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Slash and Yaoi Fiction
Title: Damage Control
Author: Juxian Tang
Feedback: juxiantang@hotmail.com
Site: http://juxian.slashcity.net
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: rape, non-cons, things that might squick you
Pairings: Snape/Harry, others/Harry
Author's Notes: It is my attempt of a sequel to the haunting, brilliant 'And Just Plain Wrong' by Amanuensis that you can find here: http://www.amanuensis1.com/andjustplainwrong.html in a hardly believable case that you missed it before.
Summary: Snape tries to control damage, until damage starts controlling him.
Disclaimer: These characters and places belong to JK Rowling. This particular interpretation of Potterverse belongs to Amanuensis. I am only playing with them a little.


He doesn't look at me as I walk towards him across the Great Hall. He kneels, his legs slightly spread apart, showing the black wide base of the dildo. His arms are pressed to his sides, as he's trained to hold them, not trying to cover himself. His hair falls on his forehead messily, half-hiding his downcast eyes.

I see how his abdomen quivers as he breathes; but his face is blank and unchanging even as the hem of my robe brushes against his thigh.

Under the stares of so many eyes - envious, greedy, expectant - I grasp a handful of his untidy hair and pull his head back, making him look up at me. His eyes are glassy, green glass without anything behind it - and I don't know if it is truly like that or if it is what he desperately wants everybody to believe.

"Have you heard, Potter?" I ask in a soft voice that can be heard in every corner of the hall. "You belong to me now."

I don't need his reply, these words are not for him. I reach to his face and carefully pluck off his plain round glasses. I see how his gaze loses its focus, becomes somewhat perplexed as he blinks and squints involuntarily. I tuck the glasses away into the pocket of my robe.

"Up." I pull by his hair, forcing him onto his feet. For a moment our bodies nearly touch - my black-clad and his naked: bare chest, and widely going ribs, and flat trembling belly, and soft cock dangling between his legs. His balls are pulled up, and it is the only sign of fear he can't hide.

I shove him forward, to the edge of the dais, and he stands there, not looking up.

I've done what I wasn't supposed to do.

My instructions were clear, and I have never disobeyed my orders before. Whatever was demanded of me, I delivered, my loyalty never questioned, my ability to serve never wavering. It wasn't easy, there were things that required every fraction of my will to fulfill them. And still I did it.

I would give my life away without hesitation if it were what Albus Dumbledore wanted from me.

But this one time, I defied him.

I remember Albus's words sounding in my mind, said only once but staying there indelibly. 'It is a difficult time, Severus, difficult for everyone. To win, we have to sacrifice, sometimes sacrifice the most precious for us. If you're prepared, my boy...'

I said I was prepared, and I thought I was. I have played my part best I could, for two and a half years. I did what I had to. Even when it included things that I don't want to remember, things I don't feel comfortable living with.

I live with them because it is what Albus wants from me - and I would do anything he wants.

But today as I stand in the Great Hall, looking at the boy kneeling at the feet of the Dark Lord, his head lowered, the little hunch of his shoulders as if there is some unbearable weight he has to carry - I can't do it.

I can't let him die.

There are so many things done to him, I don't think there is a way his body hasn't been used. I don't think there is something in his mind, or soul, whichever word you choose, that hasn't been touched, and pulled out, and twisted. His eyes are dull, with this blankness of extreme tiredness in them, and his lips are a pale, broken line, compressed so hard there is no color in them left. He looks as if he doesn't hear it when his fate is discussed, stakes made, proposals issued.

He looks as if he is too tired even to want to live.

But I can't let him die.

I know he'll die if it goes as it is supposed to. Perhaps not right away but it'll happen, in days or in months. Draco wants him - and Lucius probably has already promised him that, as the Headmaster. And Draco hates Potter, hates him with almost unexplainable fervor - and this hatred, combined with willfulness that borders on psychosis, is lethal. He's already gone too far before; the Granger girl, perhaps she provoked him herself, there was something badly broken in her, after her unsuccessful escape and Lupin. But still, it doesn't change the fact that it is Draco who did it - and that he can do it again.

And if the Dark Lord decides to keep Potter for himself... Well, it is even worse. I know what he does to his slaves when he gets tired of them.

Everyone dies, I know. I know I can die every day, should I make a mistake - and sometimes I think I can't be patient enough for it to happen. But for some reason the thought of the boy dying like that is something I don't feel I'm able to stand.

Whatever it is, he doesn't deserve to be tortured to death or wasted in a careless wand flick of the revengeful brat.

'I am aware of the circumstances, Severus.' Albus's words, from the last message of his, play in my mind again. 'I can't describe how the thought of relinquishing the boy aggravates me. But the situation demands it. In fact, it can bring the long-waited advance in our fight. Your task is to make sure Voldemort will choose Harry for himself. Convince him, if necessary.'

I was going to do it. I had my little speech prepared, intended to push the Dark Lord just slightly into the necessary direction, make him think it's his own idea. Anyway, I didn't think this push would be even needed.

But instead I stepped forward and claimed Potter for myself. And the Dark Lord has given him to me.

I don't know if it is because of my pensieve memories I've shown him - saying that I have a cause to hate Potter, want to take personal revenge on him for what his father had done to me. Or maybe the reason is that I almost never ask him for anything and he is glad to be able to indulge me in my rare weakness. He's said Potter is mine now. Or mine for now, since it is not unheard of the Dark Lord changing his decision.

At least for now - for now he won't die.

Even if I won't be able to spare him from anything else.

"Enjoy your prize, Severus," the Dark Lord says. "I hope you'll have a lot of fun with it. Perhaps it will even make you a less dismal person, you know."

I bow respectfully, muttering: "Thank you, my lord." The crowd chuckles and whispers in approval of the Dark Lord's attempt at joking; even Lucius carefully schools his features into respectful amusement. Draco still looks livid, though, casting angry glances at me.

He's already behaved as if Potter belonged to him, during last months. For a moment the memories flood me and I try to shake them away: of Draco and his circle of friends, bending Potter over the desk during the break, wrenching the damned dildo out of him and slamming it in. Potter's face is white and his lip is bitten bloody but he doesn't make a sound.

And I'm walking past them as if I don't notice anything.

Yes, I know I did what I had to - and I will keep doing it; in every situation I'll act as it is necessary for fulfilling my task.

But there is one thing I can't do.

I'm sorry, Albus, I can't.

"I apologize for getting something that apparently so many desired," I say, casting a look at Malfoys, my voice slightly derisive. "But I will try to find a way to recompense for this disappointment, believe me. May I offer a kind of a party presentation, my lord?"

He bites the corner of his mouth - a young, fresh mouth - as if hiding a smile, but I know the Dark Lord is pleased. I behave up to his expectations.

The main thing is not to allow myself to sway, even for a moment, no to allow myself to admit that I want to be anywhere but here, that I want us to be out of it, me and Potter. Just to leave, just to stop being here, not in the Great Hall full of people I have to please and play up to using his body and finding a place inside him where I still can hurt him.

Because it is what the Dark Lord wants me to do. It is the price for giving the boy to me.

Well, at least I know how to control the damage I inflict.

I pull a vial from my pocket, uncork it and bring it to Potter's lips.

"Drink it. Slave."

He's so trained to obey, the notion of what happens if he doesn't follow an order immediately beaten into him so deeply that he just opens his mouth and swallows, without hesitation.

Or maybe he thinks nothing can be done to him that will be worse than what he's already been through.

He's wrong, of course.

It takes a few moments for the potion to take effect - and then his eyes fly open, a bewildered, confused expression in them. He doesn't shift but his hands clench in fists at his sides. I see everyone's eyes directed at him, at his cock hardening quickly. The mask of blankness on his face breaks just for a second, a ripple of mortification flitting on it. I see his leg muscles strain, his buttocks draw in as he clenches around the dildo, seeking an unexpected source of pleasure inside him.

I know it'll only take minutes before the building enjoyment will be replaced with insatiable need... and a lot more time before he'll understand that nothing will satisfy it, no matter how many and how hard will thrust into him.

"Little slut," the Dark Lord says, laughing.

I touch Potter's back, pushing him to the table. His skin is hot, and I can feel his muscles vibrate thinly. His lip is bitten very hard now and it's probably the only thing that keeps him from gasping.

And only understanding that he will be punished within an inch of his life keeps him from touching himself.

"On. Onto your back." I point at the table.

He crawls up. His ribcage is rising wildly, and his face, pale but with burning cheeks, has a strange resigned and anguished expression. He looks like someone prepared for a surgery - but surgery made in full consciousness. I touch his knee slightly and he spreads his legs apart, as he's done so many times.

The sight is obscene, his buttocks drawn apart with the wide handle of the dildo, and his hips already start a small dance of impatience as he thrusts forward a little - inviting, begging. I pull the dildo out, and he gasps, a great, shuddering inhale, as if I hurt him - and yes, I suppose it hurts. Being empty in his state hurts.

His anus doesn't quite close, purple and quivering, stretched widely.

"Let's wait for a few moments," I say to those around me - to my 'colleagues'.

They look intrigued, their eyes greedy but I don't let myself give in to the disgust. I don't think I'm even entitled to this emotion, taking into account what I did, what I'm doing. I look at Potter and see how the movements of his hips become more pronounced, his squirming more excruciating. There are trickles of sweat on his temples. I touch his anus with the tips of my fingers, and it clamps eagerly, trying to catch them.

I hear someone laughing.

I know how the potion works through his body, can see how his belly muscles tighten, how his nipples become hard and bright pink. The need doesn't settle just in his bottom belly but spreads all through him.

"Potter," I say. "What do you want?"

I have heard him so many times, begging to be fucked - stuffed - filled - plugged, the words falling from his lips without interruption, most obscene of them. But perhaps he had never wanted it so much as now.

And that's why he doesn't answer.

"Tell me what you want," I say.

I need it to proceed, for it to be over sooner - I don't have strength to deal with his newly acquired stubbornness. Another potion trickles on my fingers, slick one, as I shove them into him, finding his prostate, massaging it in.

His body arches when he feels it, and his eyes go enormous and black - and I know it's cruel but at least it'll break him for sure.

It does. Less than two minutes later he's sobbing and babbling, squirming on the table, his legs struggling to drive together but he doesn't dare to do it.

"Please, please, sir, do something... please let me touch myself... please touch me... please, please fuck me..."

"My lord," I say stepping aside. "Just one moment, he's so stretched he won't be fun for you."

"Oh, Severus." He looks slightly remorseful but I see he's pleased. "You're very generous. Aren't you going to use him yourself?"

"I'll have enough time for it, my lord." I bow my head. They know I'm more interested in slimy things in jars than in adolescent bodies. Of course, I can perform when necessary - there are spells for it, as well as spells for lasting longer, and every one of male 'teachers' at Hogwarts use them. But my reputation for being mostly celibate by choice lets me skip this kind of arrangements.

I flick my wand, and Potter's anus ring contracts sharply, shrinking to almost normal size, finally reminding an untouched entering. This forced contraction must hurt, he bucks slightly and gasps - but then his legs open wider, even as he looks with despair as the Dark Lord sets himself between his thighs.

The Dark Lord thrusts in, and Potter's head falls back, his throat moving convulsively as he stifles a shriek.

"Almost virginal again," the Dark Lord says. "Remind me this spell later, Severus, I might want to use it more often."

I bet you will.

His hips work, pulling out and slamming in again. I see his long fingernails, polished to glittering and sharpened, enter the boy's thighs. And Potter doesn't seem to notice it, he thrusts back towards the cock slamming into him, his mouth half-open, incoherent cries escaping him.

I watch him as he shoves himself onto the cock of the man who murdered his parents and I tell myself I'm dong it for him.

I'm doing it not to let him die.

When did it become important for me? That time, when I plunged into his body, side by side with the Dark Lord - after he'd come to my rooms and begged me, saying he'd do anything, anything - that time I still didn't care. I had my orders from Albus, my responsibilities - and the boy with his awful timing threatened to ruin everything.

But in the middle of those two and half years as he stayed at Hogwarts, as a fucktoy for every Death Eater who fancied using his body - I've come to care. It just happened too late - it happened when his eyes already became empty and dull.

But it doesn't matter. I don't need Potter's devotion. What I need - what I feel I can't relinquish, despite Albus's theories and commands - is his life.

I look at the Dark Lord leaning over the boy, a strand of his beautiful wavy hair falling onto Potter's face - and I wonder once again whether Albus is right in his conclusions.

He said there is a prophecy: that they, Potter and the Dark Lord, are tied together. And being next to Potter, to his chosen enemy, shifts something in the Dark Lord. It makes him weaker; drains out his power, channeling it into this hatred and evaporating it. Every time he touches the boy, a part of the Dark Lord's strength goes away. He doesn't know it, but he feels addicted, feels compulsion to return again and again.

'Is it not a fair exchange?' I recall Albus's voice asking me. 'Life of one child - even of several children - for the safety of thousands. Harry will keep him from taking over the world.' And: 'It's just a temporary measure, Severus. Just while we gather our forces.'

I remember that day in November, Hogsmeade weekend, when we let Hogwarts fall. Just a few teachers and youngest students stayed there, so when the Death Eaters attacked, it was easy. And when other students returned to school, they were already anticipated.


The teachers who fought were executed, and those who were spared were put in those cells down there. And I took my place among my new 'colleagues'.

And the *fun* started.

They all are crazy, I think sometimes, those who 'teach' here now. You wouldn't believe them to jump at a chance like that. I bet they imagine they rule the whole world by ruling the school. But most of them are fresh from Azkaban, and I don't believe they left the prison with their brains intact.

Well, apart from Malfoys, that is. Malfoys are an entirely different thing all together.

Besides, the Dark Lord can always make people do what he wants from them. And if he wants them at Hogwarts, 'teaching'... He's probably not quite sane either, true, at least as far as Potter is concerned.

I recall Albus's words. 'Is it better if hundreds die in a battle than if one gives away his or her life?'

Was it what he said to Granger's parents? Or did he never inform them that she died?

And now Albus thinks that if the Dark Lord completes it - if he brings his twisted connection with Potter to conclusion, by *killing him* - he will be ruined. He will be weak enough just to come and take him.

And the Order won't suffer unnecessary losses. And the victory will be ours.

I hadn't questioned Albus's wisdom before. But just this once - maybe the most important time of all - I wonder if he is wrong. What if the prophecy is wrong? What if the boy's death gives us nothing? What if he dies in vain?

But the most chilling thing is that in a way I know: even if Albus is right, and the prophecy is true, I still would do what I've done. I don't want Potter to die.

I can watch him being taken by the entire male staff of Hogwarts but I can't let him die.

And when the Dark Lord ejaculates, I invite others take his place - until Potter is raw and bleeding, and can't stop crying with every thrust of another cock - tenth? twelfth? - that enters him. But still it doesn't help, and he needs more, and opens for them, and his body accepts and accepts every one who invades him.

* * *

When they're all done, the Dark Lord leaves, and a slow fall of his eyelashes lets me know he's satisfied with me.

"Now, gentlemen, let's have Severus enjoy his trophy, it's high time for it."

Having his permission - validated - I walk up to Potter as others filter out of the Great Hall. Draco still looks resentfully at me, even though he's had his fun with Potter.

The boy lies on the table, his legs thrown wide apart, come and blood leaking from his outstretched hole - no one cares if they tear him any more - and his chest is heaving in desperate, spasmodic sobs.

He is still hard.

"Mobilicorpus," I say.

His body jerks up, arms and legs twitching, as I levitate him with me. He looks mortified and helpless, being moved like that while being conscious. But I don't think he can walk - and I don't have a reason to spare his dignity... not that there is anything to spare.

In my quarters, I let him go, and he collapses on the floor, shuddering and panting. His hips move convulsively, thrusting forward, his thighs opening again. He looks exhausted, moving like a marionette, unable to stop. His cock is swollen and almost blue, very painful - they had rubbed it, in a parody of trying to bring him off. But of course it was impossible.

I walk to the chest of drawers, take a vial and bring it to him, push it under his nose.


He shivers and looks up at me, his myopic eyes look haunted, filled with such terror that I frown. He clenches his teeth and shakes his head, trying to pull his knees closer to his chest, rocking, crying almost like an animal.

"Stop it, Potter. Drink it, it's an antidote. It will put an end..."

I see he doesn't understand me. And talking to him only prolongs it.

Merlin knows I don't want to do it. I don't want to start with it. But haven't I already started with much worse things?

I grab his shoulder, and he keens and tries to break free. I wrestle him down on the floor, pinning his arms under him, pressing his shoulders down with my knees. He bucks under me wildly, all his control snapping as he cries incoherently through the clenched teeth. His body is hot and bony under me, and he doesn't have enough strength to push me off.

