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Of oaths and bonds

Chapter Text

Severus stands in front of the open doors of Malfoy manor. Fourteen years ago, he swore to never set a foot in that place again, but he doubts Voldemort will accept a stupid fight as an excuse for not assisting to a meeting.

He had practically lived there in his youth. His room was outside, attached to the potion labs and near the greenhouse. Lucius built it himself. It was supposed to be somewhere where Severus could sleep when he stayed late brewing and ended up too tired to return to the manor. Severus had claimed it as his own after a while, bringing multiple books, adding a small office and moving his entire research there.

It is likely that Lucius demolished the place, the books going to the library and his notes burned. Years of research going to the fire. It's painful, but Severus is not a welcome guest anymore.

After the first war, Lucius couldn't reconcile to the idea of Severus working for Dumbledore at Hogwarts. He refused to listen Severus' reasons, saying the old man just wanted to use him. Severus knew it was partially true, but it was Dumbledore who healed him when he was freed from Azkaban, and the one who gave him a job and treated him with kindness despite his past.

The dispute escalated, and they ended shouting each other. Lucius had his wand against his throat when Narcissa intervened, asking him kindly to leave. In his rage, Severus did it, slamming the door behind and swearing to never return. He had been too proud to apologise and they have not spoken since.

The throbbing pain in his arm reminds him he is late. It is increasing, so he steps inside and walks as fast as he can, taking a few seconds to calm his breath before opening the door to the ballroom.

Inside, the death eaters form a circle around the Dark Lord. He recognises the grey eyes of Lucius behind the white mask and knows the empty spot as his right belongs to him.

There are several unoccupied spaces, since their master's return nobody had been brave enough to occupy the places of those dead or in Azkaban. The later will claim them eventually and any smart witch or wizards knows what Bellatrix will do if someone dares to take her place.

"Severus, you are late," says the DarkLord smoothly, and he thanks to whoever bastard is going to die for having his master in such a good mood.

He bows. "My apologies, master,"

No further information is provided. If the Dark Lord wants an explanation, he will ask for it directly; otherwise he would be punished for losing his time.

Voldemort waves his hand dismissively. "Go to your place"

As he obeys, he starts to think in a way of telling Dumbledore that another member of the order has been killed and prepares mentally for the guilt trip he will be subject. It won't be the first time, yet it doesn't make it any easier.

"We have two special guests with us tonight." Severus tries to focus in the fact he is not the one tortured and not in the disappointed eyes of Albus. "But first, I will like to make a little trip in time." The Dark Lord walks to Severus, the corner of his lips slightly quirking up, as if he had seen something amusing in him. "Do you remember old times, Severus?"

The skeletal hand reaches Severus' hood and pull it down, then he gently removes his mask, revealing his face to the death eaters.

Although everybody in the room knows exactly who he is, he feels suddenly exposed. The Dark Lord studies him carefully, playing with the mask between his fingers, but Severus has learnt to mask his emotion and does not let his discomfort shows.

Voldemort doesn't return it to his owner, putting it in his pocket instead. "Do you remember the first war, Severus? Do you remember what did you ask me then?" Yes, he remembers, but he knows better than answer. If he is going to join the two strangers, it is better not to provoke his master. "You asked me to spare the life of that mudblood friend of yours, didn't you?"

The last is said in a warning tone, and he had no other alternative but answer. "Yes, master, I do remember"

"You were a loyal servant back then, skilful, useful, you deserved it." It sounds like an apology, even if the tone is not apologetic at all. "Tell me, if you could ask for a reward right now, do you think you deserve it?"

A trick question, and Severus knows how to answer to that. "No, my lord"

The Dark Lord smiles. "That is exactly what I told myself." The red eyes fix on his and he feels the usual pull in his mind. As always, Severus shows him what he wants him to see. "You have not brought me valuable information lately, and you arrive late to almost every meeting." He wants to complain that it isn't his fault, that with the toad watching every move, is hard to leave Hogwarts and be on time for the meetings, but his master is already aware of this. "You do not deserve any reward for now, Severus."

"I understand, master"

Voldemort laughs, it is a disturbing laugh, nothing alike to the man he once was. "Of course you do, you are a smart man, Severus."

He turns to the others. "Alecto, Amycus, let our guests come in"

The siblings come out and return little after, bringing a man and a woman with them. They are glaring but none of them tries to get away and it has probably something to do with the wands pointing to their necks.

The two death eaters hit them in the back of their knees and they fall ungraceful in front of the Dark Lord and, in consequence, of him. He is grateful the Dark Lord was facing to the other side, because his heart skips a beat when the green eyes of the woman return his look.

Chapter Text

The Dark Lord speaks to him again. "Now, you freely admitted that you do not deserve a reward."

"Master—"

"And when you came back to me," he continues as if Severus has not talked, "you said — how it was?" The half-snake man strokes his chin as if he were in deep thought. "You said to me: 'Sacrifices must be done for the cause'"

"My Lord, please," he starts but the Dark Lord interrupts him again.

"I thought you did not have feelings for her anymore." The tone is cold, all signals of mockery gone. Severus cannot determine if it is jealousy or the lie, but the red eyes are glowing dangerous. "Were you lying to me, Severus?"

"No, my Lord, I would never dare to do such thing." He manages to impress confidence in his voice. Voldemort studies him with the look, deciding what to do.

Severus stares back with a calm he doesn't feel, pondering what his options are in the meantime. There were over thirty death eaters, if they try to run, they will not make it to the door. On the other side, to beg for Lily's life is resulting pointless. And the words of Dumbledore still resounded inside his head.

You do not care about the deaths of her husband and child. You disgust me..

Even if he manages to convince the Lord to spare Lily's life, asking for James' won't be credible and the three of them will end up dead.

"You arrived late today," says Voldemort in a tone that augured nothing good, "I think the best way to make the lesson stick is to do the job yourself." His blood ran cold, Voldemort can't ask for him to kill Lily, he rather dies than being Lily's murderer. "Do not worry Severus, you only have to kill one of them, I am sure Dumbledore will forgive you if you take the other back with you."

He almost sighs in relief, he will have to deal with Dumbledore and Lily's hate later, but she will be alive and that's enough for him.

Holding his wand tightly, he steps forward and points between Potter's eyes. Twenty years before it would have brought him pleasure, having his torturer knelt in front of him, at his complete mercy. However now, knowing how much others will suffer because of it, it wasn't so easy.

The curse is forming in his mouth and there are already green sparkles at the end of his wand, but the Dark Lord puts a hand over his shoulder to stop him.

"Start with her, would you?" He whispers to his ear.

"My Lord, you said that only one of them has to die."

Voldemort lets out an insane laughter, and the death eaters laugh along with him. "Did I say that you could choose?"

Severus doesn't answer and lowers his wand, fixing his eyes on the floor. "Master, please do not make do it"

Any chance of save her life is lost, she was going to die that night. That leaves two options, someone kills Lily and later kills him for disobeying, or only she is killed and then Severus has to take his own life.

The Dark Lord makes a gesture and his wand is summoned. He doesn't fight it, instead, he faces his master again.

There is not the wrath he was expecting but an amused smile. "You were lying." He doesn't say a word, neither move from his place. "Severus, I am not angry at you. All those year under the old coot's watch have softened you."

A white finger lifts his chin and his eyes meet Voldemort's. He enters to his mind in a vicious way, exploring at pleasure since the day he started to work at Hogwarts. It was painful and it took everything in him to keep the compromising memories locked and to resist the urge of expelling him.

Seeing it was almost over, Severus decides to use the chance and brings other memories to the surface. Old times memories, those he has managed to keep away from Dumbledore and would send him straight to Azkaban if someone learns about them.

It's a desperate act, a last attempt of waking up the lost soul of the one who once was his lover. His initiation, their times together, and whatever he can think that return a pinch of sanity to Voldemort's head.

A backhand smack across his face is the proof of his failure. The strength sends him to the floor and he rushes to put on his knees, not venturing to stand, knowing his master is furious. His hairs are pulled back so roughly that he can feel some of them detaching from the scalp.

"You are pathetic, Severus. Offering yourself like this? Have you ever looked yourself at the mirror?" Again, there were laughs around the room, but Severus is more interested in Voldemort's attitude. It was like he doesn't remember what happened between them at all. "Go back to your place, I have another surprise prepared for you."

He crawls back to Lucius’ side. He can't trust his legs and he won't risk to anger Voldemort more than he already is.

The Dark Lord points to the door with his wand. A leather object flies from the door and land in his hands. Taking it from one of its ends, he presents it to Severus. "Do you recognise this, Severus?"

He pales at the view of the runes, moving backwards shaking his head franticly. Lily, Lucius and everyone else is forgotten in his fear, the only he can think about is how much he hates the collar in front of him.

"You do not recognise it?" Asks again Voldemort entertained at the view of his suffering.

The last of his dignity leaves, and he bursts into tears. He curls against the wall, staring with pleading eyes as he nods. "Please master, please"

Severus gets in all four and leans forward to kiss his master feet, but a kick in his jaw sends him away.

"As I say, pathetic." His hair is pulled again and he is dragged to the centre of the room. "I wonder why I did not use it before, you seems to respond well to it." Voldemort moves to his back, reposing the end of the collar on Severus' shoulder. "I feel generous today. I will give you one last chance." Severus looks up to Voldemort with hope, who dedicates him a sadistic smile before continuing. "Kill the mudblood and this goes back to my wardrobe."

He nods, not really processing to what he is agreeing. Someone helps him to his feet and puts his wand in his hand, guiding it in the right direction. Still with tears in his eyes he supports all his weight in whoever is at his side, preparing to say the words and finish with his nightmare.

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It feels like he isn't there.

He knows it is Lily who stares back at him from the floor, and the man pointing at her is him. He even knows what he has to do, but he just can't feel it.

“You are a coward, Snape,” spits Potter, taking him out of his daze.

He can't agree more. He is a coward, but if they only knew what that collar means for him, they would understand the cause of his cowardice.

That collar, the collar, is the protagonist of most of his nightmares. It had been the one his parents had put on him the night he was returned to them, after running away. It had been a stupid thing to do. They sent a letter to Dumbledore and the man went for him himself.

Severus refused to give him his reasons for leaving, hence the headmaster had forced him to go back and surrender his wand during the summers.

According to Lucius and the Lord, it had been a week he spent there after that. But he can't really tell, the little he remembers about it the better. However, after twenty-one years pushing down those memories, they all are coming up at once.

He nods at Potter’s words. His hand trembling so hard that he has his doubts the spell will hit Lily or it will deviate to one of the death eaters at her back.

Thinking in the right spell seems impossible. He definitely can't use avada kedavra, he needs to really mean it to kill with it. Sectumsempra sounds like a cruel joke since they created it together, but it is the only other he can think to grant her a quick dead. Or better said, it is the only other he can think at all.

'I am sorry,' He mouths and she smiles at him understanding.

It would have been easier if she could just hate him and proliferate insults like Potter is doing. And he hates her, because he realises he can't kill her. Not now, not ever.

His wand falls to the ground. A move of Voldemort's hand and it is gone. He is furious, and without a word he is closing a hand around Severus' throat. It goes away as soon as it came, being replaced by the collar. He passes his wand over it and any signal of the joining point disappear.

Two men grab his arms, and he panics. He doesn't hear anything else; he is too busy kicking and begging. Flashes of his childhood filling his mind.

His hands are tied behind his back. He kicks and insults, fighting to be freed.

“Severus.” Someone talks to him but he is confused, they don’t use his name anymore.

People is touching everywhere and he struggles and begs but he is ignored

“Follow my breath Severus,” orders the voice and he knows he has to obey, but it is so hard to do it. “Come back to the reality”

Someone forcing polyjuice down his throat....

“Severus, come back,” The other repeats and this time he recognises him. “You are not there anymore, Severus, open your eyes.”

He does as he’s told and find himself in the cellar of Malfoy manor with Lucius in front of him. His mask is still in place, but the hood is down. Any doubt about his identity is dispelled when he sees the unmistakable blond hair neatly tied back.

His wrists are held by the blonde. There are blisters covering his hands but they don't hurt. It is not surprising, there is a curse in the collar that makes it burn whenever he touches it.

He lifts an eyebrow. His voice is hoarse but he manages to speak. “Do you mind?”

“Can I trust you will not touch it?”

Severus nods and his wrists are freed. Lucius gently grabs one of his hands heals it with his wand, then he repeats the procedure with the other.

“Thanks.” He opens and closes them, the sensitivity slowly returning. “When did you redecorate?”

In his times, that place was used to store dark objects, not people. The stone floor and walls were the same but the cells were certainly a new acquisition.

“When your friends arrived.” Lucius looks pointedly to the Potters, before going away.

He wishes he had not asked. He is too mentally exhausted to deal with them and their pity. Walking to the corner, he grabs a shabby blanket and throws it over himself, deciding it will be easier with his head clear in the morning.

Chapter Text

The hard floor welcomes him to reality, its coldness slightly soothing the pain. His jaw still hurts, and his muscles complain when he moves.

He groans loudly when he remembers the events of the night before. Or what he supposes was the night before.

A few feet away, the Potters sleep peaceful. Embarrassment washes over him. He had acted like a baby, and in front of none other than James Potter. Not even in his dead bed he is going to be free from the Griffindor's humiliations.

In front of him a small vial is floating. As he grabs it, he stares inquisitively to the guard, who, for some reason, still wears his death eater clothes.

The man just shrugs. "For the favour last year"

It was Goyle sr., Severus took Gregory to meet his new brother in a Hogsmeade weekend, after Dumbledore denied the boy permission to leave the school. It was dangerous to go behind the backs of the headmaster, however the kid was so excited that he couldn't refuse.

Now it's paying off, and if everyone in there decides to return favours, his last days would be quite comfortable.

"How long?" He asks, not really expecting an answer. The other had risked enough with the potion

"Just one day,"

He nods in appreciation and drinks, the pain going away at once.

His attention returns to the Potters.

They are thin, but not as thin as a war prisoner should be. The Lord had been gone for thirteen years, they shouldn't be even alive. Or the so called 'Light side' is lying, or these aren't Lily and James Potters. His instinct tells him it is the former and not the later, and he rather it that way. If he is going to die, it will be at least with the idea of having seen Lily one last time.

He walks towards couple and covers them gently with the blanket . They are snuggling and he hopes the extra warm puts an end to the revolting scene. Taking off his cloak he is about to do the same but the hand of Lily stops him. She stirs and sits, rearranging the blanket over her husband.

He offers the cloak again. "I insist"

This time she accepts and wraps it around her shoulder. "You have always been a gentleman, Sev"

She smiles, and he notices a few teeth are broken. Also her skin looks too pale to be healthy and he wonders how he missed it earlier.

Suddenly, her expressions darkens, and for a moment he thinks he had been caught staring.

"They said Harry is alive," It isn't a question, but he notices a hint of fear in her voice.

"Hogwarts, fifth year. An insufferable brat like his father."

She chuckles unoffended, glancing fondly at James. "I can imagine that"

Severus goes back to what he considers his corner now, a part of him disappointed of how she is defending Potter's past actions.

She follows him, stroking his cheek and sitting at his side, "They said you are a teacher, I know you would never let him turn in what James was"

"Was?" He snorts.

"He changed, Sev"

An uncomfortable silence fills the room, any further word would offend the other and endanger their friendship again.

"I missed you," says she finally and he nods.

She moves in front of him and glares, crossing her arms over her chest. Severus's lips curve in amusement. "I missed you too, Lils"

Her expression changes to curiosity, her fingers passing over the collar without touching it. He makes an effort and doesn't move, letting her explore at will. He can't blame her, he would also be curious if he were her.

"You can touch it, the curse only affects me,"

Something in his voice betrays him, because she retires her hand and returns to his side. "But you would prefer if I don't."

There is no point in lying, "Yes"

"Are you going to tell me?" Asks she softly, her hand reposing on his.

He doesn't want to do it, in twenty-one years he has not say a word about what happened that summer, but this was Lily. She is his best friend, even after so many years, even after what he has done. She needs to understand why he was willing to kill her.

"Just my parent being sick bastards." It is not an explanation, and there are little chances she conforms with that, but he has to try.

"Your parents?" She repeats frowning. "It has runes on it, your dad was a muggle." Severus keeps silence, letting her figure things on her own. When she does, she takes her hands to cover her mouth in horror. "God"

"I ran away when I was fourteen, when I returned, they used it as a reminder of my place." He makes a pause, needing a moment to ponder how much to reveal, "It was really bad Lily, they would have killed me if I stayed"

"Why did you return? Why didn't you go to my house?"

Severus snorts. "Your parents hated my guts, Lils." She was going to protest but Severus doesn't let her. "My parents managed to convince Dumbledore that everything was fine, imagine how easy would have been with your parents."

"Dumbledore?"

"They sent a letter to Dumbledore. I do not know how, but they did and next day I had him scolding me for hurting them that way."

Lily pass an arm around his shoulder and pulls him to her lap. She begins to scratch his head and it's so relaxing that he is tempted to stop the story there. Once she hears all of it, she will be disgusted, but if someone deserves to know, it is her.

"Tell me more." She encourages kindly. "You need to talk about this and I am here to listen"

"I cursed my father that summer." He closes his eyes, doing his best to keep his emotions at bay. "And came here, to the manor. Dumbledore send me back next day. He took away my wand, threatened with expulsion at the first problem,

"When I returned." His breath fastens, memories swirling fast in his mind. She was wrong, he doesn't need this. "They put the collar and—" The voices, the cruel words, they all come back to his head and he can't continue.

She strokes gently his face. "It wasn't your fault Sev,"

After a pause, he collects himself and speaks again. "Dumbledore put wards around the house, neither Lucius nor Narcissa could come closer, so Lucius went to the Dark Lord. My mother demanded money and a slavery bond, for their protection—"

"I thought it was just a myth." Lily and Severus jump in their places at the voice of James, none of them realised he is awake. "Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt," he adds sheepishly, "but I thought the slavery bond was just a myth to scare children into doing something"

"It is illegal and almost unseen nowadays, but exists. It was used to finish wars, your child in exchange for the your safety. It works like an unbreakable vow, he can't harm them, directly or indirectly."

Moving from Lily's lap, he lifts his hair and turns around for them to see. At the base of the skull, just above the collar, the Slytherin sigil is tattooed.

"It's like it wanted to be disguised," says Potter pressing a finger on the pink drawing. Lily bats his hand away. "Sorry"

Severus let his hair fall back and turn to them again. "It was the idea. The Dark Lord showed it to me when I was sixteen"

"Sick bastard." Lily holds his hand, "Severus, had I known you were force—"

"I was not forced to do anything, Lily. It was my mother who did this. It is amazing how pathetic she acted with my father, yet how cunning she was to ensure protection from the Dark Lord himself."

She takes his hand to his lips, kissing it kindly and when she speaks, she does it in a sweet tone, as if she were talking to a small child. "He put a collar on you Sev, he has been abusing you for all these years."

Severus closes his eyes and leans back against the wall. "He wasn't always like that Lils. He took the collar away as soon as I arrived to his house, I thought he had burned it."

"But he didn't." He rolls his eyes. "I know, it is obvious, but you need to realise he was expecting something like this to happen"

"I have never had the chance to look into it, but I suppose it is somewhat linked to my magic." She stares with sadness at him and shakes her head. "Maybe you are right and he is a sick bastard," He concedes finally, "but he treated me well when I lived with him, and when we were together. He had never treated me as a slave, not until now."

Lily stares at him with wide eyes. "When you were together? Together how?"

Keeping a straight face, Severus replies, "when I was seventeen, the Dark Lord and I started a romantic relationship." Before they can pry further in his private life, he changes the subject, "I think is time to discuss how you two are not dead yet."

Chapter Text

The more he listens to the Potters, the more he convinces himself that Dumbledore is the one lying.

They were kidnapped the second week of August, more than two months before their supposed dead. Pettigrew had never been their secret keeper, they had selected some squib friend who lived in America, in the hopes the Dark Lord wouldn't go so far. The only one with the address was Dumbledore, who through a note from the man could give it to others. They never had contact with their friend again, and when they were attacked, they assumed he had die or give them away. One thing was a small favour, and another was endure torture for someone who lives in another continent.

On the other side, during their confinement they had been treated with a hospitality unheard of from the death eaters. Food twice a day, a copy of the prophet 'accidentally' forgotten near the bars every once in a while and nutritional potions when their health began to deteriorate. That isn't how the Dark Lord's troops act.

"We read about Harry about a year ago. They left a copy of the witch weekly, they talked about his girlfriend," says Lily with a small smile in her face.

"She looked like a nice girl, but love potions?" Severus almost laugh at James but contained himself. The man had never characterised for being particularly smart, believing in a stupid magazine was something totally expected from him, "It kept us alive, you know, the possibility of see him again"

"Would you tell us?" Asks Lily, her green eyes begging at him,."Please, tell us how he is"

Severus can't say no, and for the first time he speaks about the virtues of the boy instead of his defects. 'Good seeker', 'skilled in defence' replaces the 'arrogant and mediocre' he usually spits when he is talking about the boy. The couple will die, they don't need to hear Severus's real thoughts.

"He is wonderful," says Lily finally. "It's like he inherited our best traits"

He gives a short nod, years of spying taught him to keep a straight face even when he is telling the worst of the lies.

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As the days go by, he confirms the death eaters are returning him favours. They speaks loudly about dates to keep them informed, and he always had fresh water and a clean cell.

He enjoyed when they 'tripped' with the food all over James and they later used a scourgify on him to clean him. In one occasion the spell is applied with such violence, that he can't avoid to laugh at the other face. It earns him a glare from Lily, but for the first time he doesn't care.

The guard of turn is Macnair. So far he was the only in entering without his mask. He always comes accompanied by Lucius and this isn't the exception. Severus appreciate it, there was something in the executioner that makes him extremely uncomfortable.

"Did you remember telling Yaxley about the greenhouse? He will be punished if he doesn't destroy it."

The nature of the talk calls his attention. The greenhouse was where his bedroom used to be, there was no reason to destroy anything in there.

"And why should I care?" Asks Macnair. "It is just a room, why it is so important?"

"I can't tell you, but it needs to be done,"

"Or he will be punished," mutters the other thoughtful. He waves his hand dismissively and adds in a louder voice, "don't worry, I already told him"

Severus was sure the sadistic bastard has not said a word in the hopes that his fellow death eater will be tortured in the next meeting. He knows better, Voldemort will read both minds and punish them accordingly.

"Are you sure, I can tell him in my way off if you want"

"Are you my secretary? Please, cancel my next meeting," .ocks Macnair. "Go to do your things, I will watch this scum in the meantime"

An uneasy feeling install in his stomach. If Lucius goes away, it means they will endure torture for the first time since they were thrown there. James and he share a look, they would have to protect Lily at any cost.

Without another word Lucius walks away, closing the door behind.

"They still think you are going to escape," says Macnair staring to the entry, "or that he is going to forgive you." He points the door with his wand and lock it with a spell. "He won't, he already got tired of you." His sadistic grin widening when he looks at them. "But I have always been curious"

The door of the cell opens and Macnair walks in, moving towards him as a cat hunting his prey. Severus gives a step back, then another, and he continues doing so until his back is touching the wall.

Despite his clear fear, he manages to keep his voice steady. "Curious about sex? I know you are ugly, but I always thought you had paid for it." He half shrug. "I guess even prostitutes have standards"

The grin in Macnair doesn't waver. "You would know about that, wouldn't you?"

He can listen his own heartbeat pounding in his ears. His eyes follow every move of the other, catching the hand in the air before it could touch him. "Let me the fuck alone"

"Are you scare, Snape? I would say you are." Macnair grabs both of his wrists pressing them against the wall. His head leans forward, their mouths just a few centimetres away. "Pathetic, that is what you are when you are alone"

"Leave him alone," says Potter going to attack, but his attempt is easily frustrated by a binding spell. Macnair throws another to Lily as a precaution.

"Who would have thought it, the great Severus Snape scared like a child," He snorts, his eyes brightening with lust. "Don't worry baby, Daddy is here"

The words trigger something in him and suddenly he is crying silently against the wall. A finger comes to clean his tears, the nail digging in his cheek until it bleeds.

"Please," he breathes begging him.

Macnair mouth goes to his ear and whispers, "please what, Sev? Please continue?"

"Please, no."

"No?" He kisses him hungrily. "No?" A flick of Macnair wand and both of them are naked. "You are enjoying this Severus, now, be a good boy and behave." His tongue licks the lobe of his ear, taking it in his mouth and clamping his teeth on it.

"No," he repeats desperate, "no"

"No? You are not a little boy? Maybe I should had said little girl—"

The sentence is cut by a explosion. Next thing he knows, he is shaking, his breath is hard, and Macnair's wand is in his hand.

Chapter Text

"Snape!" Shouts Potter, bringing him out of his daze.

Cancelling the binding spell and unlocking the door, he grabs his cloak from the floor and jumps over Macnair's body. He doesn't stop to see if the couple is following as he starts running.

He knows that manor as if it were his own and takes the less transited paths. A few silent spells and the few death eater in their way go to sleep, buying them some time.

They have just reached main door when someone spots them. He dodges a red light when he is crossing it, but hears a groan of pain from Lily. A sideway glance and he confirms she is still behind, James dragging her by the arm.

He curses left and right, not thinking in what he is doing, only his experience in battles keeping them alive.

His mind is trying to find a way to leave the manor's grounds. There should be already ten or more death eaters in the outside gates, with only one wand that isn't even his, it will be impossible to pass them.

Flashes of the strange conversation between Lucius and Macnair come to his head. There was an apparition point in the greenhouse, the only apparition point in the manor's grounds. That's why it had to be destroyed, and that is why the information couldn't be divulged.

Not allowing himself to think in the implications of it, he heads to the place, finding the structure of the building still intact.

Casting a revealing spell where the apparition point should be, he identifies a few wards. It was a good signal, people doesn't put protection spells for nothing.

He quickly disables them and pushes the two Gryffindors as he closes his eyes, hoping for the best.

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They apparate in the outside of the muggle entry to St. Mungo. After checking none of them has splinch, he invokes a patronus to inform Shacklebolt what happened. He has no strength to send another to Dumbledore, his outburst of accidental magic and the apparation with the other two have drained all his magic and he will need a moment to recover it.

A part of him knows it is just a excuse for not doing it. He doesn't trust in the old man anymore and prefers to have witnesses if he tries to do something against Lily.

Once everything is ready, tiredness takes over him. He couldn't care less if he is dressed only in his cloak and underwear in the middle of the street at twelve degrees, he goes to sit at the walkway and pulls up his knees to his chest. His mind begins to go over the last few hours

Lucius had orchestrated a plan of escape with less than a one percent of chances of being successful, and that entailed the risk of him being raped. His intentions may have been the best, but if Macnair had not said those exact words in the moment he did, the story would have been completely different.

And Lucius had no way to know when Macnair was going to say it.

There was no one left. Dumbledore was a liar, the Dark Lord had gone completely insane, and Lucius almost got him raped.

"Severus," Lily tries but he ignores her.

His hand goes to the dark mark, tracing the lines absently as every time he needed comfort as a teenager. After a while the mark emits a nice warm, but Severus can't determine if he is actually feeling it or it is just his mind playing tricks.

There is the characteristic sound of an apparition, a gasp, and people talking. He feels completely numb and doesn't have the strength to look, not even when someone kneels in front of him.

"So far they seem to be who they say," informs Shacklebolt, not obtaining any response from Severus. "Tonks is taking their declaration." He is still is staring at the emptiness. They could do whatever they wanted, his job was already done. "Lily has an ugly burn in her arm but otherwise they are fine. You saved their life, Severus," Shacklebolt tries again but Severus's eyes never abandon the floor. "I will leave this robe in here for when you are ready."

He looks at the folded robe and nods, his right hand still in the mark. "We will take the three of you to St. Mungo, they will take samples and then you can shower if you want"

Tears suddenly prick at his eyes. He doesn't want a shower, what he wants is to sleep. In a bathtub. With water filling his lungs.

"He didn't rape me," says Severus more to himself than to the auror.

Kingsley sighs. "Don't worry about that now."

With a single scratch in the potion master's head, he moves away to greet Dumbledore. The words 'shock' 'naked' and 'rape' are said and he knows they are speaking about him. Severus blinks a few times, he needs to put himself together to face the headmaster.

The headmaster finish talking with the aurors goes to him.

"Severus." There is neither sympathy in the tone, nor in the look, and Severus understands he is useless for the cause now. "Please stand." It is not a petition but an order, with a hint of reproach in it. "Can you tell me what happened?"

"They were kidnapped before the end of the first war. The Dark Lord asked me to kill them, when I refused he lock me with them. I stole Macnair's wand brought us here, and called Shacklebolt. I couldn't call you because I had no more magic left, and with Umbridge in the school I supposed it was for the best to call him first," summarises Severus.

"Yes, I already talked to James and Lily. They also mentioned a slavery bond?"

Without waiting for permission, Dumbledore takes off the cloak and examines the collar. He tugs at it, causing his head to follow. Humiliation floods over him, and he grabs firmly the other's wrists to stop. The grip on his collar becomes tighter, threatening to choke him, and Severus let him go. Dumbledore loosens his holds but continues exploring.

"Seems tight." The comment humiliate even more, especially when a finger is placed between the collar and his neck. He feels like a dog, but this time he knows better than try to stop the headmaster. "How does it feel?"

No, not like a dog. He is sure an animal would be treated with more respect.

"Tight," he replies in a simple, plane voice.

Dumbledore smiles pleased, "I am afraid I cannot take it away without harming Severus."

Severus observes the others' reactions, wondering if he is the only one who notices that explanation wasn't given to him but to them.

The two aurors pay no mind at Dumbledore's words, neither amusement nor confusion, as if it were an everyday thing. And maybe it is and he has never realised. After all the lies he isn't sure of anything about the headmaster.

Lily and James frowns but he can't tell if it is for Dumbledore's attitude or because they are trying to understand the science behind the collar. After a while they nod in silence.

"Well?" Asks the headmaster urging him to continue the story.

"When I was fourteen, after you take away my wand, my parents decided they didn't want me in their lifes anymore, so they contacted the Dark Lord and sold me to him"

"Sold? What do you mean with sold?" Shacklebolt interrupts him.

The answer is not necessary, but Severus stares blankly at him and does it anyway. "As a slave. They exchanged me for money"

There is a sharp breath, he supposes it's from Tonks, but he is more interested in Dumbledore, whose expression doesn't give anything away. He takes it as a signal to continue.

"They agreed to make a slavery bond." With his left hand he moves the hair upward, turning around and inclining his head so the headmaster could have a better look. He hisses in pain when a finger is pressed against it. "It hurts when a powerful wizard touches it." Dumbledore faces him and smiles apologetic. The change confuses him. This was the fatherly figure with who he has treated all those years. "I can touch the mark but the collar is cursed"

"Only for you?"

"Yes." He brushes it with his fingertips and shows the burned skin to the headmaster. "I went to live with him after that, took the dark mark at fifteen and work in the labs since then."

"And you got involved in a sexual relationship with him," completes Dumbledore and Severus curses the Potters for not keeping their mouth shut. "Was that part of the deal?"

Deciding it was for the best not to clarify that the relationship wasn't solely sexual, he replies, "it is slavery, but it didn't start until I was of age and he never forced me"

This time is Shacklebolt who spoke. "But if he had wanted to force you, could he have done it through the bond?"

"Yes, but considering I was fourteen, half of his size and with nowhere else to go, he could had done it even without the bond."

Shacklebolt closes his eyes and Tonks opens them wide. An interesting contrast, especially considering those two are aurors and should be used to deal with cases like that. Except they aren't. Those two had dedicated their entire career to Dumbledore's cause, and had little experience in dealing with victims, or normal crimes for the case.

Dumbledore sends him a stern look for the rude tone. "Nymphadora, Kingsley, please help Lily and James to St. Mungo."

They obey, taking one Potter each, even if the couple is in perfect condition to do it themselves. Also Severus is, so he doesn't complain when they go ahead and he is left to dress.

In a way he is grateful. His survival instinct tells him to run. As soon as he put a foot in the hospital, aurors will arrive and take him to Azkaban.

Slowly he buttons his new robes, which turns to be a transfiguration of someone's cloak done in a rush. He is almost finished when his left forearm pinches painfully.

"He wants me back," informs he to Dumbledore. Something in the eyes of the old man has changed when he turns. "I can convince him, I have a plan"

Chapter Text

Nobody goes to meet him on his arrival, as if they were expecting him to walk to his death on his own feet. And he does. He travels through the Malfoy's ground and hallways, returning to the cell that has been his home for the last few weeks.

Anything the Dark Lord could do to him, it will always be better than what the aurors have prepared for him in Azkaban. They would take pleasure in breaking a non-trained slave into submission, and no one would bat an eye. Once his condition is revealed, his rights as human being are over.

It is the main reason why he has lied to Dumbledore. There is no plan except avoiding jail, because even if he dies in a cell at the hands of his master, he will be more free than if he had follow them to that hospital.

Hearing the steps in the stairs, he gets down on his knees, staring at the floor as the steel door opens. He feels a warm sensation on his neck for a few seconds before the cold of the cellar hit it. The collar falls on the floor, and he leans forward to grab it and deliver it to his master in signal of gratitude. This time he is aware of the pain when the blisters form, having to bite his lip for not to complain. Before further damage could be done, Voldemort summons it to himself.

