even demanding sworn oaths.
"I swear. Now tell me!" His eyes gleamed; he loved secrets, especially secrets having to do with rivals. And Snape's obsession with his red-haired childhood friend made her a rival. Secrets were power....
Severus nodded, satisfied. "I overheard part of a prophecy - "
....and there were ways around oaths, if one looked hard enough.
*The Second: Don't Take The Girl!*
It hadn't taken long for Lucius to figure out who the prophecy referred to. It was simple for one of the Dark Lord's most cunning and loyal followers to figure out (barring Bellatrix, who was more than half mad and therefore did not count). Severus' revolting obsession with the redhaired Mudblood and his desire to protect her just re-enforced his conviction that the prophecy referred to the Potters and their newborn brat.
Well, he planned to change that. Which was why he had requested, and received, permission to hold an audience with the Dark Lord, and why he knelt, submissive but never subservient, pressing proud lips to the hem of the Dark Lord's robe. Woven of superior fabric and edged in costly hand-embroidery, of course. He would never bow to a Dark Lord with less than impeccable taste.
"My Lord," he murmured, in a voice for the Dark Lord's ears alone. "I have news that greatly concerns you, that may be a threat to you. In order to gain the information, however, I had to swear my silence."
He kept his face still, though he felt the sharp prickle at the nape of his neck that warned of danger, and he saw Voldemort get to his feet slowly. "What use is this information, if you can only hint at it?" he hissed, and Lucius had to repress a sad shake of his head. For all his charm and charisma and sheer power, the Dark Lord wasn't always adept at hearing what was left unsaid.
Lucius tilted his head back now, and met the angry eyes of Voldemort. "I cannot speak of them, my Lord. But there are other options available to one so skilled in the magics of the mind." He opened his eyes wide in invitation as the meaning of the words sunk in.
The Dark Lord did not say please, nor thank you, before plunging into Malfoy's mind; Lucius would have been disappointed if he had. Dark Lords had no need to thank those who served loyally; not when physical rewards worked to much greater effect.
Voldemort tore through the memories Lucius offered freely, lingering for a long moment in the memory where Lucius seduced Severus, blood-red eyes flashing a fire and mouth curving in a cruel, sadistic smile of approval. Lucius rather thought those eyes lingered most on his own muscled backside.
Then Voldemort heard the Prophecy, and his rage sent a wild burst of angry magic tearing through Lucius' mind, scattering his thoughts and leaving him shaken at the magnitude of the Dark Lord's fury. For the first time, he wondered if showing the memory was wise, and he feared for Severus Snape's safety.
With an effort, he gathered his thoughts and pushed - not exactly a memory, but an idea.
A way to ensure the Prophecy could not come to fruition.
A way to punish Severus for withholding the Prophecy from the Dark Lord.
Voldemort could see Lucius' selfish desire to also eliminate a rival....and approved.
He withdrew abruptly from Lucius' mind and sat back down, leaving him wincing and pressing a palm to his forehead in pain. "Your idea has merit," he said, after a long moment of thought. "We will do it your way, then, on Hallowe'en. We will make use of Pettigrew and Bellatrix. The brat is mine; Bella may play with James Potter as she wishes, so long as he is dead by dawn." He grimaced. "Pettigrew will surely squeal like the rat he is if asked to kill one of his old friends...which means Lily is yours to dispose of." His eyes burned with passion, the contagious fervour that made the Dark Lord so charismatic. "Make an example of her."
Lucius allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction, before he asked politely, "And Severus Snape, my Lord?"
The Dark Lord smiled, razor-sharp. "Will live.....with chastisement."
Lucius could not hide the sharp inhalation, or the fierce spark of anticipation at the thought of punishing - no, torturing - his Severus as the Dark Lord watched. He could just imagine the flush of shame that would tint those high cheek bones, the way he'd duck his head so he could hide his face behind a curtain of dark hair, the way he'd bite his thin lips bloody in an effort to remain stoicly silent. And whether in the torture chamber or the bedroom - which were sometimes indistinguishable to him - Lucius excelled in breaking silences.
He could already think of a few spells to try out; he licked his lips in breathless anticipation.
"Lucius." The voice was dark and rich with amusement. "When he gives you trouble....tell him I would have seen him dead for thinking to hide this from me. I have been merciful...and I reward those who are loyal." His eyes spoke more, much more: both threat and promise, and Lucius found his mouth unnaturally dry.
"I will remember, my Lord."
"See that you do."
* * * * *
On All Hallows' eve, Voldemort surveyed the duo standing in front of him. Lucius vibrated in barely suppressed anticipation; Severus, on the other hand, was tense, wary....and utterly closed off. Voldemort frowned; he should have seen this sooner, he shouldn't have had to learn it from one of his minions. He should always appear all-knowing.
His red eyes lingered coldly on Snape until he saw signs of perspiration forming; then he leaned forward. "Severus, my faithful Death Eater.....Legilimens!"
As with Lucius earlier, he tore his way into Snape's mind, snarling when he saw the gleam of Occlumency. He battered against it until it gave way, heedless that in the physical realm Snape screamed and dropped to his knees, eyes locked in place by that red gaze. Behind the barrier he found Snape's obsession with Lily, his revolting love, and his belief the prophecy referred to her son. And behind that, he found and watched the prophecy itself.