I capture his face and pinch his nose, until he gasps, once. But I'm ready, sticking the neck of the vial between his teeth and pouring its content into his mouth.

He chokes and coughs, thrashing, but some of it slides down his throat.

I keep holding him - and then I feel his body clench, going rigid in one great spasm. It continues for a few seconds, half a minute maybe, and then Potter slackens under me, limp and unresisting.

I get away from him, refusing to think how his body felt as I straddled him. There are things I have to do and will have to do. But *taking pleasure* in it is different. I swear by my own life I will not allow it.

He lies flat on the floor, gasping like a fish thrown on the shore. He looks so exhausted. The hideous purple erection of his went down.

"Better?" I ask. He doesn't say anything; I don't even know if he hears me. "Potter," I say, "I want you to take a bath."

He doesn't react at my words in any way, and I don't know why I feel like talking to him. He must be used to things simply being done to him.


He shivers as he's raised up and moved. I put him to the tub; the water starts, spattering his body in a warm shower.

He huddles in the distant end of the tub, as if water hurts him, hugging his knees and burying his face against them. After a while I understand that he won't move - and somehow I don't want to order him to. I take the shower from the hook and run the water over him.

"It isn't too hot," I say sensibly, "is it?"

It seems my words start penetrating his mind. His head jerks a little bit, even if he still doesn't look at me. But his voice when it comes is almost normal, almost controlled; could deceive me if I didn't know better.

"No. Sir," he says.

He unwraps with a visible effort, whether because all his body hurts or because it is how he wants to stay, curled in a tight ball. He reaches for the shower, and I relinquish it to him. His hand trembles so badly it falls.

I pick it up again.

"Get on your knees," I say, "and move your legs apart."

I need to wash their come out of him. Potter's face doesn't change as I do it. He probably feels no shame about it any more. I'm stupid to get so angry about it. Especially taking into account that I'm the one who's orchestrated the whole thing.

I wonder if he thinks about my words, of my wish to take revenge on him for what his father had done to me - if he even registered me talking about it. There is an empty, withdrawn expression on his face, his eyes blinking owlishly.

I turn off the water. Potter kneels in the tub, water swirling around his ankles. There is still something pink there, he still bleeds. I think about raising him by his arm but he has a ring of bruises around his upper arms, as everyone jerk him back and forth.

"Can you stand up?" I ask. He nods and gets onto his feet. Water runs from his limp, wet hair.

I hand him a big towel, and for a moment he looks at it as if he does not know what I want from him. Then he wraps it around himself. He shivers; the water was warm enough but he still shivers.

"Come with me."

He walks, slowly, to the bedroom. His eyes don't change as he sees the bed.

"Sit down," I say. Is there anything he won't do if I order? Will he ever disobey me? There is so much broken in him... but for what is whole in him, for what I hope is whole - I do it for that.

He sits on the bed, his feet on the floor. I walk back to the sitting room and return with three vials and a glass of water.

"Drink those. Red first."

I can see his fear. He'll probably never take another potion without this fear. His hand trembles as he reaches to the first vial.

"For Merlin's sake, Potter," I say. "It's just a painkiller, a healing potion and a soporific."

Almost incredibly, there is a ghost of a smirk on his lips, a grimace that has nothing of humor in it. His voice sounds dull as he says:

"So, you want me not to be in pain, to heal and to sleep well. Sir."

The way he adds this 'sir' is almost an insult in itself - and a few years ago I would go irate with hearing it. But now I almost feel glad to hear it. Could I ever imagine I would be happy to see Potter still being his insolent self?

"Drink it."

His face distorts as he swallows the healing potion. I point at the glass of water, and he gulps it. The last vial, and I point at the pillows with my chin.

The soporific kicks in immediately. I see Potter's eyelids become heavy and tremble in effort of trying to stay open. His face looks more childish than ever at this moment, and I clench my teeth.

"Under the blankets. Now."

He obeys me, more because he doesn't have any strength left to resist, I think - slips down on his back, and his eyelids don't rise any more.

His face of a very young man, one-day stubble covering it, is very pale and very tired, lips compressed in a small, tragic curve.

I pull the blanket over him and make the light dimmer. The potion will keep him asleep till the morning.

In the bathroom I grip the sink tightly, feeling tiredness flood me suddenly, making my knees weak. I hold on and wait until the black shadows stop flitting in front of my eyes and I can see my dark, dour reflection again.

You know what you've got yourself into, Severus, I ask myself. You betrayed Albus's trust. You decided it'd be a good idea to play against the Dark Lord on your own. And what's more, from now on it will be you who'll have to take responsibility for everything that is done to Potter.

You'll have to hurt him - if you want to protect him. Can you handle it?

And then I think about that day when he stands in my classroom, naked - he hasn't been allowed to wear clothes for months by now - and trickles of yellow-brown run over his legs. Because Crabbe and Goyle had him for a detention the day before, and his anus doesn't close any more, after what they had done to him, using him two at once, no doubt, the entertainment that became popular after the Dark Lord set this fashion.

And Zabini laughs, and Weasley looks mortified, and I can do nothing, just look as pleased as all Slytherins are.

And later Lucius shoves this dildo into him, allegedly in order to prevent such things from happening in future.

Damage control. That I can do. And this thought makes me not regret my decision.

I wash my face and walk to the bedroom and slide under the blanket on the other side of the bed.

* * *

I wake up with a jolt. It's too early but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Potter is in my bed, awake and very quiet, and this quietness disturbs me most of all. When did he wake up? The soporific should have made him sleep for a while longer. But he's probably too wound up. And since I don't think we'll get any more sleep, I shift and get out of the bed, putting on my bathrobe quickly, not looking at him.

I order the house-elves to bring breakfast, and by the time I'm out of the bathroom, dressed, the tray is there, big and laden.

The school year is over; there is no reason for Potter to appear in the Great Hall for breakfast, I tell myself. Unless I'm ordered to bring him, that is.

"Stop pretending, Potter. Sit up and have breakfast."

I send the tray onto the bed as he obeys. There is a mulish expression on his face as he mutters something about not being hungry.

"Eat, Potter." My voice is cold enough to dispel his idea of talking back to me. I watch him pour a cup of coffee and start chewing on a toast listlessly. "Potter."

He looks up at me, a mere glance. His face without the glasses looks unprotected, strangely vulnerable. I don't think he can see the expression on my face.

"I want you to listen to me carefully," I say in a harsh, clipped voice, clenching my hands behind my back. He doesn't see how I wrench my fingers there. "You were given to me."

"I know," he mutters.

I should slap him, for interrupting me - to show him his place. But somehow I can't bring myself to do it.

"If you disobey me or cross me, I will punish you," I say. "I will also punish you no less frequently than once in three days, regardless of your behavior." Because it is expected of me. Because I will have to appear in public with you, and you will have to be well marked for it. I don't say that aloud, of course. As an explanation I add instead: "To keep you in line. You will have to provide services of the certain nature at the request of my colleagues and at my decision. And you are expected to perform the said services for me, in public and in private. Is it clear?"

To put it bluntly, I will beat him, and I will let others rape him, and I will rape him myself. It's the only promises I can make. Everything else is uncertain.

In the beginning, I believed that if I decided very firmly not to do something, I could keep to it - and it would give me at least an illusion of sanity, illusion of control. Like, for example, not to touch students in a sexual manner. I couldn't prevent others from doing it - but they were my *students*, they were *children*, for Merlin's sake. Even though Albus said I could do anything I had to, in order to carry on my duties.

Well... you know what happens to good intentions.

"Yes," Potter says indifferently.

Right. What's new for him about it?

"You can be dressed while you're inside my quarters," I say. "I've sent for your things." Nothing changes in his face as he continues gnawing on the toast. I see steady rise and fall of his abdomen half-covered with the blanket.

"Naturally, if someone visits or if we go out, you'll have to stay naked. I'm keeping your wand," I say, "I assume you realize it."

While he still was a student, he was allowed to do some magic - very little of it, of course. But not any more. Slaves are not allowed wands.

His eyelashes that look as if they are drawn in ink fall down slowly and rise a little.

"You can sleep on the sofa in the sitting room," I continue. "If you want to."

For the first time there is something like curiosity reflecting in his face. Well, I'm not much into sharing my bed with anyone. Have never done it in my life, in fact. Sleep makes a person vulnerable.

I pace around the room some more.

"You can read while I'm not here. The books on the bottom bookshelves. If I find out that you touched the ones on the higher shelves or anything else in the sitting room - and I will find out - I'll break your fingers."

He keeps looking at his cup.

"Dinner is at two for you, supper is at seven. House-elves will bring it. And you'll eat," I say with emphasis. I don't need him having eating disorders, don't need any more problems on my hands. "Clear?"

"Yes," he whispers.

It probably covers everything. Apart from me wanting to say something more.

I won't hurt you, I want to say. But it's a lie, and he knows it as well as I do. I will hurt him, hurt him very badly, as I already have done and worse.

I'm doing it to save you, I want to say. But he never asked me for it.

And I can't say any more all the same. I'm not sure if the room isn't overheard. Yes, I'm paranoid - but it's what keeps me alive. Everyone knows how suspicious the Dark Lord is - or how much Lucius enjoys knowing everything about his 'employees'. And all those house-elves around. I check my quarters twice a week but I still can't be sure.

Potter raises his head and looks at my direction, a thoughtful expression on his face.

"Can I have my glasses back?" he asks. "Sir."

Yes. Yes, of course. I sigh and put them on the nightstand at his side of the bed. He doesn't take them until I leave the room - probably doesn't want to touch them while they keep the warmth of my fingers.

* * *

I start brewing the Obliviating potion today. It should be ready by tomorrow, by the time the students will be leaving the school for vacations.

In the beginning, the idea was to Obliviate them using a spell - that is, those of them who were not our kind ready to join the Death Eaters once the school is over. But it took too much effort to cast spells on everyone - and 'teachers' got tired. So, I came up with the recipe. It works perfectly, even milder than the spell, just repressing a certain set of memories. The wide world shouldn't know everything what happens here, the Dark Lord says.

And indeed, with the very edited version of the events that the students bring to their families, everything is not so bad. Hogwarts is still a wizard school, children are getting *educated* here… under the supervision of a very respected Lucius Malfoy; and what is the difference who other teachers are? Lestranges, Avery, Nott - old-blood families.

And Severus Snape among them.

I wonder if Albus knows about the potion - about what it covers. He's not a fool, he must know.

But it is a *sacrifice*.

Not everyone is going home tomorrow. Of course, Potter doesn't. And others. We keep only those who are safe to keep. Like Muggle-borns - I don't know what their parents think when they don't come back. Probably they look for them - but how can a Muggle reach Hogwarts? And if they apply to authorities... the Dark Lord says they'll be considered simply insane.

We also keep those who has no one to stand by them. Like Neville Longbottom whose grandmother died two years ago. On the last meeting we discussed whether to keep him. I said I couldn't bear to continue seeing his face. But Bellatrix said it would be amusing if the son of Frank and Alice had to end up as a slave to a Death Eater - so, his fate was sealed.

I wonder what they say to the parents of those who died. An accident? Accidents happen in Hogwarts, all the time. If Black succeeded in his plan, with the Shrieking Shack, it would be what my parents would get, just a letter with apologies.

And we keep those whose families opposed the Dark Lord. When a child from such a family doesn't come back after his or her 'education' - it's probably what everyone thinks, that the family shouldn't have been rebellious.

Is it what the Weasleys think? Neither of their youngest children returned home for vacations for all this time.

And today, in the Great Hall, it's Ron Weasley standing on the dais, his jaw set tightly, his fists clenched.

It is quite a surprise for me when Pettigrew puts a claim on him. Weasley isn't especially handsome, and the novelty of cross-dressing him and forcing him to wear make-up has worn off a long time ago. I thought he could end up in a brothel somewhere in London, for the use of the lowest rank Death Eaters.

But Wormtail says he wants him, 'as a memory of being his pet, isn't it ironic that now he's going to be mine', as he puts it in his high, almost feminine voice, his hands twitching nervously, picking invisible specks of dust from his robe. The Dark Lord favors him, so Pettigrew gets what he wants.

And Draco gets Longbottom - as a compensation for not getting Potter, I believe. I look how he yanks Longbottom roughly, twisting his hair, splitting his lips with the first blow of his ringed hand.

Longbottom will have to pay for my deal about Potter. It isn't fair, I know.

Life isn't fair.

* * *

He is curled on the sofa when I return, one of the cushions under his head. There is a book in his hands, some simple edition on potions - but he doesn't read. He wakes up when I enter and sits, rubbing his face. The shackle of the glasses left a red trace on his cheek.

I look at him and take a breath as if I want to say something, and then say nothing. There is just too much I want to say.

There is a cup with weak tea on the table, so, I suppose he's eaten. I walk past him to my room.

He doesn't ask me. He doesn't ask me what happened to Weasley, to others. He has to know their fate has been decided today. He probably thinks I won't answer anyway or will lie. That's right, he has no reason to expect otherwise.

He's learned the lesson well - showing your soft spot only lets others aim well and hit in it.

But it still makes me feel vaguely unhappy, and the rest of the evening passes in silence, just with the rustle of the pages coming from his room and me trying to pretend that I read. He doesn't ask. I know he needs to know but he doesn't ask.

I scribble a few words finally and walk into his room, put the scrap of paper onto the book he reads. If someone is eavesdropping, they will hear nothing. It's better to be careful.

He looks at the paper for a few seconds - long enough, to my mind, to be able to read 'Pettigrew - Weasley, D. Malfoy - Longbottom, Avery - Thomas'. Then I take it, crumple and 'Incendio' while it drops on the floor.

Potter doesn't look up from his book as I walk back to my room, and I don't even know if he's realized what I've done, if it meant anything for him at all. Why do I want it to mean something? I don't care what Potter thinks about me.

I'm just doing it because... I don't know why I'm doing it.

* * *

We don't talk. I give him orders, and he nods, or says: 'Yes, sir.' He answers when I ask him questions, whether he's eaten, does he need another blanket - it gets cold at night in the dungeons.

He's asked me two or three questions as well - where to put his things in the bathroom. Is he allowed to read a book from the *lower* upper shelf. When I lashed him, he asked whether he should keep a book on his head and count. I said 'no' for the book and 'no' for counting.

He stands very straight and still under the lashing, his shoulders driven back. I know the count so well I don't need someone else to count aloud. It's already held in the memory of the movements of my hand. Exactly enough lashes to cover his body in the intricate ornament of pink and red welts.

I leave a small vial on the table, with the potion that won't make the welts heal but will take off the pain. Potter takes it without a word.

At night, the doors between our rooms isn't closed - and I hear him breathe, sometimes louder than normal. And sometimes he moans a little and grits his teeth tossing and turning in bed. I lie and listen to him, and I think about the day the students queued in the Great Hall, taking their dose of the Obliviating potion, most of them quiet and submissive, some eager going home, very few crying - I wonder if it were those whose friends had to stay.

And then this Ravenclaw girl, Lovegood, her eyes that usually have that spacey expression in them look unexpectedly sharp for a moment. And as she walks away from the table, I see her mouth working as she tries not to swallow. She raises her hand as if to wipe her mouth - and spits onto her sleeve carefully.

I can make her come back and take another dose, and make sure she drinks it. But I don't.

Maybe it will change something. If Albus doesn't want or can't change anything - maybe I can hope someone else will.

* * *

'Dumbledore is alive.'

Harry watches me as I write these words on a scrap of parchment. I don't know why I choose exactly that to say. Because it is important? Because it is the most important thing for me? Because it is the reason and justification for everything I do?

I destroy the bit of the paper immediately after he reads it. I was worried he wouldn't be able to control himself. But if I expected any reaction, I was wrong.

He raises his face to me, his eyes apple green and cold, and mouths soundlessly, listlessly: "Oh."

Perhaps he hasn't understood, I think, and write some more. 'He's free. He knows what happens.'

Potter's dark eyelashes fall for a moment as he reads it, and then he looks up again. He reaches his hand, and I give him the quill.

'So what?'

What? I thought - wouldn't he be glad to know that the Dark Lord lied, that Albus isn't captured, isn't tortured daily as the Dark Lord likes to tell?

'We just have to wait.'

I repeat Albus's favorite phrase, even though it doesn't sound convincing to me any more.

'Wait for what?'

'A. thinks you can destroy the D V.'

He looks at me - and there is no joy but only some disgust in his eyes. Then he writes quickly. 'For some of us it's too late.' The quill slips, leaving a torn wound on the paper.

I know whom he means. Hermione Granger.

'It's too late for all of us,' I write back and stare at him coldly. At least I don't repeat Albus's words about having to sacrifice something. That's true, we all are already sacrificed - and have to accept it.

His shoulders slump a little as he looks past me, at the corner of the room.