"Look who finally obeys," says the Dark Lord in a sneering tone. "Too late, I m afraid. You do not think you are going to get out of here alive, do you?"

Silence fills the room, only Severus breathing resounding in the stone walls. He concentrates in keep it even, feigning calm despite the pain on his hand. After a while, he realises it is not a rhetorical question.

"No master, I do not"

"Do you know why I called you, Severus ?" Severus is about to answer but the Dark Lord continues. "I was not going to let you die like a dog, even if you turn out to be a disgusting rat."

A cruciatus hits him. He tries to resist, but after a few minutes he can't hold back his scream.

"If we are being honest, I was not expecting you to show up," says Voldemort in a quiet, dangerous voice. "Why are you here, Severus? Why didn't you ask to your dear headmaster to save you?"

"I want my dead be at your hand, master."

Another curse, this time a whipping spell. It feels like if his skin is tearing from inside, blood flowing from the new welts. They won't heal at least the counter-curse is applied, but they won't kill him. Not yet.

Voldemort doesn't comment in his reply, instead, another curse strikes him, and another after that. He stops counting, more interested in go through the pain than the numbers. Torture, that was the reason of the Lord calling him, and in spite of that, he was still grateful for not being collared anymore.

At some point he passes out, waking up later in the same cold floor. Every inch of his body hurts, stains of blood cover the floor and his body, but only a few recent wounds still bleed. His misery will not end anytime soon.

The Dark Lord comes occasionally, tortures him, and then retires without a word. He is his only in visitor, and the silence is driving him insane, but he won't be the one in try to start a conversation with his master.

It might be the lack of food or water, but he feels weaker as the time goes. Maybe he is just too exhausted to keep fighting. Whatever the reason, his time awake become lesser and lesser, falling unconscious as soon as the next curse is cast.

It doesn't matter how many enervate or how many potions he is forced to drink, he is unable of responding.

"This stopped being fun," muses the Dark Lord in one of the rare occasions he is awake.

Not sure if the Dark Lord is talking to him or with himself, Severus moves a little. It is nice having another voice to hear for a change, so he does a last effort and push himself to his knees.

"Give me a excuse, Severus," says the Lord putting a finger over Severus's hairs. He reposes his head on his master legs, incapable of hold it on his own. "Give me a reason good enough to betray me and I will finish with you."

There are so many, but he can't bring himself to speak. His hand goes to his mark, looking for something to comfort him. Someone is stroking his face and it feels so real that he leans into the touch. He freezes when he realises it is real.

Lifting his head is the hardest he has done in his entire life, but he manages to do it, finding his master's eyes. They aren't glowing red anymore, and they are staring at him confused.

His lips curve in a smile. If he is going to die, this would be the perfect time.

"Your arm," orders Voldemort but Severus can't move, there is no strength left. He lets out a soft whine, begging to any existent god that it will be over while a part of his lover is still there.

Voldemort yanks his arm, squeezing tightly and studying his mark. With his wand first and then his fingers.

"It is different from the others"

He blinks as affirmation. To difference of the others, his mark has been tattooed for protection, so he could alert the Dark Lord if he was in danger. Three years later, he demanded to the Lord to take a mark too so the communication could go both ways. He had thought that connection had been lost with his new body.

Voldemort release his arm. "You are lucky I still have some use for you. You will create a potion to recover my old strength."

Something Severus couldn't understand has changed. Not an hour ago the Dark Lord was going to kill him. However, he can't move, much less to ask, so he just stares.

"You can leave when you feel better. You have a week."

His wand is thrown in front of him and Voldemort disappear slamming the door behind.

Chapter Text

A wet towel touches his forehead as the smell of potions fill his nose. He entertains himself trying to identify the ingredients before reluctantly open his eyes. With a sigh of resignation, he turns around. Something rough scratches his nose when he does. Not a good signal.

"My boy, you are awake," He groans in response, trying to move away of the uncomfortable sensation of Dumbledore's beard, "Let me help you"

As Albus helps him to sit on the bed, he lets his eyes wander around the room. Last thing he remembers is going into the castle being barely able to walk.

"What happened?"

"You collapsed when you entered to your quarters," Says Albus, wetting the towel once again, this time pressing it against his neck, "I put some surveillance spells around here. I hope you don't mind"

He does mind. Having Dumbledore snooping around his quarters is the last thing he needs, but considering it was probably what saved his life, he couldn't complain.

"Do you want to see what happened with the Dark Lord?" Dumbledore's hand freezes 'coincidentally' over his mark. It doesn't hurt like when it was in direct contact, but it still emits an uncomfortable warm as a warning.

"You woke up a few times, I already saw it," Severus curses internally, hoping he has not seen anything that left him in a more vulnerable position than he already is, "You seems to have managed it well, but why did he stop? Voldemort said he was going to kill you but changed his mind when he touched your mark"

There isn't anything in the tone that could be interpreted as a threat, but Severus tenses nevertheless, "The gently touch of my mark used to calm him in the past, I suppose it does the same now"

"Oh, he used it to pleasure himself then" It sounds crude but he doesn't contradict the headmaster, "And he offered you a deal because of that"

Severus thinks carefully his next words, an idea has installed in his head. The dark mark doesn't work that way. The soothing sensation only could be transmitted from one mark to another, it was impossible 'pleasuring himself' with it.

He wants to make Voldemort to remember before driving into conclusion, but if he tells any of it to Dumbledore it will be his end, "I can trick him. The Dark Lord associates his magic to his old body. If I give his body back, or at least part of it, it will give us some time"

The tension leaves the air. Dumbledore puts away the towel and pat his head, "That is a great idea, my boy"

It sounds so much like what one would say to a pet, and his anger grows again.

"What's wrong, Severus?" Asks Dumbledore half-concerned, half-annoyed "I know I can be a little harsh on you sometimes, but this comes from nowhere. Can you at least try to tell me what is upsetting you that much," He says in a stern but calm tone, rising from his seat and sighing loudly. He is going to defend himself but Dumbledore doesn't let him, "I am trying to do my best here. But you Severus, you need to learn to control your temper. A little of respect is not too much to ask, is it?"

A knot forms in his stomach, his eyes going to his hands. Many times he has been told the same, it was the reason people always abandon him. Lily had left him after an outburst of rage, Lucius after their discussion turned in a wand fight. If he had just stepped aside, he would still have friends.

Dumbledore had never give up on him, or so he thought. He hates the way he is treated, but maybe it is really for the best.

He closes his eyes. He has to make a decision and the moment is now. His friend in who he doesn't trust anymore, or his lover who could have vanished for good. Despite there are more probabilities that everything with Dumbledore is a misunderstanding, he still choices Voldemort .

"How is Lily?" He says changing the subject.

"They will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow," Dumbledore's kind tone is back. Severus is about to protest it is too early but the headmaster stops him, "It's been a week, Severus"

A week, and he had counted another two locked with the Potters, "Who took over my class?"

"I convinced Horace to return. I do not want to expose the children to another change, but we will be happy to have you back as a head of house"

He snorts, it isn't they want him as a head of house, they need him to be. His Slytherins require complete dedication and not some sycophant whose entire time was spent in parties.

---------------------------------------------------------------

As Dumbledore said, it was for the best not to change teachers. After the announcement of his return, Severus had started to work in his project, while at the same time tried to fix the behavioural issues inside his house. With Slughorn ignoring them, the kids sought negative attention, taking advantage of the excess of liberties that Umbridge was giving them.

The fights with the other houses were out of control, most of them initiated by the Slytherin but not all. It is what irritates him the most, the assumption it was always his children fault. It doesn't matter how many talks he has with them or how many detention he assigns, as long as the others keep provoking them, the Slytherin are going to fight back.

Slughorn's parties were another problem. They were causing a division inside the house. The Slytherin used to be united, he had taught them that way, but now their head of house was telling them with his Slug club that some of them were inferiors. It discouraged some students to the point they weren't assisting to class anymore.

After he finally convinced them to be discreet with their misdeeds, and that he will not tolerate more missing class, he had withdrawn into his office to work fulltime in his project. Of course there was plenty of visits from the other teachers about the children's conduct, but he dismissed them with a simple 'I deal with them later.'

It was now two days before the deadline. Severus has found a way to improve the Dark Lord's appearance, but nothing for his mind.

He exhales loudly, holding his head in frustration. There is a heap of parchments over the desk and uncountable books scattered on the floor. He grabs one and opens it in a random page, just to throw it across the room.

Someone knocks the door, and as he goes to open it, he swears that if it is another complain about the Slytherins, he will give them something to complain about.

"Professor Umbridge, what a pleasure," He unsuccessfully tries to hide the sarcasm, "How can I help you?"

The woman wrinkles her nose in disgust. If it is for the mess in the room or because of its odour, he can't tell. Or perhaps it is the smell emanating from his own body, he couldn't remember when was the last time he showered.

"Professor Snape, the father of a student comes to see you," Her expression doesn't change, openly showing her disgust with the potion master, "If you need a minute to- ejem- tidy up a little..."

"It will not be necessary," Says a voice behind her with the arrogance only a Malfoy could impress, "Thank you for accompany me, I will take it from here"

She purses her lips, looking from one man to the other before she straightens up and goes away.

Severus moves aside letting the oldest Malfoy into his office. The man uses his cane to push some piece of parchment out of his way and turns up his nose when a seat is offered.

"Merlin Severus, you are a wizard, it cost you nothing to clean a little," He points his wand to the books but a cold glare from Severus make him return it to its shield.

"What are you doing here, Lucius?"

Lucius curves an eyebrow, "I saved your life and this is how you treat me?"

"Saved me?" Severus snorts, "That is what you call it now?"

"You are alive, are you not?"

He grits his teeth, his fists clenching at his side. He repeats the words of Dumbledore inside his head, you need to control your temper. "You are the only one who knew, Lucius, you are the only one I ever told. The full story. You left me there, with Macnair of all people. You knew what he was going to do"

"I couldn't help you Severus, I will never risk my family," Lucius says a little louder but considerably more calmer than Severus, "If I stayed, Cissy would be dead, it was the only way to give you a chance to escape"

"Nobody asked for your help," Severus shouts at him, unable of contain himself, "You had no way to know how I was going to react," His breath fastens and is shaking with rage, "What is worst, you knew the odds were that I would freeze"

"I know you Severus, you would not have let it happen," His voice doesn't sound so confident now. Severus doesn't answer, breathing deeply, too angry to keep talking, "What did you expect me to do? Would you rather be dead?"

"Yes!"

"Would you rather Evans to be dead?"

"Yes!" Severus pales, realizing what he has just said, he has not hesitated for a second before answering. He doesn't want Lily to die, and he would never kill her himself as it has been proven, but being raped in order to save her life it is asking too much from him.

Lucius looks just as surprised. He passes a hand over his face before speaking, "I am sorry, I shouldn't-" He walks toward him and put his hands over his shoulders, "I made a mistake, but he was going to kill you eventually and I just couldn't look the other way. Not with you"

He nods, guilt overwhelming him. He has no moral to blame Lucius, he has just admitted that he would exchange his friend's life for his own wellbeing. Lucius was the only one there who was looking after someone else than himself.

Sighing, he shakes Lucius' hands away and sits behind the desk, offering him the other chair. This time the blonde accepts, being careful where he steps on, "Why are you here, Lucius?"

"He doesn't remember you, but somehow you are still linked to him, that is why he didn't kill you immediately when you refuse to kill the mud- Evans"

"You can call her Potter, I don't care anymore," Lucius just stares at him, as determining if he is saying the true, "And I know"

"It wasn't us, Severus. We all thought they were dead"

"I know that too," Says he shaking his head. It doesn't make sense that after so many years captured, the Dark Lord decides to kill them and prove his loyalties just now, "It only leave us two options. Or it was Dumbledore, or there is a third party involved."

"Severus-"

He run his fingers through his hair, "I know, I know. If you hear hoofbeats..."

"What?"

"A muggle saying, I heard it in an hospital once, when I was little," Lucius scoffs, and Severus rolls his eyes, "never mind. The point is I am almost certain that Dumbledore has kept a few secrets from me."

Lucius grabs one of the notes on the table and examines it carefully. He turns it around and then back to its original position, as trying to find some sort of secret message in it. After a while, he lets it on the table and stares attentively at Severus, who hopes that the blonde had come up with something.

"You reek," Says the blonde finally and Severus can't do anything but huff laugh.

Lucius has never been easy to read. Sometimes he feels tempted to use legilimency on him, just to know what he is thinking, but that would be betray his trust. To difference of Dumbledore, he would never enter in other person's mind without their consent.

Suddenly, an idea appears. He can't return the Dark Lord's old memories if he doesn't know what happened to them in the first place. He has to enter the Dark Lord's mind and be able to wander around without resistance. That will leave complicated spells and potions for later, for now, he just needs to weaken his natural occlumency shields.

He explains it to his friend while he scribbles in a piece of parchment a few modified potions that might work.

Lucius stares at him as if another head came out of his neck, but then he shrugs and Severus takes it as a win, "I think we could brew something strong enough,"

"We?" Asks Lucius lifting an eyebrow and Severus glares, "I mean, happy to help, but I don't think having Lucius Malfoy in the potion labs of the school will assure us discretion"

"We aren't using the potions labs," Severus levitates a cauldron to the fireplace, adjusting the flame under it. Then take a few jars from the shelves and hands them to Lucius, "We are doing it here."

Lucius takes the offered jars. With his wand, he cleans a table and enlarges it so it can be used as a work-table. "Go to shower first, I will air this room in the meantime. It smells like if someone has died in here"

Chapter Text

Severus walks up the stairs to Voldemort's personal study. Lucius, possessive as he is with his manor, almost chokes in his words when he passes the orders to the potion master.

Both friends have worked restless, Lucius only going away in the late afternoon of the day before so he could get enough sleep. He needed it if his intentions were to enter in his master's mind.

Umbridge had been a problem, as always, coming after a few hours to ask about the missing Malfoy. Severus just shrugged saying he had left long before. To her protests, he added that if she wasn't worthy of the blonde's time for a goodbye, it wasn't his problem. Lucius almost burst into laughter, having to put a hand over his mouth to not to give away his location.

At the moment of his call, he has covered his dark mark with a muscle relaxant cream, in the hopes it would put the Dark Lord in a good mood on his arrival. His plans consists in a lot of 'hopes' and 'luck', and Severus doesn't like that. Previous experiences have taught him he can't trust any of these things.

The door is ajar, but he knocks it anyway. It opens immediately, and he steps inside before someone could reply. Lord Voldemort seems to be waiting, the fingers of his right hand drumming softly on the surface of the desk.

"My lord." Severus bows, noticing all the paintings have disappeared from the walls.

"Severus," says Voldemort in a calm, welcoming way, "I trust you were successful in your task"

He extracts two potions from his pocket and hands them to Voldemort. He studies the bottles, swirling and sniffing at them, then staring back at Severus.

"The red one will return your original body. It will require several doses to make complete effect, but I have already given the recipe to Lucius so he can keep brewing it." Voldemort waits, a curious look in his face. "Your magic is the same, you just need to stabilise it. The potion also does that"

"Anyone would say you do not expect to come out of this room alive." Voldemort stands from his seat, circling the desk to be in front of Severus. "Tell me Severus, what does this other potion do?"

Severus looks up to his master, eyes locked with his, resisting the urge of running away. "Some of your memories have vanished. This potion will temporarily break your occlumency shields, and will allow me to verify if they still exist"

"You want to use legilimency on me," says the Dark Lord in a dangerous voice, but otherwise he stays quiet.

Severus waits. He doesn't know how long but it seems like hours. He doesn't look away, trying to determine what is Voldemort thinking.

After a while, the Dark Lord licks his lip and emits a laugh, "You have nerve Severus, I have to admit that. However, you understand I have to kill you for this, don't you?"

"My Lord, what is the plan after you kill Potter? If you grant me a last wish, I would like to know," Severus asks smoothly, trying to apparent calm.

The Dark Lord frowns. "We are taking over great Britain and then the rest of the world,"

"How?" Lord Voldemort holds up his wand, but lowers it after a second. "Why do you insist in going after him? He is being trained to defeat you, but if you would not have represented a danger for him and his family in the first place, he would just be a regular man with neither the strength nor the interest in confront you. Why not to offer him safety for him and his family in exchange of never attacking you? A sort of truce, sealed by an oath."

"The boy has to die." The Dark Lord raises his wand again, but not without a glance to the potion.

The corner of his lip twitch. Voldemort is hesitating, which means the plan is working. "If some of the man to whom I swore loyalty is still in there, you will take that potion, because the Dark Lord I knew was too curious to lose the opportunity of obtaining answers."

The wand is lowered once again and Severus has to repress a sigh of relief when Voldemort drinks the potion.

The spell is cast and Severus is inside of Voldemort's head. There is no resistance, he is not being rejected in any way. He goes through the first memories, no signal of change in them. Sounds and images are consistent with reality, and also the feelings are the ones he had already predicted. He can feel them as if they were his own, and does his best to ignore the knot in his stomach when he realises his master has actually enjoyed his torture.

He is expecting to crash into a wall that hide the missing memories, but it never happens. Instead, the images become blurrier and blurrier and he almost miss when it is only white noise and dust around him. He goes back a little, the last two memories can't be heard, or even properly seen, but he doesn't need to. One is the first time the Dark Lord cast a cruciatus on him, the other is Agatha's funeral.

Agatha was their pet snake, she had accompanied the Dark Lord for almost all his adult life. There were only the two of them in the scene, burying her in the back of the house, and he is not sure if the pain he is feeling is his or Voldemort's. He wants to desperately cut the link, those two time were the worst of his life, and now he understands they had been Voldemort's break point.

After that, dense dust surrounds him. Glimpses of their life together can be seen when the particles are close enough. Not without effort he manages to join enough of them to form an entire scene. It can be completely healed but it will require time and a better legilimens. Eventually he will have to ask Narcissa to do it, but he will make sure it is safe for her first.

Before continuing reconstructing the mind, he goes further to determine the extent of the damage. To his surprise, at some point, unfocussed images began to appear. Soon, scene after scene pass over him. It is a chaos, and he only feels confusion and fear. Some are more clear than other, as wanting to catch his attention. And it works, because Severus can't avoid to watch when a boy, about twelve years old, is dragged to a dark room by a woman. There are no windows, and it smells to urine and mould. He can't see but somehow he knows he is curled in a corner. Two words come to his head, bloody muggles

It isn't he who is thinking it, but he can't agree more with the boy.

Next one the same boy, Tom, along with other boy and a girl are climbing a cliff. The other two kids reach the top and motion Tom to hurry up. He is sweating and panting, but he points the entry of a cave for them to go ahead. Soon he follows and shows them his discovery, proud of himself. A devious smile forms in the others' faces, and both grab Tom's arms and try to push his head in the lake. Tom is furious when he manages to get away, staring with betrayed eyes at those who he believed to be his friends. Suddenly the girl moves, her absent face tells Severus that Tom is using imperius. She goes into the water, holding her head down while the boy begs her to come out. He is apparently immobilised, watching how his friend is drowning as a sharp rock fly threatening over his face. Suddenly, everything stops, and the crying boy runs to the water to help the girl as Tom leaves the cave with a smile on his face.

There is plenty scenes like that, and in each one of them there is a muggle doing something bad, enhancing his hate toward them. The other images from his past have not disappeared and Severus try to find the most recent. He is disappointed when he does. It is just the Dark Lord, in his twenties, buying some things from a store.

Severus returns to where the shattered memories are. For a while, he joins pieces together, some of them impossible to find. He lets them be, they will have time for it later. Now he is more interested in prove the Dark Lord that he is right and some of his memories are, in fact, missing. Before cutting their mental link, he puts the previous scenes in a sort of chronological order and lowers the intensity of them, hoping it would help his master to think with more clarity.

"It will require more sessions, if that is your wish, master."

The red eyes turn to a brownish red, and then back to the same. They are in constant change and he doesn't know if it worked or if his ex-lover's sanity is beyond any help.

"You used to call me Tom," he says finally.

The words make Severus smile, and it take all his willpower not to start to cry in the spot. "You used not to torture me for it." Something resembling guilt cross Voldemort's face, but no offer of using his former name is made. "If that is all my Lord, I will like to prepare the next dosages."

"Will you come tomorrow?"

Severus shakes his head. "Minds are complex, they require a time between sessions to recover and settle down. At least you call me for something else, my presence here is unnecessary."

Voldemort nods. "That will be all then"

Chapter Text

"I take it went well?" Says Lucius as they go outside of the house.

Severus gives a stiff nod. "Although I still do not know where his obsession with killing Potter comes from."

"As long as we are free of cruciatus, I am good with it," replies Lucius turning to the right. Severus puts a hand over his shoulder to stop him. "I want to show you something, you are going to like it"

Even if he had planed visiting Lily before starting brewing again, he has to admit he feels a little curious.

Lucius guides him through the gardens, and Severus stares amazed his surroundings. It has been so many years since the last time he was in that part of the manor. They stop near the pond and Severus sees him. In the floor of an invisible cage, Walden Macnair is curled and shivering, waiting for what he probably believes will be his dead.

"You didn't check on him before you left the other day..."

"I am sorry, but I had other priorities in my mind,"

"...And now you can correct that," finishes Lucius handing him a wand. "His wand, for the effect"

Severus rolls his eyes but takes it, getting closer to the man.

There is no way to know where the edges of the cage are. A spell would reveal them, but it would also announce his presence and he wants to give him a surprise. So he extends his arm in front of him, casualty, like someone is trying to catch snowflakes. A barrier touches his hand, making a thud that would be amplified by the walls inside. Macnair startles, jumping and staring to Severus with wide eyes.

"A beautiful view, don't you believe?" He asks to the air as he circles the cage, "There is a small island in the centre of the pond, you can't really see it because of the willows, Narcissa insisted." Macnair follows him with the eyes, waiting for him to attack but Severus continues without looking at him. "She spent days on end there, drawing, reading, and who can blame her? This place is perfect." He pats the wall softly and Macnair jumps again. "A great place to die, if you ask me"

This time he turns completely to Macnair, a wide smile that borders on insanity plastered on his face. "Too bad you won't have that pleasure"

Macnair begins to crawl to him. "Please Snape, please forgive me, I didn't mean to hurt you,"

Severus curves an eyebrow and undoes the charm that keeps the man locked. A simple cruciatus prevents him from moving forward.

"When I was young, I had a snake," he says ignoring the lie. "A rattlesnake, Agatha. I really loved Agatha, and every summer I took the responsibility of feeding her—"

"Please," whimpers Macnair.

"For Merlin's sake Macnair, don't you see I am telling a story here? You are ruining it." Lucius chuckles at his side, that dark chuckle he has not heard since the first war. "Lucius, hold out his tongue,"

The blonde turns up his nose but obeys anyway. A curse cuts the tongue and cauterises the wound at the instant, there is no need for unwanted messes.

Macnair screams in pain and make himself a ball, trembling and crying.

"As I was saying," continues Severus, "I had to feed her because the wards of the house didn't allow other animals to enter. We keep a cage with mice, and at the moment I grabbed one, it started to struggle to be released, as if it knew about its fate,

"So I released it, and the thing ran for its life. It was always like that, Agatha loved to hunt. It may pass hours, and the mouse might have thought the danger had passed, but Agatha always caught them." He walks to Macnair and drops in one knee to be at his height. "Would you like to be feed to a snake?"

Macnair seems not to have realised Severus was so close because falls back of the impression. He shakes his head frantically, moving his lips but unable of vocalising intelligible words.

"I thought that," he says without moving, his voice turning into a threatening whisper. "Do not worry, Nagini prefers dead food and, among us, I never liked that thing."

He stands from the floor and grabs Macnair by the collar of his robe, lifting him up to his feet. "I will give you the chance, just like those cute little mice." He pushes him, passing Lucius. "You will go away, but if I find you — when I find you — I will use every single spell I can think of to torture you." He tightened his grip pulling him closer, almost speaking to his ear. "And when you are about to die," continues Severus in a silky voice, "I will heal you and start over again." They keep walking, Lucius following them near behind. "And then, I will grow bored of you, but I won't kill you," he stops for a few seconds. "I will give you to the Lestranges, and you know how our dear Bellatrix feels about rapists."

Macnair begins to struggle with renewed energy, and Severus laughs. There is no better way than mention Bellatrix's to instil terror in someone.

Once in the gates, Lucius opens them and Severus pushes him outside. Macnair stumbles but manages to stay on his feet, looking with scared eyes at the two friends. Severus stares back blankly, levitating the other's wand close enough to be within easy reach.

When he speaks, his voice is in a dangerous low tone. "Run"

And the man does. Taking his wand, he moves as fast as he can, tripping more than a few time in the process. After a few minutes, they lose sight of him.

"Are you really letting him go?" Ask Lucius lifting an eyebrow

Severus shrugs. "I am feeling good today. If he is smart enough, he will say farewell to his family and kill himself before I start looking for him."

"He won't, and you know that."

A smirk forms on his face. "Then it will be an entertaining hunting."

Chapter Text

Grimmauld Place is as depressing as ever, or perhaps is his own antipathy for its current resident, namely Sirius Black, what causes his rejection for the place. The true is that, if it weren't for the presence of the man, it wouldn't be a bad neighbourhood. A little bored with his row of identical houses, but certainly better than Spinner Ends. Nothing of that matters, Lily is there and if he wants to see her, he'll have to tolerate the dog.

He pushes the doorbell of the number twelve with a sense of dread, waiting to hear Mistress Black's portrait screaming at the moment the door opens. She doesn't disappoint him, before he can see who is behind the door, her loud voice reaches his ears.

"Severus, we weren't expecting you," says a rather disconcerted Remus Lupin. "Come in, everyone is in the drawing room."

The werewolf moves aside and both walk up the stairs to the drawing room. Once in there, the rest of the order stares at him confused, and he does the same, sending a questioning look to Dumbledore.

"Severus, my boy, we were waiting for you."

"Were we?" Asks James from Lily's side. She elbows him in the ribs when Dumbledore turns to them.

"We didn't think you will be back so early, but we appreciate you are here." Severus nods cautious, not believing a word the old man said. "Please, sit down and join us"

An old lamp is transfigured into a comfy armchair and positioned between the sofa where James and Lily are, and the chair occupied by Black. He tries to find a way to avoid sitting there but he can't think in an excuse that doesn't sound disrespectful to the headmaster.

"It is fine, dear, you are allowed to sit," says Molly in a nauseating, sweet voice and Severus realises his secret has been revealed.

"And why would I not?" He sneers at her.

Nobody answers, suddenly their hands and the floor turning in the most interesting objects in the room. He walks to his place and sits. Lily turns and whispers an 'it wasn't us', to then look toward Dumbledore again.

"Maybe Severus wants to start telling us how his meeting with Voldemort went?"

Severus does, keeping his story as close to the reality as possible. He tells them about the high amount of legilimency used, omitting the fact it was him who used it and not Voldemort. He hopes it will discourage Dumbledore from reading his mind, since they are too fragile and overexertion can destroy one for good. He also mentions Macnair, this time telling the whole true. It isn't hard to explain why he acted like he did, not if he had to keep appearances in front of Lucius Malfoy. And Macnair end up alive after all.

The rest of the meeting is more or less the same, everything revolving around the information he has given. His suspicions grow, if he wasn't invited to the meeting they should have had something besides that to discuss, but when Dumbledore finishes and except for a few complaints against the ministry, there is nothing else.

He waits for the others to leave before address Lily, who looks like doing the same. Before they could escape to another room, Black interpose himself between them.

"A slave," he scoffs as if he is before a cockroach which tries to pass as a dog. "Kneel." The last he says it in a commanding voice.

Severus knows where that stupid belief comes from. He has read that book too. It was one of the few he could put his hands on when he was younger, his status of slave recently revealed. Lucius, Tom and Narcissa had everything hidden, supposedly to protect him, but that one was almost harmless. There weren't disturbing images or graphic description of torture, and they let him keep it.

According to it, a slave will obey to any order given by a pureblood witch or wizard, at least it goes against what his or her master has ordered before. There is also rules they obey by instinct, and a several traits they supposedly have, lack of intelligence among them. Almost everything is a lie, but for the years it was written, when slavery was still legal, those rules were followed or the slaves would be subjected to the most horrid punishments; and after that, anyone would obey to even a domestic elf.

"Get out of my way, Black,"

"I said kneel."

"You are the only deaf here, Black. Get out of my way,"

The animagus stares at him offended, but then his mouth turns up in a sneer. "I guess your master has ordered you not to obey. What else does he order you to do, Snape? What does Malfoy order you to do?"

Severus clenches his fist and circles him. He could have pushed him away but it wouldn't do it start a fight if he wants to visit Lily again.

"Any private place we can talk?"

She grabs his hand and leads him to a small bedroom. There are two beds with light blue bedding, a big wardrobe and a bookshelf in the corner of the room. Everything seems clean, so he supposes they are already preparing the house for the Christmas holidays.

"It was Dumbledore, wasn't he?" He says trying that his voice doesn't show how betrayed he feels.

Lily nods and sits on one bed, motioning Severus to do the same. Understanding his distress, she smiles comprehensive but doesn't offers any comforting word that contradict his thoughts.

"Is it true? Has he ordered you... you know...?" She asks awkward and Severus laughs.

She scowls but Severus shakes his head, "Are you serious?" She nods again. "Of course he did. He also ordered me to keep being friend with a muggleborn, Lucius did it too by the way, and the multiple times I have saved your son's life or when I don't simply grab him and—"

"Ok, I get it, all rubbish. There is no need to be sarcastic," she interrupts him, a little miffed. "It is just, Sirius give us this book, and the way the others are treating you."

"I know, but it wasn't like that before. There is a lot of misconceptions in what to slaves refers," he explains, not laughing anymore. It disturbs him the way he is being treated, and he is afraid it will continue being like that. "Don't believe everything the books tell you and ask me directly and not to Black, the Weasleys or any other pureblood that 'kindly' offers their help."

"So, do you want to know what we talk in those meetings that you are not invited?" He curves an eyebrow, "I thought you had figured by now that we weren't really expecting you"

"I did, but I wasn't aware there were others before,"

"Three so far, to decide what will happen with you," she says deathly serious. "Dumbledore trust you and the Weasley support him, also Remus. Kingsley and Tonks saw you when you arrived, they are worried, and you don't want to know what Sirius and Moody think."

"They want me in a leash in Azkaban." She shifts uncomfortable but doesn't contradict him

"I am worried too, Severus." She sounds worried, but there is nothing he can do to appease her fears. "Don't go back with him, do not do that again, Albus will protect you."

Both stare each other in silence. He can't tell her what his future will be if he stops being useful, and that he doesn't trust Dumbledore anymore. It doesn't matter if the headmaster isn't in the house, those walls have ears.

"Did they see your memories?" He wants to know how many know by now, and if there is any death eater he likes in danger.

"Only Dumbledore, he wants to keep everything quiet since we didn't see any face. Also because of your thing"

"Thing? What thing?" He teases when he notices her discomfort, a malicious smile forming in his face. She throws a pillow at him, laughing as she does.

Chapter Text

“And you wouldn’t believe how big he is. He and James were comparing heights and they are almost the same. He is already taller than me...”

Lily has been talking about her son for the last half hour, but he doesn’t have the heart to stop her or at least remind he that he has been teaching the boy for more than four years, therefore yes, he believes her.

The youngest Potter visited his parents a few days prior to their release from St. Mungo. They didn’t want the boy to learn about them by the press and they called him just in time. Next morning a picture of the three Potter was published in the first page of The Prophet.

“He is as wonderful as you said he was, Sev,” says Lily at the end. “Although he was a little surprised you talked so well about him, don’t you two get along?”

Her dreamy smile changes to a mischievous smirk, telling him that she already knows the answer to that.

“Our relationship is... complicated... he is a little distracted in my class”

She chuckles, leaning back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. “All of this is so surreal. Seeing Harry, knowing he is fine.” A shadow of sadness pass over her eyes, “But he is not entirely fine. Call it mother instinct, but I can tell something happened to him. He was with Petunia, wasn’t he?”

“As far as I know.” Minerva had told him something about Potter’s childhood, from when she visited him. She said he was well cared for, a happy and normal child in her words.

“I talked with her a week before it happened. She said she’d take care of him”

“So, the spell is of your making.” She nods proud of herself. “But it doesn’t make any sense. If it wasn’t you who cast it, why send him with your sister?” Lily glares at him, and he is sure the classical ‘because she is my sister’ is coming. “It would be unsafe for him, he needs to live near the caster’s blood relative”

Lily convokes a piece of parchment and a quill, and he realises for the first time she has her wand back.

“Ollivander’s present,” says she, noticing his eyes. “Being famous has its advantages”

Multiple figures with strings joining them begin to fill the parchment. Words in Latin appear in Lily’s delicate calligraphy and arrows mark a specific direction. It doesn’t take long for Severus to realise she is drawing the spell, and he waits patiently for her to finish as he tries to understand it.

He recognises the symbols, and he is almost sure he has seen part of the drawing in a book, even if he can’t tell which one. The spell seems complex, and the one performing it must have been a powerful witch or wizard.

