Despoiling Harry

Home Page   Amanuensis's Fanfiction   Art/Fic Tributes  Fic Recommendations       Amanuensis's LiveJournal     Other Links     Email Me

The characters and the situations within these fanfiction stories are not my property. They are the property of J.K. Rowling, Warner Brothers, and others, and are used without permission; challenge to copyright is not intended and should not be construed. No profit is being made from the use of these characters and situations; these written-down imaginings are only presented in an internet forum for the interest of and consumption by the like-minded individuals who enjoy them and recognize them as unauthorized fanfiction only, and are not in any way meant to be confused with the originals NOR presented as authorized materials of these owners.

Sanguine, a Serpent Knotted Sable
by Amanuensis

Pairing: Harry/Lucius, others implied
Summary: Lucius Malfoy learns the definition of hero.
Warnings: Non-con, non-con BDSM (includes CBT, breathplay, needleplay)
Author's Notes: Written for Fiendling in the 2005 Merry Smutmas exchange. Thank you my wonderful betas Cluegirl, Florahart, and Fabula Rasa. And thanks to the sublime Fiendling, for all her talents and sweetness.
The title is constructed from heraldry terminology.

When the cell door is flung open, it is hardly the most surprising moment of my life.

In fact it doesn't even rank. The opening of a cell door, after a year's experience, is no longer something to be anticipated. No longer something for which I even lift my head. I'm more likely to keep my eyes shut, my face pressed to the surface of my bunk, and hope the entrant has made a mistake.

"Malfoy. Up, man."

Words that could be said by any of my jailers. I know right away that they are not.

Still I don't lift my head. Some lessons one doesn't unlearn too quickly. In fact, it may be inadvisable to unlearn this one even with an ally at the door.

The touch on my shoulder becomes a grip, forces me to shift and sit up. I have some memory of the face before me; its feral unwashed features blend in with those of the jailers in my mind, but I know the memory is from further back. When Lord Voldemort was making his promises to potential allies.

Greyback. The werewolf.

"Your liberation's here, Malfoy. The Dark Lord needs you."

The man is grinning. For the first time in a year I'm seeing a grin that isn't mocking, or at least isn't mocking me. No, in that yellowed, filthy grin is conspiracy, kinship, shared contempt for the useless muggle creatures that are fit for nothing more than servitude or prey for our kind.

Our kind. Once I would have thought it beneath Voldemort to call such a beast as Greyback an ally, or would have thought it beneath me, at least.

I go with him. I spare hardly a glance for the three dead jailers along the route we follow, and certainly no attention as to their manner of death.

Liberated I may be, but I'm nothing like free. I had an unspoken expectation that the day I left Azkaban prison I would return home, did I not? A foolish thought, that the war would be won in my absence and pave the world new for me. No, home remains a long dream away.

But the safehouse to which Greyback leads me is a haven nonetheless. Voldemort ensured that his followers, even his lieutenants, became accustomed to such rough accommodations soon after entering his service. It would not do to have his pureblooded devotees woman-soft and fearful of hardship, particularly with the threat of Azkaban over our heads were we caught.

So the safehouse, with its sparse beds and bath and plebeian stores of food, is all but palatial after my imprisonment. Its lack of cell bars would be enough to have me kissing its rough-planked floors.

Greyback is not about to wait on me, but he must have been given orders to make my transition easier. He gives me food and it is upon a plate and it is hot and salted and I even have a utensil to go with it. It's hard to obey his admonition not to eat too much at first, but I manage to halt before the fullness in my belly threatens to become a knot of nausea.

When I cast off the prison robe at the entrance to the bathroom, Greyback leers in a way that isn't at all sexual. "Like me to burn that for you, or did you want the pleasure yourself?"

I haven't spoken to a soul in days, and that last wasn't more than Yes, sir, thank you, sir. My voice is a croak: "Be my guest."

Greyback sweeps up the filthy garment. "I'll have a nice fire going in the grate when you're done, with this as the glorious centerpiece."

I don't count the hours I spend in the bath, or the number of times I empty the tub of water and refill it. Even though it's only the first few that swirl grime-slicked and grey down the plughole, I can't put an end to it. Not until the third bar of cheap yellow soap has melted to a sliver and my skin burns with rawness and clots of tangled hair float in the water.

On the day they condemned me to Azkaban, I sheared my hair to the ear. I was already a Death Eater pureblood sent to that hell; no need to make things worse for myself by arriving in the guise of a man of vanity. In a year it's grown back to the shoulder.

As it dries I think something must be wrong, that I didn't wash it well enough. Then realization comes. Probably few will notice the subtlety, other than Narcissa and myself.

My hair is no longer platinum. One year in Azkaban has turned it to silver.

I don't expect to find Greyback talkative, but he surprises me. All I ask of him that night is, "Are my wife and son safe?"

He's worrying some piece of dried flesh with his teeth; I wouldn't call it "eating," and I'm not at all interested in the origins of the meat.

He pauses in his chewing, nods. "Thought that'd be your first question." He gulps down the bite. "Wolf or wizard, the pack comes first. Well. The news could be better, could be worse." He looks at me before continuing, and I refuse to listen to the voices in my head urging me on to panic. If they were dead Greyback would have said it plainly. "No one knows where they are. Both hiding. Don't know if they're hiding together."

Hiding. From Voldemort as well? But not dead.

"That boy of yours..." Greyback shakes his head. "Talks the talk, but he's not a killer. Watched him. Voldemort set him to kill Dumbledore, but he hasn't got the bloodlust. Not that much of a surprise--the boy sent to do a killing first task; I don't think Voldemort really thought he'd manage it. Thought he might give the kid to me to toughen him up." Again I see the yellowed grin, displayed particularly wide to show me the points of his teeth. "But he's gone," he says, the grin disappearing. "Must have known Voldemort wouldn't forgive failure. Your wife couldn't be found when they went to look for her. Some think she took him away with her, or it could be she knew Voldemort wouldn't let her be, with him missing." His tangle of eyebrows lifts. "Seen your wife. Pretty thing. Can't imagine she'd be able to hide anything from Voldemort, but every slip of a female's a wolf-bitch where her cub's concerned, ain't she?"

I know it's useless to muster any anger against him. What he says about Narcissa is no less than the truth, and as for his threat to Draco...well, Greyback would likely see it more as a favor than a threat. No, it's Voldemort who would use it as a threat.

"Dumbledore is still alive, then," I get out.

"Oh, no," says Greyback. "Your man Snape saw to that."

The next day I am ready to meet my lord.

Thanks to Greyback I do not go unprepared. I dislike imagining what it might have been like to have the news of Narcissa and Draco presented to me by Voldemort.

When Voldemort beckons me forward, I grasp and kiss his hand with more passion than any penitent could ever have had for his holy father. "My lord," I murmur, still in that raspy croak of disuse, as I sink to my knees.

Voldemort leaves me there for a long minute, his expression unreadable to those that know him less than his most faithful do. But I am one of those, and know that my gesture has pleased him, though he will feign disinterest. "Rise, Lucius," he says at last, my name a caress.

"Only because you command it, my lord." I get to my feet but maintain the humble mien even as I do so.

"Can it be," he says, matching my murmur with his own, "that you harbor no resentment towards me, Lucius, for leaving you in Azkaban all this time? Can you possibly be that loyal?" There is a clever mixture of doubt and collusion in his query, inviting my -confession, reassuring me he will not be angry.

I know better than to fall for it. "I failed you, my lord. Was it for me to wonder that you did not risk further lives, further wands, in the rescue of one who did not even deserve it?" I cast my eyes down. "Whether my imprisonment was necessity or punishment, it was no one's fault but mine. And my inability to serve our cause was the harshest punishment of all."

It does not matter if he believes me, only that my words please him. They do. He touches my jawline with his fingers, asking me with the touch to raise my eyes. "And now I reward you with the chance to do so again." So beneficent, his tone. "You have heard about your son?"

"One man's version of it," I say carefully.

"He failed in his task." There's no anger in his voice, only regret. Such a dance the two of us dance, trading the lead with every new measure. "I would not have burdened him so but that he begged for the chance. Assured me of his abilities."

Liar, I think, and know I am safe for the moment as long as I keep it off my face. Voldemort is not employing Legilimency at me now, and though I am unlikely to be able to resist it, at least I will know when he does.

"He made me a promise and he failed," Voldemort continues, the regret oozing like syrup down the sides of a glass.  "That is more than I can forgive."

I close my eyes for a moment, knowing I must show him part of the truth to answer him. "My lord..." I let myself falter.

"He is your son. I do not expect you to take this easily." Again, that companionable hint. "But though he is your son, you are as my child to me, Lucius. And must take instruction from me in this as if you were my own flesh."

I have given him my own flesh, for more than half my life. His mark upon it, not only to call me at his whim but to brand me as his. That it lay dormant for many of those years made me no less his servant. I do not wish to hear him evoke flesh, no.

"Do not forgive him, then, my lord. But let him live." I am allowed a bit of pleading. Indeed, it is expected of me. "He's no more than a boy."

A small rueful crook of Voldemort's head. "I fear I cannot promise you that. He knows his failure; he fears my displeasure. He is gone, Lucius. Who is to say that he has not revealed our secrets to the other side already?"

"He would not. What mercy would they show him?" I try not to speak with too much conviction, not to sound like a desperate father. "If he fears you will no longer let him serve you--will kill him--that is enough reason for him to go into hiding; not enough to send him to the other side. Who is the other side, now, in any event?" Yes, this is good, I must run with this. "The one who would have been most like to show him mercy is Dumbledore. Who is dead. Draco has no side to go to, my lord."

He is silent for a moment, a good sign. Then he says, "When he is found--and you will be one of the ones looking for him--he will be treated as an enemy. Captured and interrogated. Swear to obey me in this, Lucius."

No hesitation. Fervent agreement. "Yes, my lord. Thank you, my lord."

"Do not give your thanks so quickly. He has failed me; I cannot welcome him into the ranks once more. If I cannot make use of him in some way then it is likely to mean his death. I shall not force you to do the killing yourself--" oh, such a kindness, my lord-- "but if you hinder it in any way your own life will be forfeit.

"I understand." I give the words no less fervently. I cannot do anything else.

"As for your wife..." He speaks gently now, the timbre of command gone from his voice. "Her disappearance is no less suspect, but she was under no orders from me, and is likely only protecting the boy."

"You think she is with him." I need to know.

He eyes me. "Perhaps. Perhaps she only knows where he might be. Perhaps she only thinks I will think that." He folds his hands. "She too must be taken and treated as an enemy, but as long as there is no reason to suspect betrayal, I have no reason to make her suffer death for maternal impulses."

What should I give him--a gulp of relief? Bite my lips as though suppressing a greater reaction? I settle for a nod, accompanied by an exhale. "Thank you again, my lord."

"And now to you."

Nothing about this statement brings fear. Nor do I see any reason to manufacture a show of it for him. He needs me, or I would not be here.

"My ranks have felt incomplete without you. Not merely been incomplete--I have felt your absence. Which should have left me wondering. I have a host of devoted, clever lieutenants. Bellatrix near consumes herself with her loyalty. Every step of Severus's has been so carefully plotted I marvel he hasn't gone mad with the effort. And though he serves me out of fear, none have made more conscious sacrifice than Wormtail. Why should I miss you so acutely, Lucius?"