I wish it could be different - I wish I could say something else, say the right thing. But how can I do it? 'Forgive me for raping you'? Forgive me for setting you up for your worst enemy? For brewing the potions that hurt, humiliate and destroy you and your friends? I can't say that. I can't beg for forgiveness.

And I can't touch him. Perhaps there is a way to touch that can make it better. But I don't know how to do it. I know how to touch to hurt and break - but not how to console. I can't even squeeze his shoulder - he would shrink away from me if I did.

I walk to the other room and leave him alone.

Perhaps it would be different if I could tell myself with all honesty that this touch would be just for his sake.

But how can I say it? There is nothing pure in what I feel to him.

How can I lie saying that I don't want him? That I didn't want him then, when his mouth, hot, wet and tender, not because he tried to be tender but because it's how he is, slid down along my shaft? When the hot walls of his rectum clung to my thrusting cock.

When we fucked him together; the Dark Lord and I, the person whom he hated most of all in his life, the murderer of his parents, and someone who he had the folly to trust, even for a moment, erroneously.

Do you know what I can't forgive myself for? That I let the Dark Lord use that lubricant on him. It didn't come to my mind at that moment but later I knew so clearly I could replace the jar and use a simple one, without aftereffects. The Dark Lord would never know anyway, would he?

And recently, in the Great Hall, when I watch them fucking him, and laughing at his misery, at his body thrusting towards them involuntarily -I wanted him as well. I didn't touch him then, I didn't have to, giving him away to everyone else was enough to please the Dark Lord. But I wanted him.

I want him. I want him all - with his thin body, his ribs visible under the smooth skin, contoured sharply when he raises his arms. With the wisps of black hair in his armpits and in his groin. With his warm, round balls covered in soft dark down. With his cock pale purple and wrinkled when soft and smooth and long when erect. With his anus stretched open so many times - I would like to caress it with my tongue until he would lean back and close his eyes, and tension would drain out of his body. I want to kiss his arms, all the length of them, and blue lines of the veins on them, and the contours of sinews.

I want him with his washed off underwear and ratty t-shirts, with mint toothpaste and slightly bitter aftershave potion. I want to kiss the line of his jaw and his eyelids - if he keeps his eyes closed for me, unguarded. I want to catch his breath from his lips.

But I would never do it. I would never hold his face in my palms.

You don't kiss someone you raped with someone else at once. It'd be blasphemy.

* * *

I bring the cup of coffee to my lips, and there it is, a gaudy wrapped candy on the saucer. For a moment I stare at it as if my sheer will can make it go away. I've never known how Albus manages to slip his messages to me; perhaps there is a house-elf who's still loyal to him. Or there are ways I have no idea about - and it is better that I don't; what I don't know, I won't give away, in case.

Very deliberately I take the candy that looks absurd in my potion-stained fingers and unwrap it.

My body goes rigid as the silent message, the invention of Albus, starts sounding in my mind. It would be too dangerous to send something tangible to me, something that either that can be read or eavesdropped. So we keyed my mind to accept his messages. Normally they're just informative ones; apart from this one.

This one is a Howler.

The voice is huge, tearing into my mind - I almost forgot how terrifying Albus could sound when angered.

'You have broken the instructions, Severus. I am very disappointed. *Immediately* give Harry Potter back to Voldemort. We have to proceed with our initial plan. Do you understand? Tell Voldemort you got tired of him. Immediately relinquish him. Don't make me take any measures we both will find regrettable.'

The voice disappears, but for a while longer it still echoes in my mind - in my skull that feels hollow and aching. My fingers twitch, sticking into the edge of the table, and I try to stop it, and it takes an unexpected effort to do so.

"What is it?"

I cringe at another intrusion into my privacy and turn around. Potter stands in the door, clean-shaven, his hair slightly wet from morning washing. Damn, he is perceptive - I am pretty sure I haven't made a sound. It's probably my very strained pose that alerted him.

I don't have to tell him. In fact, I can slap him for asking me a question like this, in such a tone.

But Albus's words jar so badly.

And it is the first time Potter has talked to me, shown any interest.

He shrugs, takes the quill and writes quickly.

'Is it Dumbledore?' There is cold derision in his face that I haven't seen before. I nod. 'Telling us we should wait some more?' He looks as if he wants to fling this paper at me - and then he says aloud, in a voice brittle with irony. "Yes, why not? We'll wait. You can even get another slave once you get tired of me. Sir."

"Watch your mouth," I say.

"Or what?" he asks bitterly. "Or you'll give me back to Voldemort?"

He doesn't know how right he is. And this, as much as his using this name, makes me flinch, and I suppress this outward sign instinctively. Potter stares at me, his fist clasped on the paper.

How can I do what Albus wants me to do? I had never disobeyed him before, never since coming back to him seventeen years ago. I *wanted* every task he gave me, the more difficult they were the better. But this time...

I feel so lonely suddenly. It's like I've never been alone, for all those years - because I always felt Albus behind me. And now I don't have the right to feel it any more.

Despair and self-hatred make me write what I'm not supposed to. About what Albus thinks and what he wants me to do.

I see the boy's face freeze, any expression wiped from it. For a few moments he just stares at the paper.

'So, he wants me to go back to Tom.'

Tom? In some way, it's even worse than the Dark Lord's name. I don't answer. Potter rubs the back of his palm on his forehead, as if having a headache. He picks the quill again.

'He thinks if V. kills me, he will be done with. But why?'

'It's Albus's ideas. He says there is a prophecy. Something about innocence and martyrdom.'

His lips quirk at the word 'innocence', and suddenly I feel compelled to defend Albus, to prove it's all not that flimsy.

'There is sense in it. Every time the Dark Lord engages into a contact with you, he loses some part of his strength. He doesn't realize it but he gets addicted.'

To you. I leave it unsaid. To raping you. To torturing you. Oh Merlin, and I'm addicted to you, too.

I can't let you die.

Potter looks at me and his eyes are like cold green glass.

'Then why did you claim me as your slave?'

I can't answer it; I will not.

"At least you live," I say. His face distorts, in such fury that feels like a push in the chest; but his voice when he speaks is so quiet I barely hear it.

"Do you think you've done me a favor with it?"

I refuse to think about it. I won't answer him.

'Do you think I wouldn't trade this *existence* any day for the chance to kill him? How dared you rob me of it?'

He looks as if he wants to strike me. I know I can stop it, I can stand up and intimidate him. He's in my full power, I can punish him for any disrespect he shows.

"Give me back to Voldemort," he says and adds, after a pause. "Sir."

Logic is the only thing I cling to. I take the quill and write, slowly now.

'You're a fool. You overlook things.'

"Yeah? Like what?"

'Imagine that Albus's computations are correct. Imagine you'll even be able to bring the Dark Lord down, at the price of your own life.' Only I can't allow it. 'But there is still Malfoy. There are Death Eaters. What do you think they will do to your friends if their Lord dies through the fault of yours? Imagine what they'll do to Weasley. To Longbottom. To Thomas. To the Weasley girl. To Lupin.'

I see my words penetrate his mind, and feel relief. Yes right; I should've never let him know at all, I should've guessed he would want to sacrifice himself. The usual Gryffindor thing. But now he'll probably leave this idea.

His mouth twitches as he looks at me, and there is nothing but coldness in his eyes. He bites the corner of his lip and says:

"You just don't want him to die. Don't slip me this shit about worrying for my friends."

* * *

He stands with his hands clasped on the back of his head, not swaying under the lashes that I lay on his body. There is a distant, introspective expression on his face, as if the pain doesn't concerns him, as if it is done to someone else.

I don't count the blows, and neither does he. We just do it till the ornament of swollen welts on his body looks pretty enough.

What happened to my rules? Shot down the drain, I suppose. I've never been so weak before, I always relied on something, something that had to help me go on. But since he's here, it is not enough. My hand is numb, clenching the lash. He never looks at my face, even when I tell him to turn and then I whip him on his chest and belly. He flinches just once, when the lash cuts across his groin, over his limp cock.

I put the lash away. He dons his boxers and his robe in silence. His underwear is so worn it'll fall apart under his hands one day. But I'm not supposed to buy him clothes, am I? The thought makes me chuckle mirthlessly.

He lies down on his side on the sofa after that, face to the wall. Only when I'm almost at the door, I hear his voice, and want him to shut up immediately.

"Give me back to Voldemort," he says. "Or I'll..."

"What?" That's something new, he hasn't threatened me before, hasn't said anything like that. I walk up to him swiftly and whisper, so softly that I hope it can't be overheard. "Or you'll give me away? Reveal my contacts with..."

Between the damned boy's insistence and the memory of Albus's Howler, I feel trapped. They push me in the same direction, and sometimes I feel I almost can't resist. What if Albus is right and the boy's sacrifice will end everything? Do I have the right to decide the fate of the wizard world, just because... just because I can't bear the thought that there won't be his sleepy breath at night that I can hear from my room?

Albus hasn't sent me any messages since the last one, and his silence is ominous. I wonder if the measures he would have to take are the same as Potter thinks about. To give me away - and then Potter would be free to go back to the Dark Lord. I know Albus is up to doing it. Purpose justifies the means.

Potter doesn't shift.

"Leave this idea," I say. "You don't know what he'll do to you if he gets you. He'll kill you in such a way you'll be begging for death."

My hands wring each other, and I'm happy he can't see it.

"But it will end," he says loudly - and I walk out, slamming the door shut after me.

* * *

He's asleep when I come back from my laboratory, in the small hours. The sofa is too short and uncomfortable; in the dim light of the tip of my wand I see him toss and turn as I walk past him quietly enough not to wake him up.

His breath breaks. It isn't refreshing sleep, and as he thrashes again I can see his face is slick with sweat, strands of hair clinging to his forehead, the scar crimson. He breathes, shallow and odd, and I freeze.

"No," he says. "Please no."

I stop still. How many times did he say these words? We never listened to him. *I* never listened to him. He clenches his arms to his chest in a convulsive movement, and his body starts jerking, in shudders so huge he's nearly thrown off the sofa. His face is like a mask, distorted in suffering. He talks again, his voice acquiring panicky, hiccuping note.

"Please no. Please don't. Hagrid..."

I feel my skull freeze, the very clear feeling of my hair stand on its ends. I wish I didn't know what he could be dreaming about. I wish I could forget it.

I just hope he doesn't remember it all the time. There are things that memory ousts, in the act of self-preservation. I hope these things don't torment him while he's awake. They just come when he sleeps.

It's the pensieve memories Lucius showed me - Draco's seventeenth birthday, in April last year. His birthday present.

Potter is spread on the table in the Headmaster's office, his wrists chained wide apart and his legs hanging slackly. His body is covered in welts, pink and swollen, some of them as thick as two fingers. He's already been raped, come leaks from his unclosing, gaping opening with every clenching spasm of his abdomen.

Lucius stands at the high window looking at the soft, lilac dusk behind it.

The door opens, and Potter struggles to raise his head, feebly, opens his tightly shut eyes. He has his glasses on - Lucius and Draco always leave his glasses on, so that he can see who takes him.

The figure that walks in is huge and bulky, much bigger than a normal man is. The tangled black beard lies on the enormously wide chest.

I can see joy flash in Harry's eyes, tremendous hope filling them for a moment. He thought Hagrid was dead, it's what the Dark Lord told him. And then he frowns.

Hagrid's face is anything but amiable and kind. There is something undeniably malicious in his bearing, in his dark eyes, as he comes up to Harry and stands between his legs.

There is no sound breaking from Harry's lips - as little as there is intact in him, his pride is one of those things. He doesn't call Hagrid's name, doesn't ask anything - but his eyes are so intent, so desperate in the obvious effort to understand, to figure out what happens.

The half-giant smiles. It is a smile that no one has seen on Hagrid's face before and it mutates his features in a scary, monstrous mask. He grabs Harry's legs and pulls them apart.

The boy shudders - the grip is so brutal, his legs pulled too far apart, almost enough to tear the ligaments - but the concentration in his eyes never breaks. I wonder what he tries to read in the half-giant's face, what he tries to hope for. And then I know. He thinks Hagrid is under 'Imperius'. He hopes it isn't Hagrid who's doing it but someone who commands him.

Harry's body is yanked closer to the edge of the table, nearly wringing his chained wrists out. His legs are so wide apart that the pain of being spread like this alone must be enough to make one cry out. Potter endures pain so very well - or maybe his perception is just blunted.

He's silent; just his lips go white and his face becomes waxen. Hagrid keeps holding one of his ankles, while opening his pants with his other hand.

It's good for Harry he can't see it, I think. But I suppose he understands, by sounds. He doesn't try to look. His gaze is fixed on the ceiling, lips compressed in a thin line. Hagrid strokes his cock lovingly, bringing it to full hardness.

Lucius comes up closer to the table, his wand ready to stop bleeding when necessary.

The half-giant changes his hold on Harry, now gripping his thighs, near to the buttocks. His wide, dark-skinned fingers tear Harry's arse-cheeks apart brutally, spreading them wider.

The stretched, unclosing, purple opening of the boy's anus seems tiny in comparison to the enormous organ aiming at it. I close my eyes for a moment - just a split second longer than for a blink. I can't afford not to look at it - Lucius watches my reaction.

The boy is already in pain, his chest rises and falls wildly, his breath has a sound of fear and anguish in it. And nothing has started yet. Hagrid sets the tip of his cock against the deformed, raw hole and thrusts in.

The boy looks stunned, as someone receiving a deathblow. Pain must be so bad his brain delays processing it. His breath hitches in a middle-gasp. And only his body that jerks trying to escape the intrusion reveals what really happens.

Hagrid pushes in and pulls on the boy's hips simultaneously, with equal force, pulling Harry onto himself, stretching and splitting him.

Harry's mouth is half-open, and now there are little wheezing breaths coming out. His body arches, and then in one monstrous jerk Hagrid buried himself to the hilt.

I see Lucius move his wand, to heal the tears. The boy is pinned under the huge body of the half-giant. His legs tremble in the grip of Hagrid's hands.

Harry's chest flutters. It looks as if he can't even scream. There are some pathetic, mewling sounds escaping his mouth. Hagrid rocks, holding him, an expression of utter enjoyment on his face. I don't know if Harry sees it; his vision is probably clouded. But maybe it's better this way; if he could see, he would lose any of his illusions that Hagrid could act under 'Imperius'.

The half-giant yanks his legs even wider apart and pulls out. Now the boy screams; but it is a very feeble sound, as if he has no breath for more. His head is tossed from side to side on the table, the shackles of his glasses rattle faintly. His fingernails scrape raw furrows in the wood of the table.

Hagrid emerges to half-length. His enormous cock is covered with the slime of previous ejaculates and streaks of bright red. I can see a bit of Harry's rectum being pulled out with it.

Then he slams back, panting, leaning on the boy. I barely keep from flinching, expecting to hear the sickening sound of the boy's joints dislocating.

But somehow it doesn't happen. It's just out again and in again. Harry isn't screaming. But this silence gives the scene an even more eerie quality than it already has. The boy's face looks blank and ageless, in a terrifying way. His eyes, almost entirely black, no green, open and close slowly.

He breathes as if his heart is about to stop.

I know Lucius sees it as well as he casts another spell on him, making his body jerk. There is a doomed, desperate expression flitting on the boy's face.

In. Out. If doesn't feel like sex - but then what does it have to do with sex? It looks like a machine is working, plumbing into an alive body. With each inward thrust I can see Harry's belly swell slightly, with the tip of Hagrid's cock shifting his intestines. It goes on and on.

I know it all together can't last longer than for an hour. Perhaps forty minutes have already passed. Hagrid growls and leans closer.

"Ye, 'arry." His enormous palm pats the boy's face in a parody of a caress. "Dat's how it is."

Finally battering of Hagrid's hips becomes faster. He jerks the boy's body across the table with himself. Harry's left wrist is broken and swollen and, I suppose, the right one is dislocated at least - but the pain in his arms is probably the least one he feels. He looks like a rag doll, shifted with violent slams.

Then Hagrid freezes, coming into him in great, shuddering spurts.

Harry's eyes are open and staring at the ceiling, unblinking.

The half-giant stays linked with him for a while, jets of thick, slimy fluid leaking from Harry's anus around Hagrid's softening cock. Then he extricates himself, and Harry whimpers, in a nearly inaudible, completely broken voice.

It seems there are buckets of come leaking out. The entire floor under the table is covered with it. The white fluid is richly mixed with red. Lucius flicks his wand again, just in case.

Hagrid walks around the table so that he is close to Harry's face now.

"Liked it, 'arry?" he asks.

It seems these simple words do more to break the boy than everything the half-giant has done before. Harry starts shivering, huge convulsive shudders rack his body. He twitches, trying to look away, but he's too feeble to move, and Hagrid captures his hair and holds him in place.