Lily shows him the parchment and lighten the lower part with her wand. “See this part? The range of action of the spell is enough for them to live in the same neighbourhood,” she explains. “And to not arouse suspicions”

“Potter’s family?”

“The only condition for the protection to work is the protector to be related by blood both the child and the caster, and all purebloods are related”

An uneasy feeling settles over him. What Lily is saying is that her sister was the distraction. If they attacked they would go after Petunia and not the blood related person, and the child will still be safe.

“Don’t look at me like that, it was supposed to be me who died in there, so Petunia would have been the actual guardian,” she says, on the defensive. “In any case, I went to see her about a week before everything happened and she told me she was going to take care of him. Her son was a little blond ball, she was amazing with him.”

A little blond ball. Potter was far away from a ball when he first saw him. He was skinny, at the point he has to ask Poppy to make a full check in his health. She gave the report to Minerva and the headmaster, but refused to say anything to him.

Severus doesn’t mention it. Lily has already too many things to worry about right now.

“Are you asking for his custody?”

She sighs deeply. “We aren’t sure, I don’t want to separate him from Tuney and it is only a year. Maybe go and live near, so we can see him everyday without changing his routine.”

------------------------------------------

He extends to the maximum his visit to Lily, but eventually he has to return to the school. Luckily he doesn’t see Black, Potter or anyone else in his way out. Bad enough is having to talk to Albus when he arrives at the school.

Throwing a handful of floo powder, he steps into the flames and in matter of seconds he is back at Hogwarts, Dumbledore already waiting for him on the other side.

“Severus," greets the old man from the chair behind his desk. He wouldn’t descript his welcome as warm, but there isn’t obvious hostility in it. “I hope you visit to Lily went well”

“Yes headmaster, she seems to be doing well.” Clearly, Dumbledore doesn’t want to talk about Lily’s health, and he doesn't either. Being because of guilt, dissapointment or self-preservation, he wants to spend the less time possible with the headmaster. “Something I can help you with, sir?”

“I was asking myself the same.”

He knew where the conversation goes. As he has thought, the walls have ears in Grimmauld place and even if it happens before than expected, he is prepared.

“I can’t see how,”

“Is there anything you want to ask me?”

“Nothing Lily has not told me already.” The headmaster leans forward, adjusting his half-moon glasses. “And I assumed, if after three meetings you has not bothered in talking with me directly, it was because you had no intention to talk with me about it, at all”

“We are just concerned about you, Severus,” says Dumbledore soothingly. “You must admit that you are in a dangerous position”

“While I appreciate your concern headmaster.” Not without effort, he manages to keep the sarcasm away from his reply. “I am an adult and can take my own decisions.” The blue eyes pierce on him, a clear sign it isn’t enough for Dumbledore. “I put Lily in danger fifteen years ago and I will do anything to repair my mistake.”

The man smiles kindly, his eyes twinkling as they used to do.

“Accompany me with a cup of tea.” He is not asking, and he have no other option than sitting across the desk. “I am proud of having such a brave wizard in the order.”

Unwillingly, the corner of his lips twitch upward. Despite the man’s lies, his body still reacts at his praises and he keeps craving for his approbation.

Before he can give it more thought, a cup with steaming tea appears in front of him. A waft of a known smell reaches his nose.

“Lavender?” he asks.

Dumbledore smiles broadly. “Your sense of smell never disappoints my boy”

Severus blows the liquid and takes a sip. Dumbledore is right, his sense of the smell has never failed him, but neither his taste and subtly as it is, he recognises the veritaserum in there.

Chapter Text

Leaving his cup on the table, he makes visual contact with Dumbledore again. The older man keeps smiling, as daring him to complain, but Severus stares back defiant and takes another sip. Otherwise, he will be admitting guilt.

“I have to say, headmaster, I would have never thought such honourable man as yourself, would resort to something as low as a trick to probe my loyalties,” says Severus, casually drinking again. “I feel offended”

His heart is pounding in his ears but he refuses to let the headmaster see his fear. As long as he keeps himself under control and doesn’t lie the potion won’t have any effect. And he is not lying, it’s really offensive to be considered stupid enough to not recognise veritaserum.

“It is not a trick if I know you will notice. You are a potion master, are you not?” The smile has banished from Dumbledore’s face, yet the tone remains cordial. “My boy, the people in the order are worried and my word does not carry the same weight as it did years ago”

It may have been his imagination but he hears the door locking behind him. Not like he is thinking in running away, Dumbledore can and will kill him before he can stand from his seat if he does.

Looking through the corner of his eye, he realises they are not alone. Under Potter’s invisibility cloak, said marauder and his best friend reveal.

“Tell me, snivellus, are you willing to answer some questions?” Asks Black with a half-smile, his eyes shining as if he were a hungry dog which has found a defenceless kitten.

The main difference is that he isn’t a scared kitten, not anymore. Despite not having his wand in his hand, he can reach for it in five seconds, slice their stomachs in ten and their throats in fifteen. While the two of them were locked up´, he has been training and now he has fourteen more years of experience than them.

They walk toward them, standing at the headmaster’s side. Potter a little behind, giving the impression he doesn’t want to be there. His hand is in his right pocket where he supposes his wand is.

“It does not look as if I have too much of an option,” says he, leaning back in his chair. He is not looking at Black but at the headmaster.

“There is always an option, Severus,” replies the older adjusting his half-moon glasses. “Would you like to take it?”

He wonders what option is this, if the headmaster is really willing to let him go without consequences. It is a risk he is not willing to take.

“Yes, I would like it but I will not do it,” he says not moving from his relaxed position, as if he has nothing to hide. His mouth may not been able to tell lies but his body could, and he will be damned if he shows weakness in front of his enemies. “I want you to trust me once and for all.”

Dumbledore nods. “Your full name, please.”

“Severus Tobias Snape,” answers he immediately. “And you must be out of your mind if you believe the Dark Lord would send someone impersonating me”

A twinkle of amusement passes over Dumbledore’s eyes. “You can blame a man for being too cautious these days.” Severus agrees, he has been the one betraying him after all. “Have you ever lie to me, Severus?”

“Yes.” He blurts before he can stop himself, his mind rushing in find a way out. “I lied about having a plan when I return to the Dark Lord, after freeing the Potters.” James lowers his gaze and moves a few inches from his friend, like just remembering that Severus had risked his life to save his and his wife’s, and he has no right to distrust him. “I wanted to avoid being sent to Azkaban”

“And what made you think you would be sent to Azkaban?” Asks Dumbledore softly, suddenly changing to the fatherly tone in which he used to talk to Severus the first years post-war. “It was because of jealousy or because you don’t trust in me anymore?”

His cheeks dye in red and he closes his lips tightly. The answer is both, but only one is safe to confess. To his dismay it’s the most humiliating one.

“I am jealous of the way you treat Potter and Black and hurt for the way you treat me in front of them.” A mocking smile appears in Black’s face and Severus stares fixedly the table, too embarrassed for an acidic reply. This time Black has won.

Dumbledore takes Severus’ cup and drink. “My boy, I love you like a son. Nothing and nobody will change that”

He wants to believe those words, He is desperate for doing so. But the antidote for veritaserum can be taken previous to the interrogatory. He doesn’t speak though, hoping his silence will be considered as acceptation.

“Severus, I just don’t understand how, if your hate towards James and Sirius is so big, you are still with us in the Order”

“Voldemort has to die,” he replies without hesitation. Voldemort needs to die in order for Tom to be reborn.

“Just a last question, my boy. Has Voldemort ever order you to lie or disobey us?”

The word ‘us’ does not go unnoticed for Severus. “That is just a myth, headmaster”

The lips of Dumbledore curve into a smile, but before he can give the interrogatory for finished Black interrupts him.

“And how it is being bugged by Voldemort, snivellus?”

He couldn’t feel more humiliated, but he knows he can’t count in Dumbledore to save him. Still, if he reveals the true about his relation with Voldemort, or the lack of it for the case, they will realise he distinguishes between his lover and the thing he has become.

Pain runs trough his body as he opens and closes his mouth struggling to lie. He puts himself together, it is not the moment to show doubts.

“It hurts. It hurts every time” It does hurt, every time he tries to lie another wave of pain comes.

Black is going say something else but this time Dumbledore interferes. In a cold voice that matches with his eyes, he speaks to the marauders.

“I think it is time for the two of you to return to the Order’s headquarters.” He looks to Severus again, his expression softening as he offers him the antidote. “You are certainly the bravest man in this room. The hat made a mistake when he put you in Slytherin”

Severus doesn’t process the last words, he is still trying to make sense to what just happened. For the first time ever, he feels the headmaster has preferred him over Potter and Black.

Chapter Text

He stays in Dumbledore’s office for a long time, the old man assuring him he has had no other option but to accede to interrogating him. His apologies sound sincere, filling him with praises for his bravery and commitment with the cause, and by the time he is leaving, he is questioning his choices again.

Almost fourteen years of friendship thrown away trying to save a man who maybe can’t and doesn’t want to be saved.

He represses a sigh, knowing it isn’t a maybe. Voldemort doesn’t want to be saved, that is definitive. However in his current state he can’t see what is best for him.

‘Nor could your father,’ reminds him a voice in his head.

His mother had abandoned everything and even sacrificed her only son in an attempt of fixing him, and now Severus is doing the same.

Except it’s not the same.

If someone resembles his father, that is Dumbledore. Where Tobias used his belt, the headmaster uses his words, and he can’t count how many times he has been humiliated or guilt tripped by them. For an ounce of approbation he has agreed to do things he hates, and the sensation of being used is a constant in their relationship.

The last thought reassures him. This is not only for helping Tom but for doing what is right. Dumbledore is an expert manipulating and he can’t keep falling for his lies.

Still, fourteen years of friendship, or what he believed was a friendship, are hard to left behind.

He stops suddenly, three wands surrounding him.

Recognising his three male prefects he lets go his wand. They look disconcerted at him, and he realises he is in front of the Slytherin common room.

“We heard noises,” explains Draco, lowering his wand along with the other two boys. However, he catches how his seventh year subtly cast an identity spell on him.

Gesturing the boys to get back inside, he follows them. That place is the first place where he felt safe, and after the day he had, he wants somewhere familiar where to find comfort.

The children’s gazes are on him, as if they are expecting to be yelled at, which is curious considering he has never yelled at them. But he is mentally exhausted to find out, so he walks in silence and sits in what he knows is Draco’s armchair now, staring absent the flames of the fireplace.

Draco doesn’t complain. Instead, he places himself on the floor, resting his back on the side of the chair. Some students look shocked, Draco Malfoy showing submission isn’t an everyday sight, but the boy just ignores them and grabs a book.

“We’ll be better,” says Pansy softly, sitting near them. “We won’t cause more troubles”

He nods, his hand going to scratch Draco’s head, as Lucius had done back in their times as students, when it was Severus the one on the floor.

Lucius didn’t care his hair was greasy, and Draco doesn’t seem to mind his silky hair is being touched by his stained fingers. Maybe it is a Malfoy thing, the ability of giving him comfort when he doesn’t know how to ask for it.

After that, any remains of anger for their recent misdeeds go away.

 

The kids keep their promise, he has not heard complains about them so far. The teachers and the other houses look askance at them, and there are multiples rumours about what evilness are they machinating, yet he knows he can trust them for a while.

Also Dumbledore has been fairly pleasant since their last meeting, allowing him some freedom he has not had before, as skipping all his meals in the great hall. He goes to see him at least once a day, bringing food with him as excuse, but he can deal with that.

He waits until it is time for delivering the next dose in an illusory sense of peace. It will be over soon, Dumbledore act would only last the strictly necessary, and the patience of his Slytherins with the other houses won’t be eternal.

In any case, he is grateful it has given time for his mind to recover. And when the time comes, he is ready for whatever he is going to find, or at least that is what he believes.

His middle optimism last until Lucius greets him. It may be the way his lips press together or how his fingers tighten around his walking stick, but Lucius is ready to attack.

In a quick movement he pulls his wand from his pocket, leaving it at sight without pointing.

“You do well in be prepared,” says Lucius nonchalant, “but you are mistaken about who is the threat”

“Is he in his study?” He asks bluntly. He has no time for Lucius riddles.

“How is Draco?”

“Draco is fine, as he must have told you in his weekly letters. Now if you would be so kind of answer my question”

“He does, that is why I am asking”

At these word his stomach shrinks. He has been ignoring all the signals and has neglected his house. His students had no way to know there was someone outside the common room at least they had surveillance spells around.

The fights, the sudden distrust of everyone around. Slytherin has never characterised by being a trusting house, but not at that level. For some reason they are scared, and he will have to find why when he return.

“I will keep an eye on him when I go back”

It seems like Lucius wants to say something, but he thinks better of it. Instead, he address to his first question.

“He has been in his bedroom since you came the last time. Nobody has seen him”

He understands his friend’s apprehensions. They’d know if the Dark Lord were dead, which means he is not well. And an ill Voldemort would void all his fury in the first one crossing the door.

Lucius grabs his arm before he can turn around. “I will be here”

It sounds more like a goodbye, but he ignores it and goes away.

Upstairs is his master’s bedroom, and he knocks hoping against hope for a response. Turning the doorknob he silently curses, it is locked. He casts an alohomora on it and the door opens.

Too easy for his like.

It looks like a hurricane passed through. Broken mirrors, ripped curtains and destroyed furniture are evidence of his master’s mental state.

Severus clears a passage towards the bed, from where two red eyes stare furious at him. Life has taught him when a beating is coming and he is walking straight to one.

“Master?” He calls, his voice almost a whisper. “I brought you your next dose.”

“I don’t want any of your potions, Snape,” spats the Lord, his wand pointing at him.

He closes his eyes and keeps walking. It won’t end up well for him but there is not going back.

“Get out, Severus.”

This time it isn’t an order but a beg. Opening his eyes he sees how the red orbs have changed and turned into the dark brown they used to be.

“I am not leaving, you will need to kill me for that.”

The eyes debate between red and brown, to finally settle in a colour in between. Voldemort lowers his wand and nods, and he closes the few steps that separates them.

He offers the potion, knowing that if the Lords decides to break it, there will be nothing he can do. He doesn’t, though. In a quick motion he drinks the content, as doubting of his own determination.

“Let me in,” he says locking his eyes with his. “Just relax”

There is not resistance this time, and he immediately understands why the Lord didn’t want the potion. As soon as he is inside, guilt surrounds him. It is overwhelming, and he tries to identify the source of it, finding the same scene repeating over and over again.

A new feeling seizes him. He can still feel the guilt but also anger is building inside. They are fighting, and realises it is the Tom in the memory who is furious.

They are in one of the Lestrange’s states and Severus is in front of him yelling, ranting about him being changing. Under all his anger, a strange voice tells him that something is off there but he can’t point what it is.

That man is just a servant who believes to have the right to come to his home and demand things. He is looking for punishment and it is his duty to show him his place. Everything is clear, except that it isn’t.

Severus keeps ranting, but Voldemort isn’t listening. The terms ‘Severus’ and ‘another servant’ competing in his head. Sometimes the name comes accompanied by fondness, others it means nothing.

“Silence,” orders the Lord finally interrupting the younger, “and give me a good reason for not to kill you”

“A good reason? You want a bloody reason? What about the fact I am the only one who doesn’t give up on you?” Spats Severus, broken voice and tears he refuses to let fall in the corners of his eyes, “What about you living of the charity of your followers instead of your own home? What about-“

“Crucio.” The curse slips between his lips as a wave of ire sweeps over him.

Severus screams, impossible to know if it is because it took him by surprise or because of the pain. Probably both.

It last just a few second, enough to feel something pinching his chest and the urge of attack himself and protect his lover in return. This is Severus, his Severus, and he hurt him.

"Severus—"

Severus is on his feet, panting heavily and tears running down his cheeks.

"It took you long." Voldemort is going to say something, but again his mind clouds, the only keeping him in reality is the slight ache in his chest. "But I am not turning into my mother"

With that Severus turns around and slams the door behind.

Chapter Text

The scene begins again, and the more it repeats , the more unstable and fragile Voldemort’s mind becomes. He knows that he needs to find another quickly, one strong enough to distract his master from his newly found feelings.

He swims through the maze that is his mind, impressed in how the memories are rebuilding by themselves. At this rate he won’t need to enter next time.

The task turns to be harder than he thought. He tries with their first time together, Christmas, Tom’s birthdays, but they are all too weak.

Severus tries another approach and searches for moments of anger.

Their fights seems so meaningless now, like the time Tom kissed him in public, ’because it is humiliating Tom’, or one of the multiple times he burned the labs experimenting with a new potion, ’one of these days you will blow yourself up, Severus’. He doesn’t regrets any of those moments, they are part of their life together and they give him the strength to keep fighting.

All of a sudden, he finds it. It is like an itch that expands until it is impossible to ignore it.

It is not a happy memory, it is bittersweet, and in the beginning Severus doesn’t understand.

Both are in bed and he is awakening from yet another nightmare. It wasn’t unusual at the time, and he stays to see what it is so special about it.

'In right side is Tom, a book in one hand and the other petting his sleeping lover.

Severus starts to struggle against an invisible force, sobbing and begging for him to stop.

As if it were something that happens every day, and it was something that happened every day, Tom turns to him, shakes him gently by the shoulder and, with a hand in his back, half-forces him to sit. Despite of what his instincts tell him, he knows better than kiss him and whisper loving words to his ear.

Still sniffling, Severus looks around, meeting his gaze with his lover’s.

“I am sorry,” he says embarrased, his voice sounding nasally.

“You don’t need to apology, love”

Severus looks away. “Did I wake you up?”

“No,” says Tom pointing the book on his lap. “Is it fine if I touch you?”

Severus hesitates for a second, then moves slowly to rest the side of his head over Tom’s chest, who immediately surrounds him with his arm.

“Why do you put up with me,” asks Severus softly after a while. “I am a mess”

“Because I love you,” He replies kissing his hairs, “and because you put up with me too”

“I love you too”'

It takes Severus a moment to realise this was the first time he said ‘I love you’ to his partner. Tom said it with frequency, but Severus had heard it so many times from the mouths of the people who raped him, that he had promised himself to never do it at least he truly feels it.

The memory captures Voldemort’s attention and he can begin to work.

Somewhere around there must be a compulsion spell. It’s the only that would explain why his master is so inclined to kill a child rather than a real threat for his cause.

In his searching, he fixes as much as he can. The mix of sadness and happiness that the scene brings with it makes it easier. It's keeps him focus.

And suddenly all makes sense, Potter must die by his hand.

Severus starts. Those are not his thoughts, and even the Dark Lord in some part inside of him, recognises he is just a child.

It requires a high amount of will to keep himself out of the trap. As he had thought, it is a compulsion spell. One cast long time ago, between the moment he repeated the prophesy and when he begged for Lily’s life.

He couldn’t say who had cast it, but he already has a suspect. The biggest questions are how, and how to undo it.

Coming out of his master’s mind he makes a full health check.

The body is changing as he predicted. The nose is bigger, but still has slits. The head is bald and he doesn’t believe the potion can do anything about that, maybe with another one once the recovery is done. The eyes are the same, just changing their colour as he saw before. And the face is still skeletal.

For now, the only it worries him is the nose. Its slits must make it hard for Voldemort to breath, as the spell shows it.

“We will have to go slower, rushing it will make you body change before it is prepared. It will lead you to a certain death,” he explains but Voldemort isn’t listening. His look is lost in space, and a sad smile adorns his face.

‘That isn’t Voldemort,’ Severus corrects himself, ‘that is Tom, and he still enjoying the memory of them together.

He puts a hand over his shoulder. “Tom.”

Tom responds to his name. Blinking a few times he stares at Severus again.

“I was saying it will be necessary to slow down the process,”

“Whatever you believe it is necessary, you are the expert here.” Severus nods a little surprised. He wasn’t expecting that trust. “Now we must talk about our plans. I will call for a meeting later.”

Severus stiffens. He isn’t ready to face the others death eaters, all of them had seen him crying like a baby, and some of them even half-naked.

“You are not forced to participate and I rather you don’t.” The Dark lord doesn’t let him thank him before continuing speaking, “You will inform Dumbledore there will be a break in Azkaban in a few days.”

“There will be?” He asks. If he is going to lie to Dumbledore, he needs to know.

“Yes, but it will be a farce, the real breaking will be later.”

“You are going to expose yourself to the public,” says Severus worried. “I don’t know if it is advisable”

“You want Umbridge out of Hogwarts, I can tell as much.” He wonders how the Dark Lord knows that information. “And we need to stop working in the shadows, show the people that our cause makes sense”

He nods. The Dark Lord has a point there, they need to stop hiding.

But he doesn’t ask when the real break will be, it is too much risk to know if something goes wrong with Dumbledore.

“That would be all, my Lord?”

“I thought I was Tom again.” Severus dedicates him a small smile but doesn’t reply. “That is all, I expect you back for Christmas.”

With a bow, Severus leaves the room and the manor to apparate outside the school.

Chapter Text

Dumbledore isn’t the only one waiting for him at his return. The other three head house plus Slughorn and Umbridge are in his office too and he can’t say he is entirely surprised. The Slytherins have behaved for too long.

To his children favour, the accusations against them were always false or at least the evidence was always circumstantial. It has never beem hard to defend them against the other teachers in the past, and he hopes this time won’t be the exception.

Without as much as a hello, he straightens his back and crosses his arms over his chest. “Well?”

The three women stare sternly at him, as if he were a student in troubles and not their equal. Being the younger in the staff is not hard to understand, but not for that acceptable, thus he lifts an eyebrow.

McGonagall’s lips tightens. She is certainly not pleased with his attitude. He has came to appreciate her in their year working together, but he couldn’t care less at this moment.

What does worries him is Sprout. The Herbology’s teacher have usually taken his side in the past. The student must have done something really horrible to anger someone like her.

“It is about your students, Severus,” says McGonagall.

“As far as I know all the students belong to Hogwarts,” he replies silkily, “or am I running a school and not realised yet?”

“Now, now, there is no need to be hostile,” interferes Dumbledore from Slughorn’s side, who seems extremely distressed with the situation. “As you said, all the students belong to this school, Minerva didn’t want to insinuate the opposite.”

“What happens, Severus, is we have found some disturbing reading material in the common room of Slytherin,” says Sprout finally, “Dark arts and antimuggle material”

They share a look with Flitwick, who smiles sympathetic at him. If someone knows about students reading disturbing material, that’s him.

He is tempted to ask if they found the material together, but he doubts it will help his case. His snakes are too smart to keep those kind of books in the same place in case of something like this happens.

“Antimuggle campaign, it is the dark times all over again,” cries Slughorn, his hands shaking and looking as if he is going to faint at any moment. “All under my nose”

Dumbledore summons a chair and help the old potion master to sit, rubbing small circles over his back. “Nobody blames you, Horace.”

Severus is not going to voice his opinion. When Slughorn refers to the dark times, he is speaking about the years between Tom entering Hogwarts to the end of the first war, when most of the Slytherins joined to his cause. It is practically all his career therefore yes, he is the responsible.

Not like he is complaining. Slughorn’s negligence had been the best of the recruitment campaigns.

“Can you prove they are guilty?”

“It is the Slytherin common room, Severus,” says Sprout with a scowl. “The only other with access there is you, and I hope it is not you who is behind this atrocity”

“I am aware of that, Sprout.” He doesn’t dignify the accusation with an answer. “However, you can’t hold all of them responsible for the mistakes of a few.”

“Mistakes, Severus? This is terrorist campaign!”

“Hem, hem,” interrupts Umbridge. “What we are asking — informing you — is that we are going to press the guilty to come out.”

“And how do you suppose to do that? Punishing them all and appeal to their conscience?” There is silence in the room, showing it is exactly what they are going to do, “Headmaster, please be reasonable...”

“I am being reasonable, Severus,” replies Dumbledore in a harsh tone, “and I trust it will not last long because I am certain most of the Slytherin don’t support such ideals.”

He clenches his jaw, whatever he says it will fall in deaf ears. “Yes, headmaster”

“The reason why we were waiting for you is because we have to stablish a punishment that fits the crime.” Speaks Flitwick for the first time.

“And you also need someone who delivers the message to the kids.”

Flitwick stares apologetic to him. “We were thinking in forbid the entering of the house elves to the house of Slytherin and make the students do the work by themselves.”

It is a split of a seconds, but he sees Dumbledore tense. He has found who the guilty is.

“If the headmaster approves it, I think it will make them appreciate muggles a little more.” Sprout smiles at him, her face showing that her anger has banished at his words.

Dumbledore doesn’t have an excuse now. It totally fits the crime, and the other head of houses agree.

“We must know if the ministry approves,” he says staring at Umbridge.

“Of course, it will teach them what happens to disobedient children.” Her face turn in something that resembles a smile. “They will end doing slave work if they do not behave.”

“I would not call it like that, dear,” says Dumbledore in the same harsh tone he has talked to Severus before. “All jobs are important, and elf magic is one of the most powerful kind of magic.” Nobody comments in how he doesn’t include muggles, probably more interested in his answer. “But yes, it would fit the crime”

“Many of them bring a house elf from home...” Severus starts.

“There is no problem in wait a few minutes so they can say goodbye to them before putting the wards. Is it, Albus?” Says Flitwick and Severus feels grateful of having him partially on his side.

“Of course not, Filius. Severus, go ahead and inform them, with a little of luck none of this will be necessary.”

It would be even if the accusation were real. Slytherins protect each other. Not for the kind of their heart, of course, but in all the history he has never meet a Slytherin who has nothing to hide.

He walks quickly, discounting points to every student in his way. Inside the house everyone is expecting to know what happened

“It wasn’t us,” complains Draco as soon as he crosses the door.

“I am afraid it is irrelevant.” More than one is going to protest but with a look he keep them quiet. “There will be no more domestic elves in here. From now on, you will have to do the chores yourself, and I am expecting from you to keep this place habitable.” There are a few huffs of resignation, knowing that the decision is already made. “You have five minute to say goodbye to your domestic elves before the headmaster comes and puts the wards”

They understand immediately. Five minutes to get rid of anything illegal, to ask their elves or the one of a classmate to put it in another place. Purebloods know about elf magic, many of them had been raised by an elf or two.

When Dumbledore, Umbridge and Flitwick enter, all the students are in the common room again. The teachers decide to do a ‘surprise’ inspection, just finding some harmless things, like stacks of porn in the seventh years dorm, or things of that sort.

Nobody is blamed, but the magazines and other objects are burned. It is a calculate lost, it would be suspicious if they find nothing.

The wards are put and Severus checks there are no leaks. There won’t be more spies and his children will be safer.

“We did not do it,” complains again Draco after Dumbledore leaves.

Severus nods and turns around, the voice of a fourth year interrupting him midway.

“Professor? Can we use magic for the chores?”

“I don’t know, can you?" He doesn’t need to say another word, his students catch the hint and if not, his smirk make it clear.

Chapter Text

The rumours about the books in the common room spread quickly at Hogwarts. Soon enough, Slytherin is vilified, and the other houses begin to take advantage of it.

Being just a quarter of the school, and without Umbridge’s protection anymore, they become an easy target. Once the victimiser, now the tables have been turned, and the others are getting their revenge.

Little Severus could do except to listen their complains. Taking points at any chance, and give detentions left and right doesn’t work with Gryffindors anymore.

Yet, his students make the best of it after a while. Forbidden objects are easily hidden without domestic elves. If they are used in a ‘prank’ and someone get harmed, nobody saw anything, nobody heard anything, and if Severus is questioned, it must have been one of those Weasley twins.

And the twins happily take the blame when it comes to Umbridge and Slughorn. It is the way they have to show their dissatisfaction with the old potion master. Whilst Severus let them experiment in his class and teaches them the interaction between ingredients, Slughorn makes them copy recipes from a book. Needless to say no seventh year bothers in going to class anymore.

Their participation in the war against Umbridge vindicate the Slytherin house, or at least a truce is formed. He wants to laugh in Dumbledore’s face after that, the old man’s plan worked against him.

So, after a week of going to the common room every two hours and making sure they can handle it without him for a while, he decides it’s time for another visit to Lily.

Black opens the door, and to his shock, he just scowls, grunts and retires to the other room. Likely to drink, but that isn’t Severus’ problem.

He heads upstairs, assuming she is there and not with Black in the study, his suspicions being confirmed when he finds her in the first bedroom.

She is making a bed, or better said, she is remaking it. The bed looks just fine, but she doesn’t stop smoothing the covers until the last wrinkle disappears and both sides are perfectly even.

“You know there are spell for that, aren’t you?”

She jumps and falls over the bedding, ruining all her work. “Jesus, Severus! You are going give me a heart attack”

“My apologies,” he replies, a slight smile forming in his lips and hers. “You seem busy”

“I just want everything perfect for when the kids arrive, I am just nervous I guess,” she confesses drawing her knees to her chest.

He sits at the end of the bed. “Have you talked with him?”

She shakes her head and looks aside. “Not even a letter. Albus thinks is for the best”

Severus keeps his opinion about Albus to himself. Any word he says could be used to harm her or him, and dead bodyguards are useless.

Before he can comfort her, an agitated James Potter appears on the door. “Albus wants all of us downstairs, now.”

They don’t stop to ask, the three of them rushing to the dinner room. In there, all the members of the Order are reunited, attention fixed in the old man sat at the head of the table.

He makes a recount. Neither Arthur nor Moody are there.

Molly Weasley cries inconsolably, Tonks rubbing her back at her side. Black and Lupin are speaking in hushed tones, looking around as if they were doing the same as him.

At their side sits James. Lily and he just choice two random chairs curious about the urgency of the meeting.

Dumbledore clears his throat. Silence forms in the room at the second, all staring at him expectants.

“A few hours ago death eaters have tried to free Voldemort’s followers from Azkaban. Luckily Severus has informed us in time, and the attempt was frustrated.” Molly’s sobs become stronger. “Arthur and Alastor have been harmed, but both of them are out of danger,” the woman keeps crying as if she hasn’t listened to him. “I will keep you informed but for now I think is for the best to let Molly visit her husband. Nymphadora, if you would be so nice.”

Tonks just nods and guides Molly to the fireplace.

“Severus,” he says, and Severus follows him to the study without a word.

The place reeks to alcohol, and who knows what else. He tries to ignore the smell; it reminds him old times.

Dumbledore’s lips tighten for a second, a clear signal he is also disgusted.

“Has he called you?”

“Not yet but I am not expected until Christmas.”

“He is angry, he might need you”

“You think he will call me to release tension.” He isn’t sure what was he expecting, because when the older man doesn’t react to his accusations, he isn’t surprised at all. “I’ll let you know if he does”

Dumbledore places his hands over his shoulders. “You know I am proud of you, don’t you?”

He shakes the hands away. He doesn’t want to be touched, not with that smell around. However, the headmaster’s hands only fall to his upper arms, where they squeeze a little too tight before starting move up and down, in what should be a comforting motion.

The action doesn’t match with Dumbledore’s expression. He is sending a sharping look, as if he were admonishing him for not to accept the touching.

That is ‘the look’. The one that makes him apologise even when he doesn’t know why.

“This place brings me bad memories,” he explains, trying to move away.

Albus let him go, but not before a last squeeze to remind him his place.

“Then is for the best to go out,” says the headmaster, his friendly smile returning to his face. “And I have to admit I am not entirely comfortable here either”

Despite his word Dumbledore doesn’t move. He waits until Severus is at his side to put a hand in his middle back to lead him outside.

It is a friendly gesture, completely innocent. However, in that moment, it isn’t welcomed at all.

Chapter Text

The call comes the day the children are returning to their homes for the holidays. He hopes Dumbledore doesn’t suspect strange timing, but likely he will attribute it to Voldemort wanting to be subtly.

Arriving at Malfoy manor, he has just enough time to hide in his office before Draco appears with his mother. Lucius hushes him there, waiting for the perfect moment to tell his son the last news.

“Are you okay?” He hears the boy. Severus knows he is worried, even if his voice doesn't show it.

“Yes, I wasn’t involved. How was school?”

“The same. We are monsters.”

He doesn’t hear Lucius reply. They are too far away.

Seeing he is going to be secluded for a while, he decides to explore around a little.

There is dust covering the everything, but otherwise the place is the same. Archives about old researches are organised on the multiple shelves, and his last projects still on the table.

He grabs a handful of them, some of them he didn’t remember that were there. Ways to project his soul and modify it, so he could control dementors; the definitive cure of lycanthropy, and also a poison to kill werewolves by air; a way to mix muggle drugs with potions, and so on.

It is interesting how many of them he could handle at once, when now he barely can think in ideas. So young but not innocent, he never had that chance and his notes show it.

Later, he will retake them, maybe even use the werewolf as test subject.

A smirk forms on his face as he thinks in ways of lure Lupin there, it would be a good way to take revenge for trying to kill him.

He sits in the only armchair that fits in small space. Walls are filled with books, and a table and a chair occupied the rest of the room.

Lucius arrives past midnight, looking at the parchment and book in the side of the armchair, his ink stained hands giving him away.

“I see you kept yourself busy,” he says, eyebrow slightly raised. He drags a finger through the dust. “You could have at least cleaned a little.”

Lucius keeps his hand where it was, forming figures and leaving marks in the oak table.