I honestly do not know what he is about to say. It is almost the prelude to a romantic declaration.

"I do know this: you are the face of my cause. The face as I would have it. The blood of your ancestry--the ancient blood of wizards, the heritage that is our strength against the crippled cattle that dare to call themselves human--you are my standard." He reaches out to touch that face of which he speaks, and I marvel that he can do so, that he can use these words. Did I not see this face in the mirror yesterday, aged years beyond what a year should cost a man? How can he speak of it as a banner for his cause to follow?

But then, it is a pureblooded face, hardier for it, more handsome in its hardship-worn state than many which are a decade younger. I do not flatter myself to think that it will once again be striking after a few weeks of light and air and decent meals--and a potion or two.

"You brought many to my fold, Lucius, as my standard. They followed you. Stayed because they believed I could deliver that world they desired-- but saw that world in you. Your passion inspires theirs, your person inspires theirs. You do this with your words, your deeds, and with yourself." The fingers on my face stroke lightly. "I will never find such another. Without you my ranks will always be void. I am glad to have you back."

It seems a good time to be humbly speechless. To drop my eyes once more.

He touches my hair. I know he has not failed to notice its changed colour. "Are you ready to take up active service again, Lucius?"

My response is immediate, impassioned, and predictable.

My own son. If I find my son I condemn my son. And Voldemort can speak of my blood in the same voice, and praise me for my loyalties, and call me his.

Which of us will history prove to have been the more foolish?

I almost wish it to be me.

I speak with Bellatrix, and it is no edifying conversation--another unsurprising moment.

Her first words to me are, "Don't even try to earn my sympathies, Lucius. And no, I've no idea where my sister is. If she were hiding from you I'd never tell you a thing, but I don't know where she is either, damn her eyes."

"And a splendid morning to you too, dear sister-in-law." Strictly speaking it's just crossed over into afternoon, but my point is that Bella has never learned these niceties.

She hmphs and looks down her nose at me.

"I can hardly wait for our first mission together. Your skills of command are sure to humble my shameful previous efforts." Any moment she would have brought up the failed ministry raid. Better I do so first and cut her arguments out from under her. "Was it you who gave such useful instruction to Draco, as well, sister-in-law?" It was. One doesn't ask such questions if one doesn't already know the answer.

Her mouth contorts like a cat's. "And I suppose you would have done better," she sneers, but she hasn't the high ground now, so it looks desperate.

Ah, Bella. I'll never tell her that I honestly can't say. Because I would never have tried. Bella, had she sons, would have had them drinking in Voldemort's litanies with every suck of milk from her breast and lisping Unforgiveables between their nursery rhymes.

I never wanted that for Draco. Unrealistic of me to think that I could have had the world changed for him before he became a man, but I am not Bella, to see sons as soldiers. I wanted a world of advantages for my offspring, one in which they knew themselves to be the dominant class, not having to hide away--nor having to fight for it. Did I fail Draco, then, in protecting him? Should I have been the one to groom him for the war I chose?

It does not matter if I am not at fault. I shall flail myself for it all the same.

From Severus, I receive more answers.

This is not as heartening as it might seem. It does not do, for me to assume that Severus must simply be the prickly sort with everyone except me. A man who has walked such a tenuous line as he should be entitled, should he not, to snap and bite when questioned, and tell me to mind my own business?

Severus does not do this. Not to me. Severus always has an explanation, Severus is always deferential. Deferential to me, who boasts fewer successes than he. Is it out of respect? Intent to curry favor? A secret unrequited love?

Rubbish. I must be careful around Severus.

"Tell me how it fell out," I ask, and he nods at me, hands in his sleeves like some posing Mandarin.

"I suspect the Dark Lord never meant him to succeed," he says. "I would commend him for having got as far as he did--bringing our agents into Hogwarts, holding Dumbledore at his mercy." His eyes and mouth shift, as though he thinks someone has just come into the room. But we are alone. "You understand," he begins, delicately, "that what I am about to say is meant for you alone--save for our lord, of course."

I nod, no inclination to roll my eyes or look impatient. It should not be forgotten: there are no real secrets.

"I told Voldemort that I suspected it was Draco's fear of failure--his knowledge that he would only have one chance to cast a killing curse on a man powerful as Dumbledore, even disarmed--that prevented him from acting immediately. When I arrived, I could not take the risk that the deed would go unaccomplished, if Draco failed. I took the opportunity from him in order to see that the deed was done. For that the Dark Lord should hold me at fault, if he holds anyone."

Severus is looking at me from under those muddy black brows of his in a way that I know well. That look, and his earlier reference to our lord, invite me to read between the lines. I told Voldemort. Severus is telling me--without any incriminating dialogue that Voldemort might pull from either one of us--that his interpretation of events might not be everyone's. But close enough to the truth for him to bluff.

I'll get no other confirmation from him, I know. Draco did not do it and Draco could not do it, whether because of cowardice or a lack of ruthless killer's instinct. Though I long to know, need to know which, I cannot jeopardize Draco further by asking.

"I understand," I say, giving Snape the same look back so he knows that I do. "But Voldemort does not see it that way."

"No." The intensity of his gaze relaxes; we are discussing events as everyone knows them. "He feels Draco was given enough opportunity that his hesitation at the crucial moment is the grossest failure. I have done what I could to make him see otherwise, Lucius. I fear it's not enough."

"Do you know where he is?" The words are out of me before I can check them. Idiot. And yet, it's a question I would be expected to ask, isn't it.

Severus is not perturbed. Returning the courtesy to me of not looking impatient, I suppose. "We Apparated away from Hogwarts. I told him we had to report to the Dark Lord, and he...panicked is not the word; he was quite calm. Said he knew Voldemort would not forgive him, and that he would not return. He asked me to look after Narcissa, if there was any kindness in me, and then he was gone. Apparated to I knew not where."

His expression is inscrutable. He might be telling me the plain truth; there is no hint of duplicity in his eyes this time.

Is it the truth, Severus? Or did you tell him to run, tell him where to hide? You always purported to be my ally--numerous witnesses saw you kill Dumbledore--and I know you were at least a little fond of Draco, for my sake or Narcissa's. Is it possible you risked your own self to save my son?

But Voldemort would have read you, wouldn't he. If you did, how could you have concealed it. How could you have even risked it.

"Is he with his mother?" I say instead. Perhaps he can tell me that and not place himself at risk.

Severus does not answer at first. Then: "I suspect he is not. If he Apparated to his home, he was a fool, and if Draco was that much of a fool he would have been caught by now." Not we would have caught him--does that mean anything? Merlin, I am grasping at hairs, aren't I. "Narcissa's disappearance can be marked as no less than a day after his. Though this does not mean that they could not be together, I still believe that he would not have risked the contact, if he was clever."

Unless you risked the contact. Perhaps Voldemort does not see the connection as I do--that Draco is more than a fellow minion to you, that to see Narcissa tortured would churn your gut. Perhaps you thought you might risk it because Voldemort would not suspect you, his loyal murderer, of any such duplicity after that supreme act.

Severus. Even if my suspicions are naught but wishes, you are still the most treacherous of us all.

My wife and son are missing, and I have been charged to turn them in if I find them. How excellent a method for the Dark Lord to secure my devotion.

I make one investigation alone, without anyone's authority, half-sick with the threat of it. Not for myself, though the going is a risk for me and my new liberty. No, my fear is that I will find Narcissa or Draco there, and will have to carry that knowledge, able to be leeched from my mind the first time Voldemort decides to perform Legilimens.

The manor has its hidden lower level as a blind. Anyone exploring it--as I'm sure the ministry has--will find the obligatory secret door below the drawing-room floor, and the requisite dungeon level, full of cells and minor dark artifacts and a torture chamber that looks to be in unnervingly good upkeep. Draco used to go down there and talk to the skulls. (They belonged to a number of his great-great-great uncles and aunts and appreciated the company, I liked to think.)

Once that has been found, no prying set of eyes ever bothers to hunt further, being too busy gawping over the dark stains on the St. Sebastian's cross, the recently-honed spines on the Iron Maiden. So the manor's true secret wing, hidden within a dimensional trap and accessed with a word, stays secret. No spike-lined oubliette this, it was designed to couch the inhabitants in accustomed luxury, should a prolonged concealment be necessary.

I do not believe--I truly do not hope--Draco or Narcissa was foolish enough to retreat there. None of us could have shared its location; I am its Secret-Keeper, so there was no fear that Draco would make some boyish error in trying to impress his peers, or that Narcissa would yield to a woman's inability to keep a secret and tell her sister. But it is risk enough that I know of its existence, when it comes to Lord Voldemort.

But I cannot keep myself from going. Cannot.

Certainly there are numerous wards on the manor; though it would be idiocy for me to try to return to my home while I am a fugitive, the Aurors must assume such idiocy is common. Am I not proving them right?

But I come in the dark of night, and I know approaches and entrances into the manor they do not even know of to ward, and my ability to breach a domain in silence was one of the first skills I honed when I entered Voldemort's ranks; none surpassed me. The Aurors never knew that about me, or they've forgotten it. A shame for them.

Neither Narcissa nor Draco is in the hidden wing. I take the risk and explore the whole manor, even the false dungeon to be sure. My relief lasts but a short time; for all the sickening fear that I would find them and have placed all of us at risk, there was the same need that made me come here in the first place. I survived Azkaban and cannot help but think that should be enough; no matter that I did it with unrealistic fantasies that when I escaped it there should be a loyal wife waiting for me, a son who was not ashamed of his father's failure. The smell of them seems to linger on the air, baiting me, and my nerves twitch at it like any rat for phantom cheese.

My body aches for the touch of my wife's skin, and I think I will go mad with the need, there among the empty halls, the ruins of our belongings scattered and smashed by coldhearted Aurors in their search. She is somewhere out there, sleeping who knows where, making who knows what sacrifices to protect her son. And I am helpless. I cannot even set myself to finding her, for her sake and Draco's.

I went into Voldemort's cause for the sake of my bloodline. Not to sacrifice them to it.

Draco. Stay hidden. If Voldemort finds you--if Voldemort tries to take your life to preserve his cause, I shall face the moment no man ever wishes to face. Not the one in which he gives his life for his child, but the one in which he may discover he values his own skin greater, and must live with that every day after.

It is only an animal instinct, I know. Preservation of the line cannot be accomplished if the adult dies saving a child which will itself die, unprotected. Better to leave the offspring and create more. All animals know this. It is only humans who try to fight that logic and call it noble.

I am not human. I am better. I am wizard.

And I never want to meet that moment and learn a different truth.

Voldemort demands excellence from me.

I have to be better than excellent.

He has no lack of minions capable of causing violence. He even has a sufficient number falling over themselves in their eagerness to lead his raids.

What he lacks, he tells me--and I don't believe he's flattering me; he has no need to--is someone who can define authority, not merely demand it. When Rabastan and Bellatrix and Amycus are snarling for the rest to "follow me, no, me," he needs someone who can cut through the bombast with a sharp word that will have them all falling into line.