"Lick me," he says pulling Harry's face to his come-and-blood smeared cock. It is awesome even in its soft state. The boy shakes his head faintly, as much as Hagrid's hand allow him, and compresses his lips.

Stubborn boy; I almost can't believe he still resists. I almost can't imagine there is still something he refuses to do - even knowing what kind of punishment may follow, even knowing he would be broken once again and forced to do it nevertheless.

"Alright," Hagrid says unexpectedly agreeable. He lets Harry's hair go - and the boy's face is desperate and distorted, because by now he knows he shouldn't expect any mercy - and knows that he's got himself into something much worse than what Hagrid demanded from him.

The half-giant stands between his legs again - and directs his cock into the huge, gaping anus. Harry cries out hoarsely - but the cock is soft. Hagrid grabs his legs by the ankles and jerks them up, making Harry's arse leave the table. And then he starts pissing.

It is horrible. My throat closes as I fight back nausea.

The boy cries and writhes, trying to get free - but it's futile, of course. Finally Hagrid lets his legs drop.

Then he turns and walks away. I cast a glance on the watch. Fifty-eight minutes. Draco's timing is immaculate. He insisted on playing Hagrid's role, he's kept some of the half-giant's hairs for Polyjuice, when Hagrid was executed.

And I know he enjoyed it.

For a while the boy just lies limp. His legs scramble weakly as he tries to pull them closer to his chest and fails.

"Potter," Lucius hisses leaning to him. This softly said word seems to send a jolt through the boy's body. Lucius moves his wand and the chains unclasp. "Do you want to see yourself? Do you want to see what a filthy slut you have become?"

Harry doesn't answer, his eyes are shut tightly, and the minute shaking of his head is not quite 'no, no' but probably just involuntary movements. But when ever was his wish taken into account?

Lucius jerks him up, grabbing him by the upper arm. There is a grimace of disgust on his face but his aristocratic fingers clench on the boy's arm tightly. Harry chokes on his breath in pain as he's dragged down on the floor. He can't stand but Lucius keeps him upright.

"Look," he hisses, conjuring a mirror in front of him. "Look at yourself."

Another flick of the wand, and the boy's eyes open despite his will.

He looks at the tall mirror.

His body is so bruised, covered in black and blue stains, that there are barely patches of unmarred skin there. He's wet and dripping and dirty.

"Do you like what you see?" Lucius asks. "Wait, it isn't all."

Another mirror appears. This way Harry can see his back and, when Lucius's cane moves his legs apart, his own anus - the gaping wound of it, bloodied, pulsing and unclosing. It doesn't look like anything human. It seems you can fit two fists in there.

Lucius lets go his arm, and he slides on the floor bonelessly, shivering.

"The Boy Who Lived To Be Fucked By a Giant," Lucius says with a contemptuous curve of his lips. "That's all you're good for, Potter."

They had to send him to the infirmary after that, and he spent days there - and the Dark Lord wasn't quite pleased that someone else but him had done something so drastic.

Perhaps it's one more reason why he gave Harry to me and not to Malfoys.

Tears run over Harry's face, washing it slick. I sit down soundlessly on the edge of the sofa, next to his thrashing body, and he doesn't hear, doesn't feel me. I reach my hand and touch his wet face, push his moist, heavy hair away from his face.

I have never touched anyone like that in my life. It is a feeling that I learned to accept I would never experience. I push his hair away from his face, stroking him.

His face is crumpled in anguish, as his body is still clenched in the protective pose that could never save him from anything. *I* couldn't save him. I didn't even try.

I brush my fingertips against his forehead, not touching the scar. His skin is hot and moist. If he were awake, he would skitter away from me, would shiver at the thought of me touching him. But he is asleep. He is there, in his past, with those horrible things done to him, with those he trusted betraying him, again and again.

I stroke his face and whisper:

"Calm down, it's okay, you're safe."

I lie, and I know it, and he would laugh at my face if he heard me. But my fingers are cold - they are always cold - and it is what he needs in his burning state.

His face smoothens a little, a moment before his arms, convulsively wrapped around his chest, let go slightly.

"Calm down, Harry," I say.

It's his name - now I dare saying it, as I only seldom allow even in my mind - and its sound is intoxicating, overwhelming my lips and tongue. I can't stop.

"Harry," I repeat stroking his face. "Harry."

The grimace of torment on his face goes away, his forehead not creased any more, and the whimpering, agonizing breathes slow down. There are no fresh trickles of tears, and his face is drying, glistening slightly in the dim light. I comb his hair away from his face whispering his name.

Then he takes a sigh, deep and almost calm, and the rigid stance of his body breaks. He turns on his side, away from my hand.

For a moment I sit very still, wondering if I've woken him up, if I'll see his irreconcilable gaze now. But his breath is deep and quiet and he doesn't move any more.

My hand still feels where it touched his face, the smoothness of his skin and the hard bone of his forehead. And for a moment thinking about it hurts so much that I have to close my eyes waiting it out. Then I get up and walk to my bedroom.

* * *

"I'll never understand, Severus, how you can keep living here. I hated the dungeons when I was a student. It was another sign for me how we Slytherins were treated unfairly."

"I'm sorry, my lord," I say letting him into my quarters, stalling a little as I close the door.

"Why? It's not your fault," he smiles good-heartedly. "If you like it here, you're very welcome to stay where you are."

"I'm a creature of habit. Besides, this way my privacy is rarely disturbed."

I flick the wand lighting the fire. The door opens - and there is Potter standing in the doorway, without a scrap of clothes on. His hair is still ruffled slightly from dragging off his robe.

The boy is smart, I think; I was going to whip up some story as to why I allow him stay dressed, the damp air would have to serve as a justification. A part of me feels relief; but much bigger part still wants desperately him to be as far from here as possible... or me to be entering my rooms accompanied by anyone but the Dark Lord. But of course I don't have a choice at that.

Potter's eyes are dark and serious, and his chin jerks up sharply as he sees who I brought with me. The Dark Lord looks at him, scanning his body openly, his lips curving in a small smile.

"Well, Severus, I've just realized you value your chance for revenge more than your privacy," he says.

Potter's body is marked in half-healed red welts, and I hope it will be enough. I do my best for my voice to sound unperturbed.

"His presence doesn't bother me, my lord. In fact, as you can suppose, Potter tries very hard to make himself as unnoticeable as possible."

I don't dare to add any pressure to my words but I hope so hard for the damned boy to understand. Come on, do something - cringe or drop on your knees, I urge him silently. He just stands and says nothing.

"Yes, yes, of course, Severus," the Dark Lord dismisses my words, proving that he's noticed defensive note in them. He moves, walks closer to Potter who doesn't change his position, and picks a quill from the table. "Although, I have to admit, I expected there to be more notable signs that you lose your temper with him."

He takes Potter's hand, and the boy doesn't resist, his fingers slack in the Dark Lord's grip. I look with a sickening feeling as he drives the tip of the quill under Potter's fingernail. Potter sucks in a breath soundlessly.

"Something like that," the Dark Lord says. "Don't you have the wish to do to him something like that?"

He twists the quill, and the boy's face blanches.

There is blood welling around the tip of the quill, and for a moment my eyes are drawn to it, and I almost can't break myself away from this sight. Then I raise my eyes at the Dark Lord and say:

"Of course I do. But the truth is I enjoy his humiliation as much, if not more, as his pain."

I take a step towards Potter and slap him, hard enough to make his head dangle.

"Did the cat get your tongue, slave? Don't you know how you should greet the guests?"

Potter's face is pale, the lines of pain visible on it - but there is something in his eyes as he looks at the Dark Lord holding his hand and smiling sadistically as he keeps turning the quill - something... As if he listens to something happening between them, to magic coursing.

Bloody idiot. I want to hit him again - and it will be only good for my image in front of the Dark Lord, won't it?

"Apparently, something did get his tongue," the Dark Lord says and withdraws the quill.

"What am I supposed to say?" Potter's voice is monotone - and for a moment I almost can't believe he's said it. He brings his bleeding hand to his chest, curling it awkwardly - and then he adds. "Maybe 'Thank you, my lord'?"

I don't dare to take a look at the Dark Lord but then I have to. He smiles, yet there is something frozen in this smile.

Damn; Potter, damn you to hell, what are you doing?

"Has your slave said something, Severus?"

Yes, of course he did. And I know what he's trying to do, I know it all too well. I've never hated Albus like this before in my life. But it's my fault I told him... and now it's all falling apart.

"He sometimes has these spells when he doesn't control himself," I say - and add very emphatically. "Yes, Potter, you have to thank our Lord."

Damn you, you're ruining not only yourself but me, don't you understand it?

His eyes flash green and bright as he says shaking his head.

"Oh well. Thanks but no thanks."

I hit him then, and it is hard enough to knock him off his feet. He presses the back of his palm to his bleeding mouth, and I whip out the wand. I'm going to make him scream, to use 'Cruciatus' on him - just to make him shut up.

"I haven't insulted *you*," Potter says. There is something so wild in his stare, and his words sound so ridiculous, that I think it won't take such a stretch of imagination to believe he really doesn't know what he says. I growl angrily and raise the wand.

The cool long-fingered hand of the Dark Lord touches my wrist, stopping the motion. I make myself turn to him - and there, the cold flicker of enjoyment in his eyes is unmistakable.

"He's right, Severus. For once the little whore is right. It's between him and me."

I can't bear to see how the boy's eyes flash up in joy.

You fool, you'll die now - oh, he'll do everything to die, I know it. He's just the right man to do the job Albus deemed fitting to be done - to sacrifice himself happily for the safety of the world.

And all my talk about his friends being unsafe hasn't helped. On the other hand, they are not safe as they are either, are they?

"What do you want to do, my Lord?" I ask carefully as he walks closer, towers over Potter. Whatever he intends to do, I think once he starts, the boy won't let him stop, will provoke him again and again, until it all ends.

"I don't know yet," the Dark Lord says lightly, tilting his beautiful head awry. He looks practically of the same age as Potter - in fact, he looks better than Potter because Potter is unhealthy thin and pallid, hasn't been outside for years. But because they almost look like peers, there is something even more disquieting in seeing them together like that. "This kind of insubordination requires some special punishment, doesn't it?"

"He's suicidal," I say helplessly. "He wants to die."

"This can be arranged," the Dark Lord says. His long fingernails brush over his lips, in a wistful, languid gesture.

"He wants you to kill him. Do *you* want to give him what he wants, my lord?"

I think something desperate breaks through in my words. But it seems the notion slowly penetrates his mind; he turns and looks at me, his smooth eyebrows drawn together.

"Let me punish him, my lord," I say hastily, catching this moment of hesitation. "I'll make sure you find it sufficiently amusing."

I'll make you regret your stupidity, Potter, I think darkly. Just please stay alive so that I can do it.

The Dark Lord looks at me, considering my suggestion, nibbling his lip. And then, almost when I lose hope, he suddenly says: "Fine," and steps away.

* * *

And I do what I have to - and it's bloody, and as cruel as I can make it - and it is not after long I make Potter scream. His face is washed in sweat, his lips bloodied - but his eyes, even through the film of tears, look at me accusingly.

Yet the worst thing, as I enter him and his body clenches in pain and useless attempt to prevent the intrusion, is that I *want* it. I don't need any spells to arouse me. As I look at his bent over body, his head pressed to his knees, his anus revealed for me, I can barely wait to slam in. And when I thrust into him, fast and brutal, it is not only because it's what the Dark Lord expects from me - but because it is what I want to do.

My spine melts in pleasure that spreads from the point where our bodies are joined. My cock throbs, squeezed with velvety walls of his rectum. And when I come into him, it is one of the most intense orgasms I've had in my too long life.

Potter is crumpled on the floor, his legs and his face smeared with blood - and the Dark Lord gets up from his place, his long fingers intertwined.

"It's all well and good, Severus, but I think his special misconduct needs some more punishment. If he's so desperate to die, perhaps we can let him taste death, in a way." I look at him silently, waiting for what he says next. "The full moon is tomorrow, and I'm planning to be here. Remember that friend of his, Granger? I have to admit I'm very fond of this particular kind of entertainment. Let's see if the Boy-Who-Lived turns as lucky as his friend. Good-night, Severus."

He walks to the door, and it slides shut behind him, and I turn to Potter who struggles to rise on his elbow, looking at me with pain-dazed eyes.

The wish to kick him, to hear his ribs crack under my boot is almost irresistible.

"Are you happy?" I hiss looking at him. "See what you achieved?"

He meets my gaze - and then, all of a sudden, something shifts in his stare, and he hisses back, in the voice that is broken to almost inaudible with screaming:

"He almost... he almost did it. Why did you stop him?"

I can't help it. I hit him - and his head drops on the floor, and he can't rise again - but as I walk out of the room, I hear him laughing.

* * *

I lock the door of my laboratory behind me and stare at the shelves lined with jars of ingredients and empty cauldrons. Very slowly, my hands stop shaking. Then I light the fire and start gathering the things I need.

I have never tried this variety of the potion before, although it was given together with the recipe that I used - had used three years ago last time. I don't think it was even applied on many occasions, its dangers far outweighing the benefits.

But this time - this time it is exactly what I need.

And it might as well kill the werewolf, for what I care.

I finish brewing next morning. The liquid is dark, viscous and smells horribly. I pour it to the flask and walk down, far below the level where my quarters are located.

"Routine check. The Dark Lord ordered the werewolf performance tomorrow," I say to the guard. "So I need to make sure he's functioning."

The man knows not to question anything with the Dark Lord's name in it and lets me in.

I walk between the rows of cells, most of them empty, in some huddling figures burrow deeper into their torn rags, hearing my steps. Their faces are dirty, their hair wild, but if I look closer, I know I will recognize them. We worked side by side with them once, for the Order and at school. And now they are here, and I'm on the other side of the bars.

Minerva McGonagall sits very straight in the corner of her cell, following me with her eyes. She still looks strict, even though diminished. There is a strange, disapproving expression in her eyes - as if I'm one of her students who deserves some points taken off. I think she's insane.

I reach the last cage, and the werewolf unwinds himself from his curled position. He looks sick; the full moon is close, and his face is even more haggard than usual, his eyes surrounded with deep shadows.

There is an expression of such suffering in his eyes as he sees me. It is only before his 'performance' that I come here, and he knows what will happen this night.

He agreed to it, I think coldly - just like I agreed to my fate. He let himself be captured, among others, so that the Dark Lord believed the Order was ruined, was no threat for him any more.

But he didn't know, of course, that they would use him like that. He didn't know he would rape the children, and kill them. Granger was not the last, there were two others after that, a boy who went mad and died later, and a girl who survived but was infected - I think Lucius ordered her to be killed since she couldn't be used the same way as Lupin.

"Severus." Thin hands with bitten fingernails and split knuckles - I just can see him hitting his hands against the wall in anguish - capture the rails as he pulls himself closer. "Who is it this time?"

"Potter," I say.

I don't have time to see his face going blank in shock; I take out the flask and shove it to him.

"Drink it. Now."

"What is it?"


He frowns.

"It's too late, it won't have an effect..."

"It's a different formulation," I hiss, "a concentrate. It'll burn a hole in your stomach but it'll work."

He brings it to his lips, asking nothing more. I see how his throat works as he struggles to swallow it. I think it starts burning already in his mouth.

The flask falls from his hand, clattering on the floor, as he presses his hands to his chest.

He crumbles, first on his knees, then doubling over tightly - and I see shivers going through his body but he makes no sound. I look at the flask on the floor. It's too far for me to reach for it. I shouldn't use magic here but I suppose there is no other way.

Then Lupin moves, uncurling excruciatingly, and his trembling hand passes the flask to me.

There is blood on his lips, and his eyes are enormous with the black pupils swimming in yellowish irises. He looks at me in such a way as if not quite believing he's alive.

And suddenly I understand; I could have poisoned him - and he would take the potion just the same way, without hesitation.

"Thank you," he whispers.

"Potter is important for our fight," I say blandly. Well, he doesn't know about Albus's theories, does he? "You'll have to behave as if you're a beast. No one should suspect anything. But if you as much as break his skin..."

"I know," he whispers. "Don't you know he's all I have left?"

* * *

The boy is frightened. He doesn't give it away, best he can. But there is this little hitch in his breath now and then, as I walk him to the place, in silence.

I could have told him he's not in danger to die, at least, or to be turned - although there is no way to save him from the rest of it. But at first I was so angry with him, for what he tried to do, for almost ruining all my efforts at keeping him alive. And later it was not safe to talk.

So he walks next to me, thinking that he doesn't know whether he'll survive this night.

The room is full. Everyone is here but the thing that I see first and almost can't look away from is the eyes of the Weasley boy, standing close to the rails that divide the room into the parts that will be 'safe' and 'unsafe'. His normally dull blue eyes look nearly black with enormously dilated pupils.

