Title: Cut with Diamonds
Author: Eodrakken (firstname.lastname@example.org
Summary: What would it pleasure me to have my throat cut with diamonds? or to be smothered with cassia? or to be shot to death with pearls?
Notes: This is a sequel to Juxian Tang's "Damage Control", which is in turn a sequel to Amanuensis's "And Just Plain Wrong". As such, it is an AU, and may not make much sense if you're not familiar with the other stories.
Many thanks to Amanuensis and Juxian Tang for letting me play with their toys, and to my everlastingly glorious beta reader Caesia.
"Ron says he understands," he adds suddenly. [...] "He said Pettigrew... he wasn't all that bad to him."
-Damage Control (Juxian Tang)
The little boat rocks sickeningly as it glides across the cold, murky water. There are a few too many people to fit properly, and Ron is jammed up against the side with Harry's hip digging into his thigh. The smell of pitch and wet wood almost reminds Ron of the boats to Hogwarts, but not quite, because that was always at night. This is an icy-bright morning, too early to be awake. Harry's sharp elbow bumps his arm as he covers a silent yawn.
When they make land, for a moment Ron thinks they've just stopped off somewhere, because it looks so... ordinary. A tiny dock and an old fortress, metalwork and wilting ivy. And petrifying, unnatural cold.
They climb out of the boat, limbs stiff from sitting too long. It takes a few minutes for everyone to gather their coats and handbags and whatever else and get onto the pier. Ron rubs his elbows, squinting crossly at the horizon.
'Fucking dawdling,' he says.
'Can't blame them,' Harry answers in an undertone, sidling up close to him. 'They can't start until we get there, so it seems like... we're responsible. I mean, we're not, but...'
Ron doesn't answer. Harry hesitates a moment as if he's about to say something else, but then turns and steps briskly over to the boat to give Lavender Brown a hand up.
The seven witnesses are carefully warded and then led through the gateway by one of the human warders. It's still freezing, like being out in the snow without a jacket, but the Dementors can't come near them, can't dig into their memories. Ron thinks he hears Lavender whimpering somewhere towards the back of the group. Harry's walking very close to him. The stonework of the floor is slippery with frost, so Ron makes sure to place each foot down carefully as he goes.
Light spills in at an angle from the high windows. It glistens off the particles of ice on the stone walls, and paints Harry's face a faint sunrise gold.
Ron remembers something then.
Light through the windows of Pettigrew's room, and he was sitting there looking out with yellow spilling over his face, piggish little eyes squinting. 'Look at the way they're blooming,' he said, and his voice could be a woman's if you closed your eyes. 'It's summer soon, I think, Ron.'
Ron was on his knees on the floor, rubbing Pettigrew's feet, and Pettigrew wasn't watching him. The feet were hot and blue-veined from being crammed into tight leather and walked on all day, and they smelled stale. The soles were thick yellow and rough-ridged under Ron's thumbs as he carefully kneaded, staying away from the blisters. The toenails were small and curved and white, and one was torn to the quick. He rubbed Pettigrew's fat-bony swollen ankles, where the hair on his legs started.
'On my feet all day,' Pettigrew said faintly, still looking away out the window.
'I could wash them if you want.' Ron froze as soon as the words come out, like someone else had said them.
Pettigrew looked down at him sharply, the afternoon light making deep shadows in his frown and double chin. 'Saying my feet are dirty?'
Pettigrew drew his feet back out of Ron's hands, shifted his arse awkwardly, leaned in, and backhanded Ron across the mouth.
The blow wasn't as hard as Ron had thought it would be, but he let himself fall to his hands and knees on the waxy floor. He stayed there for a minute, breathing, not looking up, feeling the heat rise in his left cheekbone where it had caught a knuckle. Looking at the fuzzy shadow of his head and hair from the yellow window behind him.
Pettigrew breathed too, shallow and fretful. 'Well,' he said eventually, 'well, you can wash them.' Anxious, muffled as he looked away again. 'You can wash them if you want.'
And then there was warm water rubbed over the pink and white indentations from Pettigrew's socks, and the dribbling of a cloth being squeezed out into a ceramic basin, like the sound of a weak piss into the toilet.
Pettigrew could have hit him with his right hand.
Ron feels Harry's hand on his arm, and he realises the group has come to a halt. Their escort is whispering with the chief warder, a fat blonde woman.
'What's the matter?' Ron asks.
'There's been a delay,' the warder says, looking from Ron to Harry as if not sure who she's meant to be talking to. 'Don't worry, it'll be put right. Just a quibble over the last meal.'
Ron laughs sharply. It sounds wrong in here, like the walls aren't sure where to send the echo. 'He's getting picky over his food?'
The warder shifts uncomfortably. 'No, no... Of course, he isn't eating. But there's a question of the offer being made, being documented. Under the new law.'