“Is he already sleeping?” Lucius nods absent, and Severus recognises the rune of protection drawn on the table. “What happened?”

“I told him everything, he hates me.”

Severus sighs, Lucius has always been the melodramatic type. “Draco doesn’t hate you, Lucius. You just have to give him time.”

“He will need a time to process that you are here, but how will he understand that the Dark Lord is not crazy and will sit with us in Christmas dinner?”

This time is Severus’ turn of raising an eyebrow. “You are inviting the Dark Lord to Christmas dinner?”

“Were you expecting an ‘I am sorry master, but this event is only for the family’?

“He would have understood,” replies Severus, not so sure anymore.

“To you.”

He can’t debate that, he still doesn’t know the extent of the healing. So, instead of looking for some lame excuse, he leads to Voldemort’s bedroom. A hand on his shoulder stopping him.

“He does not want to see you until Christmas. I think he wants to cause a good impression”

He nods, sitting in the armchair again. Lucius cast a cleaning spell and reposes his back on the table, scrutinising Severus with his eyes.

“So?” He asks finally.

“So what?”

“You and the Dark Lord.”

Severus shakes his head and looks away. “No”

“But do you want it?”

His eyes are now on the floor, he doesn’t know what to answer to that. The Dark Lord was his lover, the person he loved the most, but things have changed and he truly does not want to follow his mother’s example.

Then, he thinks in a new scenario. If the Dark Lord orders him to do it, he has little alternative.

“What I want is irrelevant.”

Lucius doesn’t contradict him. He can’t. Both have a master now.

“I’ll be here”

Both stare into the other’s eyes. It does not matter how bad things go, they will always take care of each other.

It passes a long time, just staring. They know what can happen in a war, and at some point healing spells won’t be enough.

 

Christmas dinner promises to be awkward. So far Draco has succeed in avoid him, spending most of the time in his bedroom.

Neither Severus looks forward to the encounter and following the example of Draco he secludes himself in his own.

“You know this is not a real bedroom, do you not?” Lucius says as he enters to the room.

“It is my bedroom, and the only thing it misses is a bathroom.”

“And a real bed,” says Lucius pointing at the single bed in the corner of the room. Severus just glares at him. “Anyway, dinner will be ready in half an hour. Do you think the Dark Lord will want to participate?”

“Do you want him to?”

“Only if he is sane enough. He was a good friend once”

Severus pass by Lucius. “I will go”

He climbs up to the Dark Lord’s room, being welcomed with a passionate kiss that make clear his master’s intentions.

It isn’t something he wants, but after all that have happened between them, he doesn’t believe he had options.

So he accepts the kiss but doesn't respond to it. It is better that way, just letting it happen.

His mind goes away as he doesn't want to think in that. Slaves have no right to reject his masters.

Slaves have no rights.

The lips go away but he isn't aware of his surrounding anymore. His brain is in a better place, a place where he doesn't have to remember.

"Severus, look at me." It is an order, and he is used to obey them. To his surprise, his master isn't mad at him, "you don't want this"

Severus doesn't bother in deny it, lying will only bring him more punishments and he has earned enough already.

"I am sorry, master,"

Voldemort steps away, giving him some space to return to reality.

"It is Tom," he says simply.

It takes him a few moments before he can think coherently.

"It is irrelevant what I want." His hands go to the buttons of his robes, face as blank as ever, but Voldemort- Tom- stops him.

"It is for me" Severus, back from his dissociative state, let out a short, sarcastic puff. "What?" He doesn't reply, anything he says would sound strange to Tom's ears. "Severus, talk to me"

There isn't a way to explain his constant sensation of powerlessness and humiliation. Almost everyone have had those feeling at some point of their life, but for him it is an everyday thing. First his parents, then the Dark Lord, and Dumbledore after that, he never has been free.

He never had the chance to have his own house, or choose a career or job. It is always decided by someone else, his preferences never taken into account and he has no idea how to put that into words.

"Is it my appearance?" Tries Tom again. "I always thought you were above those things but I can accept it. We can wait to see were this potion goes, or—"

Now he can say what he is feeling, he is angry and his tone shows it. "You have tortured me and threw me into a cell not two months ago and now you think I want to sleep with you? It is not your appearance but because you were as bad as the other monsters I have slept with"

"It wasn't me.” Tom defends himself.

He turns on his heels and lowers his voice. "Lucius is expecting you for dinner in fifteen minutes. Do not be late"

For a moment he thinks he will be called back and punished for his insolence, but after five minutes behind the door he convinces himself that it is safe to go away.

Chapter Text

Christmas dinner is even more uncomfortable than they expected. Everybody is ignoring the Dark Lord, but for different motives; the Malfoys because of fear, Severus because of anger.

“Severus said you are a prodigy in potions, Draco,” says the Dark Lord in a casual tone.

The boy, who until now had had all his attention focus in playing with his food, flinches and let his fork fall. He pales a little, as if such act of clumsiness would be punished with a cruciatus. Severus couldn’t say it is an unjustified fear.

“He is, he is probably better than Lucius in his seventh year,” Severus tries to help.

“Not you?” asks Draco offended.

Severus smirks. If something would make Draco to speak, it is to attack his ego.

“Well, that is something hard to accomplish. At your age I was already creating ways of improving potions and even creating a few myself”

“I can do that, I just don’t go bragging about it,” Draco sneers

Severus nods. He knows how capable Draco is with potions; he wasn’t lying when he said he was his best student.

“Maybe you two should share notes some day,” says Lucius, his hand ruffling his son’s hair, “maybe your mother can help you. She is the best healer on earth,”

“Thank you, it is what three years in the healers academy do; however, my field is not potion, it is yours”

“Your field were charms if I remember well,”

“You do, my Lord,” she says in a respectful but fearful tone.

“Call me Tom, we were good friends once,”

The three Malfoys start. It is an odd offering, the man who tortured Lucius asking them to call him for his first name, but he was right, they were good friends once.

“Of course my- Tom,” replies Lucius instead of his wife, “we appreciate the honour”

Severus, for the first time in all night, stares at Tom’s eyes, trying to determinate if it is a threat or a love signal. A hint of a smile can be seen in the thin lips and he doesn’t know what to do about that; but what it is certain is he can’t reject the Dark Lord again without risking his friends.

“Working in something interesting, Severus?”

Deep in his thoughts, it takes a moment to react, “Trying to explain the science behind the uses of dragon blood.”

He doesn’t take the weight of his words until it is too late. All the eyes are on him, and everyone except for Draco judging him, knowing the source of his interest in the subject.

Looking down at his food, he starts to eat and the others adults follow his example, only the sound of cutlery scraping on plates could be heard for the rest of the dinner.

 

He manages to avoid everyone until new year. The Dark Lord has not pressed him but eventually he needs to face him.

It doesn’t help that his room doesn’t have a bathroom, and Tom is leaving his room more and more and wandering around the house.

He finds him in the drawing room, playing chess with Draco.

The kid seems terrified, but he appear to be using the game as a distraction, giving the Lord a hard time.

“Draco, did you make your homework already?” he asks, giving the boy the perfect excuse to escape.

Draco shakes his head, but doesn’t speak.

“It is probably a good time, don’t you believe?”

“Excuse me,” says the boy almost running to his bedroom.

Once they are alone, he sits where Draco was. One movements and he wins the game.

“He was letting me win, and I was doing the same,” confesses Tom, “Do you need something, Severus?”

“Just to wish you a happy birthday,”

This time he openly smile, “thank you”

He waits for him to claim his birthday’s present. Despite being absolutely disgusted with himself, Severus is willing to fake pleasure; he has to do it if he wants to keep the Malfoys safe.

“Do you remember my first birthday after you come to live with me?” The question comes unexpected. Of course he did, it was his first real Christmas holidays too, “Do you remember your gift to me?”

“A felix felicis,” answers Severus quickly, “I didn’t have money and I-“

“Severus, do you know how much that potion cost? You always gave me expensive thinks, even if you did not notice it”

He notices it. However, not in the moment and he felt pathetic every time he had to resort to handmade gifts because he couldn’t afford anything else.

“My point is, you made this expensive potions for me and all I can offer you back were a few clothes”

“And housing, food and my school supplies”

Tom shakes his head, “I didn’t offer those things, it was Lucius who paid for all that,” Severus frowns, that piece of information was unknown to him, “he insisted, and he was furious every time I returned him half of the money because you decided to buy second hand supplies”

“You gave me a home,”

“You paid for that every time you worked in the labs,” replies Tom, “You saved me much money, and to have to answer many uncomfortable questions; you could make illegal potions with the ingredients in your hogwarts list”

“They were not so-“

“Severus, I know why you are here,” interrupts Voldemort, making him to close his mouth in the instant, “you are always offering things of great value to me but you are not a thing” Severus lowers his head, “I would never do something like that to you and you should know it by now”

He bites his tongue for not to answer. He doesn’t know, he doesn’t know anything right now.

“You are a person, Severus. You do not sell persons, you do not give persons because persons are not objects.”

But he is, legally and magically. The only reason he can think for Voldemort saying that, it is to be a test.

“I belong to you, mas-“

“You do not belong to anyone,” interrupts the Dark Lord slamming the table with his palms.

Severus stays on his place, waiting stoically for the blow to come. Nothing happens, the eyes, Tom’s eyes return again full of remorse.

“Please, Severus, just understand that because if someone like Dumbledore or anyone else wants to takes advantage of you for your condition, I will never forgive myself”

“Your property will not be touched, my Lord,” replies him confused. He has no idea where Voldemort’s anger comes from. He has never offered himself to Dumbledore and does not have intention to do it.

“It is Tom, Severus. If you do not want to be my lover- because you do not- at least lets be friends”

Tom. It is Tom again, but most of the time he isn’t. He is unstable, but apparently just with him, he was playing chess with Draco after all.

Chapter Text

He thinks in the offer. It’s tempting, a friendship is the healthier they can aspire right now. However, it’s impossible. Not so deep inside there is a madness that is waiting the minimal signal of weakness to crawl its way back.

Tom fakes not to notice his hesitation, but Severus still can see the flash of sadness in the eyes of his ex-lover.

“We will break in Azkaban in a few hours,” he says rearranging the chessboard and moving a pawn.

Severus ignores him. “I do not find advisable to do so, it will only reinforce the idea of you lacking of an ideal”

“They will understand in the right time.” Seeing he doesn’t reply, Tom continues. “They were treated unfairly.” Severus gives a sniff of incredulity. He can’t say Bellatrix’s imprisonment was exactly unfair. “They did not have a trial, and they are there because of me”

That is something he can’t refute. Most, if not all, of the death eaters were victim of the cruciatus curse and hence its consequences. Angry thirst of revenge and brain damage are a dangerous combination, and people like the Lestrange were never very stable to begin with.

“You will not participate,” finishes Tom.

Severus doesn’t complain, the risk of being spotted by someone of the Order is too much. “I will be with Narcissa with the healers.”

Tom nods and let his king fall, giving up in his attempt of playing.

 

The healers turn up to be just Narcissa and him, but despite the lack of help they are perfectly organised.

Narcissa will be in charge of those freed, while Severus will heal the injured ones. They can’t afford to lose anyone, and both are prepared to support the other in case of necessity.

With everything in place, they have nothing else to do but to wait in the small kitchen of the servant wing of the manor, an unused area for the human service that has been refurbished for the occasion.

Narcissa is putting the kettle on the stove. It’s the only thing she can ‘cook’ without burning the entire house or turning it into a poison.

The tension can be felt in the air. It reminds him one of those morning with his mother, when his father never made it home. She would snap at him at times, giving him a red cheek before he finally arrived.

To difference of everyone else — maybe with exception of Dumbledore — Narcissa has never yelled at him, not even raise her voice. She is probably the only one who has not discharged her anger at him, but times have changed, and she is more nervous than ever.

He doesn’t dare to talk, conforming with observing her from the door.

“You should sit, Severus, they will not come back in a while,”

She leaves a cup on the table, and Severus get closer cautiously, watching attentively her trembling hands.

Sitting across the table, Narcissa smiles, encouraging him to do the same.

“How are things at school, Severus?”

“Draco is fine, excelling in everything as always,”

“I am glad to hear that, but I was asking about you," she says in a sweet tone. "How is Dumbledore treating you?”

He studies her carefully, unsure if she wants a ‘Lucius was right’ or she is genuinely worried. He opts for the later.

“I have it controlled,”

Nodding, she takes a sip from her cup. “You have a home here, never forget that”

The sound of an apparition interrupts them. They jump from their chair, finding Lucius in the other room. More death eaters start to appear from the portkeys they have prepared.

None of them comment on the past meeting, when Severus was punished, more interested in the recent events. He is the one in charge of their health, and they are ones who need to be healed, after all.

They rush to tend those who look worse. There is nobody seriously harmed by the recent battle, however the former prisoners are not in good shape.

Severus hands around potions and cures a few bleeding. Sprained ankles and other minor issues can wait.

Azkaban has been devastating for the health of the prisoners, physically and mentally, and he knows it will require a significant amount of time for them to recover. He will have to work fast researching for a treatment, because nourishment potions can only do as much.

He begins to cast diagnostic charms first, Narcissa doing the same in the other side. They share concerned looks every few minutes, healing superficial injuries and helping them to bed.

They are weak, extremely thin and with several bad healed fractures, courtesy of the aurors. At some point they must have stopped, there are no recent bruises except the self-inflicted and the ones caused by the fragility of their skin.

They distribute sedatives, for now the best is to let them sleep. Some of them resist for fear to the nightmares provoked by dementors.

Narcissa tries to convince them, talk them through it, however they soon lose their patience and Severus forces the potions down their throats.

Bellatrix is a special case. Severus won’t go near her, they have never get along and he knows his company won’t be welcome. Besides, Narcissa will kill him if he causes more distress to her sister. She tries to reason with her unfruitfully. Then she uses the resource it always has worked in the past, she cries.

He wonders if Bellatrix knows she is being manipulated or if her naivety is product of Azkaban, but she accedes to swallow the potion. Holding tightly the hand of her sister, she falls sleep a few seconds after.

After more than an hour, they have everything controlled, Severus offering himself to give the report to the Dark Lord.

He is in the study already waiting for him, in the desk a pile of what seem medical books.

“They are physically stable,” informs Severus just crossing the door.

“Mentally?”

There is a note of concern in his voice that reminds of old times, when most of the prisoners were just graduated. Children involved and harmed by the war, or better said by those who called themselves the good ones. He had never realised how young they were until he started teaching.

He shakes his head. “Impossible to know just now, but it does not look promising,”

“Can you do something?”

“It will require research and it will have the risks associate of experimental treatments”

“Do what you can.” Severus nods. “Do not return to Dumbledore yet, I want you helping Narcissa”

He nods again, the true is he can use the time and the idea of returning neither look tempting, even with the perspective of seeing Lily again. The last encounter with Dumbledore has left him nervous, despite it is probably his own traumas talking and nothing else.

“Something bothers you,” says Tom slightly narrowing his eyes.

“Just thinking in a treatment,” he lies, not wanting to admit his real thoughts for fear of the Lord’s jealousy.

Tom makes no comment on it, but something tells him he doesn’t believe him.

Chapter Text

Before going back to Dumbledore, he has a dinner with Tom. It is just the two of them, and even if it’s still a little awkward, so far it is going well.

At first he thought it was for talking about work, but Tom doesn’t bring the subject up. Neither Severus does. He is dressed in one of the formal robes from Lucius’ wardrobe, telling himself it is for looking professional; however he can’t lie to himself for long, deep inside he knows it is a date.

They end talking about an interesting experiment that Severus found in the international journal of potions, where a “miracle drug” promise to regrow limbs cut by magic.

Severus insist it is a scam, while Tom defend the prestige of the magazine.

“Well, if you are so sure I will cut Bellatrix’s arm with a sectusempra and we will see if your ‘ossa germinare’ works” he concludes the argument and Tom chuckles, finally giving up.

“I rather not to risk Bella, she has already suffered enough,”

Severus agrees. Despite not liking the woman, she has suffered at the point of insanity, and she will never be the same.

“You always cared about her,”

“You must not be jealous of her, she is different,”

There is something in Tom’s words that make him think he is scared of what he might think; but Severus isn’t jealous, he knows perfectly that Tom sees Bellatrix as a daughter.

“Speaking of Bellatrix, she and the others are doing well. I am feeding them with a mix of draught of peace with elixir of joy, until we have something better to offer”

“Why we always end talking about work?” Says Tom, shaking his head, “it is never just a dinner with you”

“I remember a few times it ended in other things” replies Severus with a half-smile.

Tom’s laughs heartily, sounding as if he is suffocating. It ends in coughing, but as the Lord covers his mouth with his hand, he is still smiling.

“Did you miss me, Severus?”

It is a hard question. He certainly did not miss the cruciatus, but before them, what they had was beautiful, almost perfect.

“I missed the real you,” he closes his eyes for a second, breathing deeply once, “and I missed this”

Silence fills the room, the Lord looking as if he wants to stand and kiss him and Severus hoping he does. It last about a minute and the moment passes, both remembering why it can’t happen, at least not yet.

“How is the research going?” asks Tom breaking the silence.

Severus stares at his plate, suddenly feeling it is too full, “promising, I am using the same potion I use with you as foundation for the new one”

Tom look at Severus’ plate too, “it is getting cold, you should eat”

He can’t eat, but makes an effort and bring the fork to his mouth, a tiny piece of meat going trough his lips.

Contain the urge of vomiting is hard, but he manages to keep the arcades at bay. Tom jump from his seat and help him to stand, guiding him to the bathroom.

“I am fine,” he says when he finally can talk.

Tom sighs, helping him to come out and almost forcing him to sit in a chair at the side of the window. He doesn’t resist much, grateful of the breeze touching his face when he opens it.

“I should not have asked you to do that”

“It’s fine, you had no way to know,”

A hand pets his head, the fingers playing with his hairs as they gently massage his scalp. It is soothing, and he leans into the touch like a touch starved puppy.

“How long have you not eaten?”

“Tomorrow I will be going back, the classes are about to start.”

The hands goes away and he can hear the angry hiss of the Dark Lord; however, when he speaks, he does it in a calmed tone.

“Do not talk about work this night, I will fetch a potion for you and we will enjoy the rest of the evening”

Having the Dark Lord himself going to ‘fetch’ anything for him gives him a odd sense of power. It is not the first time Tom takes care of him when he is ill, but it is not something he would not expect of this new Dark Lord.

As he watches Tom going for the potion, he decides to give him a second chance; perhaps not to trust him, not with that furious hiss and the sudden changes of personality, but a friendship doesn’t sound that bad.

“Tell me about these kids, what it is so special about them”

Severus lips curve, as every time he speaks about his slytherins. They are his children, at least during the school year.

“They are brilliants, each one of them have something unique, even those who are incompetents in almost every subject,” Tom offers him the bottle and he drinks it at once; distracted by the talk he doesn’t complain at all, “I have this kid in seventh year, he is a prodigy in arts, specially good in transfiguration but useless in anything else. He obtained a scholarship in the Magical Institute of Fine Arts”

“I suppose you have nothing to do with it,”

Severus dedicates him an accomplice smile, “He might have come out in the conversation when I was dinning with an old student who result to be the headmaster,” leaning back in the chair, he combs his hair back with his fingers, “and perhaps I extol his skills a little. But it is just a coincidence that his acceptance letter arrived a week later”

“I am sure it is,” says the Lord, smiling too.

“And there is this group of kids who associate to some ravenclaws, we fear, Flitwick and I, what they are capable of doing together”

“Do you get along with Flitwick?”

There is only curiosity in the question, and Severus feels it is safe to answer honestly, “I get along with most of the other teachers, or at least I don’t hate them”

“Most of them...” repeats Tom thoughtful.

“Well, Slughorn is teaching this year”

There is no need to say more, the Dark Lord is perfectly aware of his animosity towards the old potion master. Years of negligence toward ‘the friendless, poor and ugly half-blood’ are hard to forget.

Instead of going through the train of memories, he talks about his worries, of how it is affecting his students. They talk about the seventh years students, and how the Weasley twins remember him too much of himself at their age. And when it is morning, they are still talking, two cups of chamomile tea served, resting in the coffee table in front of him. His is almost full, to difference of Tom’s who have had more time to drink it between sentences, leaving clear who have been the listening part throughout the night.

Chapter Text

Dumbledore is angry. Despite being welcomed with the usual ‘my boy’ and words of fake preoccupation, he can tell the man isn’t happy with him.

It’s hard to convince him that he didn’t know about the plan, and after that, Severus feels that he still blames him for the deaths in the escape from Azkaban.

Two aurors loss their lifes in there, Ellis and Wilson, and even if he doesn’t particularly cares about them, they had agree not to kill at least it was strictly necessary; however, at this point, he wouldn’t be surprised the casualties weren’t responsibility of the death eaters.

In other news, Arthur Weasley and Moody are back, both in perfect shape, much to Severus’ disappointment. In his opinion Moody should rot and die, it is the lest he deserves.

The Weasley’s patriarch is another story. The Weasleys always have been decent to him, but they couldn’t be called close. The true is he wouldn’t suffer for the death of Arthur, but neither look forward to it.

“And I prefer you know it from my mouth. Sirius’ charges have been dropped and he, along with James and Lily, will start to work at Hogwarts after the holidays,” concludes Dumbledore after they finish to talk about his visit to Voldemort in the foul-smelling study of Black’s house.

He opens and closes his mouth, unable to generate a reply that doesn’t imply yelling, or an hysterical laugh. Black is the most unstable human being he ever meet, and to trust him with the safety of children is plainly derisory.

“What?” he says after a few seconds.

“He deserves another chance in life, he has suffered too much”

“He tried to kill me Albus,” something in the old man’s face told him he wouldn’t change his decision, whatever he says, “what will they be teaching?"

“Defence against the dark arts will be retaken by Remus; Lily will be apprentice of Horace in potions, and James and Sirius will be in charge of duelling.”

“Last time, duelling class was a total disaster,” he sneers, hoping it will not finish in deaths this time. Lockhart was useless, Potter and Black are dangerous. “Whatever you say, but I hope you don’t expect it to be mandatory”

Dumbledore’s expression hardened, “It will be, the children need to know how to protect themselves in the times we live”

His lips tightens, containing himself of remind him that their knowledge would probably be useless in a real battle.

“I suppose I will still be the head of house of Slytherin”

“Of course”

He nods, not wanting to continue the conversation. Luckily, screams from the outside of the room interrupt them.

They rush to see what is happening, not able to distinguish the words over the screams of Black’s mother. Once the curtains are closed, they catch a few of them from the youngest Weasley’s mouth.

“-and I won’t do it, not for you, nor for the bitch of your-“ A slap impends her to finish the sentence. A door slamming and the sound of feet stomping down the stairs marks the end of the fight.

All the inhabitants of the house have congregated in the hallway, questioning looks directed to Molly, whose face is red and full of tears.

“We were giving her the news,” she says between sobs, her eyes on Dumbledore as if ‘the news’ were something just the two of them know, “and she took it worse that we imagined”

“Children can be tough sometimes, she will come around, you will see.” Dumbledore come closer to her, hugging her fatherly.

They watch how the headmaster is replaced by Arthur, his face redder than his wife, but his is clearly because of angriness for the insolence of their daughter.

Everyone retires to what they were doing before the fight, Severus using the moment to steal away from Dumbledore.

“I heard you will be teaching this year,” he whispers to Lily’s ear from behind.

She turn around with a radiant smile, “I will, you have no idea how excited I am”

An uneasy feeling settles in his stomach, the fact she not considering it is his job what she is taking. However, he has never been appreciative of his job, teaching has been a burden more than a pleasure for him when it comes to disinterested brats like Potter.

And being Slughorn’s assistant isn’t tempting, enough was having him as a teacher to want him as his boss too.

“We will be living together, I guess”

She nods, her hands going to her pockets and the smile never leaving her face, “amazing, isn’t it? It will be like old times”

Old times, the ones he was tortured on a daily basis for her husband and friends, but he would be lying to himself if he says he is not excited of having her close; Lily is his best friend, doesn’t matter what the world thinks.

“I am glad you are having your life back, even if that imply to put up with your insufferable husband”

“I am sorry you have to go through it, but he has changed,” he looks away from her, but her hands to the sides of his face and he has to look at her again, “he has changed, Severus”

He is not that optimistic, not when he was victim of Potter’s bullying for seven years; because despite what everybody seems to think, Potter didn’t stop after he started to date with Lily. He isn’t scare of Potter or Black, but it will be three against one, and they have a beast on their side.

But he won’t tell this to Lily, it would fall in deaf ears. She is too innocent, seeing good in everyone and everything, monsters included.

 

The last day of holidays he helps Lily to move to the castle. Her quarters will be located close to the Gryffindor tower, which is normal considering all her time apart from her son.

He wonders what the boy thinks about it. He will be happy of having his mother close, of course, but what will happen after a while, when he gets used to have parents.

“Thank you, Sev, I don’t know what I would do without you?”

“Maybe ask to the idiot of your husband to help you with the full kitchen equipment you had to buy, because apparently you forgot that we have domestic elves in this school” he answers in a fake angry tone, the true is he doesn’t mind if he gets to spend more time with Lily.

“James is with the boys today, they are teaching Harry a few hidden rooms”

“How is he taking it?” he asks, his curiosity getting the best of him.

She shrugs and sits on the couch, “I don’t know, for some reason he can’t bond with James, not in the way we expected”

“And with you?”

“It couldn’t be better, he is desperate for a mother, I don’t think Tuney has done a great job.” She sighs, a slight smile forming on her face, “but I am here again, and whatever she did, more are the chances he will want to live with us in the summer”

He can’t believe his ears. He understands how important is for Lily to share with her son, but not at the cost of the boy’s suffering.

“Even if he was hurt?”

“He was not hurt, Severus, do not be ridiculous, she probably just forbidden him of using magic or something like that. Tuney would never harm a child”

He still have his doubts, the Petunia he knows wasn’t a nice person; however, Lily had said she talked to her before their capture and she had promised to take care of Harry.

“Maybe you should visit her, see what’s wrong,”

“I will,” she says simply, leaning back on the couch, “if I am teaching potions, what will you be doing?”

“I will be in charge of the Slytherins, make sure they don’t kill anyone and things like that.” He waves a hand dismissively. He doesn’t want to make her feel guilty, so he keeps his complains to himself; it will be a boring year without teaching, and it doesn’t make much sense to stay at Hogwarts neither.

“It will be an interesting year for both of us,” she taps her side and Severus sits, “I missed you so much”, she says as she throws her arms around his shoulder.

When she is kissing his cheek, the door opens and a clearly upset James Potter, crosses it.

“Jimmy, you are finally back,” she nervously separate and stand to greet her husband, “Severus was just leaving, weren’t you, Sev?”

She pleads with the look and Severus decides to help her, but not without having a little fun first, “of course, a pleasure to see you, Lil”

He doesn’t stays to see Potter’s reaction, holding a laugh as he walks back to his quarters.

Chapter Text

As he has foreseen, before the first week of school ends, he is utterly bored. The research is a priority, but after a few days doing nothing else, it becomes tedious and he stops enjoying it.

He falls into a sort of routine. He wakes up at noon, skip breakfast and lunch, read a little, brews for a few hours, then goes to dinner at the great hall with Lily.

They have been flirting for a while, in an attempt to make Potter jealous. Severus knows he is being used, and Lily doesn’t even bother in denied it when he asks, but it brings him satisfaction to see the toerag suffer.

It is not the first time they play that game. Lily had learnt quickly that there was no better way to catch attention from boys that to put some competence. It was fun, but it didn’t help much with his popularity.

Now they are more subtly since there is a reputation to keep from both parts, however it’s still fun to see Potter cringing every time they are out of the sight of the students, and Severus leans forward to whispers in Lily’s ear and she chuckles in response.

But Potter’s misery isn’t enough to distract him from his inactivity, and getting up in the morning becomes harder and harder as the time goes.

There is an entry call on the floo network, and he answer. It is probably Lucius, wanting to know how the research is going.

“Lucius,”

The head of his friend appear in the fireplace. “Severus, how are you?”

They can’t speak freely, to difference of everything else in his rooms, the floo network isn’t safe. What he says can and will be listened by the headmaster, and even used as evidence against him in a trial. He can’t tell Lucius how bored he is, and that he isn’t enjoying his research anymore.

“I imagine you are not here to speak about my health,” Lucius catches the hint and makes silence, “and about our mutual task, I am afraid I have not had many progress lately.”

He puts some pages of his notes into the fire, nothing compromising if it is intervened, just something to prove he is working.

“I suggest you to work faster,” says Lucius as a goodbye.

He takes a random book and open it with a sigh. He has read it a few times before, but his eyes are looking for a distraction. The words lack of sense, they are just words now, even the ones scribbled in an intelligible handwriting in the corner of the paper.

His finger passes over one of his drawing, he sighs again. It is useless. He is useless.

Desperate knocks on the door get him out of his self-pity trip. He jumps on his feet, it is too late, past curfew, and if it is one of his students, it must be bad.

A crying Ginnevra Weasley with Pansy Parkinson at her side waited for him at the other side. The oldest girl watch both sides before pushing the gryffindor inside an letting herself in.

He lifts an eyebrow, better they have a good excuse to be there.

“I found her crying in one of the old classroom,” since Weasley is still crying, it is Pansy who does the talking. He keeps his expression, that information doesn’t explain anything, “It’s a bond kind of problem.”

That would explain Pansy’s sympathy, as many other slytherin girls she isn’t strange to marriage bonds and contracts. It have been a problem through the years, in a house that favoured tradition over anything else, parents wanted to assure the future of their little ones.

Bonds have not been used in many years, at least not in underage witches. They are illegal, and punished with jail in the best of the cases, so Severus only needs to deal with contracts.

Contracts aren’t easy to break, but anything is possible with a good lawyer, and Severus knows plenty of them.

“I am to assume that you are speaking about a marriage contract”

Pansy shakes her head and guides the younger to a chair, “bond”

“As I am sure miss Parkinson explained to you, marriage bonds are illegal in anyone under the age of seventeen”

“And illegal makes it impossible” says Weasley sarcastically, her eyes red of so much crying, and her face still wet with tears.

Sadly, it doesn’t make it impossible. His has been done without his consent and nobody did anything, neither they could do it now.

“Very well, begin to explain then,”

Pansy takes the chair at her side and he sits in front of them, their eyes never abandoning the girl.

“It started when dad went back to home,” she sniffs, “they said it was safer for me if I found a boy with whom to marry, that he would protect me. They mentioned Harry, but he is just a friend,” she makes herself smaller on her place, “I told them no and then they told me it has to happen. They told me about the bond then”

There is no way in hell Lily Potter will give her only son in marriage, neither most of the parent, which only leaves an adult with little sense of morality.

“As I said, bonds are illegal. I recommend you to raise your concerns to the headmaster, and he will indicate the steps to follow to remove you from your parents care”

He doesn’t want to think in the implication of the removal of the girl from her home. She is too young to sustain herself, and any other adult in her life is too close to her parents to be an option. She would end up in an orphanage, and the streets after that.

“I already ‘raise my concerns’ to Dumbledore, and he kindly asks me about Harry’s thoughts, and assured me my parents have the best of the intentions in their minds,” replies the girl with a nerve that he would have punished in any other circumstance; however, giving the gravity of the situation, he lets it slip, “and that was just after I spoke with professor Mcgonagall, she asked me the same,” she sniffs again, as remembering what she was doing before talking, “I don’t want to marry, I am fourteen”

The age is what make him to take the decision. He was fourteen too and it is his obligation to get involved, even if that brings him consequences with Dumbledore later.

“Look at me, Weasley”

The girl hesitates before doing it. As soon as they make eye contact, he enters into her mind. He travels trough her memories, looking for any hint of trickery.

She seems to be honest, her story coincides with what there is in her mind. It also gives him an idea of her family environment, the Weasleys seems to be good parents, until now. He wonders how Dumbledore convinced them to do something like this.

He breaks the link, and she takes her hands to her ears and closes her eyes; her senses are overstimulated and will need a few minutes to recover.

Pansy watches them with a mix of fear and fascination. Severus is sure she has never seen someone using legilimency before. She probably wonders if she is next, but Severus doesn’t need to.

“Now, seeing the headmaster and the deputy headmistress are neglecting their duty, I expect you understand how serious is your situation,” she twists her hands over her lap, blinking several times as if she is going to cry again, “if you decide to do this, I expect discretion from both of you”

Both girls nod, “I won’t say a word if you stop it”

He goes to the bookcase, extracting a book from the higher shelves. He walks again, back to them, showing them a page near the end.

“This,” he says pointing a drawing on the corner, “is a protection sigil, and it will prevent any kind of bond,”

“I won’t be able to get married,”

“Not magically, however your marriage will still be legal”

He wishes the sigil was created when he was a child, but it was an invention he came after he found out what he was.

“And?”

“Anything that bond you to someone, or something, oaths, vows. You will never be reliable; and someone could use other methods to assure your fidelity.”

“What- what other methods?” she asks hesitant.

He doesn’t want to answer, to break the child’s innocence and tell her she may be tortured, or killed. Objects and potions could be used for her to comply, and it would be consider it legal. He knew plenty of potions more dangerous than an oath.