"Severus," the Dark Lord says, smiling mildly. "Come here, sit with me."

I glance at the middle of the room.

"I just have to..."

"Simply give it to him, I'm pretty sure he'll be capable of greasing himself up."

I take another look at the stone altar and see there're no chains attached there.

"That's right," the Dark Lord says, his smile boyishly charming. "No need to chain him. Let's see what'll prevail - his wish for death or his instinct of self-preservation."

For a moment, I'm simply speechless. My fists clench at my sides convulsively, and I'm glad my robe is voluminous enough to hide it.

Then Potter turns to me, takes off his glasses and hands them to me.

And as I put them away, making myself not to stop, I pull out the jar with the oil and put it into Potter's palm.

His hand clenches on it and he walks past the rails.

"Peter, my friend, watch over your slave, or he'll jump over there," the Dark Lord says, and I feel a tiny shiver going through me. He hasn't even looked at Pettigrew for all that time, how has he noticed? Wormtail quacks in exasperation and yanks the leash, dragging Weasley away from the rails.

Draco sniggers, as his hand doesn't stop moving, pushing Longbottom's face deeper and deeper to his crotch.

I sit down next to the Dark Lord, folding my hands on my lap placidly, and watch how Potter struggles with handfuls of the oil, putting it over himself.

"I think he has second thoughts about dying," the Dark Lord says. "Look how hard he tries."

It was my worst fear, the one I didn't want to admit - that the boy could do something outright stupid, would really try to commit suicide. But I suppose he thinks about his usefulness - dying to take the Dark Lord with him is one thing and dying just like that... he can't allow himself to do it.

He looks up at the opening in the ceiling, as if he tries to see how far it is till the moonrise - and then he perches on the altar, waiting, his arms around his knees.

The Dark Lord's idea is brilliant in its cruelty. In a way, it's easier to give away the control - to be chained, immobile, unable to do anything. To wait like that, submit without trying to run or to fight, ineffectually - I don't know how possible it is.

Then the wards are raised and Lupin is brought in, and for a moment, after he transforms, and Harry slides down on his back on the altar, moving his legs apart, holding himself under his knees - I can't watch it. I look away.

My weakness continues just for a split second, I reacquire control almost immediately - and as I resume my normal pose, I notice a strange look in Draco's eyes as he runs his fingers through Longbottom's hair.

I look at the center of the room and don't look away again.

At least the night is short.

The moon starts setting while Lupin is still *in* Harry - and he wrenches out, growling in pain, then writhes on the ground as he changes. He stifles the moans as he turns human, and he lies there, at the bottom of the altar, shivering.

I think he tries to get up, to see if everything is all right with Harry but the guards drag him away.

The wards are taken off, but I wait, make myself stay in place to exchange a few words with my leaving colleagues. Some sound disappointed that nothing happened - nothing *else* happened. But the women look flushed, and the men horny. Pettigrew yanks his slave after himself as Weasley stares at the middle of the room, his face distorted.

There is something in the way Draco looks at me - but I really have neither strength nor wish to try to decipher him at the moment. He hates me for taking Potter from him, granted - so what? I can live with it.

Finally I am allowed to go - and it is the moment full of relief and a dreadful one. It is the moment when I can take the boy away and know that for a while, even if for a short time, no one will hurt him. There will be only him and me, and maybe I'll even be able to deceive myself and believe I really can protect him.

The boy's breath is loud, out of cadence. He still holds his legs, wide apart, even if he doesn't need to anymore - and this sight for some reason affects me worse than everything else.

He looks shaken - something snapped in him, and he can't resume his control, isn't even able to try.

"Potter," I say - and as he doesn't react much, I sigh and lean to him. His fingers are very cold, despite the night being a warm one, and clenched so hard that I nearly think I'll have to break them to unbend them from where they stick into his skin.

As soon as I unclasp his hands, he crumbles down from the altar, on the floor, locking into a ball so hard his muscles feel wooden. I sigh again and wrap my cloak around him. I hope no one looks at us, everyone is too tired to linger - but really, I don't have another choice if I want to get him out of here anyway.

"Potter. It's over. Can you walk? You don't want me to use 'Mobilicorpus' on you, do you?"

It seems some of my words start reaching him. His black head, hair slick with the oil, shifts a little as he nods.

I can't bear to take the cloak away from him as he gets up and follows me, excruciatingly slowly. I just think that if anyone sees and asks questions, I'll say I don't want my slave to catch a cold. But everyone must be sleeping by now. A new day starts, blinding sunny, the light pouring through the windows of Hogwarts corridors.

In my quarters I speak again.

"To the bathroom, Potter. You need to be clean so that I can check whether he..."

"He hasn't," he says in a flat, dull - almost normal voice. His arms under the cloak are wrapped high around him, as if he wants to bury his face in them and knows he won't be allowed to. Then he drops the cloak on the floor and walks to the bathroom.

He'll get over it, I think. There, on the altar, he was so rattled, panicked and broken - and now his control is back again, his shoulders are set in the usual way, his head slightly lowered as always. I follow him with my eyes. Oh no; he won't get over it. He'll drive it deep inside himself, as he's done with all other things, with what Draco-Hagrid did to him, with what the Dark Lord and I did to him. It's all there - and I don't think it'll ever go away.

He survives again and again. But I can't help thinking that the day will come when it all will just be too much for him.

I hear him start the water, and I come in, and he doesn't look at me, standing under the shower. Water leaks over his smeared face and hair, sliding off - the oil is too greasy to come off easily. His eyelashes tremble as drops of water fall from them.

And then... I don't know what happens to me - why I'm so close, and his face is in my hands, my fingers entwined in his slick, astringent smelling hair - and I kiss him, kiss his face all over, feeling the bitter taste of the oil on my lips.

My breath is loud and ragged, as if I don't have enough air - and the kisses are messy, imprecise, falling on his face in disorder - his lips, his nose, his chin, his forehead. It is like I try to get as much of him as possible in too little time. My hands crumple his hair, my palms cradle his skull.

And it is true, there is too little time; just a few moments later I realize what I'm doing, and force my control back where it belongs, and tear myself away from him, letting go his hair, his face. His looks lost, puzzled - and very wet, and I can feel the extreme bitterness of the she-wolf secretion on my tongue.

He glances at me, his myopic eyes having a vague, hazy expression in them. I step away from the tub, wrapping my arms around myself - as if protecting myself. Or as if it will help me to stop touching him.

"I'm sorry," I say. Merlin, this word - I didn't know I would ever be able to say it to him. I wanted to say it so many times - and right now it comes off before I can even stop myself. "I'm sorry. I..."

Merlin, Merlin, what explanation can there be? I've given myself away. Now he knows. He knows I want him. All my act, all my attempts to make him feel safe with me - they are for nothing. I'm just another one who lusts for his body.

I turn away abruptly and walk to the door.

"Finish washing," I say.

He doesn't say anything as he stands in front of me, later, and I check his body for any bites. There is some bruising, from where he held himself and left by Lupin. On his back, there are long dark red abrasions.

"It's from the stone," he says. "It isn't quite smooth."

I nod even though he can't see me, and run my wand to heal him.

"You can go to bed," I say. It is the time one usually gets up but I don't think anyone cares for following the day regime.

I wait for three quarters of hour. I don't know if he's asleep - he's very quiet, hasn't turned even once since he got to bed, wrapped in a cocoon of the blanket, curled tightly.

I walk out anyway. A sleepy guard, who watched the performance, admits me to the cells, without asking any questions.

Lupin is on the floor in his cage, and from the first sight I see how bad the things are. He's practically grey, his eyes, surrounded with huge black circles, make him look as if he's wearing dark glasses. As I come closer, I hear him cough - and with a splatter he spits blood. There are drying smears of blood on his beard as well.

His sunken eyes with enormous black pupils turn to me as I come up - with fear and hope. It's not the emotions that should be there, he should look at me with hatred - for poisoning him in cold blood and for the fact that I would have done it again if I had to.

For making him go through it in his sane state, while knowing what he is doing to his friend's son, to the boy he loves.

"Is he okay?" he whispers in a hoarse, broken voice.

"Yes," I say. "He is. Here, it's for you."

I pull a vial from my pocket - and then, as he sees it, for a moment such despair shines from his eyes, such *disappointment*.

I squat and reach him the vial, and he takes it with bloodied hand and brings it to his mouth. The stuff is thick and white, and his throat moves with effort as he swallows it. Then his head drops on the floor exhaustedly.

Curiously, I want to say I'm sorry again. For healing him, for not letting him die. But he... he has responsibilities. Just as I do. We both know it. We both are the soldiers in this war and we cannot die unless it can bring some use.

I take the vial from his slackened fingers and get up. Lupin shudders minutely, curling on the floor, his eyes closed. His eyelashes are wet, and I walk away before I can see him crying.

* * *

I should have known. It is all my fault. When Draco looked at me then, on the full moon night - when I flinched and looked away, just once - I should have known. It was a weakness I should have never afforded; the small relief I allowed myself - that backfired now.

I realize it during the dinner in the Great Hall, when the Dark Lord turns to me, and through indulgence in his eyes there is something sharply inquiring.

"Have you heard, Severus? Draco is saying most interesting things about you and your slave. That you're too affectionate with him. That your attachment to him became a soft spot."

I have a terrible feeling of deja vu. It had happened once before, Malfoys' accusations and me having to deflect them. At any price. Please, please don't let it happen again.

But I know it's already happening.

He doesn't sound angry; he sounds probing - but Merlin help me. I straighten in my place, tossing the napkin away irritably, an expression of disgust on my face. That's all right, I can afford to be slightly indignant. I'm at his side for three years after his resurrection, and I never let him any grounds to doubt me.

"Nonsense, my lord."

"Yes, yes, I suppose so," the Dark Lord interrupts me, almost as if he tries to pacify me. "We all know little Draco's perception is somewhat clouded with jealousy." He looks around as if expecting support, and people at his sides snigger helpfully. Lucius doesn't look amused. "And yet..."

Yet. I don't want it to happen, I want it to be over, forever. There is bile rising in my throat; I force sickness down. Yet. Again. He wants a proof again. Of my loyalty. Of my hatred to Potter. Of being the right man chosen for the job to make the life of the Boy-Who-Lived miserable.

Will it ever stop?

I don't look at Potter who sits on the floor at my chair, don't wonder if he understands what is happening, if he knows what to expect. I don't know if his shoulders freeze in tension, if his eyes get this distant, withdrawn look again - as if he slips into a place where no one can touch him; not even the Dark Lord. Not even me.

"There is some food for thought in the fact that Severus doesn't involve his slave in today's performance," Narcissa says batting her eyes.

"Forgive me," I say acerbically. "I thought it was your slaves who took the stage."

The depravity of what happens is really sickening. Forced to copulate while their masters eat, barely even watching them. This girl, Weasley, arches as Thomas enters her, his palms sliding over her breasts. She's pregnant, I can see the slight dome of her belly - I wonder if it is even known who the father is. The boy touches her gently, almost reverently.

Her brother is on his knees, his legs wide apart as he strokes himself, and there is an expression that is far from pleasure on his face. Next to him, the younger Creevey boy - how old is he? fifteen? - makes a short, muffled sound every time his brother thrusts into him and he's pushed further, onto Longbottom's cock in his mouth.

The only fault of the Creevey boys is that the elder one was so openly admiring Potter, used to make those pictures of him, a lifetime ago. Of course, they had to pay for such a crime.

Does anyone outside even know what happens to these children here? Weasleys - there are so many of them. I don't know what happened to the twins, they disappeared when we took Hogwarts. But do they have any idea what happens to the little ones? The Weasleys are members of the Order. If they know - why don't they do anything?

I unclench my fists carefully under the table.

"You know I find these 'I'm so Roman' orgy games distasteful, Narcissa."

It's a bit harsh, and a little belatedly I realize it might sound like backslap to everyone who enjoys watching it. But the Dark Lord doesn't look angry; he looks amused.

"Then you probably will show us your idea of tasteful entertainment, Severus?"

I've known it will come to that. There is no way out of it.

And I can't even afford thinking that I'm sorry, can't afford having a glance at the boy. I need to focus entirely on what I'm going to do. Weakness can ruin us both; I need all my strength to get on with what I have to do.

My chest feels so stiff I almost can't breathe.

"My pleasure, m'lord," I mutter.

I get up slowly and pull Potter up by his upper arm in a cold, detached, impersonal gesture. I can't afford hesitating. I can't afford feeling. I walk him to the center of the Hall and look up and down him, measuring him with my eyes.

What else can I do to him? What haven't been done to him yet? And it needs to be good, to be satisfying for the Dark Lord. How else his body can be twisted, and used, and broken for the amusement of all those around?

The Dark Lord looks at me interestedly.

And suddenly I know what he wants from me - as if I can read his thoughts. And it is not another rape, another whipping.

I put my hand into the breast pocket of my robe and pull out Harry's wand.

I see the expression in the boy's eyes break for a moment. He understands everything so well - he's been hurt so much he's quick at guessing what can be done to him. But he catches himself, bites his lip hard - and resurrects the protective wall behind his gaze. Shutting me out. Shutting everything I can do out.

"Hold him," I nod to two Death Eaters. "He might be unreasonable about it."

They grab his arms and twist them back - although I know he won't struggle, he won't do anything. Perhaps it would be better if he tried.

I hold his wand in my hands, for everyone to see - and for a moment my eyes meet the gaze of the Dark Lord, and I see approval in them, I see satisfaction.

He feared, I realize all of a sudden. He feared of this wand that had defeated him once, at the cemetery. He wanted it to be destroyed. But he was too proud to admit it.

Maybe, I think helplessly, if he knows Harry isn't a threat for him any more, he will... he will leave him alone. It's just a thought I have to cling to. The wand snaps in my fingers.

Harry jerks. Why did I think it would be better if he showed what he felt in some way? Now when he thrashes in the hands of those holding him I almost can't bear it. His arms are twisted behind his back, his shoulders wrenched under very wrong angles as he struggles, his eyes never leaving my hands. He's silent.

I snap it again, the sound deafening. Then once more. The pieces are still joined in one place, with the feather inside. I drop them on the floor and point my wand at them.

The fire I light up is a slow and small one, taking minutes to consume the broken pieces. Potter stops struggling and stands looking at it, and the flickers of the fire reflect in his glasses.

I wave my hand when there is nothing left but ashes.

"You can let him go."

* * *

He holds his left arm pressed to his chest as he walks back to my quarters with me. They were rough to him when holding him. But it doesn't matter. Nothing matters. What I've destroyed today is worse than anything anyone could do to his body.

Even when I raped him then, together with the Dark Lord, I think I didn't do so much wrong to him.

I don't talk to him. There is nothing I can say, and I can't bear the thought of him jerking at the sound of my voice. I thought, I dreamed that he could maybe forgive me one day. That was sickeningly stupid, wasn't it?

And no matter what I can say about doing it at the Dark Lord's bidding, it was my hands that snapped his wand. It was my mind that generated this idea.

I thought I could control damage done to him; that's why I started it all. What irony... Would anyone else hurt him this badly?

I sit in my bed while he washes. I pretend I'm reading - a helpless, worthless act that won't deceive anyone. But maybe he thinks I'm capable of it, that I'm like that, heartless... isn't it what I always tried to be?

Maybe he isn't interested what I do at all.

He walks back to his room and lies down, face to the wall. I wait. I wait for him to fall asleep. It would happen faster if I could give him some potion - but I can't bear to come up to him, to say his name. Will I never be able to think about anything else but that small fire on the floor in the Great Hall? Will he ever be able to see anything else looking at me?

My head aches. And my insides. How trite. I always thought it's a bad cliche. But that's how it feels.

I don't know how much time passes, two, three hours. He hasn't moved. He must be asleep by now, for sure. I get up and walk to my laboratory.

It's been almost a week since I was there last time. There was time, in the beginning of what I call 'latest era of Hogwarts', when working with potions made me feel better; made me forget, for hours sometimes, what I had to do daily. It stopped helping a long time ago. I look at the cupboards full of jars and tins blankly. It is cold here, isn't it? But the thought of lighting the fire makes me sick.

I need to get a grip on myself. What have become of me?

I feel a smile curve my lips, a spasmodic one, and wrap my arms around myself. My arms and the curtain of my hair are insufficient shields to protect me.

The cauldron where I brewed the 'new, improved' Wolfsbane for Lupin is still on the hearth, even though it is cold. The fluid on the bottom is thick, almost black, looking very acidic. How careless of me, leaving it like this here. If someone found it, it could cause questions. On the other hand, if someone entered here without my permission, it wouldn't already matter because by then I would have to be deep in trouble anyway.

I look at the black liquid. The sediment lies there, glistening like quicksilver. I take the ladle and gather it in.