Severus doesn't have this. Not enough of it. He brought about Dumbledore's death and is treated by Voldemort as something precious, but Bella and her husband, Rookwood and Mulciber all meet him with the same air of mistrust--or perhaps it is only resentment--they've always harboured for him. Though he seems to have gained something of a fanclub in Amycus and Alecto, who smile fawningly whenever he has a proposal.

The other thing he wants from me, as he told me, is my face. The raids continue, but Voldemort's agenda has moved on to include other battlefields--ones of rhetoric and not murder. The rising of the Dark Mark no longer necessarily means a death below it. Instead, it has become a call to arms, where my Sonorus-augmented voice declaims the rightness of our cause, the inevitability of our success, and our promise of favor to those who are bold enough to join our cause before it is forced on them. Many a brash young pureblood is ready to run to a Dark Mark that he sights and beg a place among us. Them, or perhaps a frightened yet prudent family who see how the waters run and voluntarily succumb while they can.

And when they are gathered to us, Apparated away before the Aurors can come, and tested for traitorous thoughts or weapons and found sincere...that is when I remove my mask and use every bit of charm I have cultivated. They see the countenance of the noble pureblood, the undaunted Lucius Malfoy, who escaped Azkaban for his Lord's sake. I move from stern approval to welcoming smiles, praising their bravery and wisdom, captivating each with my allure and winning that which they lacked until then: infatuation. When they come at last to Voldemort and his beneficent manner, the seduction has already taken them half-under; he wins them with a word and a smile, and knows that I am responsible for it.

In my younger days I would have thought there could be no greater joy.

Voldemort watches the memories of these missions. Lays our minds open to the rape of his Legilimency, breaks down any resistance as if the walls were sand before seawater. Fetches out the event--and anything else that he chooses--and gives praise or disapproval accordingly. I never make excuses--not for me the sniveling, "It wasn't like that..." I hear too often from Avery and Yaxley--and Voldemort's criticisms are correspondingly temperate.

I do not become complacent. The Cruciatus curse does not frighten me--his disapproval frets me more.

I listen for any hint of Draco's whereabouts, or Narcissa's. Rumors have me jumping like a green recruit. If there is truth behind any of them, our forces do not bear the fruit of it.

Each day that they are not found brings the twin sensations of relief and heightened anxiety; the more time goes by, the deeper into obscurity they should sink--or, conversely, the greater the odds that the next day they must be found.

Physical activity doesn't drive a man to exhaustion. Thought does that.

Perversely, as thought will, it turns my memory back to the time before Azkaban. Rather than leaving me grateful to be free of that place, to be glad of the feeling of walking for miles unhindered, of daylight, of unlimited parchments to read and food to eat whenever I wish...startling how such joys can pall when one remembers riding the purebred thestral one has raised from a foal, of sunlight in Tuscany, of a personal library that rivaled Alexandria's and of fine French wines. Of the sweet fierce attentions of one's wife in the privacy of the bedroom, and the less sweet, more fierce delights of a discreet expensive courtesan in even more private venues.

I do my duty to Lord Voldemort and do not speak of such yearnings, ever.

And then, three months later, there is an occurrence that actually does rank on the list of most surprising moments of my life.

It is Pettigrew who brings in Harry Potter.

Bella comes running to me with the word of it; I have only a moment to take it in, deliver the message (which I can hardly believe, and say so) to Voldemort, receive word that our lord wants the boy brought directly to him--there is no arguing with Voldemort on that; one does not argue prudence to one's omnipotent lord--send the word on, and go with Bella to Voldemort's lair.

Where Pettigrew, minutes later, drags in an unconscious black-haired boy in no reassuring state of health: one eye purple and swollen, face bloody from several injuries including a rip of hair from his scalp and a deluge from his nose all the way down to his throat. His robes are torn, his arm lies at an odd angle, but he is still recognizably Potter. He is thrown to the floor in front of Voldemort with no little ceremony.

Pettigrew pants, "He thought he was safe." He gathers his breath, what dignity he can--this is Pettigrew, so, not much--and his next words are punctuated by a giggle. "Said I owed him a life-debt. Here it is, then." He nudges the boy, who does not stir, with a toe. "I let him live. Not dead, no, not dead. Life-debt discharged." Another, harder nudge, another, more irritating giggle. "Yours, my lord. I've not killed him. That's for you to choose, not me. Discharged."

The center of the boy's right palm is burned black; a scorch-mark. I can see it as I draw closer. This is their hero, then: a boy, gone down in a rags-and-tatters heap of flesh and clothing, to Pettigrew, no less, and powerless before the Dark Lord.  A sad replacement for Dumbledore indeed.

No older than my own son.

There is bile in my throat. This, this is how they will bring in Draco. Subdue him and drag him in like a muggle after a bit of baiting, ripe for more. This should be a moment of rejoicing; the hope of the mudbloods lies broken and at our mercy. All I can do is look at the wretched thing on the floor and superimpose another image over it.

I betray none of it on my face. Opposite me, Severus, belatedly arrived, pushes his way forward to take in the tableau. I see no smile from him either, but when does one ever? Stone, always.

"Ennervate."  Voldemort speaks it aloud as he casts it towards Potter; though he has mastery of wordless spells it pleases him to treat himself to a bit of spectacle at times. Potter does not come round all at once. His head lolls a bit, a small groan escapes him. Pitiful. I haven't any reason to believe it sham, and why should it be? He's a boy, beaten and beaten down.

Voldemort's next gesture is one we all know well, and all dread to have aimed at us. Potter's spine arcs under the force of the legilimency, jaw locking against even a cry. His eyes don't open, more's the mercy, but the trembling in his face shows he's not lost consciousness again.

The Dark Lord's gaze has gone hollow and tunneled, fixed upon the images pulled from Potter's mind. What does he see--the answer to his victory? The Achilles's heel that could defeat him, revealed? Or nothing beyond a boy's life of unanswered questions and grief? Across from me I can see Severus's hands curl into fists. Surely the moment cannot be affecting him. More likely he wants to be slicing through Potter's mind himself.

The assault of spell-light ceases. Voldemort shuts and opens his eyes once. "Only one," he murmurs. "He has the right of it, but has only found one of them. Foolish boy, with ambition far greater than ability." He's pleased, but does not smile. "Severus," he beckons. "I see nothing within of the prophecy. Dumbledore appears to have left him ignorant, the even greater fool. Do as I bid--" Severus is before him now, staring--"use your gifts and make sure he has not hidden the truth behind some obscure question I would miss. Only for the prophecy!" he says, suddenly fierce. "Obey me in this. I have all else that I need from him, and the rest of his memories are for me alone."

Severus turns to the boy. There is not even a trace of pleasure on his face; perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps he too finds Voldemort's obsession with this half-blood child equally insipid. Potter is just beginning to open his eyes, breath coming more heavily, when Severus hits him with Legilimens; he throws an arm up in a useless parabola across his body, fingers splayed. Again, no sound.

Severus holds him under long enough for me to see agitation playing about Voldemort's edges. So. The boy knows something Voldemort would rather we did not. How very interesting. Not that I'm likely to learn it before the boy is killed.

When Severus is done, there is sweat on his cheeks. He swipes at it with a sleeve, drawing deep breaths. "It's not there," he says. "No more than the summary of what we already know. My lord."

Voldemort holds him with his silence, rather than speak any Are you sure aloud. Severus does not say anything further, and at last Voldemort murmurs, "It will not do." It's not directed at Severus. "The prophet herself yielded me nothing--no memory of the event in either conscious or unconscious sense." I recall he gave what remained of the woman to Bella to play with; there was hardly anything left to bury in the end. "Dumbledore is gone and the physical prophecy itself smashed and gone. No one who can give me the truth of it in its entirety remains. It will not do."

His voice has gone progressively colder, angrier during this. No one speaks; no one dares.

"I want this child dead and out of my concern at last! And yet I still do not know how our lives may be linked. If I knew there was no other segment of prophecy that linked us, he would have breathed his last long since. Damn him." Now it is Voldemort whose breathing has quickened. Severus has shrunk back into place, wise man, and the rest of us are stock-still. Who among us will step forward, confident and unctuous, volunteering to put Voldemort's fears--and Potter--to rest once and for all? Killing him and whatever secrets he holds?

And like that, I know what I must do.

For Draco, for Narcissa. For everyone whose lives Voldemort commanded away in the promise of his cause. And only inadvertently for Potter.

I doubt he'll thank me.

My gaze darts. Who is about to make that offer, then? Bella, bloodlusty creature that she is? Practical Severus, who would not hesitate over some might-be condition? No, none of them are ready to do so. Good.

Potter's right hand gropes uselessly upon the floor, as if his wand were just within reach. He coughs, the blood on his lips flying away in wet flecks.

I step forward. I do not look at Voldemort, only at the boy. I move to stand next to Potter, staring down at him--you, you are how I will save my Draco--and set my foot upon the center of his chest, holding him like a moth on a pin. He sucks in breath, brings one useless hand up to clutch at my trouser leg, unable to budge me. Helpless as an infant.

I hold the pose just long enough to be sure Voldemort's contempt for the boy must be spilling over.

"Let me keep him, my lord," I say, quiet as fate.

I hear a sound like someone preparing to laugh, but no laugh comes, not from anyone. At last, behind me, Voldemort says, "A gift, Lucius?" His voice holds a trace of humor but I know it is benign, not derisive.

This may work.

"I will not let him escape. I will keep him alive while he still may have purpose for you. And I shall enjoy the keeping of him, while he will not." Only then do I turn my head and look at Voldemort. "If all this meets your purpose, my lord...give him to me."

If he smiles, it will not be a good sign. It will mean he is amused, but not serious.

He doesn't smile. "You would stake your own life on his remaining in your captivity, Lucius? I think I do not need to tell you what would befall you if he escaped."

"No, my lord." I do not flinch an instant. "If I failed I would not deserve to keep my life. But I will not fail you." Voldemort does not want my life, else he would not have warned me about Draco. For me to promise it to him if I failed would be an error. I cannot let him doubt that I can keep Potter imprisoned, flawlessly.

"I am interested," Voldemort says at last, "in that last part of your promise. He will not enjoy being kept by you, you say." A question, despite its flatness.

"I shall insure his captivity, his life, and his mind," I say. "The rest I will use as pleases me. If that pleases you, my lord."

Voldemort does smile now, and this time it is a good thing. "So discreetly put. Promise me pleading, Lucius, for me to watch at my leisure? I will enjoy pleading even more than screams."

I wait the merest, artful pause. "For me to stop or to continue, my lord?"

And I surprise a brief laugh out of him.


I am sure Voldemort expects me to take the boy to the cells. I don't. When I show him the memories, he will understand why I deemed them too ill-stocked for my purposes, and why I took the risk.

I transport him under silent immobility to the manor. Potter's eyes are open and I can imagine the frantic thoughts behind them: to be in the thick of a warded zone, where one intentional move or cry could bring Aurors running and effect his rescue, and he can do nothing.

I take him to the dungeons.

I know the risk of a random Auror raid is not unthinkable. But the use of the dungeon for a single night is too choice to forego. I need these memories to secure this favor of Voldemort's.

The first thing, I clean the blood from his face, realign his arm within its socket and reduce the swelling in his eye. I wish to begin with a whole victim. One not distracted by the pain of wounds inflicted on him by Pettigrew, in particular.