“Your treatment will be worse in Azkaban, if you ever go there. There will be no parole for you, no deal,” he continues, ignoring her question, “and mediwitches need to take an oath, thus it will not be a career option for you”

“But it will protect me from the bond?”

“Only the bond”

A look of understanding crosses her face. The sigil will protect her from the bond, the law from the marriage, however nothing could prevent rape, and a child is the perfect way to join two persons, willing or not.

Chapter Text

“I need a verbal answer, Weasley”

She has been in silence for a long time, too long. There are portraits and domestic elves, and Severus is sure Dumbledore already knows they are in there. That is in the best case scenario; in the worst, the girl runs straight to Dumbledore and accuses him of betrayal.

“I will do it,” she says finally, in a weak but determined tone.

“And I will need to do it with your wand,”

The determination wipes from her face, her right hand going to her pocket and staying there.

Pansy stands from her seat, kneeling in front of the younger and careful taking her free hand between hers.

“It’s okay, he won’t hurt you, I promise,” Ginnevra’s eyes go from Pansy to Severus, and then back to Pansy. He is about to give up, send the girls on their way and look for another solution, but Pansy does the unthinkable and offers her own wand to the younger, “you can have mine in the meantime, it will just be a few minutes”

Severus nods in reassurance, and put himself at the back of Ginnevra. She trades his wand with Pansy, who gives it to him.

He starts to work, making Ginnevra flinch when a big portion of his long hair is shaved. She hisses as he began his drawing, the smell of burning hair filling the air. It must be perfect, any mistake and the effect will be lost, so he does it slowly, putting special attention to the details.

“Mistress Potter said you are not a bad person,” she says between groans of pain, “she is right”

“Be quiet”

“Harry is having these weird dreams,” she continues as if he has not talked, “he thinks he is being possessed by you-know-who”

It is an interesting information, however if the girl keeps spilling secrets left and right, Dumbledore would know in no time what he is doing there.

“I recommend you to learn when to shut up, otherwise you will bring unwanted attention to us”

“But you are of trust,” exclaims the girl, turning around, giving him just enough time to take off his wand”

“In this moment nobody is of trust,” he says deadly serious, and with a hand over her shoulder he forces her to reassume her position, “now, be quiet or I will have to petrify you”

“I won’t say a word,” she repeats in a whisper one last time.

 

Two weeks pass from the incident with Weasley. Besides furtive conversations between Pansy and her, they seems to be discreet.

Nothing he have been able to find out about the girl’s parents and their motivations to do this. Neither he can ask directly, when he was inquired by Dumbledore about the girls, he dismissed it as they looking for a potion for their menstrual pain. No more questions were made after that.

His flirting with Lily had stopped altogether. For some reason students whisper every time they see him, dispersing when he is close enough to hear them.

One day he is called to Dumbledore office. He fears the worst when he sees the two girls sitting in front of the headmaster, who holds a piece of parchment in his hands.

“Severus, I think you know why you are here,”

“I am afraid I do not, headmaster,”

Playing dumb is the safer for now. The sigil couldn’t be traced back to him, for it hadn’t been made by his wand. He just had to play his part and everything would be fine.

“You don’t know anything about this?” Asks Dumbledore extending him the parchment.

It is a request for him to teach again, signed by several students, included the entire seventh year group. All his slytherins were there too, and most of the ravenclaws. There are not many hufflepuff and gryffindors, but it doesn’t really surprise him.

“I did not know anything about this, headmaster,”

Dumbledore frowns and stroke his beard, asking back for the parchment with his hand. Severus hands it him, and Dumbledore examines it again.

“Very well, your contract has not changed, and the school rules indicate that a replacement must be provided if at least the forty percent of the students ask for it,”

What Dumbledore says doesn’t have any logic, if that were the case, he would have been replaced long time ago, also Umbridge.

He looks at the girls in askance, and Pansy dedicates him a shit eating grin.

“Daddy is a lawyer”

His eyes go back to Dumbledore, who seems to study him, “What do you think about this, headmaster?”

Dumbledore nods, “they want a teacher, and you are a teacher,” he claps his hands and forces a smile toward the girls, not actually happy of being outsmarted, “since everything is sorted out, I think there is no reason to continue this meeting”

The two girls stand, getting out of the office with a quick goodbye. They must have sense the danger and Severus is glad they escaped on time.

“Are you sure of this, headmaster?” He impress discontent in his voice, hoping that his misery placate the headmaster ire.

It seems to work, the eyes of Dumbledore twinkle again, “Yes, Severus, I am sure, but I am hoping you only take the student on the list”

“Yes headmaster.” He agrees reluctant, concerned about the plans that Dumbledore has for those who didn’t sign.

Chapter Text

Things are going well. Teaching is the distraction he needs, especially now his students really want to learn. The change is notorious, as soon as he puts the first foot in the seventh year’s classroom, he is bombarded with questions. Reports with the progress of their projects are already on his desk, and he manages to reach to them before start answering.

After most of their doubts are resolved, the complains against Slughorn begin. Apparently, the old potion master changed the complete structure of the course, making them repeat techniques they have mastered the years before.

Severus has never lost his time that way, that is why he only accepts O students in his class. He may correct them as they work, but he assumed all his students know the basic.

“Class for babies,” complains Robertson, one of the three ravenclaws in his class.

“Well, it suits him,” says one of the Weasley twins matter-of-factly.

“Ten points from Gryfffindor, mister Weasley.” Severus doesn’t bother in sound credible, he just wanted a excuse to take points but couldn’t care less if they go around disrespecting the old potion master. “Professor Slughorn is, was, your teacher”

“Teachers have to teach, and he never taught us anything.”

The last in speak is Hover, a quiet Slytherin who usually hide behind his friends. None of them are in his class, so hearing him is a new.

“Go back to your seats,” he says, finishing the conversation. “You too mister Weasley, I want both of you working in your respective projects”

He had never been capable of recognising them, but he is sure they switch places every now and then. It's not like it really matters, as long as they are working and don’t blow themselves.

He wonders what their parents told them about their sister, if they told them something at all. The Weasley siblings are very close, he can’t imagine them approving child marriage.

Neither would he have imagined the girl’s parents doing it, yet there they are.

The class last more time than stipulated, and he has to practically force them to leave. It’s the last class of the day, and he can’t have them to miss dinner.

Finally, he compromises to ask for an extra class on the week or at least a classroom where to brew in their free time.

As he walks back to his rooms, he meets Lily, who is ready for dinner and is probably waiting for him.

“How did it go?” She asks as soon as she sees him.

“They are eager to learn, as most of my NEWT students”

She smiles. “I hope you don’t mind that Harry had not signed the petition”

He definitely do not mind. Not having to teach the golden trio or Longbottom is probably the best has happened to him in a long time.

“Not at all, I am sure he wants to spend time with his mother.”

“Yes, about that, do you believe he is uncomfortable around James and me?”

He has no idea how to answer to that, he has no need of protecting Potter since his parents are back, therefore he pays little attention to him.

“His parents have just come back to life, I think uncomfortable is one way to put it.”

In front of his door there is someone waiting for him. He recognises Shacklebolt, and he makes a gesture to Lily to go for dinner without him.

She sends him a questioning look, but goes away without a word. It could be anything, but he can’t avoid to fear the worst. He have already been in Azkaban once.

“Shacklebolt,” he says opening the door for him. “How may I help you?”

The man looks both sides before entering. He is clearly uncomfortable, and that banishes his fears. Aurors are never uncomfortable when they come to arrest someone.

“Hello, Severus.” He looks at the door which is still opened, as considering to run away and fake this never happened. “I was wondering how are you doing.”

Severus lifts an eyebrow. “And why would you be wondering something like that?”

“You were in quite a shock the other day.” Severus keeps his sceptical face and the other man sighs. “I was worried, that is all”

“That is all?” He repeats incredulous. That man has gone to the school and waited behind his door to know about his health. It doesn’t make any sense.

“Yes, I know what you went trough must be traumatic. When you were a child, and then again.” Shacklebolt stops as if he has said a forbidden thing. “My point is, there is people who can help you”

The auror hands him a piece of paper. It is a business card for some psychologist that, he imagines, work with them. It says is an expert in Ptsd.

Severus snorts, this is the most stupid idea someone has presented to him, and he had corrected Potter’s essays since the boy was eleven.

“And what do you expect me to do with this?” he sneers, returning the card. “To go there and admit I am a death eater, who turns out to be a spy?”

“You could talk about what happened to you as a child, she will listen.”

If there is something he hates about Gryffindors, it is their inclination to play hero. "Even if I wanted, and I do not, I cannot tell I am a slave without fear the consequences”

“I read about that, but you don’t have to say anything you don’t want.”

“Go away Shacklebolt”

The man stands there a second, then sighs again and leaves the card on a nearby table.

“I will leave this here, in case you change your mind”

Severus doesn’t look at him as he closes the door, checking the card for spying spells and tossing it into the trash. He doesn’t need a stupid psychologist, or anything the aurors can offer.

Chapter Text

He choices the evening before his next visit to Tom to finally attend to a duelling class.

It is something he has to do, despite not having any complains yet, he wants to make sure the class is not being used as an excuse to attack Slytherins. Besides, it will make Lily stop nagging him about going and see how her husband has "truly" changed.

Changed, he thinks with a scoff. James Potter is not capable of change, especially not with his friends by his side again.

The great hall is crowded with people, fifth and sixth years reunited in the same class. The students are paired up and facing each other, but they still don't start to practice.

They are divided by house, and even if is not so practical in a real battle, it is still a relief for Severus because Slytherins won't be targeted.

Black walks among the teenagers, many of them flinching when he is close enough; despite he looks considerably more clean and recovered than he looked two years ago, he is still an ex-convict. He corrects postures and assures there is a proper distance between them, and so far he seems to be doing a good job.

James is on the other side of the hall doing the same. He is with the gryffindors, whispering something to his son's ear, who nods but doesn't reply.

Watching them together it is easier to tell difference. Not only in attitude, but physicals too. It is not just the eyes anymore, the boy is much smaller than his father, and his hair messier. It is strange how his animosity against the kid has suddenly vanished, but not having to deal with him in class has absolutely something to do with it.

"I am glad you finally came, my boy,"

Dumbledore gives him a friendly pat on his back, and he knows it is only in his head but it seems too close to his slave mark, after all the mark is on his neck.

"Lily insisted it would be a good idea,"

"And she is right, my boy, it is time to leave old grudges aside and focus in our shared goals"

"Severus! You are finally here"

Lily appears just in time to save him from the uncomfortable conversation. She drags him to where her husband and son are, none of them acknowledging his presence.

Who did notice it is Draco, who stares from the other corner. Soon, all the slytherins are sending him sideways glances as wondering what is he doing with the gryffindors.

He sees Black barking something to them and after multiple roll of eyes, they return to their original position.

Potter moves to where the teacher's table used to be and clears his throat to draw attention from the students. Black rushes to his side.

"Welcome to a new class, today we will keep working in protective spell. Remember to keep distance between each other, you may begin"

The students start to throw spell, in what soon becomes chaos. It is impossible to know what spell are they shouting and who is doing it, but somehow Black and Potter are always there to avoid disaster.

He observes the slytherins. They look mostly bored, some of them lazily waving their wands, while others laughed and pointed the other houses, and Severus well knows they are planning something against them.

Ignoring Lily's protests, he walks toward them. It isn't just a prank when there are so many people around. Anything they do could end in serious harm.

"What are you doing so important, that you are not working?"

The kids stare at him with guilty faces, and begin to work. He does Potter and Black’s job, teaching them the proper posture and techniques, because apparently both friends just decided to ignore the group and neglect their education.

He stays in there long enough to convince himself they are not getting new ideas before going back to Lily.

"They should be quiet for a while," he comments when he is close enough.

"So, what do you think?"

Severus looks around, he can't say Black and Potter are doing a bad job. Three of the four houses are learning, and they have everything under control despite having all the fifth and sixth years together.

"It is not so bad," he admits reluctantly, "but someone should remind them slytherins are also their students."

Lily chuckles, "I think they are a little scared of them"

He doesn't reply, entertaining himself with the mini-battles forming between the students when they believe the teachers aren't watching.

Apparently, the boy-who-lived took pity on Longbottom and chose him as a partner. Yet, he couldn’t resist the temptation of have a little of real practice.

He’d have intervened, but Longbottom isn’t in danger. Harry’s spells are controlled, and limited to expelliarmus and stupefy.

Somehow Longbottom manages to keep his wand, even if he has not been capable of return any spell. He keeps advancing though, and suddenly he is only a couple of feet from Harry.

He is too close and Harry uses the opportunity; pointing directly to his wand he cast the disarming charm. What Severus isn’t expecting is Longbottom moving his free hand and send a wandless expelliarmus, resulting in both wands falling on the floor.

In his shock, Severus try to find someone in the room who can confirm what he just see. At her side, Lily stares the scene with watery eyes and a small smile.

“If he is the chosen one, Harry doesn’t have to fight”

He doesn’t answer, noticing Dumbledore looking at the teenagers with a dangerous glint in his eyes.

Chapter Text

"How was your birthday?" Asks Lucius at his arrival at the manor, "you did remember it was your birthday, did you not?"

"How to forget the anniversary of when I ruined my parent's life"

Lucius shakes his head and snort. Without another word he leads to the kitchen.

It is a surprisingly normal, old kitchen, very muggle for Malfoy's standards, even if the fridge and the stove still worked with magic.

The Dark Lord isn't there, and Severus worries this is one of these talks that will finish in curses from both sides.

"She did not remember it, did she?" He knows to whom he refers, and he hates when Lily comes out in their conversations, "I mean, you insist you are best friends"

"She has been through too much these fifteen years," he says, tired, "and she has a lot on her mind right now"

"Like her husband, who happens to torture you back in school"

"We are not in school anymore," he replies quickly, "stop this, Lucius, this is none of your business"

"No, it is not," he says before turning around and leave.

Severus sighs, it is the same every time. Lucius is jealous of his friendship with Lily, but both relationships are totally different. Whilst he meet Lily when they were children and hence it gave them the chance of growing up together, Lucius was already an adult. He was the first adult in truly care about him.

Narcissa enters to the room, but before she can open her mouth, he speaks.

"Don't"

"I have not said anything yet," Severus lifts an eyebrow, "Do you know how much I hated you when we first meet?" A small smile plays on his lips, he does remember, "it was all Severus here, Severus there, and it took me a year to understand it wasn't about you but it was Lucius who needed to look after someone"

They stare each other for a while, it is like she has read his mind. Severus sighs again.

"He is just worried about you, we don't want to lose you again." He nods, Narcissa is right, he can't complain against Lucius after all he has done for him, "The Dark Lord is outside, near the greenhouse as a lovesick teenager"

He nods again and goes there, still thinking about her words and Lucius. It is true the blonde has always protected him, and it worries him he wanted to play hero someday, because the Dark Lord wouldn’t be happy of being contradicted.

It could happen, patience has never been Tom’s strong point, and he has already show not being entirely healed. And even if he were, he wasn’t a nice man before; he was a good lover and a good leader, but not a nice man.

He finds Tom where Narcissa had told him, standing among the trees and looking where the labs and the greenhouse are.

“Is there anything I can do for you to forgive me?” he says without turning around.

Severus walks to him, but doesn’t answer. He isn’t sure there is something he can do, trust has been broken, and not only because he wasn’t himself; the Dark Lord kept the collar, and he couldn’t make sense of the why.

"Was it real?" He asks suddenly, he needs to know the reasons, "what there was between us? Was it real?"

"Of course it was, Severus," Answer Tom, pain dyeing his face.

Severus shakes his head, pressing his lips together, trying to find the words. He knows it was real, but is not what he is asking.

"When we start, or before that, you did not trust me"

"Severus, you were fourteen," he says frowning, "I did not at first, but I never acted on it. And later, I trusted you with my life"

"You keep the collar, why would you do something like that if you did not fear I would betray you?" Tom looks aside, his eyes filling with tears, yet he stays silent, "you could at least changed the colour, or make a new one. It didn't have to be that one."

"Severus, I couldn't-"

"Do you still have it?" Interrupts he abruptly.

There is silence again and it is the confirmation he needs; Tom still doesn't trust him. He is risking his life, going to Dumbledore and knowing he will end in Azkaban if he is spotted as a spy, yet a part of him understand, he did betray Tom once.

"I understand,"

"No, Severus, you do not," replies the Dark Lord, putting himself together and walking toward him. He puts his hands over his shoulders, the grip firm, "Severus, I truly cannot do it, because-" Tom takes a deep breath before continue, as gathering forces for what he is about to say, "because your mother connected it to you"

Severus just stays in there, frozen. The air feels too cold and his legs weak. The hands on his shoulders push him down, gently sitting him on the floor and the dark lord does the same.

He doesn't want to believe it. He knows the one of the deal was his mother, she was the witch, hence the only one who could do it, but a part of him thought she wanted to protect him. He wouldn't have survived that summer if she didn't send him away.

However, she must really had hated him to do something like that. It was assuring he would be tortured for the rest of his life.

"She cursed the collar so I couldn't take it from you, much less destroy it. We managed to partially break the curse, however it will hurt you irreversibly if I kept trying to destroy it"

"I want to see," he says with tears on his eyes, "show me"

"It will hurt you,"

"Show me," he repeats, this time in a firmer tone.

The Dark Lord stands and helps him to do the same. The way to his study is silent, awkward, but he doesn't know what to say.

Tom opens the first drawer of the desk and extract the collar and it hurts him to see how easy was to access to it.

"You were thinking in use it."

"No, Severus, no," replies Tom, "I was still trying to break the curse"

He nods unconvinced, watching carefully how a small flame appears at the end of Tom's wand. As the flames goes near the collar, his neck begins to burn. Tom tries to retire his wand, but Severus clasp on his arm and forces him to stay where he is.

The pain becomes unbearable, tears escaping from his eyes, but he still doesn't move. The Dark Lord lets his wand go, and it falls on the floor with a thud. Before he can reach for it, Severus has his own wand pointing to the collar.

"Sectum-"

"Expelliarmus!"

The wand flies away, and in no time it is convoked by the Lord.

"Give me my wand"

"No," he says as he puts the collar back in the drawer and lock it with spells, "not until you calm down"

"Give me my wand"

Tom extends his hand and cleans his tears. Then, with a hand on his back he push him toward him, and forces him into an embrace.

He tries to free himself, but Tom is stronger. Soon, the tension in his muscles ease, and he finds himself sobbing against his shoulder.

"She hated me," he whispers, still crying.

Chapter Text

Tom's hand slide to his neck, and seized by panic he puts his own hand over it to stop it; he can't believe Tom would use his moment of weakness to take advantage.

The warm of a healing charm makes him like an idiot, he has totally forgotten about the burn.

"You are shaking," says Tom chastely kissing his forehead, "and you have fever"

He is shaking, but he is not so sure about the fever. Tom's blood is colder than a normal human being, anything would look like fever to him.

"Give me my wand,"

Hesitant, Tom complies, watching carefully how he performs the diagnostic spell on himself.

Severus pockets his wand and shows him his bare hands, so Tom knows he can be trusted with his own safety again.

"No fever," he informs, collapsing onto a nearby chair.

The recent events have left him emotionally exhausted, and it will require time to raise his occlumency shields again. He is in no condition of facing Dumbledore anytime soon.

"Do not go back," says Tom as if he had read his mind.

"Dumbledore does not expect me back soon, he has a supply teacher in hand in case you demand my assistance for longer than expected." They had already talked with Albus about this and they agreed his priority was to please Voldemort in order to win his trust again; Lily and Slughorn could handle his students for a week or two.

Tom shakes his head, "I am not just talking about today, Severus. It is not healthy or safe for you to stay in there, and you are of more use in here"

"I cannot do that, Tom, those children are my responsibility"

"We will find a way to keep them safe,"

He forces a smile, "when we do it, I will stay, but not before"

"You are not being reasonable-"

"If my master orders it, I shall obey," he interrupts coldly, regretting immediately his words when he sees Tom's face.

He is guilt tripping Tom in a way that would make Dumbledore proud, and he feels disgusted with himself by that. However, he needs to stop the discussion; Tom must think with his head and understand that they couldn't just leave the children at the mercy of Dumbledore.

"The Weasleys are offering their daughter in marriage," he says, trying to explain how far Dumbledore is going, "she is fourteen"

A flash of red passes through Tom's eyes, his lips pursing in disgust, "Do you believe Dumbledore is involved?"

"Definitely. The Weasley only have one daughter and so far they look as good parents, they wouldn't be doing this otherwise."

"Did they publish it? How did you know about this?"

Apparently, he has awaken Tom's interest and hence distracted him from their argument, "One of my slytherins found her crying, brought her to me. As far as I know I am the only other with the information,

"They are demanding a bond, Potter is their first option but I don't believe they will stop there if he or his parents refuse. I put the sigil we developed with Lucius on her"

Tom closes his eyes, the sigil is part of the memories that were erased and Severus can see how they still bring him confusion. He nods after a while, confirming he remembers the event.

"Then she is protected for now"

"Only if the sigil works, we never had the chance to test it."

"And this girl, what can you tell me about her?"

"She was possessed by your diary in her first year"

He knows where Tom is going with his questions, he wants another informant, one closer to the youngers. It is for the best warn him now; the girl could be grateful, but she wouldn't forget the attempt of murder so easily.

"My journal? How did she find it?"

Severus curses himself, answering that could put Lucius in danger.

"Lucius believed it would bring you back,"

The Dark Lord breaks into laugh, "you expect me to believe Lucius wanted me back? Severus, that man dreaded my return. I could see it in his eyes the day I recovered my body"

"He always has been loyal"

"He was loyal, however he would have killed me himself if he were strong enough,"

Severus can't deny that. Lucius could agree with the ideals, and he was a good friend of Tom once; however, after Tom manifest his intentions with him, Lucius became more protective than ever. Only fear kept Lucius from doing something stupid.

"Do you know why I hide that book?" Says Tom going back to the original conversation, "It absorbs your vital energy, materializing in the shape of the previous owner. It took away part of my magic and I imagine it did the same with this girl"

It would be harder to gain the complete collaboration of Weasley, one thing is being about to die, but being striped of their magic is so much worse. Dumbledore took away his wand after he ran away, and he remembers how hard were the summers after that.

“She will blame you,” Tom silence is answer enough. There is not an easy solution, and she could betray them when she realises to whom Severus truly serves, “I will keep an eye on her, maybe with time she will understand.”

Optimism is not something he is good at, but he can’t bring himself to refuse to help a kid for fear. If no one had helped him when he was a child, he wouldn’t be alive.

“Beside the attempt of murder, what else can you tell me about her?”

“Not much, she is a Gryffindor,” he says as if it were excuse enough for not to know about the girl, “according to Flitwick, she is particularly good in charms”

Tom hums and scratch his newly formed nose. He is clearly thinking in something but Severus better than anyone knows he will not share it.

He tries to figure a way on his own. Ginnevra probably hates the Dark Lord and Lucius in equal measure, and an apology wouldn’t be enough. But she must have realised by now that Dumbledore and most of the teachers are involved, if he convinces her they are her best and only option they might have a chance.

“She has no one else,” Severus is not sure of what he pretends with that comment, if he is trying to convince himself that sow fear in a helpless teenager is beyond wrong, or if he is giving Tom ideas.

Tom looks at him, as trying to determinate the same, “she will have protection from our side for as long as you say so”

“What about Lily?”

“For as long as you say” repeats Tom, however his tone a little darker this time, “also her little family if it is your wish”

It isn’t. He has nothing against the boy, not now his father appeared and he can see the true differences; however he still hates James and considers the world would be a better place without him on it.

Not like he can say it out loud, though. Lily would never forgive him if something happens to her husband, so he just nods at the Lord’s unsaid question.

Chapter Text

He dreams of a werewolf chasing him, and his mother appearing from nowhere, interrupting his way. She grabs his arms with inhuman force, effectively immobilizing him. This leaves him at the complete mercy of the beast, who starts to lick his face, its foul breath hitting his nose causing him to gag. Then his clothes vanish, and the hot tongue moves down his body, the yellow teeth scraping the skin in its way. As he begs his mother to let him go, she laughs, not a word, just cruelly laughing at his fear.

His pyjamas and bed are soaking wet when he wakes up. As he rubs his forehead to clean the sweat, he feels the feverish heat against his hand. Perhaps Tom wasn’t so wrong about him getting sick.

His mind drifts back to his dream, thinking in how his mother never speaks in it. He realises he can’t remember her voice anymore. Probably he has blocked it as he has blocked a great part of his life with his parents.

Not to remember is a blessing, but still stresses him at times. The werewolf could not be so far from reality and he is repulsed by the idea he was used by an animal once.

Now he feels dirtier than ever, and the sensation won’t go away at least he showers.

Cursing the absence of a bathroom in his rooms, he throws a cloak over his shoulders and steps outside. The cold breeze reminds him he has not changed his clothes. He curses again. If he is sick, he has made it worse to himself.

He hurries on his way to the manor, and when he finally arrives, he is exhausted. Even so, he thanks he is in a warm place now, and looks for the nearest bedroom with a bathroom.

His fingers tremble as he tries, uselessly, to unbutton his pyjama top. Sitting on the bed, he exhales frustrated, giving up and closing his eyes.

He slowly drifts into sleep; his peace being interrupted by a hand shaking him.

With his eyes still closed, he groans and moves away.

“Severus?” Comes the concerned voice of Lucius at his side.

He blinks a few times but finds impossible to keep his eyes open. He feels extremely weak and his whole-body aches.

“Shower,” he says, hoping Lucius will infer the rest of the information from that word.

The hand moves to his neck, “You are burning, get under the covers”

He groans again, but obeys anyway; the room is cold and he is freezing.

“I am calling Cissa,” Determines Lucius, but Severus hand stop him.

“No”

It makes no sense to wake up Narcissa for just a cold, it surely can wait until next day. Now he needs to find a way to explain it to Lucius in the less possible words; he doesn’t trust himself with more than two words at a time.

“Yes,” replies Lucius, “now shut up and try to sleep”

He sighs and resigns to his fate. Curling on one side, he does as Lucius said, successfully falling asleep a few minutes later.

Again, the nightmare repeats, only this time instead of a werewolf it is a black dog. He still can hear his mother laughing when he wakes up.

There are whispers coming from the door. He can’t really understand what they are saying but he doesn’t need to be a genius to know they are talking about him.

The first he sees is Narcissa’s back. She is facing the ajar door speaking to someone on the other side. Lucius is in front of her, and he supposes the other person is Tom.

“What- what happened?” He asks hoarsely to nobody in particular.

“You are awake,” Says Narcissa coming to his side. “good, because now you can explain us how in the world did you contract dragon pox”

He stares in disbelief. Dragon pox is fairly common in children, but extremely rare in adult wizards. Most of the pureblood got vaccinated before assisting Hogwarts, and muggleborns were immune to it, so an epidemic was never an issue in school; it is cases like Severus, where there are pureblood ascendants but not access to the vaccine, the dangerous ones.

“I- I don’t know,” he answers weakly. The truth is he has no idea, none of the children has got sick lately and his contact with the outside world is almost inexistent, “I haven’t been exposed”

She sighs. “As far as you know”

“What’s happening?” He says referring to the scene on the door.

“The Dark Lord wants to enter, but he, like you, is not vaccinated”

Tom’s physical health is still weak for the constant changes, and Dragon pox could be fatal on itself. The older the person is, the more the disease would affect them, and Tom is almost seventy.

Severus feels a knot in his stomach. He was with Tom the day before and probably already infected him.

“Put an isolation spell and let me talk to him. I can convince him,” He offers and Narcissa nods.

“No touching,” She warns before casting the spell and letting the Dark Lord in.

Severus forces a smile and raises himself on his elbows. “You should go to your rooms”

“I will. Once you are healthy again”

He shakes his head, “If you get sick, I will have to tend you, and I have no strength to do it right now,” Tom is going to protest but Severus keep talking, “I am begging you, Tom, I really need to rest. Do not get sick today”

He let his head fall back, hoping he has been convincing enough.

“Narcissa says I cannot come closer,” It sounds like an apology. Severus just nods, confirming the woman’s words. “You will call me if you need anything. I don’t care if it is a glass of water, you call me”

“I will be fine, Tom”

“And you will report me about his health every hour,” This isn’t told to him but to the Malfoys, “Severus will not be alone at any time”

After everyone in the room agreed to Tom’s conditions, he finally goes away. Narcissa follows him to start a preventive treatment, leaving Lucius with him.

“How do you feel?” Asks the blond as he puts a glass and a jar of water on the night table, “Are you hungry?”

“I am cold,” he complains and Lucius covers him with another blanket, “thank you”

It’s been a long time since the last time someone took care of him when sick. Despite Pomfrey’s insistence, he never visited the infirmary. A full examination could reveal the bond, and give her potential blackmail material. In another scenario, she could feel compelled to inform of his status to the ministry, which would be even worse.

Lucius watches him from a chair at his side. It is impossible for him to sleep being so closely observed, but he doesn’t mind. As soon as he closes his eyes, the same dream will repeat. Maybe it is a centaur or a hippogriff this time, but the forest and his mother will still be there, and also the feeling of self-disgust when he wakes up.

It is a long shot, but when he was rescued, it was Lucius who healed him. He is the only one who could know what really happened in there and perhaps this is his opportunity of obtaining answers.

"You healed me when I arrived at Tom's house," It is not a question, and it seems to have taken Lucius by surprise.

“We did it with Cissy,” replies he frowning, “it has been a long time”

“I want to know what did you find,”

They have never had this conversation before, not with great detail. Severus knows the basic, he was with his parents a week, hidden in a closet three days after that, and then healed and sleeping for another two. It was enough, but now he is desperate for someone who tell him there weren’t animals involved.

“There was not much to find,” he says standing and pouring some water in the glass, “your mother healed you before the deal was complete”

“But there was some damage”

Lucius turns to him, and sits at the edge of the bed. As he leans forward, he fixes his eyes on some undetermined point of the wall. He looks defeated. It makes Severus wonder if Lucius has purposely avoided the topic.

“They broke your bones, your teeth, and then repair them. They did it over and over again, until it was impossible to heal them properly.”

It isn’t a surprise. A year before he broke a rib and it took more than a week to be fixed. Severus is certain he can feel the fracture through the skin and now he knows why.

“I have noticed it,” For a moment he thinks in reproaching him for not telling him before, but he dismissed the idea; there are more important things he wants to know. “What else?”

“We believe you were hit in the stomach several times, and that is the reason you do not absorb all the nutrients in your food; you have a constant vitamin deficit because of that.” Lucius stops there, and Severus notices how his right hand slightly trembles. Grasping his knee, he continues, “Your genitals- your genitals were totally destroyed for so many changes, we had to rebuild them completely, and we were afraid they would no longer be functional.”

Severus closes his eyes, and focus on his breath. It explains some things, like why he felt better when one of those men tried to pleasure him than any time with his lover. Or why it sometimes hurt without apparent reason. It shouldn’t come as a shock, but is still hard to hear.

“She used polyjuice on me so they could offer more variety to their clients. Sometimes they used the hair of girls" He says in a whisper. For some reason he feels the need to tell his friend that he does remember a part of it, "I always thought he forced her but now..."

The rest of the sentence is left hanging. Lucius must have known about the collar and his mother, and his conclusions are probably the same.

“It is in the past; it is time to move on”

Easier to say it than do it, and he wants to scream at Lucius that is him who has to live with the nightmares, the flashbacks and all the health issues they caused. He wants to punch the blond, but a look at him and all his anger is banished.

Lucius has not moved from his position. The eyes are still glued to the wall, the only change Severus can see is the tears glistening on the corners of his eyes. For the first time he stops to think how it was for his friend to have to heal a teenager no much younger than himself. Lucius was nineteen at the time, he had just married and wanted to have a large family; it must have been traumatic to realise how sick people could be.

"It was not your fault, Lucius. You did your best"

Blinking a few times, Lucius turns to him. Convoking a wet towel, he puts it over Severus forehead.

"Why are you asking?"

Severus looks aside, suddenly feeling self-conscious. It is embarrassing to have to admit out loud what he believes they did, and that he wants to know about it. Maybe it is the moment of stopping the question, but this can be his only chance and he can’t lose it.

"Did they ever use animals?" He holds his breath, expecting Lucius to start to laugh, or to stare at him in disgust; but Lucius does neither of those things, he stays where he is with a neutral expression on his face, waiting for an explanation, "I have been dreaming"

"You were already healed, there was nothing that indicated anything like that."

"Neither there was anything that indicates the opposite,"

"In the house there was nothing. Not animal bowl or food, or a bed for it. I think it is safe to tell there weren't animal. They are only dreams; you are just tired, Severus"

"Thanks Lucius," he says trying to sound honest enough. It is a lie only told to make him feel better; Lucius was never inside the house. “I think I need a shower”

Chapter Text

“I want a shower,” Severus repeats for the hundredth time that day.

After the talk about his parents, there is nothing he wants more than a shower, but his petition has been denied so far. Narcissa prohibited it, and Lucius would blindly obey his wife’s medical orders.

“Do you want some water?” Asked Lucius from the chair at his side.

It had been his strategy to try to distract Severus, but after failing every time one would expect he give up or think in something else.

“Lucius, it itches,” Complained Severus gesturing the red spots covering his skin, refusing to say his true reasons out loud.