'Good,' Harry says quickly, throwing Ron a glance. 'Fine. We'll wait.'
The pit of Ron's stomach is cold and numb. There are no windows here, and the walls don't entirely muffle the groans of suffering prisoners. Their little group herds closer together.
Harry turns his head to look back, and Ron follows his gaze. Snape is standing a few steps off, his teeth clenched hard. The back of his stained hand brushes against the stone wall. Harry throws him a wan, crooked smile. Snape's face doesn't move, but as he looks at Harry, there's a little shift of reflection in his eyes, and for a moment it seems like maybe you could see something inside.
Pettigrew had had a lot of sherry at dinner, and Ron knew he didn't hold his liquor very well. They were walking back down the dim corridor with jumping shadows like a crackling fire, and Pettigrew's soft hand was clutching Ron's shirt at his lower back as if afraid he might fall while trying to negotiate the moving stairways.
Snape came walking briskly the other way towards the dungeon steps, (how many times had they run pelting down them laughing and late for class?), click click click boots echoing even and sharp, with Harry naked and leashed like a poodle at his heel. Harry's eyes were glassy; he looked concussed - fucking bastard, Snape.
As they passed, Pettigrew savagely raked his eyes over Harry's body like a starving rodent. Looks just like James, doesn't he, Ron almost wanted to say. Not looking where he was going, Pettigrew stumbled and pushed Ron's shoulder into the stone wall, a breath-squeezed-out grunt. Snape glanced back at them scalpel-sharp, tightened his grip on Harry's lead, and walked on quicker.
Pettigrew got his footing again, and they made their way up to his-- their-- his rooms. All the way up the rickety stairs with the hairpin turn, Ron thought about how this should have been Harry, Harry would have been Pettigrew's first choice if he'd been allowed. The idea was oddly hard to pin down, like it kept dancing away. Trying to catch it left a bitter taste in Ron's mouth.
Pettigrew skipped the normal bedtime routine and stumbled into bed half-clothed in the pitch dark, dragging Ron down with him. The springs moaned under their combined weight as Pettigrew pulled him close with a sigh of intoxicated exhaustion. Soft fat belly pressed against him, and a thick calf rubbing over his leg.
'I was just a little boy once, you know?' Pettigrew mumbled into Ron's face, pressing their foreheads together. 'An ordinary boy. How did I get--'
He kissed Ron's lips, and Ron lay still. Pettigrew must not have liked that, because he grabbed Ron by the side of the neck and squeezed, and when he kissed him again, Ron made sure to kiss back. Red-fermented taste of stale sherry and spit.
' 'S can't last forever, can it? You all go home over the summer, and even with the memory charms, somebody's bound to find out.' Warm touch, heavy sweet breath, a fat, shaky hand stroking his hair. ' 'M amazed it's gone on this long. Don't you think someone'll find out?'
Ron wasn't sure if Pettigrew wanted him to answer. Alcohol had made him lax and unpredictable, and forgetful of the fact that knowledge of a thing didn't grant the power to end it.
'What do you think, Ron?'
Ron swallowed. 'I think you're right,' he said hoarsely into Pettigrew's sick-sweet mouth. Because that answer could never be wrong.
The delay drags on, and Ron and the other witnesses are stowed away in a musty little office. The warder hands around brandy, and hot water for those who don't partake. It doesn't really make it seem warmer, but you can pretend, can't you? She gives a very drawn smile as she hands Ron a drink. He tries to smile back, but doesn't think it quite comes out. He turns the cup back and forth in his hands as he and Harry sit on the cheap-looking desk. It doesn't feel solid, like it might not hold them. One of the witnesses, a girl Ron doesn't know, is turned around in her chair and picking at the back of it. Lavender is sitting on the floor in the corner with her forehead on her knees.
'What time do you reckon it is,' Ron says.
Harry shakes his head. 'Hard to say, in here.'
Harry hesitates, then says in a very low voice, 'It's... you know, it might be better, knowing-- knowing it'll be over. For him, I mean. It might be better than just being here forever, not knowing when it'll end. Every day the same, just you and-- them.'
'You don't know, though,' Ron says, looking at the cracks in the plaster wall. 'You don't know what they make him remember.' He takes a shot of his brandy without thinking, and the burning in his stomach makes him want to retch. He snatches Harry's water off the desk and gulps it down.
Evening-dim in the room, and Ron was sucking Pettigrew's dick as he lay in bed, the way he liked to have it done. Ron knew this penis better than he'd ever know his own -- short and tapering, the particular network of purple veins, the way the left side of the head stuck out a little more than the right. Ron knew what he liked, where he was sensitive and when. His heavy wheezing breath in the quiet, the little creak of the mattress, the up and down of the hairy distended stomach when he looked, all familiar and ordinary. Pettigrew wouldn't ask him to lick his arsehole that night.
