"Who owns the club?"
The question is spoken almost gently, his voice is so soft. His hands, of course, are not.
The Muggle - stupid man, angry in his fear - twists in his bindings and makes a less-than-complementary remark about Severus' parentage.
"I fucking told you - "
Severus forces the man's jaw shut again, tutting as if disappointed.
"We have been through this already," he says dispassionately, shaping each word precisely. Attention to detail, he finds, is an effective tool for keeping the mind calm under stress. "The name on the public records is false. You will give us the correct one, yes? Let us see if another round with Antonin prods your memory." He glances up at his companion and nods. "I think you need not hold back this time, Antonin."
The man tries to scream when the curse hits, but Severus' hands are an iron clamp on his jaw. He cradles the Muggle's head in his lap, anchoring the man down as the rest of his body writhes and flops about on the wooden floor in his agony like a landed fish.
The detached part of Severus' mind that is constantly analysing things - the voice that tells him, for example, that he ought to try adding Augurey feather to the next batch, it nicely balances the unicorn horn - notes that a small section of his mind (carefully cordoned off) is similarly flapping and shrieking at the scene before it, as if trying to wrench it free from the anchor of Severus' deliberate, focused attention on the task at hand. If he were to be honest with himself he'd admit that he has never had much taste for this part of the, ah, practicalities of war. The cause is one thing, of course; but the infliction of physical pain only ever gives him a feeling of satisfaction when there's already an emotional connection, a reason to hate. This blond Muggle is nobody to him.
But that is neither here nor there at the moment, he reminds himself. They have a task. He shoves the reflection away.
The man thrashes, arching and straining against the ropes and Severus' merciless hands. The sound of flesh hitting wood nearly drowns out the muffled cries escaping from between his lips. It's always the cries, Severus thinks involuntarily; it's weakness. He tightens his grip, stifling the sound. Through his palms he feels the man's teeth grinding together, the vibration of his smothered screams traveling up his arms. After a minute or so has passed he looks up at Dolohov again and signals him to lift the curse. The Muggle lies limp and shaking in his arms, fair hair dark and damp with sweat. Severus relaxes his grip.
"Now," he says peaceably, "let's try again. The owner of the club."
The man's voice is shaky now, less defiant. "Look, I don't - "
Severus sighs and silences him again. Stupid bloody Muggle, making him do this when the result will be the same in any case. The man whimpers, but Severus shakes his head and bends closer to his prisoner.
"You know the rules," he lectures. "The only thing I will permit to come out of your mouth is the truth." He shifts his grip this time so that he can put one hand over the Muggle's mouth, stifling sound almost completely. In its glove it looks very black there against the man's very white face.
Severus likes the gloves particularly, soft black leather finer than anything he's ever owned before, and he is always careful to keep them from being bloodied. He winces internally at the thought of the Muggle's sweat and spit dirtying it even temporarily, but it can't be helped. He can Scourgify it later, he tells himself. He nods at Dolohov again.
He waits several minutes this time before stopping his partner. The Muggle trembles and keens in his lap. He studies the pale face intently for a few seconds, evaluating.
The Muggle's eyes widen and now Severus sees that they are green - muddy green, not the bright, pure green he favors, yet decidedly green nonetheless. But his expression does not change. With six and a half million people in London a few are bound to have green eyes, after all. He grips the man's head tightly as the curse sets him to writhing once more, pressing hard enough to leave bruises later. Though of course there will be no later for the Muggle, not with Dolohov here. Not much of one, anyway. He'll last a fair bit physically, if Severus is any judge.
He meets the teary green gaze steadily. The Muggle looks up at him piteously. He is unmoved, he tells himself. He watches for the flicker in the eyes that will tell him the right moment has arrived.
"Enough," he says finally. The man falls limp again, panting and sobbing against his hand. Severus loosens his grip, traces one gloved finger over his cheek almost tenderly. The man breaks.
"Georges," he chokes out, "Guy Georges over at the Falcon and Bear - he's the real liaison, he knows the bloke's name. I don't know it, I swear, I don't know him."
Dolohov grunts skeptically. Severus merely tilts his head to the side and regards the Muggle coolly.
"Can't." At Severus' raised brow and Dolohov's raised wand he adds hurriedly, "Only met him the once, I sweartogod, he had a hat on, could hardly see 'is face like! I swear. Tallish gent, is all I know. Ask Georges!" He stops and sobs for breath, his eyes pleading with Severus'.
"Tends bar at the Falcon, everyone there'll know him. Dark hair, not too tall, bloke with all the badgers pinned on 'is cap. He's a bit mad for 'em. Anyone there can tell you where to find him. I swear."
Severus considers him for several moments. The man just lies there and looks at him in supplication, tears and snot smeared on his face. He's telling the truth, Severus thinks.
"Now see, was that so very hard?" he asks. The man gazes up at him, hope flooding his eyes. He clearly has no idea what he ought to be expecting from Dolohov.
"You're - you're going to let me go now?" The man swallows with difficulty.
The hope in the muddy green eyes dies instantly, is replaced with terror as Dolohov makes an appreciative sound and steps closer.
"We're going to play, now, aren't we Severus?" He is already twirling his wand in the way Severus knows indicates he is deciding what curse to start with, clearly meaning the question to be rhetorical.
Severus brushes a strand of sweat-soaked blond hair out of the man's eyes. He's always had a weakness for green eyes, hasn't he, muddy or clear.
"No." Severus lets the bound Muggle slide from his lap as he stands, drawing his own wand. The Muggle tracks it with his eyes as it comes to point directly at him.
Dolohov growls, surprised.
"Hey, you know I get - "
"We have a job to do," Severus interrupts coldly. "You can play later." Without further ado he flicks his wand, neatly slicing the Muggle's throat from ear to ear. Blood spurts, spatters the hem of his robe before slowing to a thick gurgle as it pools around the corpse. Severus spins on his heel, face a cold mask.
"Let's get out of here."
Dolohov glares but obeys. A few swift spells remove any trace of their presence from the room and then they are gone, the crack of apparition echoing around them as they reappear in an alley a few blocks from the Falcon and Bear. Severus tells himself his heart is not pounding a little more than usual, it's from the strain of apparition. That's all.