The beauty of the dungeons is how very terrible they look to an observer. The table to which I bind Potter is dark thick discoloured wood, reeking with history of hundreds of similarly bound victims, sweating and bleeding their agonies upon it. The turn of a wheel at its side takes it from a flat horizontal position to a raised angle that stands it almost upon its end, as it rests now. Perforations of different sizes along its surface promise cruel imaginative torments depending on the victim's position on the table. And the heavy iron manacles, blackened as if with fire, are as intimidating as if they were rust-covered but in much better, useable, condition.

The effect is not lost on Potter. I release him from the immobilization once the last manacle is in place, and the spread-eagled boy obligingly begins to writhe and pull against the restraints, breath panting out of him in panic as he feels how tautly he is pulled, how inescapably he's pinned.

For the first time since I conceived this plan--ha, stumbled into, that's better wording for it--I feel my own arousal start to rise. That's followed by relief so great I start to lose the thread of the arousal. I have been so focused on the purpose of my plan, my thoughts of Draco, my defiance of Voldemort, and the self-loathing that I must use this pitiably helpless boy to these ends, that I went on sheer hope that I would be able to demonstrate my own enjoyment at defiling the boy.
I watch Potter struggle until he reaches his first gasping plateau of despair, when he falls still against the table save for the rapid rise and fall of his chest. Yes, they all reach that stage, don't they? I look at Potter with the eye with which I must, if I am to succeed: lithe adolescent creature, naked and trembling, just at the age where they understand what sort of vulnerability their displayed nudity can mean beyond mere physical hurt. Particularly under an eye such as mine. And myself, given free rein over him, given him, to take that fear and trembling and confirm or soothe or bewilder it as I see fit. Yes. There, that is what I need to begin this. That familiar spark of delightful privilege, where sex and power intertwine in incestuous inseparability.

He looks at me with a gaze, that lovely foolish Gryffindor-ish boldness of a gaze, that seems to say that he can bear anything I deal him if only he knows what it will be.

I know how to deal with that, of course. I blindfold him.

It is the first thing that earns his voice. He sucks in breath, twists his head to avoid it, and when the cloth goes over his eyes, says, "No--don't--" and just barely keeps away from the word please.

So easy, it will be. The thought seems to chide me, and I shake away from it before it can curdle my gut. No. I will enjoy this night's work. This at least I will have, and not just for Voldemort's pleasure.

He lies there, face turned to one side and still now that he has found he cannot dislodge the blindfold, mouth open and gasping. He did not think I could make him more helpless than he was. It almost invites me to gag him, to watch his panic escalate further, but his gasps are too seductive.

Time to take him off-guard. I reach out and stroke his hair, mindful of the cut on his scalp. He starts, shivers under that gentle touch, ready to believe at any moment I shall seize a handful of hair and tear it free.

Instead I lean down to his bare chest and lick his right nipple. His previous start is outmatched; he all but arches, unable to mistake the wet sinuousness of a tongue against that intimate circle of darkened flesh, or to mistake anything it implies. There is voice to his gasp now, the very embryo of a groan.

His left nipple receives a mouth-enveloping kiss, one that lingers even longer than the lick had. Now there is the taint of protest in his groan, the squeamishness that fair begs me to hurt him rather than subject him to these softer, depraved cruelties.

One additional caress of my mouth to the lower part of his belly--which turns his groan into a whine and prompts another jerk at his restraints--and I decide to give him what he begs for. I select a one-handed flail from the rack at hand, an instrument that would look like a toy were it not for the small shining metal weights that dangle from the leather straps upon its end.

But the metal is unedged, and it is more toy than interrogation weapon, and that is why I chose it. I do not intend to tear this child to pieces tonight--cannot, if I wish my plan to succeed. But I must make Voldemort think me a brute all the same.

I strike so that the flail's tips bite up and across the boy's body, belly to breast, thudding into skin and muscle before loosening to skitter noisily along their arc. He yells, yells as they strike and then as the pain of the bruise flares into existence even harder than the blow. I know he has no idea of how much worse I could make it. Edged or not, I can open the flesh with the proper overhand strike.

But the metal weights leave a satisfyingly magenta welt just below the boy's ribs, one that will throb and earn his groans and look cruelly purple in a few hours. Voldemort should find it pleasing.

The next kiss of the flail takes him in the thigh. Another yowl of a cry, the breath huffing out of him as he feels this one flare. He probably does not even understand that it is the blindfold that makes him so much more vulnerable. Though these hurt, I expect a determined little thing like Potter would be quite the stoic if he could see the weapon, see where the next blow would land. I'll not have him begging with this alone, I suspect, but neither will he be able to stay silent.

And he tries. He bites his lips, tenses when he thinks a blow is coming, tenses more when it does not. Learns that when he stays tense, he keeps the next one from coming, for I wait until the interval when he lets his limbs and belly go slack before I strike. Once he's learned this, he works himself to exhaustion trying to keep the tension steady, driving himself to near-whimpers just by that effort and agitation alone. And once he's exhausted himself and lies there whimpering, I change the rules again.

He's speckled with the welts, each seeming to pulse with the blood that's burst below the surface, when I finally lay the flail aside. They adorn his arms, thighs, belly, and even lie almost upon the nipples which I had so pleasantly caressed. Yet I know if asked, he'd take another blow of the flail rather than feel another such lick. There is a long way to go.

I have all the time I wish. Before he forgets those caresses, I take a fistful of his hair in hand--not viciously, but inescapably--and turn his face forward, placing my other hand beneath his chin and kissing him on the mouth. The groan that gets absorbed by my tongue fairly shivers my flesh, most pleasantly. Breath huffs through his nose as his distress builds; I let my tongue part his lips. He wastes time struggling against my grip before he remembers his teeth are a weapon, and as soon as I feel him open his jaws I pull away, escaping the bite, and madden him just a bit more with a chuckle.

The kiss renews the note of despair in his breathing as he pants. I watch him try the restraints once more; he'll have marks on his wrists and ankles by the end of this. Which is good. If I'd dragged him away to some silken four-poster and employed velvet-sheathed chains to bind him Voldemort might scowl and take back my gift.

By the time it is the four-poster and the velvet chains, Voldemort will applaud the choice. I've convinced myself of it. I've only to take care as I follow through.

In the meantime what happens to the boy on this table cannot look as benign as a game between two contented partners. I cannot trust that Voldemort will understand the world of difference that consent makes, that one can endure the most injurious cruelties for the sake of pleasure--and, yes, enjoy them--and yet far worse can be done with less physical damage to an unwilling victim. Brutal rape will not serve my purpose; forced seduction will not serve Voldemort's. I need the boy to pay in bruises before I can move to the latter.

But I must not let him forget that the latter is coming, inexorably. Is tied up in everything he suffers. From a table I select a charmed silver ring the size of a thumb-and-forefinger circle, lined along its inside with dulled slender teeth.

Potter tenses as he hears me come near. Between his spread thighs his cock lies quiescent, having stirred only once during this, when I initially stripped him and bound him to the table, but it had gone shy in short order, before I even struck the first blow. I lift both the soft length and his balls beneath, watching him jerk at my touch, and slide the ring about both organs, constricting it down with a whisper as it reaches the base. Potter gasps and then a new sound of distress joins it as his cock starts to stiffen, meets the constriction and the metal teeth. Unsurprisingly all stiffness goes out of it, even as Potter freezes. Not that he'll be able to keep still for long. He'll earn himself a few scrapemarks on that thing, a bit of blood for show but nothing damaging.

First I will make him move. Later, I'll make him be very, very still.

I pick up my wand. Though I prefer these attentions to be hands-on this one is most efficient with magic. Again, I want to catch Potter by surprise so I concentrate on the word soundlessly, and cast.

I know what it feels like. As if one's mouth and nose have been stoppered, and no amount of gasping will work past the obstruction. Potter jerks, and immediately begins to turn his head this way and that, as if searching for a pocket of air. When it does him no good, naturally his entire body begins to twist, thrashing even more desperately than he had when first restrained, and heedless of the beastly little teeth scratching at the base of his genitals. The last of the air in his lungs is wasted on the groans vibrating the back of his throat; when they come to an end and I can hear the bones in Potter's hands creak at his efforts to draw them through the manacles, I count five and then cast Finite Incantatum.

He collapses with an explosion of noise, of the air rushing back into his chest with an indrawn howl, and the helpless wheezing sighs that accompany every breath that follows. Shivers rack him for a long minute after, and I watch every moment.

And then I do it again.

Again he thrashes, again every groan, every movement is a wordless plea. He arches off the table, as if he could reach me and the touch of his flesh to mine would move me to mercy. His jaw works; he shapes no words but bites at the air, as if he will tear a chunk out of it and save himself. I wait until redness fills his face before I release him. An ooze of blood is present beneath the cock ring as well, I note.

This time he gives me one word before I recast Suffocare at him: after his third frantic breath he soughs out the syllable, "No..." I am pleased that he's caught the pattern.

Now I teach him the rest of it. I set him free a bit faster this time, but the next holds him longer still. But I do not try to go so long again. As his reserves deplete, as his struggles lose their fervor, I work within those limits. Each time his face grows more anguished, his fight to get free less resolute. He's reached that stage where the part of him not too brain-starved recognizes that I do not intend him to die this way. Each time I smother him until that knowledge no longer matters and he must fight, his body's need driving him to it nevertheless.

When I am cancelling the spell after less than a count of ten after starting it, I cease the game. Potter lies gasping and miserable, a state I expect he'll come to know well before long. By the time he has enough breath back to make pleading a possibility, he's also worked out that that particular torment is over for the moment. No matter.

My next selection runs more towards the mundane, but will serve well for my intentions. I pass over any number of sleek leather-tressed floggers and instead take up a rope cat o'nine tails.

Potter learns just how unpleasant simple hempen rope can be upon the body. The knots cause his skin to redden and swell where they strike, the tails create long scratches where they pass, which become bloody thin lines. My hand is sure; I am not trying to cut the boy to ribbons, but create marks that look more painful than they are, and to sensitize Potter's flesh into one uniform throb in preparation for the next step.

The rhythm of it means that Potter is able to keep his reaction to a start and a hiss, for the most part. I might not even get that were it not for my caution to strike at a different spot each time, belly to thigh to arm to breast, never keeping a pattern.

It does not matter. He does not realize this is only a readying stage.

When he is pink or worse from neck to knees, I put the cat back. At last I reach out and take hold of the blindfold, damp with his sweat--and tears? Perhaps not yet--and tug it off his face. Potter lies there blinking owlishly, looking at me with that mix of bewilderment and frustration that could give way to fear or defiance at any moment.

He is too young and too inexperienced. I know which way it will tip.

I hold up the box, no larger than a jewelry case. Sure that the torchlight will cast down on it so that he will have a proper view, I open it towards him so that he can see the cushioned velvet lining, the gleam of each steel needle in its sheath. I hear his breath catch.

I turn the box back toward me and slide one free. I roll it between finger and thumb so that it will shine in the light as I sink down before him, placing my free hand upon the tender inner surface of his thigh. The inarticulate noise he makes is exquisite. Only then do I look up at his face, and his eyes are so huge I cannot even be bothered to note his mouth.