Easily readable, the buildup of tension and grunts and hitches of breath, and Ron may have been going crazy but he thought the smell-taste changed, sharpened just a little and gave him half a second to brace himself before Pettigrew grabbed his head and ground into his face, filling his mouth and throat with hot liquid salt that all had to be forced down if he didn't want to be punished. Ron swallowed almost all of it, but deliberately let a dribble spill onto the mattress -- it gave him a pleasant feeling of defiance to know that he'd technically broken the rules.
Pettigrew caught his breath and pulled Ron up beside him. He murmured and petted him, his hair and back. It made Ron think of Ginny, the Christmas before he'd started school, that stuffed lion she'd wanted so badly, the way she wouldn't stop hugging it after it was opened. Pettigrew shifted and turned, putting his arms around Ron and then pulling back and doing it again a different way. He hummed and mewled in pleasure, patting him. Ron
lay there like a rag doll. Too much come boiled and sweltered in his stomach, and the dark chandelier was a giant burnished spider above his eyes.
Ron waited for him to drift off. He thought about Harry being beaten and torn somewhere else in the castle. Pettigrew hadn't even fucked Ron in what seemed like a month or more; he never could seem to find the right position to get comfortable to do it, so he just got Ron to suck him instead. Ron thought about being here, being cuddled, used, and hoarded like gold.
Pettigrew began to snore. He slept soundly, and slept late every day, and sometimes took naps in the afternoon. Ron missed class a lot because of it, because Pettigrew hadn't got up yet and wanted Ron in bed with him. He liked to sleep. --Well, of course he did. That was all Scabbers had ever done.
Ron carefully extricated himself and crept over to the bathroom. He knelt on the cold tile and vomited it all up into the toilet, and it was pure salt and burning acid, but getting rid of it would settle his stomach and let him sleep. He'd done this so often that his throat felt red-raw all the time, and nothing tasted right.
He drank a trickle of cold water out of the tap, and came carefully back into the bedroom. He stopped abruptly with a seizing shock.
Pettigrew was awake.
He was sitting up and had the blanket clutched in both hands at his waist, and his eyes were shining as he stared. There would be punishment, but what Ron remembers is just this: Shining wet beady eyes in the darkness, and a sharp indrawn breath like half a sob.
Ron opens his eyes, and the door is open, the warders are ushering them out. This is going to be it, everything's been settled and arranged. There's nothing left to wait for.
It's a little room with a thick heavy wall of protective magic in between the witnesses and the prisoner, which distorts the view, but Ron can see well enough. Pettigrew struggles against the warders' arms and the knotted magic chains bolted into the floor, wild with terror. He's dirty and has lost a lot of weight, but he looks... he looks the same.
The masked warders behind him have their wands at his back, preventing him from transforming. The Dementor hovers a few feet off, waiting, flexing its rotten fingers and shifting from side to side.
The chief warder passes around a parchment for the witnesses to sign. Under the new law, the Dementor's Kiss cannot be administered without seven witnesses. Ron doesn't know why -- as though seven people are too many to conspire to do wrong. Lavender Brown signs last. She's crying, and they take the parchment away from her quickly, probably afraid she'll smear the names. Harry stands with his hand firmly on Ron's shoulder, and somewhere back there Ron can feel Snape's presence, fiery and penitent.
The chief warder nods, and the Dementor lunges forward eagerly and shoves its mouth against Pettigrew's. In his animal terror, Pettigrew seizes the sides of its wet, decaying neck with both hands and digs his nails in.
Ron remembers: Lestrange's hand around his neck and her wand at his balls -- 'We have your friend, Potter. Come out before we start cutting off pieces of him' -- and Harry was barricaded in the Room of Requirement with Snape, and Ron was going to let himself be slowly torn apart to save him (just like always, just for Harry)--
And that anxious, androgynous, hand-wringing voice from behind them, and the almost undetectable calculation that modulated the words:
'My lord. He's my property.' Pettigrew's voice broke. 'Please...'
Ron remembers that, and the Dementor feeds, and Harry's hand is tight on his shoulder.
Even through the wards, there's still a hint of ice like a draft from a crack beneath a door. What Ron is seeing is beyond his experience and too horrible to be a part of real life, but he has a feeling he'll remember it anyway -- the soft wet suck as the Dementor pulls back, satisfied, and the body slumps down to the floor.
Pettigrew is gone.
- Yet, methinks,
the manner of your death should much afflict you;
this cord should terrify you?
- Not a whit:
What would it pleasure me to have my throat cut
with diamonds? or to be smothered
with cassia? or to be shot to death with pearls?
-The Duchess of Malfi (Webster)