“Maybe we can arrange an oatmeal bath later, after we speak with Narcissa”

“I don’t want an oatmeal bath; I want a bloody normal shower”

He exhales soundly through the nose, looking like a child who is about to throw a tantrum.

Lucius stands and takes a tray he had left over the drawer earlier. Forcing a smile, he offers it to Severus.

“What about food?”

Losing the last of his patience, Severus knocks the tray out of Lucius’ hands, making it crash against the wall.

“I don’t want your fucking food. I. Want. A. Shower.”

Lucius’ smile is gone, but otherwise there is no reaction from him. The impassivity of the blond is driving him insane; he wants him to yell, to curse, so he has an excuse to kick him out of the room and take his coveted shower.

Huffing, he closes his eyes to try to sleep. Lucius stares at him as he does, just increasing Severus’ anger.

“Would you stop looking at me like a fucking creep?”

Lucius’ lips tighten and the right eye twitch. It might be almost imperceptible, but Severus knows his friend enough and he is about to lose it.

Sadly, he doesn’t have the time to prove his theory because Narcissa choices that moment to enter.

“How are you feeling, Severus?”

“Bloody fucking perfect,” says he sarcastically.

She doesn’t comment on his bad mood and starts to cast diagnostic spells. A parchment fills with his multiple health issues, some in red ink that he knows are the ones she needs to pay attention. He loudly curses; that means he won’t be allowed to leave the bed any time soon.

“Your fever is going down but is still high. The blisters should stop spreading in the next few hours. The good news it is that, at this rate, you should be fine in a couple of days”

“How lucky”

“The Dark Lord is here,”

Without another word, husband and wife abandon the room and, in their place, enters Tom.

“Apparently my body still works mostly as a snake,” he informs as thinking Severus is going to protest.

Severus has no intention of doing so. The last hours has been stressful and for the first time he couldn’t care less about the health of his ex-lover. Instead, his jaw clenches at the unfairness of being the only one in that manor who is sick.

“I want a shower,” he says again, hoping Tom would be more reasonable than Lucius.

“Narcissa says you must not leave the bed.” He glares at Tom. “It will be just a couple of days.”

His expression doesn’t change, so Tom’s hand comes to cup his cheek as he stares at him with pity. It’s then when Severus decides he has had enough; he grasps Tom’s wrist and separates him brusquely.

“Don’t. Touch. Me.” He is sick of being patronizing, of being treated like a child who can be bossed around by anyone, “You know what, I don’t have to ask for permission. I am an adult”

He stands from the bed, noticing his muscles hurt but too proud to go back.

“Severus,” tries Tom putting a hand over his shoulder.

In an outburst of accidental magic, he throws Tom away, “I told you not to touch me!”

He stalks into the bathroom and slams the door behind. As he takes away his clothes, his eyes catch his reflection in the mirror. It’s been years he has not looked directly into one. Mirrors usually brings bad memories and this is not the exception.

An ugly man is on the other side, and he resembles too much to a teenager he once knew. The same black eyes, the same large nose and the same crooked teeth, and his mind can’t avoid to return back to those years.

It was one of the few times he was himself, which only make it harder to ignore. He couldn’t fake it wasn’t him, that the hands weren’t touching his body, and the lips weren’t kissing his neck; and he also couldn’t ignore he was enjoying it. Because he enjoyed it at times, and that is one of the things that sickened him the most.

Now he can’t ignore it either. He can feel the hands touching him, even if he can’t see them. It feels wrong, and he tries to bat them away; but there is nothing to bat away.

Tears starts to run down his cheek, and he begs them to let him go. First is barely a whisper, then it turns into screams, until it he finally hears the glass breaking and there are no more black eyes returning his look.

He isn’t sure if it weren’t his fists or his magic, neither realises when splinters of the shattered mirror bury in his skin. There is blood, but he is too absorbed in the invisible hands touching him to pay attention to it.

He moves back, still crying and begging, trying to get away. His back hits with the wall, and he knows there is nowhere else to go. He slides to the floor and hugs his knees, and the last he sees is a red light covering him.

Chapter Text

He finds himself lying on a bed. He isn’t sure how he got there but he can say he is still in Malfoy manor; the patterns on the walls are the same as the rest of the bedrooms.

His wand is lying on the night-table, but as he tries to reach for it, he realises his hands are bound to the bed. He starts to panic, to his mind come images of the day before and how he has acted as a baby. Maybe the Dark Lord has finally got tired of his constant whining and decided to put the collar again, this time forever.

“Calm down or I will not take away the spell,” warns Lucius from the door; however, the tone is gentle. He ignores him and keeps struggling with the invisible ropes. “Severus, calm down, they are there for your own protection.”

He doesn’t listen, he needs to know if it is there again.

With a sigh, Lucius waves his wand and unties him. Severus’ hands go directly to his neck, and after checking it is naked, he allows himself to breath.

“Tom told us what happened. You lost the control of your magic and we did not know how you were going to react when you wake up.”

That reassures him a little. Losing the control of his magic was something frequent in his adolescence; it happened when flash backs became too real, or when his emotions were too strong. He hardly remembered what happened in those occasions, only that they left him confused and scared of himself.

“I was not going to do anything stupid,” He mumbles as he rubs his wrists.

Lucius sits on the edge of the bed and gently takes his right arm. Pulling up his sleeve, he traces the white line of a past scar. He had come close that day. If Lucius wouldn’t have arrived in time, or if he wouldn’t have hesitated in the last minute; but he remembered Lily’s words in the middle of the spell, ‘just for enemies, promise me, Severus, just for enemies.

They don’t speak about it anymore, but his meltdown of the day before must have really scared his friend.

“I will not do it again,” He says brusquely retiring his arm and covering it again.

“Good,” Replies Lucius simply, “Do you want to talk about it?”

Severus knows that Lucius doesn’t want him to talk about it. He wants to leave the past in the past, enough he has with had been in there. And Severus doesn’t want to talk either, but for some reason everyone seems obsessed with the idea that he needs to.

“Shacklebolt thinks that I need therapy,”

“And you don’t?” Severus lifts an eyebrow, “I could find someone discreet-”

“Lucius, stop, we had a deal”

He had tried therapy before, forced by the Malfoys and Tom. The deal was simple, try it for a few years, and when he turned seventeen, he could do whatever he wanted. It consisted in a mix of potions and counselling, but Severus had become an expert in making the therapists quit. No one last more than two sessions with him.

The counselling was left when he turned seventeen, but he kept taking the potions. The others were conformed and fulfilled their part of the deal, stopping nagging him about it. He abandoned everything when Lily died.

Lucius holds up his hands to placate him, “I leave the offer there”

“I just wanted a shower,” He confessed with a sigh, realizing too late how childish it sounded.

“I know, but you and I know that it wasn’t just a shower,” Severus look up to him without understanding, “you would have scrubbed your skin raw, and you are full of blisters”

Lucius is right, it is exactly what would have happened, and he can’t avoid to look away ashamed. The next words are the hardest he has had to say in a while.

“I am sorry for the way I treated you,”

Something like guilt passes across Lucius’ face, “I should had taken away the mirror,”

He frowns. “Lucius, you can’t possibly be blaming yourself for this,”

Lucius’ expression returns to normal, the moment of weakness passing, “Tom is not angry, but he wants to see you”

Before Lucius could leave, Severus grabs his arm. This is his last chance to ask and have some closure. “Lucius, what happened to my parents?”

“I don’t know”

After years of spying, Severus knows to recognise a lie when he hears one, “if you don’t want to tell me, say so, but do not treat me like an idiot,”

His friend seems to hesitate for a few seconds, “your father is not around anymore, but I truly don’t know about your mother. It took us time to track them down and, when we did, your father was alone.”

Severus doesn’t bother in asking to whom he refers with ‘we’, he doesn’t even want details, there is only one thing he needs to know.

“Did he pay?”

“With every fibre of his being,” Lucius makes a pause, as giving him space for more questions; but he doesn’t have any. As long as the bastard had suffered, it’s fine with him. “If there is not anything else...”

Severus shakes his head, and his friend goes away.

Once alone in the room, his attention goes to his looks. The blisters on his hands and arms have burst, and he supposes is the same with the ones on his face. His pyjamas are dishevelled and the same he has been using since he got sick, and his hair is greasier than ever. Despite he has seen him worse, it is not a proper way to meet Tom.

Disgusting, he thinks as he tries to stand from the bed and go to the bathroom.

“Go back to bed, Severus,”

The tone is gentle but firm, however is not that what makes Severus stop on his tracks. There is a blue bruise beneath Tom’s right eye. He achieves to suppress the gasp but can’t do anything with his eyes widening at the view.

“Did I-?”

“It wasn’t your fault, my skin is too sensitive,”

Severus snorts. “My mother used to say the same,” he looks away, “I am sorry”

Tom closes the few steps that separate them, his hands going to his shoulders to indicate him to sit on the bed. He does the same.

“It is the true, my skin is fragile because of the changes and it doesn’t respond to magical healing.” Severus conforms with that. Even if he stills feels guilty, there is nothing he can do. “How long have you been having these episodes?”

Better is asking when he hasn’t. They never fully stopped; they just became less frequent with time.

“I have it controlled,” He answers evasively, shifting uncomfortable on his place.

“Severus, if Dumbledore-” Severus glances up to him. “He already knows”

“He found out last year, when he hired Moody”

It had been a little after the mark started to burn again. The confrontation with the werewolf was still fresh on his mind, and the impending return of Voldemort had him on the edge. The moment Dumbledore informed him that Moody would be around was the last straw.

“How did he react?”

He looks down again. Dumbledore had not reacted well. He had woken up tied, in a room that he didn’t even know existed. That day he discovered Hogwarts had a psychiatric wing; he was locked in there for an entire week.

Dumbledore had visited every day, cleaning him and talking to him. It was his only company, and Severus learnt to appreciate the man more and more. He knew Dumbledore was a busy man, he could perfectly just assign a domestic elf to him; however, he had made the time to doing himself.

Despite his gratitude, a part of Severus would always be ashamed of how helpless he was; because he was truly tied the entire week, having to depend in the headmaster on everything. That time also had been for his own safety.

“He tied me,” he says simply, showing his wrists as if they were still bound but not offering further information.

Red crosses Tom’s eyes, but just as fast as it comes, it is gone. Severus doesn’t remind him that they tied him too.

Tom takes one of his hands, “What do I have to do to convince you to not to go back?”

“Protect the students. All of them,” says Severus. “I will be fine, I have handled Dumbledore for fifteen years, I can do it for a few months”

“This year, Severus. Promise me this is the last year you work for that crazy old man”

It is not a promise he can make; he will work there for as long as it is necessary to protect the students and Lily.

“I promise,”

He wonders if he has been successful in lying the Dark Lord, or if he is just pretending to believe him. It is impossible to know, but there is no protest from him thus he just assumes he has.

Tom takes his hand to his lips, “I won’t let him hurt you again”

This time is Severus who decides to believe the lie.

Chapter Text

As soon as Narcissa gives her blessing to abandon the bed, Severus takes his so asked shower and starts to work. Being bedridden has delayed all his project, and he has no time to lose.

The only condition has been he is not allowed to go outside, so he finds refuge in the library, asking Tom to retrieve his notes from his rooms.

With three books opened in front of him, he scribbles as fast as he can on a parchment. His eyes dart from one book to the other, his ideas going faster than his hands, making the handwriting practically unintelligible.

Narcissa will hate him when he shares his progress with her. He has never been good explaining what’s inside his head, and it will be impossible for her to read the parchments.

Going over the notes again, he compares the facts written with the books, making sure he doesn’t miss anything. He jumps when he meets Tom’s intense gaze from the other side of the table.

He looks amused at his reaction, and Severus scowl at him.

“What is so funny?”

Tom smiles. “It has been a long time since I don’t see you working so concentrate”

“It has been a long you have not seen me working.”

Tom winces at his words and Severus bites his tongue. After his return, Tom only paid attention to him for the reports about the school, or if he wanted to torture him.

“I want to talk to you,” He starts.

Severus leaves the quill in the ink bottle, “yes?”

“There will be a meeting later,”

“And you want me to be there,” Severus complete.

“It is up to you,”

“You are my master, Tom. If you tell me to be there, I will be there”

“I am not your master,”

“I am not talking about the slavery bond,” Tom lifts one of his non-existent eyebrows, “Tom, this will not work if you keep doing this. You are the leader; you need to take the decision and I will obey”

“Severus, you are my most trusted advisor-”

“And you can’t afford to worry about my feelings,” interrupts Severus, “Tom, I am just another death eater and you are our leader. I will disagree with you and I will let you know, but you need to keep your head cold if we pretend to win this war.”

“I would really appreciate if you go,” he makes a pause, “Bellatrix and the others will be there too”

“Are you sure they are ready? Narcissa seemed concerned about them,”

“Narcissa always looks concerned. They are ready enough.”

Severus also has his reserves. Narcissa is their healer, worrying is her job.

“Very well, it will be an interesting meeting then,” He comments as he lowers his head and takes the quill to keep working.

He expects to Tom to go away now the conversation is over, but the older man doesn’t move. With an exaggerate motion, he takes one of the books to let him know his presence is no longer welcome. Tom doesn’t even blink.

Rolling his eyes, he lifts his head again. “Is there something else I can help you with?”

“No,”

“Then...” he gestures the door, again with no effect, “Tom, I am working”

“I know,”

He begins to write again, determined to continue with his research and have some progress that day. Perhaps if he ignores him long enough, Tom will get bored and stop looking at him with that dreamy smile.

“We had something beautiful once,” says Tom suddenly after a while, his prying eyes studying his reaction.

Severus knows him, and despite it is not a conversation he looks forward to have, it is necessary.

“Yes, we had,” He remarks the word ‘had’.

“Would you be willing to try it again?” Asks Tom ignoring his tone,

Severus sighs and shakes his head, “I don’t think I can.”

It’s the moment of being honest, better not to give Tom false hopes. What they had it will never be the same, and pretend the opposite will only end with the two of them hurt.

Tom’s face falls, “I still love you, Severus, and I know you still love me. You went through hell to save me. Only love can explain that”

A sad smile forms on his face. Tom is right, he still loves him; however, they cannot be together, and Tom must accept it.

“Tom, even if I forgive you, this cannot be,” he says carefully, knowing it is a delicate subject and the wrong word could cause Tom to change again, “I am sorry, Tom, but you were the epitome of abusive boyfriend,”

“I wasn’t myself,” Protests Tom, his hand going to slam the table but stopping in the middle of the air. He closes his fist and lowers it again.

“I know you weren’t yourself, but it does not change the fact that you torture me, and I don’t want to become into my mother. I do love you, but for me is not a matter of ‘if’ you are going to hurt me but a ‘when’ you are going to do it, and I cannot spend the rest of my life with fear of my partner.”

“And if I find a way to assure you it will not happen away? Would you reconsider?”

“If you are thinking in an unbreakable vow, it is not possible. You are my master, and masters cannot have obligations towards their slaves,” Severus knows Tom is aware of this information, however his ex-lover has the bad habit of ignoring logic when it comes to their relationship, “You can break the oath. That, if you can make it at all”

“But if I find a way?” He insists, this time more desperate.

Despite his brain keeps telling him it is impossible, something like hope rises inside of him. At times Tom defeated any logic with his stubbornness; it was one of the reasons he fell in love with him in the first place. Perhaps he is just as desperate as Tom to believe it.

“Yes, Tom. If you find a way to assure me that you will not turn into something like my father, we can be together.”

Chapter Text

He is welcomed in the drawing room by dead silence. Even those who were in Azkaban could sense something had happened. In the first place, his clothes are different of the others, since his death eater robes were never returned. And if that isn’t enough, the way the others hold their breath as he walks toward the Dark Lord should give them some clue.

As he sits at Lucius’ right, his eyes meet Bellatrix. He can tell she has a snide comment at the tip of her tongue, and is just holding back because of the Dark Lord’s presence. He has some of his own, but neither can say anything, not yet.

“My loyal followers,” starts Tom from the head of the table, “today, those who couldn’t be in our past meetings are back and in full health, and it is time to start to discuss the future. As many of you noticed, my body is returning to its human form and, once it is fully recovered, it will give us a new way of approximation to the outside world. Our public image is essential, so you must not engage in any questionable activity without assuring you are not being followed. Dumbledore has had years to damage our reputation, and our ideals, with which so many witches and wizards agreed, were obfuscated by his lies”

There are nods of agreement around the table. Most of them don’t have stomach for torture, and a more political approximation is a relief. However, that doesn’t mean the violence would stop altogether; sometimes political means aren’t enough.

“What about Potter, master?” Asks Crabbe shrinking on his seat, as expecting to be punished for speaking.

“Potter is not our target anymore, yet he is still the key to understand Dumbledore’s plans. Do not attack him or his family. Jugson, you will watch Potter’s aunt house, and give me a complete report next week. Do not engage.”

“Yes, master”

“We need to prepare for the future, we do not know when Dumbledore will attack, but we do know he will use the children, your children, as leverage.” The death eaters who have children in Hogwarts look at each other, probably regretting not to have sent them to another school; yet not everyone could afford Durmstrang or Beauxbaton. “Severus, you will convince Dumbledore to start teaching side along apparition,” Tom makes a pause, waiting for his confirmation. When he nods, he continues, “And I expect all of your children participate in the class.” Many ‘yes, my lord’ could be heard at the same time. “Bellatrix, Rabastan and Rodolphus, you will be in charge of preparing safe houses. You must take into account every death eater and their direct family. Once this year is over, you will take your children there to be safe.”

Tom glances Severus, he will keep the children safe, and then will be time of Severus to fulfil his part of the deal. This is the last year he has to work for Dumbledore, and he has to do a considerable effort to repress the smile.

After that, it is hard to focus in the rest of the meeting. He would have paid dearly for this before, but not now; now Tom is mostly sane, and the old habits are in the past.

To find placement for all the children and their families will be difficult. Despite the popular belief, not all purebloods have manors. But someone else is in charge of that. His job is to convince Dumbledore about the apparition classes, which shouldn’t be so hard considering the return of the Dark Lord is official. He just has to present the idea in front of parents or teachers, and he knows someone who is both.

The meeting is finally over, and Tom is the first one in leave.

“I heard you have an interesting encounter with the Dark Lord, Snape. I heard it ended in the dungeons,” taunted Bellatrix when most of the death eaters have left.

“You certainly heard many things, Bellatrix,” says Severus silkily, “So little did you have to do in Azkaban?”

“I wonder what did you do to be in his good grace again; we all know your methods after all.”

“Be careful, Bellatrix, or people might thing you are jealous,”

“Jealous?” She scoffs, “of you?”

Severus gives a nonchalant shrug and goes away. She is definitely jealous and he has to admit it, he was also jealous of her at some point. But with the time he realised that Tom’s feeling toward her are totally different.

Despite the animosity between each other, they work well together. If they absolutely have to. He hopes that truce continues when is necessary, because it will be.

Outside, Rabastan is waiting for him.

“The Dark Lord is wants to see you,” he informs, and turn around to meet his sister in law, who just crossed the door.

He finds Tom in his study, over a pile of parchment. He reads sliding a finger under the letters, his nose almost touching the parchment. With a huff, he straightens his back and look at him.

“I think I might need glasses,”

“Your sight should be back to normal when you are fully recovered, in the meantime you can ask Narcissa for a pair.”

“I will do that.” He replies simply, “Today I had the chance to speak with Bellatrix, she is worried about Longbottom,”

“Longbottom is in Saint Mungo; he can’t do harm anymore.”

“And the boy? What can you tell me about him?”

Severus narrows his eyes, “He is fifteen, a few weeks ago I would had told you he is almost a squib.”

“What changed?”

“I saw him using wandless magic”

“Accidental?” he shakes his head, “Interesting”

“What did Bellatrix say?” Asks Severus, sitting in front of Tom.

“They tried to torture him; he broke the cruciatus curse”

Severus could avoid to listen with mouth agape this new information. To broke a cruciatus was unheard before. Resist it without screaming, yes, but not breaking it. And Neville was only one year old, that should be impossible.

“I will keep an eye on him, see if he represents a danger.”

Tom nods, “Are you returning today?”

“In a few hours. Narcissa gave me a few potions to continue the treatment at Hogwarts; there is too much to do to stay.”

He nods again, thoughtful. He is going to say something but think it twice.

“Be careful,” He says before returning to the parchment in front of him.

Chapter Text

He can feel his heartbeat raising as he comes closer to Dumbledore’s office. One thing is clear, it was him who infected him with dragon pox. There is no one else. Lily wouldn’t do it, and none of the kids were sick when he left.

Not a year ago he would be looking for excuses for the headmaster, saying the kids could be asymptomatic; but now he knows better. He was sent there in a sort of Trojan horse operation, and he failed. It isn’t his fault, but somehow the headmaster will make it look that way. He is not affected anymore, and not only because he has changed sides. He has been subjected to the same treatment so many times he is practically inured to it.

Or that is what he wants to believe, but lying to oneself rarely works. The headmaster still holds great power over him, and it will take years to left behind the sense of dread every time he has to inform him that the plans failed.

Now the question is, was he supposed to return alive? It is a risk he has to take. He wouldn’t forgive himself if something happens to Lily or his students if he decides to hide. Because if Dumbledore knows he survived and betrayed him, he would use them to get to him.

His stomach clenches as he holds the knob of the door, but before he can push it, someone opens it and pulls him into a tight embrace.

“My boy, we were so worried,” says Dumbledore with tears in his eyes, “if you would have let me explain it to you before going,”

“Headmaster?” He stares confused, this isn’t the reaction he expected, “Albus, it didn’t work at all, his body still works as a snake”

The headmaster lets him go in the act, “You were supposed to change his body,”

“And, as I said to you before, it will take longer than expected.”

The twinkle in Dumbledore’s eyes is gone, but he still forces a smile, “The important is that you are alive and well,”

It was strange. No guilt trip has been made and he doesn’t know how to react.

“I am sorry it didn’t work; I will try to work faster in restoring his body,” he says unsure.

“That can wait, now I need you to come with me to the infirmary”

“Albus, I am fine”

“I know you are, but Poppy might need your assistance”

They walk in silence. There are two other potioners besides him, any need in potions should be covered. The only other thing he could think of, it is someone’s sickness, but Pomfrey is an outstanding healer.

As they step into the infirmary, they hear the woman yelling. “An accident? He might lose his leg, Horace. He could had died,”

There is no response from Slughorn, and Severus can’t blame him; in all his years working at Hogwarts he has never hear Pomfrey yelling.

“Severus, I am glad you are back,” says the woman when she sees them. She gestures Severus to follow her to a nearby bed, “Neville Longbottom. His cauldron melted and an unknown substance fell on his foot. Besides the damage caused be the corrosive liquid, a toxin spread to his leg. I presume it is Boomslang venom, but who knows what else that boy put in his potion this time.”

“Boomslang venom? We do not have potions with boomslang venom in the fifth-year curriculum,”

The woman only huffs her anger, and Severus shares the feeling. No one in their right sense would let Longbottom manipulate one of the deadliest venoms in the world.

Moving aside the sheet covering the boy, he finds a swollen leg with dark purple skin extending from the foot to the thigh. He examines meticulously the wound where he supposes the liquid fell. It destroyed skin and muscle and, even if they managed to save the leg, Longbottom will never be able of walking without help again.

Rearranging the sheet, he goes to the other end of the bed. Carefully, he lifts one of the eyelids and observes the eye against a hastily cast lumus. He then moves his wand to under the nose and the mouth.

“Only the leg is compromised; it is not the venom,” he points again under the nose, “no bleeding”

The nurse gets closer and bent a little, so she can see better. She nods when confirms Severus’ words.

“Maybe not yet; but you are right, he wouldn’t have collapsed so fast. Any ideas?”

Severus shakes his head. “Do you have the recipe of what they were brewing?”

She extends a piece of parchment to him. “I had the hope Slughorn would keep an eye on the boy after so many accidents”

“So many?” He asks distracted, studying the ingredients. The venom is in low concentration, and there is nothing else potentially lethal in the potion.

“Nothing serious, but the boy ended here almost every class. Things calmed a little when they stop sharing classes with Slytherin”

“I will cast a diagnostic charm and start to work in the antidote.”

She moves aside to give him some space to work. He casts a spell of his own creation, more specific than the standard. Red ink fills the page; it is a miracle the boy is still alive, and he will have to work fast if he wants to keep it that way.

Something calls his attention. A protection spell was put on the boy long time ago. It worked transferring magic from one individual to other, usually blood related. It would explain how the boy broke the cruciatus curse at so young age.

The few words following the spell are disturbing. ‘Constant magical fluctuations’ he reads. To difference of normal magic, transferred magic can be easily stolen. It is not supposed to be there in the first place, and anyone with enough time alone with the boy could be doing it.

He keeps his eyes glued in the parchment. Longbottom always has been clumsy; an unbalanced magical core product of these fluctuation could be the cause. Someone has been feeding on the boy’s magic for a long time, and he would bet his life that someone is Dumbledore.

Dumbledore couldn’t risk his magic supply to die at the hands of Voldemort. Longbottom couldn’t be the chosen one and maim him is the perfect way of keeping him away from the battle.

“Everything fine, Severus?” Asks Pomfrey, when he stays too long staring at the parchment.

Severus shakes his head, and rolls the parchment quickly, “it is a miracle this boy is alive, I will start to work immediately.”

Chapter Text

He is so busy trying to find an antidote for Longbottom, that he doesn’t notice Lily’s absence until the afternoon of the next day. He has finally given up in his attempts to find a cure, and seeing the boy is getting worse within the hours, Pomfrey and he agree in sending him to saint Mungo.

Both Dumbledore and Slughorn adamantly oppose, so he proposes to ask for the opinion of a third potioner. It’s Pomfrey who, after sharing a confused look with Slughorn, informs him that Lily has left with her husband three days prior to his arrival.

Dumbledore is not pleased, and fight tooth and nail to keep the boy inside the school, only giving up when Pomfrey threatens with involving the press. She reminds him the ministry will be involved if Longbottom dies, and then it will be impossible to keep the newspapers out of it. Charges would be presented against Slughorn, and considering the potion isn’t in the curriculum, the whole school would be under investigation.

As she talks, Dumbledore’s brow furrows more deeply. He has never seen him in such evident state of fury, and he fears none of them will leave the room alive.

He wonders if the boy’s magic has generated certain addiction in the headmaster, and what he is seeing is the withdrawal. Longbottom has been visiting less and less the infirmary since the addition of Lily to the class, and with him being constantly monitored after the accident, he has no more easy access to his magic. It is a dangerous thought; they can’t have a headmaster with abstinence syndrome wandering around a school.

Neither he can allow the boy to continue being exploited. If Longbottom stays in there, he will drain him of all his extra magic, which is probably the only thing keeping him alive.

When Dumbledore finally accepts, Pomfrey and Slughorn are sent to make the arrangements. Severus stands by the door, ready to run but not daring to even touch the knob without the headmaster’s approval.

The man gestures a chair and sits on the other side of the desk. Severus doesn’t want to go near him, however when he sees the lips tightening and the fingers drumming on the table, he knows he doesn’t have an option.

“How did your meeting with Voldemort go?”

Severus avoid Dumbledore’s eyes. The headmaster’s mood isn’t going to get better when he tells him he was confined to a bed most of the time.

“I was sick, they isolated me,” he starts, and the drumming on the table becomes louder. He needs to give him something or it would be his end. “But he allowed me to participate in a meeting before I came.”

The fingers stop at once. A hand reaches his jaw forcing him to look straight into Dumbledore’s eyes. The old man burst into his mind, being more violent than ever. It is harder than any time before, but he creates new memories as the man explores. He allows him to see the old death eaters, those who were in Azkaban, and shows invented plans that will never be executed. In the end he is totally loss, not sure of where he is or which memories are real.

Dumbledore is patient. He waits until the world stop spinning and he is capable of moving without throwing up before speaking again.

“When will he call you again?” Severus shakes his head, fighting a new wave of nausea. “We need the information; do you believe you can return?”

“Not so soon,” he manages to say, “but in a few weeks”

Dumbledore nods. “For now, I want you to work in Mister Longbottom’s antidote.”

“Yes, sir”

He is dismissed while he is still feeling as he is going to faint in any moment, however survival instinct takes over. Putting on his feet, he walks to his quarters with long steps, only stopping once he is inside and with half of a dozen protection and privacy spells on the door. He collapses on the sofa, waiting for the nausea to recede.

It takes him over an hour, but he is finally able to walk without the fear of falling or dirtying his floors with vomit. First thing he does is asking via floo if they need any help with Longbottom. The nurse assures she has everything under control, but asks him to go to the infirmary later for a health checking; according to her he looks paler than usual. With a nod he cuts the communication, not having the minimal intention in going.

He grabs a few books with which he has been working, unsure of what Dumbledore wants him to do. The healers in Saint Mungo are clearly more qualified than him, and to interfere in their job would only be disrespectful. Still, he holds it open and put it over the table along with some notes he has taken earlier, so he could pretend to be working in the case of Dumbledore checking on him later.

If something taught him living with his father, was to stay away from addicts when they ran out of drugs. They would snap at the minimal provocation, and he doesn’t want to imagine what Dumbledore will do if he enters to his quarters and sees he is not working.

He falls asleep as soon as he puts his head on the pillow, which is surprising considering the headache he is feeling.

Two hours later a knock on the door wakens him up. For a moment he thinks in ignoring it, but it could be Dumbledore on the other side. With a groan, he steps out of bed, looking for an excuse for his dishevelled appearance. A flick of his wand and his bed is made, and he checks twice there is no sign he used it before opening.

It’s not Dumbledore who waits for him, though. It is Pomfrey.

“My apologies if a woke you up,” she says as he moves to let her in. Her eyes go to the table, “Oh, you were working,”

“I fell asleep on the chair,” replies he quickly, the lie already prepared.

She makes a disapproval gesture but doesn’t comment on it. Instead, she proceeds to summarise the situation with Longbottom.

“The healers came for him a while ago. We did not give details about the class, for obvious reasons,” she waves her hand dismissively, “and Albus is contacting his grandmother right now. Hopefully, she will consider it as the accident it was and won’t ask him to fire Horace. With your continuous absences this year, we really need a second potion master in the school,”

He may not like Slughorn, but deep down Severus knows she is right. He has spent more time outside the school than giving class, and with his side projects, they need Slughorn. Besides, he is teaching Lily, and that is reason enough for not wanting him to leave.

“I am sure the headmaster will convince her,”

Her blue eyes study him, “Is there a problem between Albus and you?”

In reflex, he crosses his arms over his chest. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. Didn’t he look a little off to you?”

“He is probably just stressed, nothing to worry about,”

She steps forward and raises her hand to touch his face. He jerks away from her, an eyebrow curving up in askance.

“You have a mark,” she says softly, lifting her wand to heal a finger mark on his jaw.

“Sensitive skin,” he mumbles moving away.

She smiles, but is a pity smile, “If you ever need to talk, I am here, Severus. Whatever you say to me, it will not be repeated without your consent.” Her voice is kind, and she makes a pause to give him space to reply. When he doesn’t, she just walks to the door, “I will be in the infirmary, if you need anything.”

With that, he is left alone in the room again. He looks at the books over the table, asking himself how his relationship with Dumbledore has changed so much, that he has to create this set-up scene, instead of explaining him he doesn’t feel well enough to work.

Chapter Text

Longbottom’s grandmother accepts not to press charges, on the condition that Slughorn will not being teaching her grandson anymore; and also, in exchange of a considerable amount of money. He only knows because Lucius visits when the school’s Board of Governors had to meet with the headmaster to authorise it. The presence of the Board also brings rumours about the suspension of the headmaster, that are fuelled when Dumbledore announces he would take a few days off.

During dinner, McGonagall informs the students that Dumbledore will be away. Severus can tell she is angry by the way she purses her lips. And who can blame her? She already has two less teachers, Longbottom’s story could leak to the press at any moment, and nobody trusted Slughorn anymore. There is also the problem with Lupin, who, as consequence of Lily’s absence, doesn’t have the wolfsbane potion, and will require a couple of days so he doesn’t risk the students. If they are lucky, the Potters will be back before that day, and will replace him as they used to, but the odds don’t look good.

Severus, on the other hand, is relieved that they don’t have a highly unstable headmaster walking freely around the school, but he keeps his opinion to himself. He knows not to cross McGonagall when she is angry or stressed, and this time she is both.

His first class after his return, he is surprised to find more people on his classroom. He double checks his schedule, because his class with the fifth years is the smallest he has; only his nine Slytherins and three Ravenclaws. Now, the room seems crowded. Most, if not all the Hufflepuffs joined; he has another four Ravenclaws; and to his absolute shock, two Gryffindor girls.

They talk loudly, and it resembles too much to what his class was before Slughorn. He doesn’t like that; he enjoys teaching kids who really want to learn, and a small class also give him more time to help slower students.

A pile with homework is already on the desk. As he goes to pick one to have an idea of their last lessons, the students make silence. They look as if they are holding their breath, expecting to be expelled from the class at any moment. He can’t do that, not if he wants to make McGonagall’s life a little easier.

“I see there are more students here, than those who signed for this class,” He says putting down a mediocre essay about the properties of Hellebore, “I will pass a parchment, and everyone in this class will put their name, house and signature in there.”