"You," I say carefully, "will be very, very still."

I drop my eyes back to his thigh. Potter gives another strangled cry; it's almost as if he is gagged. He tries to jerk away under my hands. I look up again.

"Please." It bursts out of him as if birthed.

I let nothing show on my face. "Do not move," I say, and it's no more than a whisper. I wait.

I wait until the jumping fits of tension cease in the flesh under my hands, when Potter at last sees the choice before him and realizes he has no choice but to yield or risk worse damage. Realizing and yielding are not the same thing, of course, but the two are never long apart. He whimpers. Does not plead again.

My fingers bring up a satisfying pinch of flesh and I bring the needle to it. I do not work quickly. There is the angle to be chosen, the initial puncture for him to feel. The skin parting around its flat cutting edges as the needle advances, millimetre by millimetre. Slowly. The cries that come from his throat sound as if each is hooked and jerked loose.

When the needletip emerges, slick and shining, three inches of skin overlie its horizontal length. There is little blood, as usual. I flick the dull end of it with a fingertip and watch Potter's eyelids flutter with that additional sensation--more of a visceral reaction than to the pain of it, which cannot be that great.

He's obliged me by staying conscious, the determined child. Let's see if that continues.

A second needle. Surely he knew to expect this, from the number in the case. The pinch of flesh I gather must send gut-squirming waves through him as it pulls on the first needle just above it. This one goes in equally slowly, along a parallel to the first. For the first time I can hear tears beginning to clog his throat, choke his cries. I am relieved. I need there to be tears and hoped I would not have to invent worse to get them.

By the time the second needle is lodged all the way through his skin, there are rivulets running down his face, a drop that falls from his chin and lands almost where I am working. When I reach for the third needle, he moans, "Stop, please..." Though at this point he's likely discovered that it's nothing unendurable in pain--well, relatively--he does not know how many I will use, how far down the lattice of steel will extend through his flesh. That alone must have him close to fainting.

I am not hasty. Each insertion takes several minutes to accomplish, and I give him time to acclimate to the awareness of each new needle sheathed. Between the fourth and fifth one he loses his fragile control, babbling, "No, don't, please, no more, please--" I let him sob, noting that he does not dare to struggle even now. When it comes to an end, I take up the fifth needle and another pinch of skin. It refreshes the sobs for only a few moments, which then reduce to strangling little whimpers, a background against which I can work without any special attention.

When there are seven of them in his flesh, I shift my gaze and touch my fingers to his left inner thigh. Accordingly, a great shuddering sob rises from Potter and becomes a prolonged bout of gasping and shaking. Not, I know, out of fear this time. Now he has the number seven to comfort him, to lay out his expectations for the remainder of the torment. At this stage there is no predicting if he will react with a calmer endurance, knowing the pain of the process already, or if he will continue to blubber, allotting the bulk of his tears to the duration of the event, now that he knows how long it will last.

He's somewhere between the two. His shaking stops almost as soon as I bring the first new needle up to the pinch of skin in my fingers, and he lets himself weep throughout the first impalement. But after it his breath is rapid but evocative of a man trying to pace himself, who believes in the deepest part of himself that he will endure successfully. The next needle also earns his cries, but they are beginning to sound ever less like terror and more like someone unashamed to give voice to his pain. He winces, yells, and generally has a bad time of it, but I can tell the difference. He is learning to exist with the pain.

I toy with the thought of going beyond seven. Under some circumstances it would be the appropriate thing, catching the victim off-guard, teaching them not to make silly assumptions. Not to fall into the trap of using up their endurance too soon.

But the fourteen horizontal lengths glittering along Potter's tender flesh, seven to a side, seems exquisite adornment; breaking the symmetry seems a shame. And perhaps it is too soon to teach him to avoid such traps. I must save something for later, mustn't I?

Again I run fingertips along the dull ends of the needles. Potter jerks and does not try to keep back his yell, tinged with just a bit more of that terror now. We are back to the unknowable, where he cannot determine how to parcel out his forbearance for what is to come. I twirl a needle about in its sheath of skin. That earns a new sound from him; it catches in his throat as though he is about to be sick. Nothing of the kind happens, but it has him far enough off-guard that when I stroke the needle ends again he no longer can keep anything like composure, and whimpers for me without reserve or courage or even knowing where he is any longer.

I pluck at them and eye the silver ring surrounding his cock and balls. Nothing more than a smudge of blood surrounds the base, and most of that has already dried. His cock remains limp within its constriction, unsurprisingly. Though I would usually leave the ring in place until the very end, under other circumstances, tonight is different. I doubt very much Potter is intimately familiar with the idea of arousal despite pain, much less because of it, and so the cock ring will be removed...while the needles will stay.

I subvocalize the charm to expand the ring and slip it off of him. Potter blinks, surprised to have it gone, and perhaps not a little worried what I shall replace it with instead. I finger the crust of blood at the base of his organs, delicately so as not to disturb it and create further bleeding. Potter swallows audibly, but nothing else, so I have done nothing worse with that ring than tenderize him for further play.

Play is, this time, an appropriate word. Still kneeling before him, I stroke the length of his cock, glancing up at his face to watch him. The look in his eyes that was denied me when I kissed and licked at him is now nakedly displayed, that sickened squeamishness that recognizes the violation for what it is, as his mouth twists through its gasp.

It does not take long--how could it be otherwise at his age?--for his erection to betray him, for his balls to tighten beneath. All his outrage is in his groans now, as he shuts his eyes and throws his head to one side, mortified by his body's perfidy. I stroke the soft exposed head of his cock as it emerges from its concealing foreskin, teasing the eye of it, gathering the dewdrop of arousal collecting there and smearing it over the sensitive flesh of the head. A breath directed over the same spot has his cock leaping in my hand, his body shuddering as his eyes snap back towards the sight, and just as quickly snap shut again as he whines miserably.

I wonder if he expects to feel my tongue. If I take him in my mouth at this stage, it's more likely to kill his arousal before it heightens it. No need to work against myself at this moment. I continue stimulating him with my fingers alone, using the lightness of my touch to overwhelm him, madden him that he can become erect and wanting through contact so mild. If I were fiercer he could blame me more and himself less. Such is not his lot.

At last I win a response as good as a plea-- with Potter's cock red in my hand, I see him arch his neck, crane his head back against the table's surface with his eyes shut and his teeth clenched. Such a groan comes from him that I think he will come in my hand right then. I cease stroking him for a moment, then return. Another groan, louder than the first, followed by the hiss, "Stop..." I know that hiss. It's the stop that's one stage before the please that is a cry for more. I allow myself to smile a little, so that when Potter sees that smile he will know that I know.

I sustain him with small touches and little scrapes of my nails over the most sensitive spots. I press one finger under his balls, at the base of his scrotum and the stuttering gasp is delightful. His cock nearly rises vertical, hard and red and weeping. Now, at this stage, one lick of my tongue and it would be over.

I don't give it to him. I keep him there, wanting, shuddering, making noises ever closer to whimpers. When I lift the underside of his cock with the lightest of fingertip strokes and he arches into it, I give him what he asks for momentarily, curling my hand about the shaft, pulling as if to draw his hips towards me, rewarded with his open-mouthed and wide-eyed cry as his cock and his body and his reason tremble on the verge of orgasm.

I release him and a whimper of "F-fuck..." slips from him as he falls back against the table. I watch to see if he will come anyway despite my caution, but he does not, his erection flagging not a bit.

I let my hands move back to the needles in his thighs and very lightly stroke along the dull ends, up once and then down in careful unison. There is a small wheeze of breath in his chest, but nothing of real panic. I do it again, and then touch the wet tip of his cock once more in a lingering circle. Potter moans and once again pushes his cock into my hand. I let him, and at the same time I pinch one of the needles in my fingers and give it a twirl where it lodges.

"Ohfucknonopleasenostop..." It bursts from him in a sob and does not end there. I savor his babble as I finger his cock gently with my left hand while with my right I select one of the needles in his flesh and tug at it, as slowly as I did upon insertion, to draw it from its sheath. He feels it, knows it. Knows to stop struggling, no matter how much he may want to arch into my touch on his cock.

I am not so kind as to draw the needle completely free. I leave it protruding about an inch and then choose another to tug upon. He is biting his lip so hard I'm sure he will cut himself, as I cup and stroke the length of his cock with one hand even as I shift the needle in his flesh with the other. My thumb rubs over the purpled head a little more firmly, and firmer still, causing Potter to lose the lock of his jaws on his lip and make a noise just shy of a wail. I grasp his balls, rolling them in my palm just to the point of pain and then take up his cock again, wrapping my hand around its full length and squeezing as if I could suffocate him this way.

His cock pulses once, twice--I pinch the end of one more of the needles and draw it back an inch or so as he comes in my hand, shoving his hips forward as pearly ejaculate spills in hot drops into the air and over my fingers. He howls, a noise that ends in shaking cries like the aftermath of sobs, and I hold his cock throughout the entirety of his orgasm, feeling it throb with his heartbeat, soften by degrees, lose its stance. I stroke him lightly during this, earning his shudders as the too-sensitive flesh reacts to the touch.

I give him a minute, then release his cock. As his entire body settles into that state of post-orgasmic sensitivity, I reach for one of the needles. He cries out and goes corpse-rigid when I shift it, the flesh suddenly exponentially more tender to this treatment, and as the needle makes its slow progress out it prompts a genuine scream from him just before the cutting point exits.

His face has gone all over sweat, and his eyes glassy; he's panting and moaning as much as he did when they went in. This, this is often the point when they faint, rather than on insertion, as though they imagine with each removal an outpouring of blood follows in its wake. I work slowly so that I have the best chance of having him stay with me throughout the entire removal, feel every steel millimetre and every empty hollow of skin as they exchange places.

When it's done there are only smears of blood on his thighs--and another smear on his lips, where he did bite through--and twenty-eight red-purple puncture marks dotting the skin. And I have ten stone of weeping, shivering boy chained to that table, exactly as I had anticipated.

I do not heal the wounds on his thighs. I stand and touch his face, wipe away the smear of blood on his lips with my thumb. With one hand caressing his cheek, I kiss him gently on the mouth and murmur, "Hush."

It has exactly the desired effect: a fresh burst of tears, a pitiable moan. "Ssh," I repeat, kissing him again, feeling the lack of resistance in him, the wordless surrender that begs not to be hurt any more, the promise to be good.

In this state it is the easiest thing in the world to release a victim from his restraints and turn him about, secure him to the table face down this time. As the manacles click into place about his ankles there is a renewal of his shudders, his tears, as it dawns on him his ordeal is not yet over, but I am ready for that, stroking his back tenderly, kissing him on the back of the neck and continuing to murmur gentle reassurances.

My hands stroke further down, to the small of his back and then to his hips. I press closer to him, kissing the side of his face now as all sounds of tears suppress, only his breathing betraying his misery. I want him to feel the tent of my trousers and the hard flesh beneath--yes, my own arousal is performing as I need it to, reliably--as I push my own hips against his backside.