Satisfied at last, he wrenched free of Snape's mind, sneering when he saw the force of his invasion had given Severus a nosebleed; the half-blood was struggling to remain upright, the blood a vivid scarlet against his unhealthy pallor.
"It appears you have been keeping secrets from me," he said, voice deceptively mild, though Severus still flinched. He remained on his knees. "Secrets that could threaten me. Not kill me, no - I am immortal! - but damaging nonetheless. And you keep them from me out of fondness for a Mudblood, a common-as-dirt ginger-haired bitch.
"I am fortunate to have a loyal Death Eater in Lucius, at least. He was faithful to me....and you were not. I reward those who are loyal and punish those who fail me. You have tried to betray me by your silence, Severus. I cannot let that go unpunished." He turned to Lucius, canted his head so slightly, a lord conferring a favor on a favoured servant. "He is yours for the evening. Oh, and Lucius?" His smile was cold and cruel. "I want to hear him scream."
It took some of the more inventive curses he knew - he didn't want to damage Severus, not in any permanent way - but Lucius succeeded.
Voldemort stood and smiled down at the trembling, unconscious form of Severus Snape. Lucius had provided an hour's worth of entertainment in a delightful demonstration of vicious hexes, curses, and physical torture; while he had made sure to leave his brewer's hands undamaged, his back was heavily lacerated and would likely scar. Severus would not soon forget his chastisement. "Take him to Malfoy Manor, and secure him in your dungeon there. I want him aware, but powerless, when we kill his Mudblood tomorrow."
Lucius bowed, sated by the pain he'd caused. "It will be done, my Lord."
* * * * *
The Dark Lord's plan had progressed, all in all, quite smoothly; Pettigrew had caved when pressured to give up the location of the Potters. They Apparated to Godrick's Hollow in the early dark hours, Pettigrew entering first in rat form and opening a hole for the others in the wards. Neither moonlight, starlight, or false dawn gave their silent forms away; cloud cover made shadows indefinable.
The Potters were delightfully easy to overpower, safe as they believed themselves to be; even James Potter's so-called Auror skills meant little against Bella's dark arts onslaught. And all the Mudblood could think of, predictably, was the fate of her brat.
Torturing Lily while her husband screamed beneath Bella's wand (she was inordinately fond of the Cruciatus) had made the blood sing in his veins; he'd gouged her face, carved 'mudblood' into her skin with her own wand, then severed her wand hand. He'd followed that up with a slow-spreading blood-boiling curse, and exulted in the tears that streamed down her face.
She never begged for mercy for herself, at least (only for Harry, over and over). In that he found a modicum of grudging respect for her, Mudblood or not; enough that he killed her before Cruciating her into a drooling mindless husk.
Bellatrix finished James off a moment later, and only as silence fell did they feel the first stirrings of unease. It was quiet, so quiet they could hear the first drops of rain fall, quickly increasing into a downpour, battering against the windows and roof.
"We would have heard from him by now, wouldn't we? Some sign it's over?" Bella said nervously. Exchanging a look, they both bolted for the upstairs bedroom, where Pettigrew had said the brat's nursery was. Shoulder to shoulder, neck and neck, they burst through the nursery at the same time.
The brat lay squalling in the crib, bleeding from a lightning bolt incision on his forehead; Pettigrew cowered and blubbered on the floor next to the crib.
The Dark Lord was nowhere to be seen.
Bella was the first to take it in, the first to whirl around and grab Pettigrew by the collar, shaking him until his eyes bulged and he gasped for breath in a sobbing wail. "Where is he? Where is my Lord?" she shrieked at him, and Lucius winced at the shrill tone.
He intervened only when it was apparent that Pettigrew was too terrified to speak. Impatiently he waved Bella off and wrenched Pettigrew's chin up, so he could look in his eyes. He was nowhere near the Legilimancy expert the Dark Lord was, but it would suffice.
A moment later he paled and wrenched free of the rat's mind, shoving the weeping body aside.
"Somehow, our Lord has been defeated by an infant," he said, in a flat tone strangely devoid of all emotion. "We need to retreat and plan what to do."
"I'll kill the brat!" Bella cried, raising her wand towards the crib, but Lucius grasped her wrist. It took all his strength to hold her back; her madness and grief made her a force of nature.
"No! If our Lord couldn't survive, what makes you think we could? Besides, the Aurors will be back any moment....and we need to cover our tracks. The Dark Lord will not be able to protect us now."
For a long, painfully tense moment she glared defiantly at him, before crumpling with an angry scream of grief.
Grimly, Lucius forced himself to focus on eliminating all incriminating evidence of their visit; when he was done, only the glassy-eyed, mutilated corpses of James and Lily gave evidence of any foul play.
They apparated away in the watery greyness of early dawn, just as a team of Aurors apparated in.
The Ministry was, as always, too little, too late. Any lingering physical traces of their attackers were washed away by the rain.
* * * * *
In a cell deep beneath the Malfoy Manor, Severus Snape strained against the bespelled chains holding him captive, and screamed his agony, grief, and rage. The physical pain of his flayed back was nothing compared to the agony of betrayal.