It's so crazy, I don't know what I'm doing, I'm not a werewolf, I don't need it... I know it, all the way while bringing it to my lips. My breath hitches at the astringent smell that makes my eyes water. I swallow it, drink it until the ladle is empty.

You're a fool, Severus. It's ridiculous.

I think about the book I read once, on the means people used to kill themselves. Swallowed a key; inhaled needles; castrated themselves. As the pain hits, I think I understand them. Sometimes there are things you just need to do. Or just can't stop yourself from doing

Merlin... Merlin, how Lupin could bear it? How could he spend almost twenty-four hours - if it was anything like he felt. I try to grip the edge of the table convulsively but it slips away from me, the floor slips under my feet. I collapse on the floor, hugging the steady burning hole inside me. The cauldron rattles on the floor.

It burns and it burns, and I can feel the acid eat through the tissues, and for a moment the prospect of death, the one I denied Lupin, looks so enticing to me.

Then the door slams open, and there is the boy there, green eyes flash with anger. I look at him from the floor helplessly.

What is he doing here? He shouldn't come in here, I haven't allowed him, he shouldn't see me like this, it's a private moment, you know, something I needed to do...

He is right over me, his face distorted with fury as he hisses in my face:

"You fucking bastard, what did you take?"

Oh Merlin, oh no, it's not what he thinks, I haven't tried to commit suicide, if I had I would be dead already. His hands clench, in mere inches from my shoulders, as if he wants to grip me and shake but he doesn't.

"How dared you?" he whispers. "Where is the antidote?"

It's actually good he's here, I wouldn't be able to reach for it myself. I point at the shelf.

"White stuff... over there."

He grabs it, moving so swiftly - or it's my consciousness that flickers in and out; because next thing I'm aware of is that he's kneeling next to me and pressing the vial to my mouth. I feel a strand of my hair get into my mouth with it but I don't dare to pull it out. I just swallow - and feel the grip of his fingers, incredibly strong, on the back of my neck.

When the vial is empty, he lets me go. I slide back on the floor, feeling how the burning goes down slowly. I raise my hand and pull the annoying strand away.

Potter stands up and looks down at me, disgust on his face.

"It's not what you think," I say. "I didn't try to..."

"Whatever." His face is shut. And then it slams on me. He tried to save me. He saved me. Why? Wouldn't he rejoice seeing me die? I don't think he's done it because he realizes he would be worse off without me. It's not like he has any instinct of self-preservation to begin with. I look at him, feeling too weak to try to get up.

Then he stoops and picks up my wand from the floor. I jerk involuntarily. But... whatever he'll do, I'll allow him.

"You think I might kill you," he says, and there is a note of cruelty in his voice. "I won't. You'll live. As I live."

His face twists.

"I told you, Potter," I say. "I haven't tried..."

"Mobilicorpus," he says. My body jerks up. Merlin, how I hate this spell.

"Let me go," I say steadily. He looks at me for a moment, the wand trembling in his hand, then says:

"Yes. Sir."

I land on my feet and grasp the corner of the table. He looks at the wand in his hand. Yes, right, he can use someone else's wand. It just won't be as good as his own, the magic that connected them is gone forever.

"Don't think I've never thought about it," he says. "About... ending it all. Even before you told me about what... what is wanted from me. Sometimes I thought... I could bite off the next fucking cock they'll shove into my mouth - just to take one of those bastards with me. Do you know why I never did it? Why I never offed myself, in this or that way?" I don't answer, and he doesn't expect me to, obviously. "Because everyone expected me to. Because they did everything to make me do it. Because it was the only thing that I could do to spite them, the only thing where I had a choice."

He looks at me and puts the wand on the table in mere inches from my hand and turns away. His sharp shoulder-blades are crisscrossed with puffy traces of half-healed welts that I left.

I don't want him to go. Even if he hates me, even if there is nothing but betrayal and guilt between us - I don't want him to go.

Then he looks back and says very, very quietly:

"You gave Remus Wolfsbane, didn't you?" I stare at him, silently, and he continues. "His eyes. They were human. I noticed. How did you..."

"Another formulation," I say weakly. "Very toxic. He's all right now," I add hastily.

He casts a look at the overturned cauldron on the floor and at the vial with anti-toxin. I pick up my wand and make the remnants of the potions vanish. Potter walks out, and I gather my strength and follow him.

I put the wards on the door to the laboratory, something I shouldn't have neglected to do tonight - and when I enter my rooms, Potter isn't on his sofa. I walk to the bedroom and see him there, lying on the very edge of my bed, facing away from my side. His glasses are on the nightstand next to him. His eyes are closed.

I walk up silently to my side of the bed and get in there.

"Nox," I say quietly. In the darkness, his breath is steady and tranquil, the sound that I listen to, until I fall asleep.

* * *

I dream about the Mirror of Erised this night. I see them all there: tall and adult, years older than they are now. Their clothes are nice - evening robes, and some of them wear uniforms, of mediwizards or of Aurors. They talk to each other and smile and hold cups with Hogwarts punch. The Great Hall is decorated in a silly, bright way that Albus used to enjoy so much - lots of yellow and green and red and blue.

It looks like a school reunion, I think in my dream.

Yes, it looks like it's the tenth anniversary or something. Their features are made more definite with time - but there is one thing among all of them that unites them. They look happy. Healthy. Confident. There is Potter with a girl with vague face in his tow, and Weasley talking to Longbottom... and the Granger girl smiles to whoever she talks to. Then she turns and waves at me cheerfully.

They all are alive. And they're not suffering.

I know it's just a mirror, I know it isn't true, can't be true - but seeing them like that fills me with such happiness that I wake up still having this glowing feeling inside me. Believing that somehow, in some way, everything will be all right.

Potter is in my bed next to me - never touching me, there are good ten inches between his closest point, hand curled on the pillow, and me - but in some way I can feel the heat of his body reaching me.

He's curled like a cat, burrowed almost completely under the blanket, just the top of his rumpled hair and his palm under his cheek visible. His breath is slightly wheezing, as if his nose is stuffed, but in a quiet way that makes me feel calm. I want to stay like that for ages and ages, just in this room, and with him sleeping in my bed, and nothing outside it.

I want so fervently to prolong it that I don't even look at him in order not to wake him up. But he shifts all the same, sighing sleepily, and pulls his knees up to his chest.

His eyes are very green and hazy as he cracks them open and looks at me. The stare is vague but he doesn't reach for the glasses on the nightstand, as he usually does the first thing after waking up.

I look at him not saying a word - just because I don't know what to say. He sighs noisily again.

"Why don't you touch me?" he asks in a hoarse, sleepy voice. I clench my jaw, shocked and startled - and hurt, a bit, even though there is no reason to. I can't expect anything else from him.

It's strangely disconcerting to look at him knowing that he even can't see me, my face is a blur. And why does he keep staring at me if he can't see anyway?

"Despite what you think about the allure of your body, Potter," I say finally finding my voice, "I can keep my hands away from it at ungodly hours of the morning."

He frowns a little, something in his face changing. Then he shakes his head.

"No, I didn't mean it like that. I meant... Like that time, when I was sleeping."

"I don't know what you talk about."

"I know it was you," he says. "No one else could be. You stroked my hair. No one touched me in this way... no one has ever touched me like that. Why don't you now?"

There is sadness that overwhelms me, and overpowering desire to do what he offers. My fingers tremble with the wish to touch him. But I can't. I won't take anything from him any more. He doesn't know what he wants to give me. He's so used to being hurt that any touch that is simply not intended to hurt can seem desirable to him.

I won't do it to him. Even if he doesn't know better, I do.

"It's time to get up, Potter," I say and stand up. As I flick my fingers ordering breakfast, he rolls in the bed and reaches for the glasses.

"As you wish," he mutters under his breath.

I'm dressed by the time breakfast appears, and he's still in bed. In my bed. His bare chest is free from welts at the moment, and I catch myself on looking at it.

I'll have to punish him again soon.

If only I could ever see his body free from any damage.

He pours himself a cup of cocoa; I know he likes cocoa better than coffee. It steams his glasses as he brings it to his mouth.

I sit down on the bed suddenly and take a cup for myself, muttering:

"I might have breakfast as well."

He doesn't quite look at me but there is something in his body language that seems to tell me he acknowledges my presence - and he doesn't try to shrink away at least. Am I a fool, building some hopes on these intangible signs? And what hope can there be anyway?

I see Potter spread strawberry jam over the toast and then cover it with slices of cheese. It looks horrible. He puts it to his mouth and chews absent-mindedly.

"It's my birthday today," he says.

What? I catch myself before it leaves my lips. I've heard very well.

"Congratulations," I say.

He looks at me with the corner of his mouth quirking.

"Thank you."

He's eighteen now. He's eighteen, not a boy any more but a young man - but in a way it doesn't change anything. He's still so vulnerable, even more so than before - I wish I could do something to defend him. I wish I could wrap my arms around him and feel his flat chest press against mine, his thin body hot in my arms.

I wish I could die instead of - or with him.

"I wish I could see Hedwig," he says. I look blankly at him, and he continues. "My owl. I haven't seen her since... since then. I had time to let her go."

I'm speechless for a moment, and then with a sharp twinge my Dark Mark starts burning. I get up on my feet. Potter looks at me intently.

"I have to go," I say.

"I see," he says.

Will it be really awful if I ask house-elves for a cake after I return? Will someone find out?

I walk out of my quarters, prodded with insistent pain, and Disapparate at the call of the Dark Lord.

* * *

He meets me very cheerfully. It's nothing urgent, he says, he just wanted to talk to me. In the morning the Dark Lord looks particularly young, pink-cheeked and fresh. He coaxes me into sharing breakfast with him, despite me saying I've had one.

He talks about new potions he heard about, asking if I feel like brewing them, then asks about my older researches. He talks about the books he read. He's a brilliant conversationalist. Sometimes talking to him I even forget how different he can be when those polished fingernails stick into someone's body.

He says he would gladly spend the whole day talking to me, compliments me, giving this shy, boyish smile of his.

Everything he says I try to sift for information but it seems there is nothing today.

He insists on my staying for lunch and then dismisses me.

I Apparate back and return to Hogwarts, walk to my dungeons. The Dark Lord might be *nice* but I still feel drained, with the necessity to keep my shields up in case if he tries to read my mind all of a sudden. He stopped doing it a while ago, but I can't afford be less careful.

The realization of the damaged wards around my door slams on me. I look at it for a moment, unable to believe that it is true, shocked almost mute. Did Potter... And then I understand the wards were broken from outside.

I enter; and there are four of them in there.

Lucius, in his scarlet lined cloak wrapped around his shoulders against the cold of the dungeons. And Draco next to his side, looking like a bit more ratty copy of his father - but the expression on his face, malicious, is nothing like Lucius's controlled one. Longbottom, his long skinny body crumpled in the corner, hugging his knees, his lips trembling.

And Potter - I see him thrash, chest slick with sweat, wheezing sounds breaking from his throat as Draco slowly tightens the noose on his neck, all the way keeping thrusting into his body.

"Severus," Lucius turns to me, smiling pleasantly.

"Let him go."

Draco's hands drop the noose, and I hear Potter cough and wheeze. To expect Draco stop fucking him would be too much, wouldn't it? Potter is tied to the table on his back, stretched widely, and tries to raise his head. Merlin... He looks terrible. There is a ring of raw skin and black bruises around his neck, meaning that it wasn't the first time Draco played his breath control games. One of his eyeballs is filled with blood entirely, making it look eerily like the Dark Lord's after his resurrection.

The cuts on his body are recognizable - of the whip I had used on him only once, that time, with the Dark Lord here.

He looks at me with a strange expression in his eyes, something almost like triumph, and then, incredibly, his cracked lips move in a smile as he slumps back on the table. Draco keeps thrusting, panting hard.

"The bitch is loose," he whines, "he's any fun only when he thrashes."

"What are you doing here?" My voice sounds cold - and there is cold inside me, freezing anger that seems to swell, bursting, cracking something inside me. Malfoys don't know, can't feel it - hear just my toneless voice.

"Hasn't our Lord told you?" Lucius asks pleasantly. "I know you've spent the day with him, Severus. He still isn't sure you discipline your slave strictly enough, your performance yesterday didn't convince him. So, he decided to give Potter to us - to my son, namely - for a short session of training. A month or two - and Draco will return you Potter good and housebroken... so that you could continue with your *revenge*, Severus."

I know by his voice he doesn't believe me any more, probably hasn't believed for a while by now. And the Dark Lord... so, today's call was simply to keep me out of way. Draco slams his hips in and goes still, climaxing.

"I apologize for starting without you," Lucius says politely, "but Draco was so impatient to get to his new toy - you know how Draco is, Severus. But we won't leave you completely dissatisfied. See, we brought you a replacement."

He points at Longbottom. The boy has grown very much during last year, he's tall and reedy thin, and his face, once he lost his baby fat, got quite defined features that would resemble his father's very much if only he didn't wear this puppy expression all the time.

Longbottom's grey eyes are washed with tears as he looks at me and at Potter. He doesn't look so much frightened as distressed.

"No replacement," I say. "I have never agreed to the exchange."

Draco retrieves his bloodied cock, what has he done to manage to tear him like that, and zips, with a scowl on his face. I don't look at him any more or at Potter, just at Lucius.

"You haven't understood, Severus," he says deliberately mildly. "It is the decision of our Lord. He gave Potter to us." There is a wand in his hand and he looks thoughtfully at the stretched body of the boy in front of him. "Do you challenge the words of our Lord? Over someone so worthless as this little slut?"

He waves the wand, whispering 'Crucio', and Potter screams and convulses in pain, tearing at his bonds.

And suddenly the picture resurfaces in my mind, of Lucius standing with his wand over Potter tied to the table at the Headmaster's office, and Draco-Hagrid wrenching his legs apart, leaning onto him.

I whip my wand out.

"Avada Kedavra." I hear Draco shriek and turn to him quickly. "Expelliarmus!"

I still have time to see surprise in Lucius's eyes and the reflection of the green light from my wand as he crumbles down on the floor. Draco is thrown against the wall and slumps there, his eyes glassy. I step to the table and run the wand over the bonds keeping Potter's arms and legs tied.

And it is so easy, like in that dream of the Mirror of Erised - only this time I don't just see what I want to but I do it.

Potter tries to get on his feet and collapses on the floor, but his face, in handprints of Draco's slaps, upturned to me, looks so strangely exhilarated - and it takes me a moment to realize he's laughing.

"You killed him," he says. "Just like that." He hugs his chest - his broken ribs must hurt him. "You killed him over me."

And this was very stupid of me. But I'll regret it later.

I turn around swiftly, hearing the door slam - and there is no one at the wall where Draco has lain after I hexed him. Damn; the little bastard has come round faster than I expected.

Minutes later there will be hordes of my former colleagues here, I think looking at Lucius's corpse. A really crazy thing to do. But it is too late to think about it.

I step to the chest of drawers, stuff the necessary potions into my pockets, then look at Potter. He's still on the floor, his long limbs pulled under him. He stopped cackling, at least. Now his eyes are sober as he looks at me.

I jerk off the cover from the sofa and wrap it around him, then hoist him over my shoulder. Damn, he is heavy. But using 'Mobilicorpus' will slow me down even worse. He yelps in pain and then says:

"I feel so stupid, dangling with my arse up."

"Like it's the first time for you," I say. He laughs again; it's hysterics, very likely.

Longbottom unwinds at all his enviable height and stands at the wall, looking at us.

"Stay here," I say, "they won't do anything to you." He shakes his head very stubbornly, and I don't have time to argue. "Gather Lucius's wand then," I say. "And Draco's." The brat was stupid enough to forget it, when running away.

We walk out of my quarters. It's madness but there is just a tiny chance that if we get out of Hogwarts grounds, I probably will be able to Apparate away with both of them.

We manage through one corridor, and in the end of the next one there are already black-robed figures, waiting for us. I barely have time to step behind the corner as the curses chip the bits of stone next to my face.

We turn, and there is another corridor, and there I send a few curses, and someone is scathed, yelping in pain, but our way is cut off again. I lower Potter on the floor carefully in a small niche.

I can't believe it; he still smiles, and I want to slap him.

"What's so funny? That we're going to die?"

I should have never done it - or should have done it in some other way. If I were suicidal, at least I shouldn't have involved the children into it. Potter's very pale face, with awry glasses, looks bloodless - and Longbottom stares at me with those sad, stubborn cow eyes.

"I'd never think you'd do it. Sir," Potter says. "Over me."

I hit the back of my head against the wall. Stupid boy. If the walls could step aside, letting us in... but it only happens in Hogwarts myths.

"The Room of Requirement," Potter says. "It is very required now."

He must be delirious. Longbottom's eyes flash up with hope but then he sighs.

And at the next moment, from the opposite wall, a white small shadow appears, its big eyes half-translucent and blinking, huge ears fluttering.