It earns a groan from him but not a struggle; he fears it but fears worse worse. I kiss him again, smelling the sweaty essence of him at the base of his neck, his scalp. It has all the seductiveness of any courtesan's eau de parfum, fear and yielding and need all packaged together. I reach underneath him with one hand and wrap my fingers about his cock, feeling the soft, pliable organ in my hand, his balls relaxed and easily gathered in the same caress. Only a little time passes until the flesh is not so soft, not so relaxed. Lovely youthful resiliency.

My other hand comes between his spread legs to join the first in its caresses; after a moment I withdraw one to stroke at his perineum, then behind it, tracking back along his cleft in meticulous violation, tracing the folds of wrinkled skin, whispering over the light growth of hair. I hear him groan, unhappy at the trespass, and feel him shudder, responding despite himself.

I teach him the pleasures to be found in more locations on his body than just his cock, petting along his sides, the hollows of his armpits, the backs of his knees as lingering examples. I return to the cleft of his buttocks with my fingers many a time, probing ever more thoroughly at the furled opening of his anus, earning more groans from him but these with a more susceptible timbre.

One item that I need the dungeon doesn't have; I'm not about to waste time hunting through the rooms for an acceptable substitute. I conjure a thick odourless grease in a container and slicken my fingers with it, then return to the boy. When I play between the parted crease of his buttocks this time I splay him wide, then insert the tip of my finger into his anus and let the flesh relax around it to draw me in a little. He does not start, does not groan in that sickened way. I push in a bit deeper and that does prompt a moan, but there is only a little distress in it.

"Ssh, " I say again. "It won't hurt." And from that point it's become my duty to show him that it won't, that it doesn't, not beyond reason. My greased finger moves slowly, as slowly as did the insertion of the needles, but this time it is to decrease the pain, not to prolong it.

"Don't," he says, trying not to let it become a whine, the dear brave thing. I don't answer, wondering if he will plead. But though the knowledge of what I am doing makes him rebel, the pain is not enough to prompt pleading. A second fingertip, well-coated with the grease, probes alongside the first finger and begins to join it in the careful expansion of his opening. Potter makes a choked noise. Still does not beg.

When I feel him begin to shake, as the third finger begins to penetrate him, I whisper next to him, "Ssh, it is nothing, nothing so bad as you fear, see?" He murmurs indistinct, delirious protests against this truth, and when I turn my fingers so that the tips curl against the protrusion of his prostate, his head arches back and the protests are washed away in his cries. I stroke and tease and turn my fingers about to stretch him further, and all of him seems to break into pieces under my hands, sobbing and shivering and incapable of resisting. My other hand quests beneath his legs again and finds his hard cock, teasing it with a loving, caging grip. I rub the head of his cock against the surface of the table and feel him buck, almost thrusting himself further onto my fingers as he tries unsuccessfully to make me loosen my grip. I kiss the side of his face and do it again.

I do not laugh, do not taunt him with suggestions that he is eager for me at last. He recognizes it well enough already; if I throw such hateful words at him his outrage will rise, and at me, not at himself. I want his shame and surrender, not his rebellion.

I remove my fingers, re-coat them with grease, and slip them inside him again, all at once. He takes them easily, even as his hips press against the table and he muffles his anguished "No..." against its surface. Again I shush him, gently, as if no one has his best interests at heart more than I. My fingers turn within him easily, coring him open with steady movements, the ring of muscle loosening for me further with every one. I lick the shell of his ear as I tease his prostate again, combining it with a brush of finger and fingernails against the eye of his cock. He shudders against me again and my fingers within him slip deeper still.

The noise he makes at that moment--the cry, the utterly aware whimper of need--combined with the pulse of his cock against my hand has me thrusting my own hips against him again, aching to drive myself inside him. I breathe deep and hold back, withdrawing my fingers once more, coating them again and penetrating him smoothly, one long slow movement from fingertips to the base of my knuckles pressing against his arse. He takes it and sobs "Please..." aloud, not begging me to fuck him, I know, but to leave him in peace before he shames himself by not fighting when I do fuck him, bring him to orgasm again with my cock buried inside him this time. Oh, I know that please.

With my free hand I undo the placket of my trousers. I let him become acquainted with my bare cock, its heat, its thickness against his bottom. Its eagerness as it presses against his cleft, hindered from its goal by my fingers still buried inside him. I let him feel what I am doing as I slicken my cock liberally with the grease, advancing it between his cheeks as I slowly remove my fingers from his depths. Only when my cock is poised to enter him do I slide them completely free, the head of the cock worming its way inside before the muscle can iris closed.

I move slowly, applying still more grease as I go, and his cries are the unh of endurance, and the ah of startlement, but none are screams, none speak of true pain. When I take his cock in my hand again I earn his moans once more, and soon after I earn the movement of his hips, driven by his own need and not out of any attempt to escape the penetration.

Once he does start to move so do I, sliding out a bit as he lurches into my grip and pushing back when he falls back. That gets a cry from him, one with more of an ow, but I do it again and he only whimpers this time, recognizing it will continue and trying to become used to the idea if not the sensation. I do not try to piston in and out of him, not with this fledgling child--only shifting a fraction, taking the greater part of my pleasure from the heat surrounding me, from the strength of his muscle gripping the base of my cock, from the pulse deep within his body thrumming against the head of the shaft. I clutch at his shoulders, molding myself to his back, moving with the rhythm he sets as he begs for the friction of my hand.

And it is a lovely bit of begging. His hips press against my hand, crushing it between his body and the surface of the table as I fist that aching cock of his. I turn his chin towards me with one hand and kiss his mouth, and his eyes are closed, his mouth open for his moans. I do not try to push my tongue inside though it's not for fear he will bite this time; I cover his mouth with mine and draw each of those moans within myself, sweeter than water to thirst.

I shift within him enough to graze across his prostate, wanting him to have more of that, wanting that to be what drives him over the edge. Come, I think. Come again for me so that I make you remember that you came with me.

His muscles strain beneath me as much as they did when he was trying to free himself; a ragged-edged cry tears free from his throat, and there it is: the reward of his orgasm, spilling from the end of his cock wetly as he chokes and gasps. I push inside him, deep as I can go, concentrating on his pulse and the trembling that shakes him, and their sensation on my cock, and grip his shoulders harder, harder, as I come inside him, flooding him with my own heat and sinking my teeth into the join between his neck and shoulder, hanging on through my own shudders until they still and I am aware of the exhausted, unhappy groans coming from the poor boy.

Without a sound from me I slip free of him, doing up my trousers and smoothing my shirtfront to present the picture of composure. Then I wait. I wait until Potter's breathing slows, until he tries to stir within his chains, until there is the unmistakable movement of him trying to draw his arms and legs together, the need to wrap himself up and tell himself it is over. He cannot do this, of course, and shortly the idea of not over, not over at all will drown him. I wait for it.

The whimpering heralds it. Not sobs, not yet; perhaps those will not come at this juncture, but the whimpers and the ducking of his head against the table and the shivering are more than sufficient. I press against his back again, but before he can tense in fear of me I have my hand on one of the manacles, flipping its catch back and open even as I murmur, "Hush..." again.

Now the sobs come. He has no idea if I will let him go or simply turn him over again for more abuse, but I release his other wrist, keeping up the litany of "Hush...yes, that's did very, very well..." He hears the past tense and there are tears suddenly accompanying the choked sobs.

There is no need to immobilize him this time; once he is free of the manacles he slides from the table into my helpful arms, utterly unresisting, not clutching, no, but too much in need of comfort and contact to push his abuser away. Knowing that one wrong move from him will turn everything about, have him back in those restraints before he can breathe. No need to do more than keep one arm about him and continue the soothing murmurs of yes, hush, it will be all right, don't weep, brave child.

I take him to the hidden wing.

The bath is not a mere kindness. He sinks willingly into its heat, his gratitude boundless, but I watch as he winces, tends gingerly to the needle wounds in his thighs. I do not intend to heal them. Better that they remind him for a time what cruelties may await at my hands; they will heal by themselves in a matter of days, leaving not even a mark. When he reaches for the flannel I keep it from him, use it myself on his tear-and-sweat stained face, gentle as with a newborn.

When I take him from the bath I see to the drying of him myself, careful again of the tender marks in his thighs as he stands on shaking legs, too close to collapse to consider fighting or running. "I know you don't want to go back to the dungeon," I say, looking up at him when I am finished, all kindliness.

He doesn't answer out loud. It might be a mere twitch of his head, the way he is shaking, but I know it for a nod. "Then I must chain you here," I continue. "Will you let me?"

A longer pause, but the brief twitch of a nod comes. Not that I doubted for a moment.

I lead him, all pliancy, into the bedroom. His tension is visible as I direct him to the bed. If he expects to be spread-eagled on it I surprise him. I conjure a cuff of metal and a chain of blurring, shifting links that go about his ankle and imbed their end into the room's floor just by the bed's foot post, respectively. "The chain will lengthen--slightly--as you move," I tell him. His eyes follow me and the chain, so that I know he understands.

I set my hand in the center of his chest and push him back onto the bed. The tension again, the fear as he guesses my intention and realizes that all chance of running, of resisting is gone, and that he let himself bargain away that chance for the promise he would not have to return to the dungeon. How that must shame him.

I let that shame work for me, sliding in to kiss his mouth and pronounce, "Very good, " lulling him further away from the cruelties within that dungeon, teaching him that this sort of endurance is ever so a much pleasanter day's work. "I won't need to hurt you any more, will I?" I soothe, sealing his obedience.

"No," he says, so quickly, so quickly, and I kiss him to keep back my own smile. "No, no," he repeats as I shift to kiss the corner of his mouth, and even shakes his head a little.

By degrees I join him on the bed; by degrees I remove my own clothing. He does not flinch away, does not dare. During it all I never cease to let the entire process be about him--my hands on his face, in his hair as I kiss him, my mouth on his neck and on his chest and seeking out his nipples for far more than a single lick and a kiss this time. And all this while his hands are free; he is restrained by nothing more than an ankle chain that does not even hinder his movements on the bed. And he lets me. Nothing beyond his strained breathing, his eyes which close to take away the sight of his submission, the brief note of disquiet in his groans. Nothing else to mark reluctance or resistance.

I take him face to face this time. After I have kissed him everywhere, licked and sucked his nipples to sore reddened points, shown him the pleasures of my tongue on his cock and teased him until I wrest another "Please..." from his throat, I push his knees apart and then back, settling between them and using a finger to stroke his entrance in seductive little circles. He groans, no reluctance in it at all as I drip oil from a vial directly into the throbbing opening and follow it with my tongue, until I have him crying out and the muscle trying to clench about my tongue. I place my cock directly at his entrance, dripping oil down the shaft so that it slithers down and coats the entire crack of his arse even as I start to push into him. I impale his squirming form, abandoning the vial and holding his legs doubled with my hands, so that his heels press into his buttocks and his upper body wants to flail in compensation. He comes against my belly, crying out in time with each ejaculation, and after I spill inside him I allow his legs to fall to the sides, feeling the chain on his ankle tangling with my own leg as I let my weight settle upon him, staying inside him for as long as my flesh can sustain it.

Later I pull him into my arms and hold him spoon-fashion against me, feeling him as he does not sleep, does not cry, does not plead. Knowing that the run of his thoughts is better self-torment than any night in a dungeon.