He takes a parchment and writes the date before passing it to Draco. The parchment travels from desk to desk, until a boy shyly return it to him.

“You will work in pairs today,” he hates to do that; he can’t see where each student is failing in that way. But there are too many people in the room and he doesn’t have another option. “I will go over the rules again, for those who are new.”

He sees Draco exhaling in resignation as he supports his head on his hand, and at his side Pansy rolling her eyes. The rules are common sense, and it shouldn’t be repeated, but Severus would be damned if he allows another accident like Longbottom’s happens in his class.

“First of all, you must know all the safety rules. Those who do not know them, do not make me lose my time and leave the classroom,” He makes a pause but none of them move, “you will work in silence, only speaking with your partner quietly, and about your potion. Any doubt you have, you will raise your hand and expect patiently. If your life is at risk, and you need to go the infirmary, turn off the fire and put a stasis charm first. Fail to follow any of these rules, and you will have to leave the classroom. You have until the end of the class to turn in a sample of your potion, if you do not, you will be grade with a zero,

“The potion you will work today, is on the blackboard,” he flicks his wand and the potion is written, “You know where to find ingredients, begin to work.”

They start to move to gather ingredients in a sort of chaos. Most of his old students don’t move, only Crabbe and Goyle who can push the other to make their way to the shelves. He lifts an eyebrow to Draco, but he just shrugs and send a significant look to the crowd.

“May I work alone?” Ask Draco and Theodore at the same time.

Severus nods. Both boys are careful enough to not have to worry about accidents. Also, the potion is an easy one, thus they shouldn’t have problems.

When the others finally are on their places, the old students move. They go in order, helping each other to find the right ingredients. They got used to work in calm, without petty fights that put everybody in danger. And is likely they want to set an example, show with pride they don’t work as animals, that they are better than the newcomers.

It’s been twenty minutes since the class started when the first cauldron explodes. Nothing serious, he gets in there in time to avoid the potion be spilled in the student. The girls, two Ravenclaws, have been in that class from before the accident. One of them is on the verge of tears, and Severus can make sense of what happened. She and her partner are very methodical, and haven’t had any trouble with more complex potions, that shouldn’t be happening,

A soft snigger behind them gives him his answer. He glances there and sees the two Gryffindors girls. They shared guilty looks and bite their lips as trying not to burst into laughs.

“You two, out,” he says coldly, turning to the Ravenclaws again, “Start over”

“We didn’t do anything,” Complained one of the Gryffindors. Severus lifts an eyebrow, not believing a word. “We didn’t!”

“Miss Roper, leave my class before I take points from you,”

The other girl is tugging at her robes, but Roper stays on her place, crossing her arms over her chest.

“As you wish. fifty points from Gryffindor each for endanger your classmates, thirty for disobeying -- Miss Smith, this is the moment to leave if you want to avoid more loss of points,” Smith almost runs outside the classroom, “ten for lying-”

“You can’t prove anything,” She says stubborn, her eyes filled with tears.

“And another ten for your lack of respect,” Her upper lip is quivering and Severus knows he already won this battle, “Should I continue? Or, since your lies didn’t work, are you going to try with crocodile tears?”

She turns on her heels and stalks out of the room, but before she does, he can see the tears already falling.

For a while, there is a beautiful silence, which is later replaced by whispers, and then yelling. He recognises one of the voices. It’s Draco. He internally curses and goes to see.

“You are murderers, you wanted to kill Longbottom and now you want to kill us!” Says a Hufflepuff, Finch-Fletchley, he recognises.

“You can blame us for Longbottom’s own-” Draco’s words die on his lips when he sees Severus at his side.

“Fletchley, out,” he says calmly, not even acknowledging Draco.

“That’s not fair,” protest Hannah Abbot, from the other side of the classroom.

He exhales deeply, “Ten points from Hufflepuff for interrupting the class, Miss Abbot. And please leave my class too”

Fletchley don’t give him another excuse to take more points and leaves. Abbot seems about to protest, but closes her mouth almost immediately and follows her housemate. They were lucky it was only ten points.

By the end of the class, all the houses have loss points, even Slytherin. They are too many for a single class, and he would have to split them if they want to continue in there. He first needs to make sure they want to continue, though, because he expelled six students from his classroom that day.

“Goyle, stays,” he tells the boy when he puts his sample on the table, “you too, Draco”

They are left alone, and Severus gestures two chairs for the boys, whilst he remains on his feet.

“Gregory, next time you slam a table on my class, it will not be thirty points, it will be one hundred and detention, did I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir” says the boy staring at his hands.

“Now, explain yourself. The two of you,”

“They are calling us murderers,” starts Draco calmly, “after what happened with Longbottom. They think we did something to his potion, but we didn’t. None of us were near Longbottom’s cauldron, but we were too many, it could have been anyone,”

Severus nods. They are again being blamed for something they didn’t do. He can’t blame the boys for defending themselves.

“Don’t let them get under your skin. I know is it hard, but it will be over soon.”

He dismisses them and goes to his quarters to clean up before dinner. He is tempted to skip it, but he is sure the student went to cry to their heads of houses about the big bad potion master. The spell on the door allow him to enter, recognizing his magic. He showers, and when he is finishing dressing himself someone knocks the door.

Frowning, he fastens the last buttons of his robes and goes to open. It is surprising how fast McGonagall reacted to the Gryffindor complains, considering how busy she is. ‘Perhaps is Sprout,’ he thinks as he walks, Flitwick would wait until he arrives to the great hall. However, it isn’t a teacher who waits in the hallway, but the youngest Weasley.

There is only one thing she could want to discuss with him, and it requires privacy, yet he can’t allow random students into his quarters without a good reason.

“Miss Weasley, do you realise these aren’t office hours, nor this is my office?”

“Yes, sir... I know... I just... I mean...” She stared at her hands as she talks, playing with them clearly uncomfortable, “it’s about ‘The problem’”

“Whatever you need to ask, it would have to wait until office hours,”

“Yes, but is different... It’s about... ehr... Pansy’s tutoring?”

“I will be in my office, after dinner,” He replies, hoping she catches the hint, “Now, leave before I start to take points from Gryffindor.”

“Ok,” she says disappointed.

He closes the door, finishes quickly what he has to do, and in matter of minutes he is on his way to the great hall.

A few meters from him, there is Black, apparently going for dinner too. He slows down when he sees Peeves close; lately the poltergeist has developed the habit of attack the marauder at every chance.

His suspicions are proved right when a globe with blue paint falls onto Black’s head. The paintings around laugh, none of them forgetting what he did to the fat lady a few years ago. Perhaps not all of them get along, but paints form a unity front when they are attacked.

He smiles, trying not to laugh. Making sure Black knows he witnessed his humiliation; he passes him and enter the great hall. Some students chuckle when Black enters, but a first year Slytherin walks to him.

“Are you okay, sir?” She asks in an innocent tone.

The worst part is Severus knows the innocence of the question is genuine. She is too sweet for her own good. He had hoped a year in Slytherin would toughen her up, but her housemates seemed to encourage her instead.

“What do you care?” He barks.

Her eyes fill with tears, but she doesn’t cry, “you look good in blue”

With a sneer she turns around, back to her table.

“Fifty points from Slytherin,” spat Black furious.

Severus turns to him, “That is a little exaggerate for a child who doesn’t do anything but showing concern for her teacher, don’t you believe?”

McGonagall, Sprout and Flitwick come closer too.

“Shut up, this is none of your business”

“But it is,” he says in a low, threatening tone. “if you mistreat Slytherin, it is my business”

“Severus is right, Sirius. I know miss Sullivan, and I can assure her concern is genuine.” Sprout intervenes, “Please do not take this out of proportions”

Black’s eyes widen. “I can’t believe it; you are really going to take side with the slave instead with normal wizards.

He says in a voice loud enough for the whole great hall to hear. And by the silence formed, Severus can tell that everyone understood what the dog meant.

Chapter Text

Silence reigns in the great hall after Black’s revelation. A group of students from Gryffindor looks as if they were expecting the joke to end, so they finally could laugh. He glances the Slytherin table, and is enough to know they know. They aren’t stupid. They had heard him untiringly talking about consent, and he is particularly well versed in bonds. It must make sense now. Their faces show anger, and a part of him wants to believe the anger is against Black; but most of them are purebloods. They are purebloods whose head of house isn’t even considered a human being. They have all the right to be angry.

A sneer forms on Black’s face. “And if you don’t believe me, just look behind his head.” His hand goes to Severus neck, but the potion master catches his wrist in the air. “Scared, are we?”

Black pulls his hand back, turning around and leaving. Severus follows him a second later, not wanting to see the reactions of the others. Any doubt left was cleared up by the animagus’ last words.

Once in his quarters he locks the door. It isn’t just the fact that people in the school have learnt, but also the legal repercussions of it. Some student will tell it to one of their parents at the ministry, and like werewolves, slaves must be register. Furthermore, Slytherin parents won’t be happy of a slave teaching and being the head of house of their children, and will complain, even sue the school for discrimination against Slytherin.

Someone is calling him outside the room, but he doesn’t have the strength to face reality yet. However, after forty minutes incessant knocking, he stands from the bed to open the door. On the other side, Draco tiredly look at the floor, his hand still in the air as if he didn’t realise it isn’t necessary anymore.

Severus carefully holds the hand. The knuckles are red, and the skin is broken. Nothing serious, Draco stopped banging the door in time.

With his wand, he fixes the damage and let him go, moving aside so Draco can enter.

He looks angry at him, and Severus wants to tell him that is all his father’s fault. But he can’t do that, he would never ruin Lucius’s image to Draco.

“So, that is what you will do. To hide here forever,” says the boy crossing his arms over his chest.

“Draco, I may be a slave but I still have my wand. I only allow you to be here because it is you, so say what you have to say and go away.” The boy steps back at the danger of his voice.

Draco collects himself quickly, straightening his back and smiling, “You know, I had a whole speech prepared, you just ruin it.” He sits on the arm of the armchair, “We support you, all Slytherin house. Just give us Black’s body and we’ll hide it.”

Severus is out of words. For him, his Slytherin’s opinion is all that matter, and they support him.

“You are not expecting a hug, are you?” Asks Draco worried when the potion master doesn’t respond. Severus huffs a laugh and shakes his head. “It’s not like it was surprise, after all.”

“Isn’t it? You really expected that your head of house were a slave?”

Draco shrugs. “The way you speak about bonds. We even had a betting pool; what kind of bond it was. Though I think we all lost”

“And for what did you bet?”

“Silence pact. You killed someone with someone else. But marriage bond was the most popular,” He stills smiles, and Severus can't avoid to smile back. “Don’t do that,” The potion master lifts an eyebrow, “It’s creepy”

“Do not do what?” He says without changing his expression.

“Smile, you don’t smile.”

Severus snort, “And may I know, where is my wife if I was subject to a marriage bond?”

“In the back of your house,” Answers Draco matter-of-factly. “You wanted to divorce, and since you couldn’t — because of the bond — you killed her.”

“So, in all these scenarios I killed someone?”

“In most of them.” Draco’s smile vanishes, his voice serious again, “It was my father who caused it, wasn’t he? That’s why you two fought.”

“No, Draco, our fight had nothing to do with that,” He says, surprised that Lucius has mentioned their fight to his son.

“I don’t understand. Father never wanted to give much information, but he said most of the things people knew about slaves are a myth.”

Severus nods, finally understanding why the Slytherins want him to talk with them. They are confused and curious. All of this is new for them, and is probably the only time they will meet a real slave.

“They are,” Says Severus in his best teacher voice. “My owner never treated me as a slave, never register me, so I conserve my freewill.”

“So, besides the mark, what changes?”

“It’s mostly the legal area, my rights are inexistent,”

Draco nods, thoughtful. “The others are asking. You should come with me.”

Draco doesn’t insist; he goes back to his common room in silence. Severus appreciate it, but he knows he can’t keep hiding much longer. With a sigh of resignation, he follows Draco, who seems to be purposely walking slowly. He doesn’t even have to run to reach to him, and once he is at his side, the boy returns to a normal speed.

As meerkats at the sense of danger, the Slytherins stop what they are doing to turn to him when they enter. Going to his usual seat, Severus convokes an hourglass.

“You have exactly fifteen minutes to make any question you want.”

The students gather around him as the sand starts to fall. Several hands raise, and Severus points a first-year; it’s better to start the easy answer first.

“Were you born like this?” Ask the boy shyly.

“No, I was not,” he says, trying to remain calmed, “however, my case is unusual. Most of the slaves were children of slave-parents.”

“Were?”

“Yes. Several years ago, having slaves became frowned upon, and the ministry took action on the matter and forbid selling them. Most of the owners left them to die, and those who did not kill them, made sure they could not engender more children. I am ignorant if there are still born-slaves, or other slaves in general. So far, I have never meet other like me.”

“So, having them is illegal?” Asks a confused third-year. Williams, he recognises.

“No. It is illegal to make them, and is not encouraged to have them, but laws have not changed. The law punishing the creation of new slaves is just an addition to the old law.”

“Can you revert it?”

“No, it is not a reversible process. Therefore, even if our owner is punished, we will still be slaves.”

“But they send you to Azkaban if you create one?”

“It could be just a fine, if you can probe there was consent and there wasn’t any kind of coercion. You also must probe that there was not sustained abuse. In extreme cases, you could be sentenced to the Dementor kiss. In any case you are not allowed to keep the slave”

“And what happens to them?”

Severus was starting to regret going there, “They become property of the ministry, who auction them. Currently, only the ministry is allowed to do so.”

“But what if they are gifted?”

“Gifts are allowed because of a legal loophole, and have no consequences for neither of the involved; though the creator is still punished for creating them.”

Severus notices that a seventh-year, Hover, has been frowning for a while. “Yes, Hover?”

The boy flinches. “You said if there is consent, the sentence is lighter, but who would want to be a slave on their own freewill?”

“I cannot respond to that because I do not know.”

The teenagers share uncomfortable looks. It is not an easy subject, but it is necessary. It prides him how respectful they are being; their parents wouldn’t even listen to him because he isn’t a person.

“What about your owner? Is he in Azkaban?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because he is better than the ministry. I will not delve more deeply into details about my relationship with my owner.” They nod, they know not to push.

A hesitant hand raises, just to be put down again in a matter of seconds, “Are you... are you...?” asked the boy awkward, “are you retarded?”

Severus stares at him coldly, his jaw clenching to avoid to jump on the teenager. He hates that that word, he had been called that too many times.

“Don’t be stupid. It’s professor Snape,” says Pansy as if the mention name is enough explanation.

Apparently, it is, because the boy lowers his head, “Sorry”

“Jones, next time you use that word, you will have detention for what is left of year. And answering your question, no, my intellectual capability is probably better than any of you.”

“And you are humble too,” He hears at his side.

“Draco,” he warns, “Anything else?”

“Who is your owner? Is it Dumbledore?”

“I cannot tell who is my owner, but I assure is neither Dumbledore nor anyone in this school.” He can see the disbelief in their faces, “The sigil of the family to whom I belong is carved in the skin of my neck. You may see it if you wish.”

He moves his hair, and tilts his head down so they can see. No more than thirty seconds later, he returns to his original position. He studies their reactions. Most are clueless but conformed, however Draco’s eyes bright in understanding.

“It is the Slytherin sigil,” says Smithson. “you belong to the descendant of Slytherin himself. That so cool.”

“Do you want to take my place, Miss Smithson?” The girl mumbles a ‘sorry, sir’, lowering her head.

“But what changes on you? You are still human, aren’t you?” Asks Pansy.

“Legally I am property, which means...”

“Yes, we know what that means,” interrupts Pansy, impatient, “but you are human, you are not like a werewolf or a vampire or something?”

“No, Parkinson, I am not. Nothing in my personality changes. Also, I can perfectly disobey my owner. It is my legal situation what changes, nothing else.”

The true is he doesn’t know. He was a teenager at the time; therefore, any change was blamed it to the adolescence. And he still doesn’t how much power Tom holds over him, since they are never tried to find it.

He glances the hourglass and has to suppress the sigh of relief when he sees the fifteen minutes are over. Taking it from one of the tables, he shows it to the students.

“Time is over. Now everyone to bed.” There are many complains of how early it is, that Severus ignores.

Back to his quarters he spots the head of Weasley dozing off at the side of the door. He has to look again to confirm. Yes, just her head, he thinks as he takes the invisibility cloak from her. She stirs, looking a little confused at him.

“Weasley, what in the world are you doing in here?”

“You said to meet you in your office after dinner; you weren’t there.”

He hates teenagers with their matter-of-factly tones. He hates teenagers who don’t let him rest. He hates teenagers.

Opening the door, he stands back to let her pass and then follows her inside. With a wave of his hand, he indicates the sofa. Folding her hands on her lap, she sits and sighs deeply but doesn’t talk.

“Well?”

“Did you know you can publish an advertising looking for husband for your daughter?” She says finally, “My parents are going to do that because I didn’t choice one.”

Severus sits in the armchair in front of her pinching the bridge of his nose, that complicates the situation. If the sigil works, it will protect her from the bond, but the prospect husband will feel deceived and could take reprisals against her and her family.

“Do you know when are they going to do it?”

She shrugs. “They want to make the ceremony on Easter holidays, so I do not miss class... if my husband allows me to return, of course.”

He would have to ask to Narcissa about the magazine or paper where it will be published; he doubts it will be the prophet. Perhaps find a way of avoid the publication or convince the magazine to take it off.

“Do not mention the sigil to anyone. Apparently, your parents lost their minds and it could be dangerous if they learn you cannot be married.”

“You mean they are waiting for the bride’s price.” Her hands form fists, and she fails to keep the anger out of her voice.

The bride’s price was an old tradition of purebloods. Witches were highly appraised since they were usually well educated. To difference of the sons, they never left their parent’s homes, being important assets in the family’s enterprise. The fact they wouldn’t betray them because they didn’t inherit was a plus.

“It is an option, but I do not know your parents enough to assure it. They may not even ask for money, but is better to be prepared. Also, the mark is a sign of betrayal and as I said, we don’t know your parent’s state of mind.”

“And what do I do? I can go around asking people to marry me if I cannot tell them it will be fake. Hell, even if I tell them, they probably won’t believe me”

“I assure you, Weasley, that no harm will be done to you if you follow my directions.”

He must have sound convincing enough because the girl smiles and nods, but Severus is clueless about what to do. He will have to ask Lucius and Narcissa about pureblood’s traditions, and planning according to that information.

She stands to leave, but stops half way to the door and turns to him, “Sir? May I ask a question?”

It took her long, but he hasn’t deluded himself believing the girl will not address the new revelations. He lifts an eyebrow; there is nothing he can do to avoid her to ask, and he wants to end with it soon.

“Did you ever trust Dumbledore?”

The question takes him off guard. For the tone, Severus has no doubt that she already knows about his true loyalties. He can’t denied it and then ask her to join Tom later, but if he confesses, she could go to Dumbledore. He decides to take his chances and obliviate her if he needs.

“Yes, I did.”

“When did you stop? Was it because of what happen to Harry’s parents? Was it him who did it?”

“Why don’t you sit again Weasley.”

He explains her everything from the beginning, telling her that he lived with Tom because Dumbledore took his wand and sent him to an abusive home. He doesn’t go into details, but she learns about Tom being his owner, and how their relationship developed after the bond was done. It takes her a little to understand how he can support the man who bought him, but he explains her that even the most powerful men can be hoodwinked —he did the same with Dumbledore and Voldemort after all.

“I want to help. I will not join him, but I want to take Dumbledore down,” says she when he finishes, “and I want to help you, as a thank you.”

As a spy, he has a trained eye to recognise a lie, and he sees no sign of it. After studying her for a while he gives a stiff nod and looks at the time. It’s three a.m.

“Go back to the common room, and think carefully your offer, because this will put you against your own family. For now, show me your gratitude with discretion, because after all the efforts to keep you safe, it would be a shame to have to kill you.” He needs her to be sure, but he has to avoid her to speak with Dumbledore too.

“Yes, sir.”

He returns Potter’s cloak to her and walks her to the door. Once outside, she turns to him a last time.

“I don’t know if it’ll help, but Harry is not going to forgive Sirius until you forgive him.”

Without giving him time to reply, she puts the cloak over her head and disappears.

Chapter Text

If his calculations are correct, the ministry has been already informed of the presence of a slave in the school, and will visit during the day to make a full investigation. He doesn’t bother in preparing an excuse for being there without his master, as soon as they discover the mark, he won’t be listened anymore.

About half past ten he hears the first knock on the door. The sound repeats a second and a third time, but he doesn’t open it. If they want to come for him, he will fight back.

It would have been easier to return to the manor, and stay there for good this time. He would be safe. But he can’t act as a coward now. The Slytherins would perhaps understand but Weasley wouldn’t. She would think he abandoned her, and who knows what the girl will do in her desperation.

Besides, they can’t keep him in Azkaban for long. If there is one thing good of him being a slave, it is that the right of punishment falls on his master, and Tom will never punish him for trying to defend himself.

He feels the wards being disarmed, and he grips his wand tightly. When the last one falls, he yanks open the door and attacks before the other could enter.

“Sectumsempra!”

“Protego!” yells Flitwick’s voice. “I come alone,”

Slowly, he moves to look behind the small teacher. There is no one there. He nods and Flitwick enters, locking the door behind.

“What do you want?” He asks with his wand still pointing at him.

Flitwick pockets his own wand and shows his empty palms. “Minerva convinced the ministry to come once Albus returns and not a day before.”

Severus finally lowers his wand, but keeps it in his hand. He likes Flitwick, but he will not doubt in attacking at the first sign of danger.

“Then why are you here?”

Flitwick ignores his question, staring the bookcase in the corner of the room.

“There is a great variety of books here, yet none about slavery.”

He points him with his wand again, “If you came here to criticise my selections of books, you will have to go. I have a class in fifteen minutes.”

Turning to him, the charms teacher smiles. He shows him his empty palms again, but Severus doesn’t trust; Flitwick is one of the most powerful wizards he has ever known, and he is perfectly capable of performance powerful wandless magic.

“I know you are a busy man, Severus, and I it is not a critique, merely and observation.” He sits on the chair of the desk, “I know you, Severus, and I am certain you didn’t choice slavery as a life style. So, your lack of books here means that you gave up trying to dissolve the bond, or you hide them in another place.”

Answering with the truth it’d be humiliating. There are few books about slavery, and they are not trustworthy. Those which are, are too expensive and he can’t afford them with his teacher salary. After trying for so many years, Severus has indeed given up.

“In what I spend my time and money is none of your business,”

“Do you want my help, Severus?”

His hand falls at his side with the surprise of the question. “You know- you know how to destroy it?”

Flitwick looks sad and guilty. “No, but if you let me help. I have a few contacts among the goblins, and far more knowledge in charms than you. Let me help Severus, don’t give up yet.”

He opens and close his mouth, unable to form words. He is shocked, Flitwick’s offer is too good to be true.

“What do you want in exchange?”

Flitwick shakes his head, “I am your friend, Severus, even if you fail to see it.”

“I can pay,” he insists.

“You can’t,” says Flitwick, “How much do you know about laws?”

Being honest to himself, it is very little what he knows. However, it’s clear to what Flitwick refers; slaves are not allowed to manage money.

“I will find a way,”

“I know you will, but I am not asking for it. Let me help you, consider it your Christmas present.”

He huffs a laugh, “of the next twenty years.”

“Then?”

“I would really appreciate it,” he sits on the sofa, his head tilted forward and his hand holding his hair, “the mark is there,”

He feels Flitwick behind and he prepares for the pain that accompanies the touching of the mark. Nothing comes except for a tingle. It’s not uncomfortable, just odd, and he releases a sigh he didn’t know he was holding.

“Does it hurt?”

“No, just a tingle,”

Flitwick hums at his back, his fingers touching and prodding. He feels the magic of a diagnostic charm, and then the sharp pain of a cutting spell.

Now the mark responds, and the burn hurts even more than the sharp pain of the cut. He feels nauseous, and he tries to move away from the other’s wand.

Flitwick stills him with a hand on his shoulder, “I am sorry, but I need a tissue sample,” Severus bites his lips and closes his eyes unsuccessfully trying to stop the tears of pain.

It’s more painful than the cruciatus curse. Seconds feel like hours and when the older man finally finish, he needs a few minutes to get his breathing back to normal.

“My apologies,” repeats the charms teacher, rubbing his back in circles.

He has not noticed it with the pain of his neck, but his dark mark is burning, urging him to go back. Tom probably felt his distress and is worried, but he can’t contact him with Flitwick there.

“I am fine.”

“Is he calling you?” Asks Flitwick following his eyes.

“No,”

Fliwick get down of the sofa and return to the chair, “Do you know what to expect now?”

Severus shakes his head. “Only that the ministry will make an investigation; they will look for my mark, register me and take me away.”

“They will not take you away, Albus won’t let them do something like that.”

“Right,” It was impossible for Severus to keep the scepticism out of his voice.

The other teacher frowns. “Is everything fine between you two?”

“Yes, yes,” he rushes to answer, passing a hand over his face, “I am just tired, I guess... It is hard to trust in anything these days,”

Flitwick smiles kindly, “I am sure Albus will protect you, but if it is that hard to believe, just think he can’t afford another teacher right now, and someone has to teach mister Longbottom when he returns.”

“What else should I expect?” he asks, not wanting to speak about Dumbledore anymore.

“First of all, Gringotts will freeze your account. The paperwork takes a few days, so, if you want me, I could try extract some money from your vaults.”

Tobias was a horrible father, but he taught him one thing or two. One of his most important lessons was to never trust anyone else with your money. Giving Flitwick the key to his vaults is dangerous, but he is out of options. If he appears in Diagon Alley, the ministry would take him. They are probably waiting for him to go, and that way not to have to pass through Dumbledore first.

He nods and Flitwick continues. “They will make you cut your hair, and do a full physical examination. If —and I want to be clear that it is an if— Albus asks for you to be removed from school, they would take you with them to the ministry, and try to contact your owner. After a month, they will punish you themselves for escaping and auction you.”

Severus sighs. “Why my hair?”

“Because, or well your mark must be exposed, or you must wear a collar tagged with the name of your master. Since we cannot contact your master, it will have to be the mark.”

“What else?”

“Any tittle you achieved after the mark was put will be invalidate, so I am guessing you will not be considered a potion master anymore.”

A nasal sound that could be confused with a laugh escapes from Severus. “Then I suppose I neither graduate from Hogwarts.” Flitwick stares without understand. “I was fourteen,”

“Oh.”

Before Flitwick could come with a smarter reply, he decides to save everyone the awkwardness.

“I have a class now,”

“Yes, of course,” says Flitwick jumping on his feet and walking to the door, “have a nice day, Severus.”

Chapter Text

“I cancelled your first class, Severus,” Informs him Minerva, who is sitting in the teacher’s desk, “you were late,”

It brings to his mind his first year teaching, when an exasperate Minerva McGonagall showed up in his quarters, reminding him he should be giving a class in that moment. They had a rough beginning, but with time it became a healthy competition and something close to a friendship.

“My apologies, I had something to discuss with Flitwick,” He gestures the door to his office and McGonagall follows him there, “How may I help you?”

“It is about your situation” She presses her lips and extends a piece of parchment to him, “there are some parents who don’t want their children to be taught by you,”

He studies the parchment. He only has enough students in fourth and seventh years to justify a class. Fifth can’t be dissolved because of Longbottom, but he’ll just have six students. The other groups will have to go with Slughorn, whether they like it or not. Severus nods at McGonagall. There is no point on dwelling on it; there is a high chance of being taken away by the ministry, and they’d have to change groups anyway.

“I will keep the fifth, sixth, and seventh years groups,” says he, “but make sure of telling the students that this is the last change we will allow.”

She stays in silence, and Severus knows what those silences mean.

“Just say it, McGonagall.”

“I have to suspend you as a head of house. Temporary, of course,” she tries to make a reassuring smile but fails, “Until this clears up.”

Not being the head of house anymore is painful, but he reminds himself that it’s likely he won’t be around for a while.

“Anything else?”

“Would you replace Remus this full moon? We are sending him away from the school, for safety reasons, and he needs someone to replace him for a couple of days.”

He frowns, “What about the mutt?”

She tightens her lips in disapprobation, “Sirius is suspended from all his functions until Albus returns. Apparently, hiding the presence of a... you know...” she waves her hand uncomfortable, and Severus huffs a laugh, “is illegal, and Sirius was the only one who knew about your status,”

He had forgotten about that law. Black could be accused of hiding the information in an attempt of stealing him. Slaves are property, but expensive property.

“I have nothing else to do,” he says shrugging.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The students beg him to allow them to unofficially take class with him, but he has to say no. With Slughorn have the same curriculum, but differ in their teaching methods, and they will only end confused.

They finally accept, even if grudgingly, to assist to Slughorn class always Severus keeps visiting the common room and resolving their questions. It’s a good deal, nothing he has not thought in doing already, so he goes to the common room every night before bed time.

He talks with Flitwick about apparition lessons, agreeing that is better if the charms teacher present the idea as his. Anything Severus says it’s likely to be dismissed, since slaves aren’t supposed to think. He has seen the other’s reactions, McGonagall and Sprout look uncomfortable every time they need to solve an issue with him, and the other teachers usually use a condescending tone when they speak to him. Even Hagrid had the nerve of petting his head in one occasion, causing to Severus to finally explode and curse him, with his wand and his mouth.

They will start next Hogsmeade weekend. Somehow Flitwick convinced McGonagall to let Severus teach the class. He will to do it with Lupin, but it’s better than not doing it at all.

Weasley goes to his office regularly. She is accompanied by Lovegood, and sometimes by Pansy. At first, it’s only to speak about what to do if Severus is suddenly taken away. He tells her to ask Draco to contact his parents, that they will help. Then they start to ask about bonds or magical marriage, and without realising, the questions turn into actual conversations.

At some points Weasley offers to cut his hair, adducing she has cut it to her brothers more than once. Severus, knowing the ministry will just shave his head if they have to do it themselves, accepts. According to Pansy and Lovegood she did a good job but Severus can’t confirm it, he is avoiding mirrors again.

When Flitwick comes with his money, he can’t be thankful enough. He managed to withdraw most of his money from the bank, and the few objects he kept there. One is a locket with a picture of Agatha, Tom and himself inside; Tom gifted it to him when he turned nineteen. The others are books that are too dark to keep in Hogwarts, not with meddling students and Dumbledore around.

To his displeasure, one of Lupin’s class he has to give, it’s Potter’s class. The boy stays after class, and asks about his mother. He doesn’t go into details, but he tells him they had a difficult talk and they left angry. Severus doesn’t press, sending him on his way after responding that he doesn’t know anything.

He is sure something serious happened to Lily for not to communicate with her son. It doesn’t matter if there was a fight between them, she would never leave after being so many years away from him. He will have to find out where she went when he has some time.

Two weeks after Dumbledore’s departure, he is called to the headmaster’s office. Thinking McGonagall wants to organise the apparition classes or something else, he doesn’t give it too much importance. He freezes on the door when he sees Dumbledore and another man in there.

“Severus, so glad to see you, my boy,” The headmaster looks as cheerful as always, “This is mister Turner, he is responsible on cases of slaves. He comes to investigate some accusations made against you?”

He thinks in running. He is ready to run. However, an invisible force pulls him inside and locks the door behind him. Before he can do anything, Dumbledore convokes his wand, and not for the first time he feels defenceless against him.

“Sit down, Severus.” orders Dumbledore in a firm tone.

“It is okay, professor Dumbledore,” says Turner and cast a spell. Sudden pain makes him take his hands to the back of his neck. “Turn around.” He does, knowing that any resistance will only make it worse. The man examines the mark, “No doubt, it is, in fact, a slave.”

He hears him moving at his back, and Severus turns around again. The man has a quill in his hand, and a parchment ready over the table, and stares to Dumbledore serious.

“Do you mind to answer a few questions, headmaster?”

“Whatever I can do to help,”

Turner smiles, “Do you know its real name?”

“Severus Tobias Snape. I am certain”

Severus clenches his fists, trying to control the fury growing inside of him at being called ‘it’.

“Age?”

“Thirty-six,” answers Dumbledore.

Turner nods, thoughtful, “I guess for next questions we should call mister Black.”

Dumbledore calls a domestic elf and asks him to summon Black, who arrives a few minutes later.

“Mister Black, I am Adam Turner, from the ministry.” Turner offer his hand to the animagus, who shakes it wary. “I need to make you a few questions.”

“About the slave? Of course, happy to help,” he says cheerful.

“Do you know its owner?” Turner asks and Black chuckles.

“We all do, his owner is Voldemort himself. It is his little fuck toy,”

Severus observes Dumbledore’s reaction. The old man is not happy. Black is putting him in a dangerous position.

Turner’s quill trembles in his hand, not daring to write the Dark Lord’s name on the parchment.”

“I think Tom Riddle will do it,” says Dumbledore, feeling pity for the man.

The man scribbles a few more things and roll the parchment. “I need the slave and mister Black to accompany me to Azkaban.

“What?” Exclaims Black, “I am not going anywhere, with you,”

Black tries the door but it’s locked.