"Dobby is showing you the way, Harry Potter, sir." And Potter slumps against the wall, the remnants of color drained from his face as he whispers, not amused any more.


Dobby; Lucius's house-elf. The stupid freed house-elf who didn't escape for some reason when Lucius became the Headmaster. Lucius executed him as soon as he managed to capture him, with the help of other, loyal house-elves.

"Why didn't you come before?" Harry asks.

The house-elf just shakes his head - and behind us, the passage in the wall opens, just as I dreamed about it. We walk in, and the wall slides shut again. There is a door, though.

"No one can enter unless one of us lets them in," Potter explains.

There is a sofa and a table in the room, with a jug of water on it. I dump Potter on the sofa unceremoniously.

"Oi," he says. I don't know how much time we have, so I decide better to hurry. I yank out the vials from my pockets, lining them on the table, then look down at him. The damage is painful but not extremely serious, I suppose I'll cope with it.

He obeys without me even having to order him, opening his mouth as I pour the potions into him. How wonderfully docile; just imagine him being like that all the time. Longbottom huddles on the floor, at the wall. In the shadows his eyes look dark and mournful. Having second thoughts, boy, I want to ask but say nothing.

Outside, we can hear voices reaching us.

"Where are they? They've been right here." It must be Nott.


"You idiot, you can't Apparate from the castle, Crabbe."

"I don't feel any change of magic, so it's hardly a Portkey." This is Narcissa's voice. She sounds admirably composed for someone who's just widowed. Merlin, I still can't quite believe it - I killed Lucius Malfoy. I remember him as he was when I only entered Hogwarts - powerful and so charismatic that his charm could knock you off your feet from the other side of the Great Hall. Now dead on the floor in my dungeons.

"That's how it always happens, doesn't it?" Potter asks suddenly, as if reading my thoughts. "Just gone. Like with Cedric."

"They're somewhere here," Narcissa says. "Some hidden room or something." Very clever. "Draco, stay with others, watch for them. I'll go..."

I know where she goes - picking up the responsibilities of her husband effortlessly. Someone bangs his boot against the wall - but the door holds. I turn to Potter again and run my wand over him, trying to heal his ribs.

* * *

I knew it would happen. It took longer than I expected - but still too little for my taste. Potter is on the sofa, his eyes closed, his face looking translucent and exhausted. Longbottom still sits on the floor in the corner of the room, and I sit on the floor at the sofa. The Room of Requirement probably decided that chairs were not a necessity.

It probably took longer because Draco had some explanation to do. And then it comes; pain that digs into my forearm, spreading fire spikes through my body.

I clench the Dark Mark, curling protectively over it, as if it can help, as if it can make the pain go away.

The voice sounding through the wall is soft and seems to get right into my mind.

"You disappointed me so, Severus."

How strange... the same words Albus told me in his last letter - before my world went down. Before I let my world go down for Potter's sake.

"Come out now, and your death will be an easy one."

It is a generous proposal - especially accompanied with the tearing pain that seems to lodge in my brain now. I clutch on my arm not trying to stop the pain but because I can't unclench my fingers. There is a burning feeling in my eyes, and I understand it's tears.

At least no one can see them, hair hanging over my face. At least I hope no one can see.

"I can make you come out," the Dark Lord - well, Voldemort, Tom Riddle, I don't think there is a reason to be superstitious about his name any more - says, almost with amusement. "You think you know how it can hurt? You know nothing."

It is one occasion when he is entirely truthful. I had no idea the Dark Mark could hurt like this.

Time seems to get quaint. I don't know how much time passed. My vision is so blurred that I can't see almost anything. I lie on my side on the floor, curled around my arm, even though pain doesn't center in it any more. In fact, it's almost as if my arm is the only numb part of my body, its nerves shut down. Everything else wrenches in pain.

I don't scream - at least I hope so, because I gnaw into my hand, and my mouth is full of blood, and I feel my teeth scrape on the bone. But I don't want to scream. I don't want to scare the children.

"He doesn't come out. Shall we break the wall?" someone asks outside - Bellatrix.

"Idiot. Do you want the whole Hogwarts on your head if we start destroying it?"

Please. It wouldn't be such a bad idea, all buried down here.

But Potter... I want him to live. I want Longbottom to live.

There are fingers hooking into my hair, pulling my head up. Unwillingly, excruciatingly, I look, afraid that if I break concentration, I'll start screaming until I have no more voice left.

Potter has crawled down from the sofa and sits on his heels on the floor, looking at me intently.

"You're such a mess," he says, and then the tips of his fingers touch my bloodied mouth.

Then he pulls my head closer and puts it on his lap, and I feel the heat of his bare skin; but what could be driving me mad with lust at some other moment now is only a very distant sensation.

I'd ask him to kill me - but I can't put it on him, can I? And it would be too easy. He said I have to live. I wish I could believe, at least now, in my near-delirium, that this pain could be enough, redemption enough. But I don't think so. It's too cheap, physical pain, it's nothing...

Then it's gone, and I cry in relief, sob loudly, unable to control myself, shuddering, thrashing, slipping off Potter's lap. I feel shame for making sounds like that but I can't stop.

Potter's expression is alert. He knows it as well as I do, there must be some reason why the Dark Lord stopped, and I hardly think it's because he took mercy on me.

"Potter." His voice reaches us. "So, Severus was resistant to, let's say, temptation. Now it's your turn."

I know what they're going to do almost before they do it. Because I know how their minds work - and Harry knows it as well. I hear a small word fall from his lips, breathlessly tragic.


"We have your friend, Potter." It is Bellatrix Lestrange. "Come out before we start cutting off pieces of him."

Potter's face distorts at Bellatrix's voice. She killed his godfather, I remember, right in front of his eyes.

There is some commotion outside, and then Ron's voice reaches us.

"Don't come out, Harry, I don't care what they'll do!"

Stupid boy; does he still think, after all those years, that they don't mean what they say? I catch Potter's eyes and read the same thought in them. And when, after a pause while Weasley probably mutilates his lips trying not to scream, a scream still breaks through, high-pitched and choking, something in Potter's eyes crumbles.

I look at him through the hanging strands of my hair, wiping blood from my face. I'm sorry. They had gone easy on me, hadn't they? On the other hand, I have no friend one can use against me.

I have no one but him.

Potter shifts, pulling his knees to his chest. His knuckles are white, his face so very pale. He looks trapped.

Maybe, maybe if he comes out, they won't kill him. Him and Longbottom. It's me who killed Lucius, after all. They're just slaves.

"My lord," I hear Pettigrew's ingratiating, soft voice. "He's my property, please..."

"Shut your mouth." The Dark Lord's voice sounds tight with anger. Well, it looks like Wormtail has just got himself in trouble.

"Potter! Do you know what we'll do next? Your friend doesn't need his balls anyway, does he?"

They'll do it, I know - why wouldn't they? Ron Weasley's fascination is just in the fact that he is Arthur Weasley's son and Harry Potter's friend. They'll mutilate and then slaughter him, just like that, if Harry doesn't come out.

If he doesn't come out... I look at him, and I see him looking at me, and there is something so scary and dark in his eyes, and I suddenly know one certain thing. He might die if he comes out. But if he stays here, something will die in him.

Something that is still alive in him, even after everything. I can't let it die.

If he can't decide it himself - if something stops him, probably fear for Longbottom - I have to do it. I have to give him a chance to die as Harry Potter.

I get up and walk to the door.

"Sit on the floor in the corner," I say to both of them. Perhaps then at least they won't get killed at the first moment when the Death Eaters burst into the room. "Longbottom... if you have a chance, say I *made* you go with me."

He nods, for once not looking like a puppy. A comforting sight before death - mature Longbottom. I can't look at Harry - or I'll never push this door, I'll return to him and wrap my arms around him, and never let him go, never in a hundred years, they'll find our bodies together in this room, many, many years later.

"Leave Weasley alone," I say. "I'm coming out."

Then I open the door, and black flashes of curses, more than I can count, slam into my chest. It hurts but not for long. Then everything is gone.

* * *

I'm not dead. None of them used 'Avada Kedavra' on me. It must've been his order. And as I'm spread and chained, my arms and legs twitching in aftershocks of the curses, I know it was foolish of me to hope for merciful death. I should've used the kind offer of the Dark Lord while it was standing.

But now it's too late, now there is nothing for me but a steady, slow destruction - healed and cut open again, bones broken, skin burned off and restored.

They don't care how much damage they inflict, as long as they don't kill me, at least yet. Our nonentity of school mediwizard, Avery's nephew, is almost always present, even though I have no idea how much use he is, his notion of treatment consisting of Pepper-Up potion and a thermometer.

I know everything they do to me, all methods familiar. I've seen it done before, I've done some of it myself. It's pretty much like hell but I still hope it's finite. As Potter... as Harry said once: 'But then it ends.' It is my only hope, that finally they'll kill me.

It hurts more when they twist my broken bones than when they enter me. I don't remember much of that, it's all fuzzy. Apart from that one time when it's the Dark Lord who fucks me. I see his glazed eyes and a strand of hair sticking to his forehead. He's never fucked me before, you know. I thought he found me too unattractive for that.

Well, surely I'm more attractive now.

Bellatrix Lestrange, a strange person she is, reads me from the accounts on the execution traditions in various countries, China, Russia, Japan. Her beautiful voice sounds quite dramatic in all necessary places.

* * *

I open my eyes, and there is Potter looking down at me. I listened very hard to the conversations of those who worked on me - and sometimes they let it slip, so I knew he's alive. Longbottom must be all right as well.

Draco got Potter. As a compensation for his father's death, no doubt. I feel relieved it's him and not Voldemort himself.

"Here, look at your lover." Crabbe pushes the boy. Potter stumbles a little, his arms are cuffed behind his back. "Doesn't he look smart?"

I don't know where they took it from, that there was some kind of great romance between me and Potter. Or something like that. They probably fantasize it to death, how we loved each other every night in the dungeons.

One glass in Potter's spectacles is cracked. His eyes are bruised, the left one swollen nearly shut, and his lips are split. I can't stop looking at him.

He's naked, and he looks as if Draco used a metal-studded whip to beat him. A few of his welts are infected and oozing. His nipples are pierced and there is some kind of piercing done on his genitals as well.

He looks at me and his nostrils tremble.

"Har... ry." On half-way I decide that I've never called him like that in his face and decide to turn back to the decent 'Potter' but I realize I don't have strength for that.

His lips are tightly pressed but tremble a little all the same - and I can't figure out what's that in his eyes, and he doesn't say a word.

I'm sorry, I want to say, I made such a mess out of it, and please just one time say you forgive me. Lie to me. But I suppose I can't ask for it.

At least it'll end soon. I hope it'll be soon. And I won't have to think of what I have done to him.

It looks as if the mask he wears cracks. He looks so angry. His shoulders are strained, sinews standing out on his upper arms as if he tries to break the ties. His breath hitches.

"Seen enough?" Crabbe asks and grabs his shoulder.

"Let me go!" Potter shouts and tries to twist away. Crabbe slams his fist into his abdomen. I see him dragging the boy away, doubled over, but to the very end Potter stares at me.

* * *

Tom Riddle is our new Headmaster. I can barely believe it. Albus must've been right, being near to Potter deteriorates his brain. It is him who announces me how I'll be executed. I should have expected it.

"I think it will be a fitting punishment for you, Severus," he says squeezing my shoulder slightly. It doesn't help that it is dislocated, and for a moment I black out with pain. "I know you still have this fear of the werewolf. I saw it in those pensieve memories you showed me."

"I have... lots of fears," I say. "Of wheeling... of crucifixion... of burning alive."

"Tomorrow," he says. "We won't make you wait for too long. Ah, Severus. No one could amuse me as much as you did."

"I should feel flattered... I believe."

He laughs and passes his palm over my face, over my broken nose. I swallow blood and close my eyes.

* * *

I didn't think I would see Potter again. Well, I'm wrong. They just *have to* turn it into a farce, don't they? Replay everything until it becomes laughable.

He holds the jar in his hands, and I know it is not the one that is normally used. I recognize it - it contains my failed attempts at extracting the secretion. Well, it smells right - it just evaporates within an hour or so. My lips quirk. Isn't Tom Riddle just too greedy? He wants everything, first the intercourse, then the murder.

Potter's face, pale and badly bruised, is tilted down as he scoops the oil in his hand. They haven't tied me - but then again, I'm hardly going anywhere.

All around me I see the faces of my old friends. Their pets are here as well - Weasleys, and Longbottom, and others.

Potter's hand slides over my face, bothering my broken nose and jaw. I jerk involuntarily. The oil clogs my nose. Potter doesn't meet my gaze.

Why do they make him do it? Because they think we're so much in love and it'll hurt him? Sometimes their logic is just amusing.

His palm passes over my lips, and I want to kiss it, just once. But I have no right to.

He proceeds lower, touches me in an intimate way that would get me on the edge with want at any other time. So, I'm glad my body is in such a state. At least I don't need to be ashamed for any unwelcome reactions.

He finishes, and for a moment his hand, warm, lingers on the inside of my thigh. It's likely he's just got distracted but still I cherish this touch so much. I'm such a fool. But I'm so happy I can still see him, for a minute longer.

"Turn him," someone orders; my mind is too fuddled to recognize the voice but it's not Tom Riddle. "Make it more comfortable for the werewolf."

Potter's lips compress even tighter. Then his hands slide - one under my shoulder blades, the other under my thighs. No, don't touch me, my mind screams. It already hurts. But he doesn't have a choice, does he?

Besides, soon it will be over anyway. I have to bear it for just a little while longer.

I clench my teeth and yes, it hurts as I have known it will, when he turns me onto my side. My breath gets a pathetic, ragged sound that I can't control while he rearranges my legs, pushing them up to my chest.

It *will* be more comfortable for the werewolf, indeed.

The tips of Potter's fingers brush against my ribcage. I don't think he adds any more oil - he's already done what he could. Now it's time for him to leave. But for a moment more he looks at me, his expression grim, his lips white, then shakes his head, throwing the messy bangs away from his forehead.

"You bastard," he says. What's new about it? "Do you think that's all?"

He turns and walks out, holding his oil smeared hands awkwardly in front of his chest.

The sky in the opening is deep grey, and I hear the door clank as they drag Lupin out.

* * *

I have seen what happens next enough times not to have the wish to watch it. So I don't look as they dump Lupin on the floor and go away. I'll know the cracking sound of the wards raised when I hear it.

And I hear this crack - but a split second before it, under the hushed exclamations in the crowd, Potter flings himself over the rails.

Idiot. Bloody idiot. Please no. He can't be so stupid, even he can't. Please, there is still time, someone get him out of here. I hear an anguished scream of Lupin. I struggle to get up but I can't - and then I hear it turn into a growl.

And then Potter shouts: "Stupefy!" - and Lupin - the werewolf - is thrown back against the wards. There is a wand in Potter's hand and I recognize it. It belonged to Lucius Malfoy.

"Petrificus Totalus," he says, and keeps putting spells, strings of rope shooting from the wand, wrapping around Lupin until he's trussed up, lying on the floor.

Then Potter looks at me - and there is this mad, wild, incongruously *happy* smile on his face.

You fool, I think, do you hope it'll change anything? I can't believe it.

He's got the wand, I don't know where from but he's got it - and all he used it for was to stop the werewolf? Wasn't his greatest wish to see the Dark Lord dead? Did he forfeit it for...

He walks up to me, still smiling, but his eyes have a strange, focused look in them. He leans and kisses me on my lips.

It's a wet, sloppy kiss, landing awkwardly, and so brief, and he winces, the oil is really vile to taste - and then he straightens, frowning.

Tom Riddle stands in his place, his eyes flashing, lips curved in disgust.

"Someone, take off those wards and get the brat out of there. This performance is no fun any more."

There is a pause, I suppose they're still afraid of the werewolf - and of Potter who clenches his wand.

Then the wards fall.

And at the same moment the door slams open. And there are grey-robed figures bursting in, wands on the ready, and I see a flash or two of bright-red hair. Spells crack through the air and someone screams.

"Hey. It'll hurt," Potter says. And suddenly his wiry arms wrap around me, and he jerks me down from the altar, and Merlin it hurts, my body screams even as I don't. He pats my face as he settles me propped behind the stone slab. "Quiet, quiet, you'll be safer here. It's gonna be hot."

Yes, right, and I want him to stay here, in the extremely relative safety behind the altar, but I can't even clasp my fingers on his wrist.

Potter smiles infuriatingly and then jumps up on his feet.

No, no, you'll get killed...

And he's there, the Dark... Voldemort - of course, he is. It is his business to kill the boy. Finally. His lips twitch in a smile as he raises his wand.

I see Potter's face distort. He throws his hand with the wand forward, the words of the curse almost inaudible in the noise of the battle.