Voldemort watches all of it.

He plunges into my head with as little heed as a four-year-old unwrapping a birthday present. No sooner has he gleaned the gist of my treatment of Potter than I feel his presence recede, and hear him say, "I shall be at this some time. Wormtail, fetch Lucius a chair."

And from a chair I yield, I reel as Voldemort sifts through the memory, watching as Potter is chained and tortured and used, and as he bleeds and cries and comes, Voldemort's delighted reactions lacing into my awareness all the while. And it is delight; his relish of the scenes encompasses me, twines with me until no sexual coupling could be more intimate. His pleasure caresses and kisses my obedient, open mind as if teaching me there is no difference between rape and rapture, at his hands.

Oh, for a pensieve that I could simply deposit the memories into. I'd not only be spared this but I'd be rid of the thoughts altogether. I should tell Rabastan to put it on the priority list.

When he is done, and withdraws, I feel his physical touch: his hand at my jawline once more. "Lucius..." he says, the word more loving than any endearment ever was, and that is all.

All that is necessary.

Then he has Potter brought before him and does it all again.

I am allowed to keep him. Voldemort allows me to create a room adjoining mine in our stronghold that mimics the elements of both my dungeons and the hidden wing, pleased by the hot-and-cold treatment I've inflicted on him. The wards are secure, the accoutrements satisfactory for both my needs and Voldemort's, and the chain tethering Potter's ankle protected by three separate Immutables.

Severus does not speak to me of it. Pointedly, carefully does not speak of it, though he'd have us think otherwise, I know.

So it falls upon me to initiate the communication. "I shall be glad to assist you," I say to him when he comes to speak to me of the infiltration into the ministry. "Indeed, my days are not so scheduled as they once were; I should be glad of the activity."

There, I see it: the twitch of his mouth. Yes, Severus, everyone knows why Lucius has a less rigorous schedule than he once did. Or rather, one altered if no less vigorous. Lucius has better than free rein to play with his boy whore--Lucius has Voldemort's express command to do so.

Such envy. Such contempt.

I let him know the twitch has not escaped me: I smile. "Pity you weren't quicker to speak up. A most pleasant duty, I find."

I earn a scowl. Rapture.

Then, before I succumb to weakness and say more than I should, I turn back to the subject. "Whom have you chosen for the mission?"

His eye holds the bit of scorn for a heartbeat longer, before he too resumes. I have struck home. Let it be enough.

What were you doing, I want to ask the boy. Want to torture it out of him if I have to. Why does Voldemort fear you, what is the rest of the prophecy? And what did Voldemort mean by only one?

I cannot ask. Voldemort still rifles through my mind and Potter's whenever he chooses, which is often. The two of us provide such delightful entertainment for him.

Potter has become, if not obedient, unwilling to risk my wrath. Consequently I hardly ever show it to him; consequently he has become quite the passive little toy. And Voldemort appreciates the irony of this as much as he enjoys watching Potter writhe under harsher torments. I have kept the boy whole in mind and body both but leeched the defiance from him, and that is no small thing.

And Potter is so stingy with his pleas. I do not demand them from him; that would make them less savory. Voldemort will quest through an hour's display just to pick up one, and count them worth the while when they do come.

...If I could ask, what would I do with such information? What am I prepared to do?

It all changes the day he says to me, "So you all know about the horcruxes, then?"

I am almost dressed; Potter lies on the bed, ankle chain his only remaining restraint, though I know his wrists still feel the weight of the cuffs in which they spent hours. If I look at him I'll see the redness of his nipples, still swollen from the clamps, and likely feel the urge to disrobe and use him yet again. I have other obligations; I don't look at him.

And then, from his silence, he says that.

I've never even heard the word.

Potter is my prisoner, Voldemort's prisoner, quite helpless; whatever reaction I give does not matter as far as he is concerned. Voldemort, though, is quite another matter. And so I do not turn to him, say, what do you know, tell me, tell me before I tear it from you. Nor can I even shake him and say, you fool, you know how often the Dark Lord is in our minds, do not say such things aloud.

I give him only a glance, thinking, too preoccupied with my answer to be distracted by either the redness of his nipples or the soft swollen state of his mouth. "You speak as if you expect that we don't, my too-clever boy."

His gaze drops a fraction, as if he fears me becoming angry if he presses, and does not want that. Then he says, "He let me live. So either you all know or he can't believe I'd ever tell you."

I pause and betray nothing. "If you are so sure of that, then surely I can leave it to you to work out which is true."

It subdues him back into silence, as I had intended.

Voldemort does not see this bit of conversation. He cuts the connection at the point where I am setting Potter free of the wrist cuffs. It does not mean that he might not see it at some future date, however.

Which means the time I have is finite.


Potter knows something he believes Voldemort would not have told his ranks.

He would tell me if I pressed. There, that is what Voldemort forgot--in assuming Potter would not give up such secrets to the dark side unless interrogated for them, he neglected to recall a prisoner's need to seek out the sympathetic qualities in his captors, to believe that they can come to be on the same side.

I do not feel smug. I neglected it myself.

Not that I anticipate Potter agreeing to serve Voldemort, no; not he. Certainly not by my present methods. Voldemort has not asked nor expected me to turn him. I suppose that is why I did not expect Potter to come to the middle ground and look to me for more than just gentler treatment.

Or is the boy cleverer than I anticipated? Does he see the rebellion in me--is he some legilimens par excellence, who not only can take any thought from you as Voldemort can, but go beyond even that and do it so one has no idea it is happening?

No. For all that he is a legend and a figurehead, Potter was never any kind of prodigy. Severus knew that.

Perhaps I am only easy to read. I am so very tired.

But he thinks me uncertain, at least. And would give me the information if I pressed. But I cannot press. Voldemort only missed the snippet of conversation by luck; any memories of me with Potter are most subject to access, whether conversation or writing or even meaningful glances.

Which means I can only use what the boy has already given me.

I cannot find a thing about horcruxes. I search magic texts and dark magic texts and even muggle history texts. I take a risk and spend several hours in my own library at the manor. I take a greater one and make an excuse to look through Voldemort's own store of ancient scrolls. Which is doubly foolish; as if he would grant me that access if he had something in there to hide, and what do I think I will do with the information at all?

It does not matter. I must know. It is as if it is the one thing that can keep my focus in these times of despair, when there is still no word of Narcissa or Draco and I need to remind myself again and again why I am performing methodical defilement on a boy of seventeen.

I do find it, of course, by process of elimination. I wait to go to Severus even after I have hunted through Voldemort's files, for Severus is even more suspicious and protective of his documents than the dark lord is. I accomplish it via Voldemort, hinting that I have need of obscure information on poisons until it is he who suggests--commands--that I see what I can glean from Severus's trove.

It's there. Just a few short inches in a scroll, but it's enough, and I read them as quickly as I can and move on to other text just as quickly so that Voldemort will have the least chance of stumbling across the event in my memories.

And as I pretend to read the useless, other text, I think about the splitting of souls and the caching of their vessels and about Voldemort's pronouncement of Only one and the moment, Merlin, the moment not long after his return when he asked me And where is the item I trusted you to keep safe for me, Lucius? and I licked my lips, Merlin, I remember it as if it happened yesterday, I licked my lips and I told him what I had done with the diary, and he stood and looked at me, and looked, and then, oh, so quietly, told me to leave his sight, leave until he bid me return. And I believed he was angry because I had failed, and was amazed to be let off so lightly, and now, now I know that his anger must have been ten times what I thought it was and he hid it, hid it because he could not let me know, let any of us know that he had split his soul and I had not merely failed to resurrect him, I had destroyed one of his horcruxes.

Now I understand my term in Azkaban even better. It is a miracle he ever decided to fetch me out.

Oh, Merlin and Morgana, at last I understand Voldemort's boast. It is as if he is before me, pulling these memories from me, they are so vivid. The promise he made that he could never be completely destroyed--he told all of us that when we joined his ranks, tells it to his new recruits even today. Tells us all that he has gone beyond death, that he will never die no matter how many times he is overcome, that we are wise to follow him, that his triumph is as inevitable as his immortality.

He promised us these things because of his faith in the horcruxes.

And Potter knows of them, and his allies know of them--surely it was Dumbledore who learned of their existence. And I have destroyed one unwittingly, and Voldemort said Only one in a way that implies their number is small enough to be affected by the loss of more than one.

And on that Voldemort hedges his cause and his immortality.

Merlin help me. I chose the wrong side after all.

I should fall deeper into despair, by rights. I do not.

The knowledge resurrects me.

Voldemort will lose. This I know, surely as Koschei the Deathless died, surely as every disciple of the Old Man of the Mountain met his miserable end at last--if the mudblood-loving zealots know of the horcruxes, it is only a matter of time. I am not willing to bet that it will lie outside of my own lifetime.

I had thought I was too far gone to play my hand as I once did, concealing my loyalties to Voldemort, presenting a genteel face to the rest of the world, ready to move either way depending on the tide of the cause. Azkaban changed that, I thought, and indeed it did. But I had forgotten that there are more roads back to the other camp besides protestations of loyalty.

I have Potter. No matter that I asked for him with a different motive in mind; I have him alive and whole. Though he may not be enough as a bargaining chip to secure my freedom, he forms the nucleus of the groundwork. I will not go passively, foolishly, to my own end in a doomed cause. The knowledge gives me back a vitality I thought I might never see again.

Which is fortunate, because they bring in Draco a few days later, and I am all but undone.

No one expects me to appear anything other than the anguished father, when they tell me they have captured Draco. It is all façade. Or nearly all; the anguish that surges within me I seize and crush and reduce to the smallest corner of my heart, all the while appearing the picture of loyalty-torn misery. I have given too much of myself, these past months, to creating the precedent I needed; it cannot fall to pieces now because I could not play my role.

I beg Voldemort for audience and he grants it. But then I am careful to beg no more; not for Draco's life, in any case, not yet. Instead I listen, hear what has been learned, promise not to interfere, for his sake and mine. It is a good strategy. Voldemort tells me so far there is no evidence that Draco went over to the other side, only that he hid from Voldemort's wrath. Nor does he appear to have any idea where his mother might be.

By this time others have joined us: Bellatrix, Rodolphus, Pettigrew.

"He can't be one of us," says my hateful sister-in-law. "He's proved himself unworthy."

I do not rise to it. Severus enters, reports he has found nothing in his probe of Draco to contradict what Voldemort already knows.

"He was only ashamed of his failure," Pettigrew says. "So young. Not yet ready to face his lord having failed."

It is happening. Everything I have prepared is ending in this moment; I set half my plan in the hands of one person--did I set it well enough? If I panic now...

I do not panic. I look at Severus, will him to turn his eyes in my direction. Severus, I goaded you; I thought it sufficient. Voldemort must not have any hint it was my idea. Do not fail me in this; to spite me or to help me, I care not, I will give you anything you ask of me...

Severus has not looked at me once. "My lord," he says, and those starting to speak fall silent for him in the way he says it. He looks at me just once, then, and back to Voldemort. "I would ask a favor such as you once granted Lucius."

And I breathe, and I say, "Oh, but--my lord..." in exactly the bewildered, protesting way I know I must.

I take a fistful of Potter's hair in my hand and pull his pliant mouth to mine, and I think, This, this is nothing so bad.