He's just a boy, he's never killed anyone before, does he think it's so easy? Or does he think if he dies Voldemort will die, too?

And then green light flashes through his hand - and spreads through his arm and through all his body - and for a moment he all glows green, even the scar on his forehead. Then with a burst this light goes from the tip of his wand, a blinding flash turning the whole world green for a moment. But despite that - I can see, I *know* how it enters the Dark Lord's chest - and he freezes for a moment, that gleeful smile still on his lips. And then he crumbles down on the floor.

I see him fall, and I know he's gone. Potter has done it, I don't know how. With someone else's wand, from his first attempt. I always thought it was the matter of experience, with casting the Unforgivables, the matter of power. And this way, Voldemort just couldn't lose.

But there are some things that can't be explained so easily. And when I look at Potter as he stands, a skinny, naked boy, I think that maybe there is something more about it. Something that made him stronger than the Dark Lord. He lowers his wand - very slowly, it seems, but in reality his hand just drops probably, as a dead weight. And then his eyes meet mine - and there is such wild, unrestricted triumph in them. And as the corpse of Tom Riddle touches the floor, a huge pain bursts, first in my forearm and then spreading through my body - and it is so acute, so enormous, unlike anything I had ever felt. I see Potter's eyes turned worried - and then I can do nothing but scream, and my screams seem to be multiplied around me, but I have no ability to think what it might mean.

Then the pain is just too much, and the world turns black.

* * *

In the darkness around me I'm aware again of being alive. It hurts - not the way the Dark Mark did, when Voldemort was gone; but recognizable, comprehensible pains of broken bones and damaged insides. I can't help moaning, complaining, when someone moves me, and this action resounds through my body.

"Careful, you..." someone hisses next to me. My brain is too cumbersome to put a link between the voice and the name, even though I know it's important. "If you insist on chaining him, you might chain me to the bed as well."

"He's a Death Eater, Mr. Potter," another voice says pacifyingly. "He's dangerous."

Potter... right. I just don't understand why he's here. He should be... somewhere else. Anywhere but here. Because it's all over, the Dark Lord is gone, he killed him. He should be... I don't know, with his friends, with those who love and adore him.

"I know who he is," Potter whispers furiously.

I don't hear the continuation of the argument, whether they chained me or not. I just slip into unconsciousness again.

* * *

No chains. The room is small and dim, the window looks very grey and clouded, the wards put so thick that you can see nothing outside.

Potter looks like a sad, unhealthy bird, a huddled sparrow, as he perches on the other bed, his knees pulled up to his chest. There are lilac shadows around his eyes, making them look bruised. He drags his hand through his hair, ruffling it even worse.

"I thought I killed you," he says. "When killing him."

He brings me water and several vials and tips them into my mouth, waiting patiently until I swallow. His lips curve a little in a nasty smirk as I wince at the taste.

"They can brew icky stuff here," he says.

"Where is here?"

"St. Mungo's." He looks as if he doubts my mental faculties.

"I thought..." I pause to reacquire my breath. "It might be Azkaban."

"They tried to," he says coldly. He looks as if he wants me to ask a question but I don't, and he finishes himself. "I didn't let him. It wouldn't be good if I made a scandal out of it, so they just gave up. Everything the Boy-Who-Killed-Voldemort wants he gets, you know."

"Why..." I ask. "Why didn't you let them?"

I think it's a natural thing to ask, and he should've expected it, after what he's said. But for some reason he looks flushed and angry, staring at me with furious green eyes.

"Shut up," he says. "Sir. Shut up."

* * *

Five Death Eaters were killed in the takeover of Hogwarts. Others, incapacitated with the wave of pain at the moment of Voldemort's death, were taken alive. Prisoners were freed and received medical help.

The wand Potter used to kill the Dark Lord - Lucius Malfoy's wand - Longbottom hid it when they were captured in the Room of Requirement, and gave it to Potter. Where naked Longbottom hid the wand - I don't want to know.

Potter is awarded the Order of Merlin, 1st class, and so are the elder Weasley brothers who led the attack. It had taken a while for Luna Lovegood and her father to convince that the things she said were true, and many didn't want to listen, but Weasley bothers did.

Albus Dumbledore... I suppose these two words aren't said in a respectful society any more. The Ministry is vague on what happened. They say he was gravely ill during last years, and it might have affected his perception, causing him to restrict the activities of the Order.

How convenient for them, to choose him as a scapegoat. 'The Ministry did nothing because *he* told us to do nothing.'

Anyway, as Hogwarts students, former and recent ones, are given the potion to negate the one I brewed, and as Aurors start finding the pensieves of the Death Eaters, newspapers get filled with more accounts on the atrocities at Hogwarts.

There are wads of newspapers on the floor in my ward, and they rustle resentfully as Potter walks over them - over the flashing, enormous headlines: 'The Savior of the Wizard World continuously raped: Harry Potter's friends testify.'

For all I know the only people who haven't given an interview yet are Lupin, Ron Weasley and Longbottom.

Aurors come again. Potter stands in front of my bed, the wand in his hand. It's the same wand, Lucius's - he still uses it. He still wears the clothes he had at school, and his old glasses, even though I know there are hundreds of packages with clothes, spectacles and other stuff sent to him, via the Ministry.

He puts a Quietus charm on his conversation with the Aurors. But in the end they leave, looking miffed and vaguely surprised.

* * *

"Do you ever walk out?" I ask. He sits on his bed - the room is so small there is barely place for anything else but two beds - and pets a big white owl perched on the headboard. He looks at me, tilting his head in the same manner as his bird does.

I sleep almost all the time, so I wouldn't know. And when I'm awake, he's always here.

"No," he says curtly, after a pause.

That's what I thought. There is a reason why the newspapers, their tone changed from hysterically terrified to slightly annoyed, announce: 'The Ministry denies the rumors about the Boy-Who-Lived mental instability.'

"Why would I want to?" he asks. "I have everything I want here."

One day, Ron Weasley comes. He's dressed in a plain blue robe, his hair cut short. His face seems even paler in contrast with this red hair - and his hair is the only thing that looks alive about him.

He doesn't look at me even once, so carefully avoiding me that I doubt at first he can think about anything else. He and Harry talk at the door, behind the Quietus charm. Weasley nods as Harry says something.

Before they part, they hug each other, for a brief moment but so tightly that Ron's hands clenched on Harry's robe are white-knuckled.

After he leaves, Harry stands at the window you can't see anything through. I lie and wait, looking at the dusty ceiling above me.

"He said his family will always be glad to see me, at the Burrow," he says.

"And?" I ask - because he wants me to ask.

"I'm not going."

"They... care for you, I think." The word 'care' sounds awkwardly on my lips.

"I know." He falls silent, and in this quietness I hear how the rain spatters behind the window. "I said I want to stay with you."

"You can't hide here for all your life." One of us has to be sensible. Why should it be me? But well, I believe I don't have a choice. "Even I can't stay here forever. Sooner or later they'll take me away."

"No," he says and whips around, and his eyes are so wild and angry as if he wants to strike me. "No."

I shrug. He turns away again, puts his hands on the windowsill.

"Ron says he understands," he adds suddenly. And before I can say anything, he continues. "He said Pettigrew... he wasn't all that bad to him."

Pettigrew was the first of the newly captured Death Eaters who took the Dementor's Kiss.

There is little I can say to him on this. I see how his shoulder-blades move under the worn off robe as he straightens. Then he turns to me again.

"Time to take your potions."

* * *

I listen to the sentence, sitting propped to the pillows. On my left and a little behind me, Potter leans against the wall but I cannot see him.

"Prohibition to use magic. Prohibition to occupy any jobs in the wizard world. Confiscation of all possessions. Deprivation of all rights..."

I see my wand in the hands of the Auror, and for the first time in a long while, I feel a little jolt in my chest that makes me shift. They whip out their wands, and simultaneously, Potter moves away from his position at the wall, his hand clenched in his pocket. I lean back against the pillows.

The wand snaps in two in the Auror's hands. Then each half is broken again. Ten inches, aspen and unicorn hair. It wasn't the best wand, my mother hadn't bought it at Ollivander's - but I got used to it.

How stupid. I should know it's the right thing to happen.

"It could be worse," Potter says after they leave.

"I know," I say.

"They could take you to Azkaban, like others. They could make you stand at the pillory, like Lestranges. They could..."

"I know," I interrupt him.

"It's the best I could do," he says quietly.

Right. Damage control.

I slide down into lying position again. My head's spinning when I sit; tomorrow I'll have to get out of here - 'haul my sorry arse out', as one of the Aurors kindly put it, so I decide to spare my strength.

Potter moves in the dim room, like a scrawny, angular shadow.

"I'll take care of you," he says. I'd chuckle but I think it'd sound rude, so I don't. "I have money. It will be enough for both of us."

"You're going to support me. In what quality?"

"As my fucktoy Death Eater whore, of course," he says.

The obscenities fall from his lips in a strangely light way, sounding almost... almost beautiful. And despite everything I think at this moment only about one thing - how his voice sounds in the nearly dark room, how I want to keep hearing it.

"Can I sleep on your bed tonight?" he asks.

The bed is too narrow for both of us, and he ends up sleeping mostly *on* me, his heavy round head on my chest, and both of his sharp knees over my legs, and as he shifts in his sleep, I feel his fist poking into my side.

He's very hot, like some source of heat in my bed, and I feel the warmth of his breath even through the cloth of my nightshirt.

I know he's just lonely and confused. And he feels that I'm the only stable thing in his life. And by being with me, he hides from everything else, from the world that had let it happen to him. He doesn't understand what he wants; he doesn't understand what he needs.

But the deepest truth , and I know it better than anything else, is that I want to stay with him. And as long as he believes he needs me - I'll be here.

* * *

I hold onto the rails of the bed, my fingers clammy. There are black stains floating in front of my eyes, and Potter's voice reaches me as if from afar.

"Are you sure you can do it? Because if you aren't, we'll stay."

"No," I cut him off. It's not just that I have to leave today. I can see he's impatient to leave as well - finally, because he's made his decision.

"Or I can go alone and pick you up later."

"I'm perfectly all right," I answer.

And I am, I've walked all around the room enough times by now. But I haven't counted on how much effort it takes to get dressed.

It's my old robe, from Hogwarts, I have no idea who brought it. There are two big white letters sewn on the left side of the chest, D and E. The requirement of the Ministry.

I don't want him to go alone. I'm not afraid that he won't return for me, I'll be happy if he decides to leave. But I don't want him to be alone in all that.

"Fine." Potter sounds exasperated. "We don't need to hurry. Really."

I unclench my hands determinedly and make myself start walking to the door.

His hand, hard and very strong, catches me under the elbow. I feel very compelled to shake him off, what does he think, that I can't... But I really don't think I can do without his support, so I bite my tongue and focus on moving.

He opens the door, and we walk out.

There are people outside, lots of them. I don't suppose it's something different from the usual crowd in the hospital corridors - well, maybe a bit more people than usual. But I'm out of habit of seeing so many people.

And they *stare*.

They stare at him - and at me, I believe, and even at the cage with his owl he carries. But mostly at him. And they talk. Not even quietly enough for the bits and pieces of their conversation not to reach us.

"Him... the Boy-Who-Lived..."

"He's cracked, you know... Well, no wonder, after all those things..."

"Raving mad..."

"I read in the newspaper..."

"He keeps one of them next to him all the time... as his slave, I mean, the Ministry allowed..."

I think Potter's fingers are pretty numb, so hard he clenches them on my forearm, and I almost don't feel my arm at all. We walk to the Floo, and his arms wrap around me tightly.

"Diagon Alley," I hear his loud, clear voice over my ear.

It is the middle of September. The rain is drizzling, soft and cold but I find this feeling refreshing. I raise my face to the drops. They smell a bit with rotting leaves. Harry raises his wand, for Impervius or something like that, and I say: "Don't."

At least because of rain there are not so many people around. And the time for students shopping with their parents has passed. Students attend other wizard schools at the moment, not Hogwarts - Hogwarts is not open this year, although I don't know how everything is the fault of the castle.

It's just a short walk till Gringotts. And goblins don't have the habit of messing into human things.

Potter comes up to the counter, shakes his wet head and says:

"I want to collect the whole content of my vault."

The goblin winces as if Harry's said something obscene.

"It is your right. Of course, you have the key?"

"I do not have the key," he says equally coldly. "But if you want to check my magic signature..."

The goblin looks at him intently, and when he speaks again, it sounds rather less grumpy.

"No, of course not, Mr. Potter. Do you want to collect the content yourself?"

He looks at me and shakes his head.

"Rather not. We'll wait here."

He stands next to me as I sit; the back of his hand touches my arm, seemingly accidentally, but it stays there even as he shifts from one foot to the other.

The door slams open, and there are people flooding the hall, Fudge among them, and other Ministry officials, and some Aurors. And - oh - reporters.

"Harry." Fudge's voice is so hearty as he walks up to him, reaching his hand for a handshake - which Harry never takes. "We've just been informed that you left St. Mungo's. Your Order of Merlin..."

The boy stands with his hands clasped behind his back, the knuckles white. I can see him vibrate, very minutely, as if it takes all his control not to move.

"Mr. Potter, is there a reason why you refuse to receive your award?" a young woman breaks in, her quill on the ready.

His hands clamp on each other so hard that I'm afraid he'll break them. Or I'm afraid he'll do something crazy.

"Mr. Kormik, excuse me!" His voice is loud as he calls for a goblin walking by. "I supposed it was the policy of your bank that your clients cannot be disturbed by loiterers."

The goblin peers at him indignantly.

"Yes. Yes, by all means."

They are really efficient at ousting the crowd, including Fudge, out.

The cart filled with galleons is big and heavy. Potter looks at me and says, the corner of his mouth twitching in a smile:

"Yeah, I'm rich. I would like to change them into pounds," he addresses to the clerk.

"All of them?"


Sheaves of paper money don't look so impressive as coins but obviously are easier to carry, as Harry stuffs them in his pockets. He turns to me and smiles, even though his eyes are dark and strangely intense.

The Leaky Cauldron is another place where people gape, and some of them get from their places with obvious intent to talk to him. Harry gives them such a look that they change their mind.

Then a thin, shabby figure rises from the table in the corner.

For the first time today Harry looks genuinely happy as he walks up to Lupin. And Lupin looks at him with a terrible expression of anguish, his hands trembling as if he struggles with his wish to grab Harry and pull to himself.

Then Harry throws himself at him, burying his face in Lupin's shoulder.

"Harry," Lupin whispers. "Harry."

He looks horrible; much worse than he did when locked in the cage at Hogwarts. He's clean-shaven but his face looks like a skull and there are bags under his eyes. His voice sounds like a rustle.

'The Ministry decided not to bring up accusations against Remus Lupin, werewolf, on five accounts of rape and two accounts of murder due to mitigating circumstances,' I recall a paragraph in a newspaper.

I watch Harry clinging to him, desperately, whispering again and again: "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Lupin's bony hands slide along his back, comforting. His eyes are very dark, meeting my stare over Harry's shoulder.

"I'll write," Harry says, "I have Hedwig."

Lupin nods. Finally their arms unlock. Lupin's messy grey hair falls onto his face and he pushes it away.

"Good bye, Harry," he says and glances at me. "Good bye, Severus."

"Bye, Lupin," I mutter.

Harry turns and looks at him one more time, right before tapping his wand on the wall. We step through the passage, and the wall slides shut again.

We are in a small street with stone houses on its sides - and everything is different. The air, the smell, the noise.

"Well, here we are," Potter says sententiously and turns to me, frowning. "You look like death warmed up," he says. "Can you stay on your feet for a while longer? We'll just take a taxi and find a hotel or something. Just a little longer."

"Of course I can," I say with irritation. He frowns some more.

And then his hands are on my face, clasping, tugging it closer - and his lips are on mine, his tongue forcing them apart. It's rough and more than a little clumsy, his face is wet with rain - but his mouth is scalding hot, and I want him to never stop, I would give anything for him to keep kissing me.

He breaks away finally, slightly breathless, looking flushed, and his eyes behind the glasses are misty and dazed.

"It's all over," he says, his voice high and sounding as if it's about to break, "do you understand it? It's all over. Now it's just you and me."

Why should he sound so *happy* about it? I almost can't bear it.

"You and me," he repeats and laughs - and suddenly there is a flash of polished wood breaking the jets of the rain. His wand draws a big arch in the air - and falls, disappearing between sewage bars.

I make myself stop looking at it and turn to Harry, and he laughs again. I wonder what the papers would say about his sanity now.

He looks up and licks the drops of rain from his lips. His wet hair falls away from his face, showing the red line of the scar.

"Everything will be different here," he says.

"Yes," I answer. "Of course."

Anything you want.

I love you.


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