I set Potter on his hands and knees, put my fingers to his mouth and command him to suck. He does, knowing this is a prelude to my fingers preparing his arse, and obediently gets them as wet with his own saliva as he can. And I think, This, this is nothing so bad.

I slide three fingers inside him at once, feeling that tremble in him that has never failed to manifest when I rape him. He fists his hands in the bedsheets and does not fight me. After I withdraw my fingers, I am generous with the oil, and push my cock inside him slowly, moving deeper within him until I can go no further, and then not even thrusting, only feeling him around me and watching how he gasps, how he endures, how he groans when I reach about him and take his cock in hand and milk it until he keens aloud.

I torment him, bringing him to the verge of orgasm with my hand on his cock and the pressure of my thrusts over his prostate multiple times, but not allowing him to cross over. I come inside him and continue to deny him, pulling out and turning him over and spread-eagling him to the bed. I bring out one of the less fierce instruments, a quirt with which I can both punish and tease him further, stoking his misery higher until he whimpers with it, until red marks litter his skin and his cock is purple with wanting. And I set my teeth to his nipples and bite until he cries aloud, and slide a blunt-ended, straw-fine tube into the eye of his cock and thread it down its length until he screams, and then I remove it and remove the restraints and gather him up, kissing every hurt, kissing his tear-wet face and his mouth until his hands cling to me, his tormentor, his captor, the only one who is there to comfort him.

And I think, This, this is nothing so bad.

And a week later, when I go to Potter as scheduled, I do something I have done on occasion before. I wait to cross the wards that keep him trapped inside, wait where he cannot see me or know that I am there, and I watch him. Watch him where he sits without moving, watch his empty eyes shifting here and there but without any hint that he sees what he looks at. Where I once watched him to see if he was up to mischief in my absence, now I watch to see everything he does not do.

And I think, No. bad.

Once upon a time, it seemed like an outcome I could live with. No longer.

But it has bought me time, and it has bought me Potter. My bargaining chip.

I will not wait until this war is ended. I thought I had won the safest outcome for Draco--no matter which side won, he would be allowed to live. But enslavement at anyone's hands, even Severus's--whom I knew would not be excessively cruel towards Draco, but of course, he has Voldemort's expectations to meet--is no safety. I saw Potter's eyes, and I imagined them on my son--the same way I saw Draco in Potter's place when Pettigrew first dragged the boy in--and there is no turning back for me now.

I shall plan, and I shall find the opportunity to get Draco away from Severus. And then I shall take him and Potter away with me, and bargain for the mercy of Potter's allies in return for their figurehead boy. I will convince them. I must.

It is a better chance than staying here.

When the opportunity arrives, I almost miss it. I am in the process of sending our ranks forward against the attackers when it hits me.

It does not happen the day I come to my decision, no, but it is not long after. They attack the stronghold, and immediately the cry goes up that there must be a traitor in our midst, even as we fly to take our positions. It is likely true. Mere carelessness could never have brought them here, unhindered by the workings of a Fidelius charm.

It is moments before I realize I am going in the wrong direction.

No one questions why I turn and run. They do not see me, assume I am going to gather more forces, am running to Voldemort to suggest we abandon the stronghold and get a headstart--it does not matter.

Draco. I must get to Draco first, then Potter.

I slip down one corridor as Amycus and Alecto go past me; theirs are the last voices, the last running steps I have heard in this wing. I emerge and plunge in the direction of Severus's quarters.

Around the next corner I stop dead.

Severus and Potter are facing each other in the corridor.

Wands in hand, yes, but not raised at each other. Severus has his hand on the boy's arm, not as if to drag him away but to hold him up. Hold him back.

And as I appear and see all this, in the very instant I have the entire measure of it, they see me.

I have the advantage. My wand is ready, I saw them the moment before they saw me. Even as Severus's arm draws back, I act first.

I fling my arms out wide--not releasing my wand, no, but pointing it away from them and making the gesture as large as I can. "Hold!" I bark, and it echoes in the corridor.

It works. Severus has not the time to halt the cast, but he swings his arm away and the hex goes wide, crunching into the stone wall with a flash. Before it has finished echoing I shout, "I was coming for Draco. And for Potter! I know Voldemort cannot win this--Severus, our plans are the same!"

Now Severus has his wand on me--Potter too, if a little less steady. "Are they," he sneers--but does not attack.

I do not lower my arms. "I was going to use Potter to buy immunity for myself and Draco." I tell it as quickly as I can. "I kept you alive, Potter. Not for myself, not for Voldemort's pleasure, but for Draco's sake." I let my face crumple, as if I know it is absurd for me to justify my actions, and say, "I am throwing myself on your mercy--give me the chance to explain it to you when we are away from here. Or if you will not," I say with artful, hollow resolution, "then I beg you--take Draco. Give him your protection if you have not the mercy to let me come with you, away from this doomed order."

Severus looks at me, then glances down at Potter, and I see the way he looks at the boy. I look at him too, at the alien appearance of him standing behind a wand, clothed in hastily-thrown-on shirt and trousers that have been rolled up so that he can move in them. He's barefoot; I can see the callus from the manacle just above his ankle. Hours ago he lay passively as I left him covered with love bites and the stripes of a riding crop; now he faces me with the same hollow eyes and the same trembling...but he faces me.

"Potter...he may be right." Words I did not expect from Severus and neither did Potter; the boy jerks his eyes up to him. "How can you be ready for this, this soon. You and I will have only the one chance; perhaps it would be best if you retreated now and we wait--"

Severus does not get to finish that word. "No!" yells Potter. "This is what the raid is all about, isn't it? So that you and I can get to him? I'm not running!" He is shivering even as he says it. No, I realize, this is no demigod of a Hero--no Occlumens who kept a façade of helplessness all the while he was my captive, concealing a greater-than-human strength and hidden agenda from the first. No, this is the same boy who lost defiance to fear, who wept and clung to me when I hurt him, who fell into despair...but did not break. Who was given a wand in his hand and a plan mere minutes ago, and rose to it.

Now I know why they call him hero.

And they are going to kill Voldemort. Whatever this plan is, be it prophecy or Severus's unexpected treachery or some spell that takes their combined efforts to effect it, Severus believes it will work and so does Potter.

"The horcruxes. They're all destroyed and you're going to kill him." They look at me again. "Fine. Immunity for me, my son, and my wife--and I will go with you and fight with you. I will get you to him."

Severus doesn't just sneer this time, he laughs an ugly laugh. "What's to stop you from hexing us both from behind, you fool?"

Because Voldemort is doomed. Because this conversation alone sets me beyond the point of no return. Because my son's life is worth the risk. Because you both know now, if you did not know before, why I asked for Potter, why I kept him as my whore. Because I pointed my wand away from both of you and left myself vulnerable when I could have killed both of you first.

All those arguments are there, and I say none of them. What weight could they hold?

Instead, I prepare to say what they will believe. Yes. Exactly. I have always played both sides. If you are losing, there is every chance I will take you down and tell Voldemort I played you along. So do not lose. Promise not to lose and I will promise not to betray you. Is there anything else you will believe of me?

None of it gets said, because at that moment Bellatrix rounds the corner.

I do not allow her the same moment of advantage I had. My curse takes her square in the chest.

In the wake of that red flash, as her mouth opens, as the light goes out of her mad eyes, as she crumples down dead, I reflect that I've managed to make another mark on my list of most surprising moments for myself.

I turn back and look at the two of them.

"Fuck," says Severus. "All right. We haven't much time."

We overtake Amycus and Alecto. Severus kills him; Potter stuns her.

I don't leave her stunned. Potter does not prevent me, only swallows as I finish her off with a curse. "There isn't time," I tell him as we turn from the bodies and move on. He doesn't favor me with a nod, but I know he understands.

They run as though they expect Voldemort to be alone, if they can only get there quickly enough. Why would they think that? Voldemort is never unguarded--as if he even needed guards.

There isn't time to do anything but follow.

Rookwood. Mulciber. It doesn't matter which of us kills them.

Yaxley. Nott.


Severus bypasses Voldemort's sanctum altogether, leading us onward. The underground chamber; the bolthole only Voldemort can access. It must be.

Severus slows but a fraction as we approach its impassible doors, wresting something free of his robes. A knife. He spins to a stop, says, "Potter--your hand--" Potter holds it out to him and Severus slashes at the palm; Potter doesn't flinch. He presses his bloody palm to the surface of the door and Severus casts a yellow glow over it. With a groan, the doors swing inwards.

Voldemort's use of Potter's blood for his resurrection has played both ways, it seems.

I have never seen the bolthole; I thought none save Voldemort had. Torchlight picks out the dimensions of a cavern. Wind meets our entrance, promising an exit if we proceed.

Which we cannot yet do. Pettigrew is standing before us, a carbuncle in our path, wand in that silver hand of his and a leer of ridiculous overconfidence on his face.

"On three," I murmur to the others. "One--"

"Him," says Pettigrew, leering wider, his wand pointing directly at Potter. "Before any of you cast, I'll kill him. I can do it." The torchlight makes his silver hand gleam. "The Chosen One--your child of prophecy--dead. And then where will you be?"

The cavern slopes down. Watching us--almost out of our range of sight--is Voldemort, his red eyes all I can see of his face.

"Go," I say. "I'll deal with him. Get ready to run." I don't even bother to keep my voice low.

Pettigrew snarls.

I cast. Potter and Severus dash forward and Pettigrew's curse misses--but so does mine. And then they are past him, and I am upon him and he cannot cast at them again, must aim at me as I block his way. His next curse misses by only a hair.

Mine doesn't.

Potter and Severus are closing the distance. Voldemort is not retreating. What does he know that they do not--or is it what do they know that he does not?

I start to go after them--and a banshee shriek behind me has me half-turned when the figure crashes into me and we collapse together. My wand goes flying.

Bella. No. Not possible. Blood welling from her mouth, running down her chin, so much of it the wound has to be mortal--but not quickly enough, it seems. Fool. Fool.

No harpy ever shrieked so; her full weight is on my chest, pinning me. She has her wand but is wielding it like a dagger, howling and trying to plunge it into my eye. I do not bother trying to find my own wand. I reach up with both hands, seize her face, and snap her neck.

Moments lost. That is all she is to me, that and dead weight. I struggle to push her body away from me. A shadow falls.

"Killed the lady Lestrange, have you, Malfoy?" says Fenrir Greyback, standing above me, hale and grinning. "Twice, it seems. Not a very nice thing to do."

I shove at Bella's corpse and roll in the direction I heard my wand land, struggling to get a knee under me and rise.

Greyback has me pinned on my back in a heartbeat.

My arms are under his. I cannot budge him. Those yellowed fangs descend.

I turn my head towards the depths of the cavern. I have time to think how remarkable it is, that the most surprising moment of my life should come here at the very last, as I gaze at the sight of Harry Potter and Severus Snape--whom I died for--on the verge of becoming my saving grace. They will win, will they not? Keep my son safe? It must be true--that they are the ones who know what Voldemort does not?

Of course they--


Home Page   Amanuensis's Fanfiction   Art/Fic Tributes  Fic Recommendations       Amanuensis's LiveJournal     Other Links