“Mister Black, you admit, not only to have the knowledge about a slave hiding in the school, but also its owner and functions. You will be accompanying me for questioning.”

“If you allow me to interfere, Adam, I would like to claim custody of Severus until you resolve the issues with his owner.”

“Yes, of course,” says Turner too quickly, as not wanting to upset the headmaster, “but it needs to go to Azkaban for a full examination,”

“Wait,” says Black almost glued to the door, “why Azkaban? Can’t we do the questioning in the ministry?”

Turner sighs and lowers his head, but he can see his lips curling up for just a second. “It is just protocol, mister Black. We wouldn’t want you to escape again, would we?”

The man kneels in front of the fireplace and whispers something to the flames. Two other men appear via floo going to Black. Dumbledore choices that moment to grab Severus’ arm tightly and floo with him to an old shack

Dumbledore doesn’t let him go, guiding him outside and then to a boat that will take them to the prison. Black and the other men arrives a few minutes later, Black under an immobilizing and silencing spell.

Once in Azkaban, he endures stoically the health checking charms, and the first examination. It is when they try to undress him when he loses it. He fights and curses, and his magic gets out of control. Dumbledore has to intervene, and he is thrown into a cell after the physical examination ends.

He hears Black’s screams in the distance. The ministry doesn’t take well when someone make them looks as fools, as Black did almost three years ago. They will probably wait a couple of days before questioning him.

After a while, Dumbledore crosses the door, a kind smile on his face.

“It is over, my boy. We can go home now.”

He does not say a word. Not when he steps on the boat, not when they arrive at Hogwarts. Dumbledore keeps trying, speaking to him in soft tones even if he doesn’t respond.

“I was counting to ask for a transference of your ownership by the end of the term,” says Dumbledore as he leads him to a chair in his office, “the true is I pretended to do it a few weeks ago, but with Horace’s incident,” he waves a hand dismissively, “but now it is matter of time until Voldemort learn about this.”

His voice is calm, soothing, but Severus is frightened. A transference of ownership is what he fears the most. He’ll get to know the real extent of slavery laws if he belongs to Dumbledore.

“They will take you away,” Dumbledore puts behind him and starts to rub his shoulders, “for about a month. It is because some slaves get anxious. It will not be your fault,” He pats and scratch his head and then return to his shoulders, “but you have quite a temperament and we need to do something about that,” his fingers go to the back of his neck, and brush the mark, “if I don’t, people will start to talk. They will pressure me to modify your body,” Severus shivers; he is desperate to get away from those hands, “they will ask me if I want to remove the vocal cords, so you can’t curse.” One hand moves to the front, pressing softly against his throat, “They will ask why I didn’t remove your fingernails, so you cannot scratch.” Severus doesn’t notice that he has been scratching his dark mark until Dumbledore squeeze his right arm. “We don’t want that, do we?”

Severus knows that Dumbledore doesn’t expect an answer, but he shakes his head anyway. He hears a chuckle at his back, but it could have perfectly been his imagination.

“You will be fine once you are with me,” says Dumbledore, his fingers pressing against the mark, causing waves of pain, “and we will find a new collar, something to hide this hideous mark.”

The dark mark starts to burn. It is not a gently warm of an invitation, but the burning of old days, when going was not a suggestion. And he feels grateful for that, because the burn remembers him who his real master is.

“He is calling me,” he manages to say.

Dumbledore put his finger over the dark mark, confirming his words, “He is,”

He helps him to stand and sends him to Tom, but not before he pulls Severus into a tight hug.

“It doesn’t matter what he says, you will be mine, Severus,” he says in a tone that pretends to be reassuring, but for Severus, it is more like a warning.

Chapter Text

Severus is not in control of his actions anymore. He moves by instinct, his mind focused in finding his master.

He falls on his knees when he feels his presence and does the only thing he can think of. He begs for not to be sent with anyone else, for not to be discarded. Hands hold him by his shoulders when he tries to lean forward and kiss the hem of his robes, not letting him move at all.

His master is talking to him, but he cannot understand. He mumbles apologies, and the other kneels in front of him, putting a hand in the back of his neck. Magic hits his mark in a reassuring way. His mind is clearer now and the words finally make sense.

“Let’s go to the bedroom,” orders his master helping him to his feet.

He hasn’t strength to walk, but he finds himself doing it anyway. His master is by his side, as trying to give him support. He keeps whispering praises and encouraging words that make his chest feel warmer. The knowledge that he is pleasing him is enough for Severus to keep walking.

“Lie down on the bed, love,” says his master gently and Severus blindly obeys.

His master gets in the bed with him, passing a hand over his body and touching his shoulder, indicating without words to face him. Again, Severus obeys, his chest is warm and his mind is quiet with the reassuring words the other keeps saying.

“I will never let you go, Severus,” whispers the Dark Lord near his ear. “You are safe here.”

He kisses his forehead and he takes one of his hands to his marks again. It sends shivers down his spine and he cannot stop the moan that escapes through his lips.

“It would really make me happy if you sleep now.”

Severus doesn’t need more to fall in a peaceful sleep.

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There are a few seconds next morning where Severus doesn’t remember anything. A few seconds of absolute bliss and then reality hits him hard. A wave of nausea overcomes him and he leans to the side to throw up on the floor.

He feels a little groggy, as if he has been given a strong calming potion. There are some parts of the day before that are erased from his mind; he can’t remember when he arrived at the manor, or what happened until he found Tom. However, he remembers his desperation for finding him, and how the magic over his mark calmed and controlled him.

A hand rubs circles on his back.

“Go away.” Despite not being angry, he can’t have Tom touching him, not so soon.

Tom retires his hand and leaves the bed. “I will stay away if it is what you want but I will not leave you alone today.”

“Then do something useful and give me my wand.” He is too tired to fight and the smell of the vomit is making him nauseous again.

“Don’t you have it with you?” Asks Tom, a little confused, vanishing the mess with his own wand.

Severus searches in his pockets, then in the bed and the floor. It isn’t there. Trying to remember, he realises Dumbledore never give it back. He rubs his forehead, without understanding. Perhaps Dumbledore gave it back and he doesn’t remember.

“How the hell did I get here?” He asks looking in his robes again.

“Where is your wand, Severus?”

“Dumbledore has it,” he says, getting out from the bed, resigned it isn’t there. “I think?” He will have to keep looking, but now there are more important matters to attend, “I am going to the bathroom,”

“I-”

“You what? You will enter with me?” Says Severus leaving clear in his tone that it isn’t an option. “I am sure you took away every sharp object. So, summon a toothbrush for me and let me go to the bathroom.”

As Severus has foreseen, the mirror and almost all other objects are gone. He wonders if they were really expecting him to hang himself with a towel.

With a sigh, he relieves himself and washes his face, hoping it helps him to think clearer. He is brushing his teeth when Tom knocks the door.

“Everything fine in there?”

Severus rolls his eyes and keeps brushing his teeth, taking his time; he will not hurry up because Tom is suddenly feeling overprotective.

“Severus, are you fine? Open the door,” tries again Tom a few seconds later and Severus ignores him again.

The knocking becomes banging, and Tom sounds more and more desperate. “Severus, open the door, now!”

He does, mostly because of the tone in Tom’s voice. As annoying as it is, he can’t say his overreaction is totally unjustified; there was a time when Severus would actually try to hang himself with a towel.

“Why did you not answer?” says Tom as he confirms he is alive and well.

Severus raises the toothbrush and rinses his mouth. “I was busy,”

Moving again to the bedroom, he sits on the bed and searches for his wand again. Tom keeps his promises and stays near the bathroom door.

“I guess we need to talk,” mutters Tom, as if he is hoping that Severus will contradict him.

He stops what he is doing. Something tells him that Tom knows how he arrived there without his wand.

“I guess we do,” There are many questions in his mind, too many things happened the day before.

The bond had taken over, and for the first time he felt as a slave. Somehow Tom knew it could happen, and knew how to act. He should be angry for not being told that there is a part of him that is truly a slave, but he isn’t. He understands the need of protecting him, because he would have broken for good if he has been told as a teenager.

Tom has real power over him through the mark, he could ask for anything and Severus would comply. The knowledge of it would have been too much for his young mind to bear, especially considering that Tom was a stranger when Severus first arrived at his home.

And they also have to talk about the ministry and Dumbledore. He has to tell Tom about the old man’s plans, and they need to find a way of avoiding it, because he’d rather be dead than belonging to him.

“How did you know how to act?” He needs to start from somewhere, and Tom doesn’t look as the one who will start the conversation.

Tom sighs. “It was in a book. It said it could happen.”

“For how long have you known?” He still doesn’t feel angry but mostly curious.

“Since you were young. I never found the way to tell you, you were so convinced it was just a legal issue, and I was not sure so-”

Severus held up a hand, “Which book? Does Lucius have it?”

“He would have told you and I could not afford that. No without being sure,” says Tom shaking his head, “It was some sort of diary, written by a slave. I did not think it was legit, you always acted so different. But when you arrived last night, I knew that at least a part of it was true.” Tom points the bed, with a tired expression, “May I sit?” Severus nods in silence, waiting for him to continue, “It said, among other things, that slaves get anxious at the perspective of separation from their master.”

“Yes, Dumbledore said as much.” Tom stares at him worried. “He wants to ask for an ownership transference.”

“He will not. I will kill him myself if he ever hurt you.”

“It also said about putting magic in the mark?” Asks Severus changing the subject from Dumbledore, to the original conversation, “What happens if you do not do it?”

“You will be more anxious, and could be dangerous for yourself, and in odd occasions, to others. That is why they send the slaves to Azkaban for a while after the transference.”

“Don’t do it again. Chain me to the wall if you must, but never do that again.” Severus is waiting for a refusal, but Tom just nods. “I hated the sensation, it was like being drugged.”

“It will be as you wish, Severus,” says Tom simply.

“And how did I get here without my wand?”

Tom massages his bald scalp. “I think I accidentally summoned you. Through one of the marks, I am not certain but I was growing desperate, I could feel you were distressed.”

“Yes, they took me to Azkaban. Dumbledore asked for my temporary custody,” Severus explains closing his eyes. He can still feel the hands touching him and the cold of the cell. “You will have to reclaim me. Just blame my parents for everything and tell them I was gift”

Severus knows that Tom doesn’t like the idea. He doesn’t like it either. However, soon everything would be published in the prophet and, if nobody reclaims him, he would be considered as a gift for Dumbledore.

Tom sighs and nods. They are out of options. “But we will wait. If the book I read is legit, we will need a copy.”

“Had it something that could help?” he tries to keep the excitement out of his voice.

“It had some theories. Blood magic, too dangerous to try it without being certain. You were too young.”

Blood magic is one of the most dangerous forms of magic, and it is deathly if used by an inexpert wizard. But if he presents with the book to Flitwick, he could come up with a way of finally breaking the bond.

He stands and walks to the door. “I need to speak to Narcissa before going back,”

Tom jumps on his feet and magically locks the door. “You are not going back, Severus,”

Severus lift an eyebrow. “I have to, you know that. There are the children, and Lily.”

“No, it is an order,” says Tom serious.

“If my master orders it...” replies Severus, knowing the sentence always worked with Tom.

“I do.” Severus eyes widened. He was not expecting that, not after what happened the night before. “You said it yourself, I give the orders. You wear the dark mark by choice, Severus, and if you disobey me this time, you will have no place among my death eaters.”

Chapter Text

It’s early, but Lucius and Narcissa are already waiting for them in the morning room.

The way there is awkward. Tom promises over and over that nothing will happen to the kids, but Severus only answer with silence. It isn’t just the fact he doesn’t believe it, but also that Severus feels like a coward. He should have insisted, but Dumbledore’s behaviour disturbs him. It isn’t the first time Black acts impulsively, and the headmaster has always forgiven him before; however, this time he let them lock him in Azkaban as in a twisted version of a time out. If he treats his favourite that way, Severus doesn’t want to think in what waits for him when he returns.

Tom looks as if he is going to sigh in relief when they enter and see the Malfoys standing close to one of the windows.

Narcissa smiles, walking over to him and hugging him. She has not doing in years, but Severus will never admit out loud how much he needed it.

Lucius ruffles his hair, “I like it,”

“I need your help with Weasley,” he says ignoring Lucius’ comment and separating from Narcissa.

Narcissa waves her hand towards two large sofas near the fireplace. She and Lucius sit in one, whilst Severus and Tom use the other.

“Which one?” There is a hint of mockery in Lucius’ tone.

Severus glances Narcissa, and the sadness on her face tells him that she knows to whom he refers.

“What?” asks Lucius, all signs of joking gone.

“The girl, Ginnevra I think. Her parents want to marry her,” explains Narcissa shaking her head, and moving a little closer to her husband, “she is younger than Draco.”

Severus nods, confirming her words. “She said something about her parents advertising her in a magazine”

Narcissa sighs. “If I am correct, it is not a magazine but a list of witches available for marriage. Every pureblood girl or her parents can advertise but only pureblood wizards with intentions of marriage, can subscribe.”

“We have purebloods waiting for marriage among the death eaters,” says Tom, “and the girl is wearing the mark you created,”

Severus knows where Tom’s thoughts are going, “yes, and if the bond cannot be created, and if the marriage is illegal, the girl will be free,”

The Malfoys look completely confused. Lucius frowns and, after a while, he seems to understand.

Turning to his wife, Lucius begins to explain. “Severus and I created a sigil that should prevent any kind of bond.” He looks Severus and Tom again, “I am guessing you put it on this girl when you learn about her parents wanting to magically marry her.” Severus nods. “And now, you two want to fake a wedding? You remember the sigil has never been proved, do you not?”

It’s clear that Lucius not only doesn’t agree with the plan, but he is also getting angry at them for proposing it.

“I examined it, it should work,”

“Should? Did you try to marry to a pig to test it, Tom?”

Severus cannot believe how disrespectful Lucius is being with the Dark Lord. Not six months ago he would tremble at the sole mention of his name.

“No, I did not. But we are smart, and strong enough to deal with any eventuality that may occur.”

The grey eyes of Lucius lock with Tom’s brown ones. “Because we have never overestimated our power before.”

Tom looks aside, and Severus feels a pang of shame too. He was about to do the same it was done to him. Tom confessed him once that the plan with him was to make the bond and then undo it when he was safe.

“Enough,” Narcissa calls, putting a hand in Lucius’ shoulder. “We will do the things right this time. The Dark Lord will ask someone to subscribe. With a little of luck, they will put something incriminating —as the date they want to marry her— and we can sue them. The Black and the Weasley have common ancestor, I think we can ask for the custody.”

The three men nod, that is certainly a better plan.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After much begging, Narcissa lends him her wand for the afternoon. He has to swear on his magic he won’t take it near Hogwarts first, but Severus has no plans to do so. There is something more important on his mind: Lily. She is missing and he can’t wait until he has his wand back to look for her; there is always the possibility of being locked once he returns to Hogwarts.

Cokeworth seems as a good place to start. Petunia’s house has wards against dark wizards, and he supposes Potter’s properties also have them; he can’t think in anywhere else where she would go.

He has not visited his parents’ house in years, there are too many bad memories in there. But Lily might have tried to find him —because Severus hopes she knows that she can always count on him— and her magic would leave a trace if she did.

The spell is relatively simple, and in less than five minutes it is done. She has not used magic anywhere near.

Between relief and disappointed, he walks away from the house, but not before noticing there is a broken window. Whoever entered was probably traumatised for life with what they found; he can’t imagine his parents cleaning up before leaving.

He tries in Lily’s childhood home and the park where they meet with no results. He even looks in her old school and nothing. Resigned she wasn’t there he prepares to return to the manor and planning how to sneak into Potter’s properties.

The broken window still bothers him. A sudden sense of property overwhelms him. The house he lived in when he was a teenager is Tom’s, the manor belongs to Lucius and Narcissa. He doesn’t have anything of his own except that house.

He returns to the house, but freezes at the door. The hand clenches tightly the wand, despite knowing the people who harm him isn’t there anymore. He stays there for long four minutes, and then pockets Narcissa’s wand again. It’s not worth it; he won’t sacrifice his mental health for his parent’s home, because that place will never be his home.

A weak voice comes from the back of the house, “Sev?”

It’s Lily, even if the voice sounds strained, he can tell. He moves in her direction, and finds her curled in a corner. She had puffy, red eyes, dishevelled clothes and hair, and a dirty face. Wondering for how long she has been there, he kneels at her side.

“What happened?” He asks softly.

She shakes her head. “I didn’t know where else to go.”

“How did you get here?”

If she had apparate, there should be a magical trace.

“Bus.” She bites her lips. “I didn’t want James tracking me”

Severus sighs in relief, at least the problem isn’t her magic.

“What happened?”

He tries hard not to judge James without knowing all the facts, but he fails. He already wants to kill him for whatever he has done to his friend.

Lily takes a deep breath. “We- we killed Petunia.”

Chapter Text

“Why?” There is no judgement in his tone. He has killed too, and he knows sometimes there is no other option.

“She hurt Harry”

Lily then explains him that her son disclosed that Petunia was abusing him. Furious, both parents went to confront her, just to find the woman and her husband under a curse. It was the opposite to a love potion, and it was so strong that doing anything to modify it would kill them. They tried to do it anyway, to James insistence. Vernon died immediately, but Petunia survived for a few more minutes.

“She was so sorry when she was back on herself, Sev, but she didn’t want to die.” She starts to sob and he reaches her hand to comfort her. “And James was so calmed, he even looked happy. He said they deserved it.”

“What did you do with the body?”

She withdraws her hand brusquely and glares at him. “I am telling you my only sister is dead and you are worried about the body? What is wrong with you? You are just like James!”

The comparison hurts, but starting an argument where the dead of two people is the main subject won’t help. Anyone could be listening to them, and she is confessing a murder.

Seeing her raising her voice, he apologises. “I am sorry, you are right. I just don’t want you to get in troubles.”

She runs her hand over her face. “James said he will take care of it. He seemed to have experience; I don’t know. Whom did I marry, Sev?”

During the first war, aurors were known among the death eaters for using the most inhumane ways of torture, especially if they didn’t have proof. Bellatrix was one of their victims, from there comes her hate towards Longbottom. They rescued her before they could kill her and make the body disappear. Many of their friend weren’t so lucky.

But Lily is an auror too, she knows how they work. He doesn’t like to think in his friend torturing people for fun, and he is grateful she didn’t participate.

“To someone who killed people for pleasure,”

“James never did that!” Says she, clearly knowing about what he is speaking, “He didn’t harm innocents”

“Aurors tortured and killed people.” She is pressing her lips together and glaring at him. “Sometimes they killed them unofficially”

“Death eaters!”

“People, human beings. You tortured them legally, but sometimes it wasn’t enough. You might have never participated, but when there wasn’t enough proof to take someone to Azkaban, some aurors took justice into their own hands.” He will never apologise for telling the true about the aurors, not even for Lily.

“Death eaters!”

“My friends,” he says coldly, thinking in Wilkes whose family buried an empty coffin. Lily opens her mouth in surprise, not used to Severus talking to her in that tone, “Lily, those were my friends. I met their families, they gave me presents on my birthday and Christmas, helped me with my homework and woke me up when I had a nightmare. They were there when no one else cared.”

She looks down and mumbles, “I cared”

“I know, but you had other friends, I had the same right.”

“I am sorry,” she says almost in a whisper, “I didn’t mean to say that it was right what they- we did. They made you believe that but I had some time to think while I was locked in that cell.”

“You did participate.” He feels disappointed in her; he had hoped that Lily were better than the others.

“Yes, but I never tortured anyone. They said I didn’t have the guts. I just watched.” A tear rolls down her cheek, “I never thought they used James to hide the bodies.”

Severus is certain that James was in no way forced to do it. He had gloated in several battles about what he did to Wilkes, and how they couldn’t prove anything.

“I will take you to an hotel, where you can rest.”

“Not Hogwarts?”

“Not Hogwarts,” he confirms to her, taking her arm.

Before she can make further question, he apparates near the hotel of the town. A simple confundus and the owner gives them the key of the suite room.

He puts as many wards as he can in the door while she showers. Once Lily learns about what happened in school, he cannot keep lying to her any longer. She will know about his true allegiances, and he needs to make sure she won’t betray him. In the meantime, nobody can enter or leave the room.

When she talked about James, he noticed something in the way she defended him. She still loves him, and anything he says, will be repeated to her husband when she forgives him.

“Why not Hogwarts?” She asks as she leaves the bathroom in clean clothes and sits on the bed.

“You tell me,”

“Dumbledore does not know you are here, does he?” She answers evasively, swinging her wand between her fingers.

“If you want to go there,” he says, pointing his wand towards the door. He is bluffing, but he is pushing her to give more information. He needs a leverage, anything that ensures him to live enough to return Narcissa’s wand.

She jumps on her feet and runs to him, putting a hand over his arm. “Wait!”

He pockets the wand and turn to her. “Yes?”

“I don’t think it was Voldemort. I think Dumbledore is behind of everything.”

She looks at him expectant, her right hand clenching her wand.

“And you are right,”

He explains her everything, from the beginning, repeating his history with Tom and giving her more details; telling her how he changed sides just to change them again. She makes a lot of question, asks him for the recipe of the potion to return his sanity, and the one to heal his compulsion.

Severus shakes his head, “We have not found a way to cure it, but it is under control. As long as your son stays away from his sight, he should be safe.”

He proceeds to tell her that Black revealed his status as a slave, and that he was registered in the ministry. She shows concern for Black going to Azkaban, and for how Dumbledore is reacting to all of it.

The news about Weasley enrage her, but he omits the part where they already found a solution. The less people know about it the better, they can’t risk to her telling about the plan. If the parents learn that they will accuse them of abuse, they will find a way of looking for a husband that doesn’t expose them. He asks for absolute discretion, to what she just nods.

“We need to get Sirius out of Azkaban,” she says after a few moments of silence, “it is not good for him to be there,”

“They will let him go soon; they can’t arrest him for this. Tom has not presented charges against him, so they only have him for holding information. It will be a fine at most.”

She looks upset, but Severus is not risking his life and freedom for Black.

“I have to take Harry away from there. And the same with Ginny,”

“If you do that, and you are found, she will be sent to her parents again.”

Her lips curve in a sad smile as she puts a hand over his shoulder. “The Weasley will never do to their daughter what your parents did to you,”

“Would you bet Weasley’s life to that?”

She retires her hand, “Severus, I know Molly and Arthur since forever, they are lovely people. I can’t imagine them doing something like that”

“People who pretends to marry their daughter, do you know them enough to have imagined that?” He says acidly.

He is getting tired of her stubbornness. The ability of seeing the good in people was one of the things he admired about Lily. It was the reason she had given a chance to their friendship, and why she gave him a second chance after their fight. But her naivety needs to stop. Not everyone is a good person and he doesn’t want the irreparable damage of a girl teaching her that.

She sits in silence, biting her lip, refusing to look at him.

“Lily, you have not seen them since before you were kidnapped. They changed on those fifteen years.” She crosses her arms over her chest. Severus sighs loudly. “They could be under the same spell that Petunia”

She seems to react to those words. Uncrossing her arms, she stands with determination. “You are right. We need to find a way to break the curse safely.”

He doesn’t remind her it is a possibility, resigned she is not going to change. “I can’t go to Hogwarts with you, but I will be there as soon as I can.”

Noticing her physically and mentally exhausted, Severus convinces her to go to bed. She has several nightmares, but refuses to tell him what she was dreaming about, though it’s not hard to imagine. It’s still dark when he wakes her up, the warm on his arm reminding him he has to return soon. She understands, thanking him for let her rest for at least a few hours.

“Where are we going first?” She asks.

Severus thinks carefully. “First, to look for the idiot of your husband and see if he did a good job hiding the bodies.”
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It’s simple to find James. Lily just have to use her magic outside the wards and no more than ten minutes later, her husband arrives.

The man is in no better condition than Lily was when Severus found her, though he looks happy to see her. His suspicions are confirmed when Lily runs to hug him; she still loves him and she will repeat everything Severus told her to him.

She leads him into the room as he talks.

“Lily, where were you? I thought something had-” His eyes land on Severus, “What is he doing here?”

“It’s fine James, he is here to help.”

“Help in what? You- you told him,” he accuses her giving a step back.

Severus rolls his eyes. “Do not be so dramatic, I am not going to send you to jail after going through so much troubles to free you,”

James seems taken aback by Severus’ response. He glares at him, his right-hand clenching at his side. “I saved your life when we were young, but I am not going around throwing it in your face”

“Did you really?”

“Severus, enough!” says Lily, putting herself between the two of them. “James, Severus will not say a word, he just wants to help.”

“I couldn’t be more excited in working with you,” says Severus in a plane voice.

“Severus!”

“Fine.” James takes Lily’s arm and softly pulls her to his side. “What do you want to know?”

“What did you do with the bodies?”

“As if I am going to tell you

“James!”

“What!” Replies James.

Severus recognises the tone, it’s the same his father used with his mother. Before Lily could respond, he grabs James’ by the neck and pushes him against the wall.

“You don’t talk to her like that,” hisses Severus two inches from his face.

There is terror in James’ eyes. He nods as he can, taking his hands to Severus arm. Severus lets him go, giving some time for the coughing to subside.

James’ voice sounds hoarse once he can talk again. “I am sorry, Lily, I am just stressed with all of this.” He looks at Severus, “I am not like that.”

“You better keep your stress at bay,”

James nods. “I burned them and put a spell on the house. Nobody will notice they aren’t there at least they go inside.”

“Dudley will come to an empty house this summer,” whispers Lily shaking her head. James passes an arm over her shoulders. “I promised Petunia I would look after him.”

“I will arrange someone to pick him up when this term ends.” says Severus. Potter did the right thing, but sooner or later Dumbledore will notice something happened and they will try to take the boy. “Then we will send him abroad. He will be safe.”

“Okay,” she says weakly.

“What about Dumbledore?” Asks James.

“Dumbledore cannot know any of this,” warns Severus, his hand going to his wand, willing to curse James if he contradicts him.

“Of course. But what do we tell him?”

“Where did you say you were going?”

“Potter manor. It has been abandoned since we were captured.”

“Go to the manor. Fix what you need to fix there and then go back to Hogwarts. Do not go directly because Dumbledore will know you weren’t in there. Make sure you are not seeing when you enter, but make as much noise as you can when you leave, I am sure Dumbledore have someone watching the house.” He walks to the door, “Obliviate the owner when you leave. I will be at Hogwarts as soon as I can.”

Chapter Text

“My apologies for taking so long in returning it,” he says to Narcissa, passing her wand to her. “Lily was not well, her sister died and she had a fight with her husband. I took her to an hotel room”

She lifts an eyebrow. “Did you?”

“Not for that!” Replies he as his cheeks turn red. “She needed to rest.”

She chuckles softly, her fingers stroking the wood of her wand in a loving way. She waves it, spelling a bottle to fill two glasses of wine. “Join me for a drink, would you?”

The first rays of sun are entering the morning room. It is too early to drink. However, she has greeted him on her dressing gown. If the matter to discuss is so urgent that Narcissa Malfoy didn’t have time to dress properly, he will need that drink.

“I heard Macnair and you have unfinished business,” she says as they take their glasses and sit on the sofas.

Severus curses himself. He has been so busy that he has forgotten about Macnair. Without his wand there is little he can do. Tracking him down will take time and he can’t ask Narcissa for hers for so long. Not to mention he will have to return to Hogwarts soon.

“I will deal with him later,”

“That will be no longer necessary,”

She stares at him, as waiting for him to protest. A part of him wants to do it. Macnair is his, it’s his game, not hers. But it’s true he neglected the ‘hunting’ for too long, and it will be a while until he can dedicate time to it.

“What did you do, Narcissa?”

“I just kept an eye on him, but I lost his track last week. He appeared again yesterday.”

Severus needs a moment to process what she is saying. “You followed him without your wand? Do you know how dangerous that was?”

“I have a spare wand, Severus,” says she as it were obvious, “I reserve it for those cases where laws and I do not agree,”

For much he hates James Potter, he is grateful he didn’t have to deal with the bodies himself. Narcissa would not have been so understanding if he had used her wand to commit a crime.

“And you killed him?”

“No, someone did it first.” She wrinkles her nose. “They dismembered the body.” She rises from her seat, and goes to the corner table. “They left a note for you.”

With a handkerchief, she takes a piece of parchment. After giving it to Severus, she sits again in silence, giving him some time to examine it.

Severus can understand now her reaction of disgust. The parchment is written in what seems to be blood. He brings it closer to his nose. Definitely blood, and it smells fresh, probable a spell. Without a wand and a sample from Macnair, he can’t confirm it is his, but he thinks it’s safe to assume it is. The message is short, ‘Even mutes can talk’.

“Well, I guess someone has incriminating material against me,” he concludes, leaning back on the sofa and staring at the white ceiling. “What do you say? Did they extract his memories somehow?”

“I cannot think in anything else. How much do they have?”

Severus gives a loud sigh and runs his finger through his hair. “Not much, I guess.” He sits with his back straight again. “Torture, for what I did to his tongue, but nothing else.” Nothing else about him, but he remembers he wasn’t alone when the events occurred. “This could affect Lucius. I am sorry.”

Being sorry doesn’t fix anything, and he expects Narcissa to remind him of this. To yell at him and kick him out of her house. But the woman just nods and smiles in understanding.

“I told you just because I thought you should know, but I was looking into old cases and memories have never been used as conclusive evidence. They will confront both versions, and Lucius is proficient enough in occlumency to modify his memories.”

Problem and solution. He can only count in Narcissa for that. “Thank you,”

“You are welcome,” she says. “In other news, the Dark Lord wants to make an unbreakable vow—”

“I told him it will not work,”

Narcissa sends him a stern look. “Do not interrupt me, Severus.” Feeling like a scolded teenager, he lowers his head and reaches for his glass, taking a long sip of his wine to remind himself he is an adult. “As I was saying, the Dark Lord wants to make an unbreakable vow with Lucius,” He looks at her without understand. “To assure your safety.”

He frowns. It sounds too easy to be true. “Will it work?”

“We have found precedents of unbreakable vows being used to protect almost anything. Unborn children, pets, objects, domestic elves. They all worked,” says she, standing again and passing him a stack of parchments. “The link will not form if it doesn’t work. In the worst case, nothing will happen.”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
It takes them three days to prepare everything. The wrong words could be used against them if someone learns about the oath, so it’s important to choose them carefully. They don’t want Tom dying because he steps on Severus’ foot one day, but they will need a way to kill him if his insanity returns.

Narcissa is the first in mention it, and Severus can see the fear crossing Tom’s eyes when she does. But they have to admit an instant death if Voldemort returns is not a bad idea. Tom agrees easily, insisting that he rather be dead than harming Severus again.

Tom wants to make a ceremony with formal clothes and in a significant place, but Severus refuses. He wants to get over with it quickly, still doubting it’ll work. A formal ceremony would raise hope, and Severus can’t deal with broken hope anymore.

The library right where they are working seems as good as any other place. Tom doesn’t insist with his idea, admitting that he wants to do it as soon as possible too. Even so, they move the tables to have a little more space, and Tom dims the lights for ambience.

Narcissa pulls him outside before they could start. She stares at him in a way he only has seen her staring at Draco before, her hand softly squeezing his in a reassuring way.

“Severus, whatever happens inside, you are not forced to do anything.” His hair is now too short to tuck behind his ear, but she tries anyway. “You do not owe him anything. You deserve this for what he did. You know that, don’t you?”

He doesn’t understand. Tom is doing this because of him, so one day they might be together. An oath is not something that could be taken lightly, and in spite of all their preparation, there is always the possibility of Tom dying by accident.

“Narcissa, I-”

“Just promise me you won’t do anything with him tonight, neither you will do anything as a sign of gratitude.”

Severus’ face turns hot, knowing what ‘anything’ means. He doesn’t want to go further into the conversation, so he says the words she wants to hear. “I promise”

They enter again. Tom and Lucius, who are already standing in front of each other, send them a questioning look. Narcissa just shakes her head and walks towards them. They join hands and Narcissa puts her wand in place.

Tension hangs heavy in the air. They will know immediately if it doesn’t work. No magic would come out from Narcissa’s wand if the links doesn’t form. Severus tries to convince himself that doesn’t matter, that it will be just another failed attempt, but he is holding his breath when the ceremony starts.

“Tom,” says Lucius, but is barely a whisper, “do you swear to never purposely harm Severus, nor inflict harm to others with the same intention?”

“Yes, I swear.”

Severus lets his breath out when the first tongue of fire comes out from the wand. It worked. He can feel tears prickling the back of his eyes, and he has to bite his lips to stop them from falling.

“Do you swear to never take any action against Severus, being because of abandonment, disobedience or as a punishment for any other reason?” Continues Lucius, this time with more confidence.

“Yes, I swear.”

A second tongue of fire interlocking with the first. In the red glow, he can see a tear rolling down Narcissa’s face. Only one more question and the bound will be created.

“Do you swear to always treat Severus with respect?”

Tom had wanted to include ‘with love and respect’, but it’s a risk they cannot afford. If Tom falls in love with anyone else, that would be the end, the war would be lost. He can live without Tom’s love, he had done it for years, but they can’t have Dumbledore ruling the world any longer.

“Yes, I swear.”

The last tongue of fire joins the other two and the oath is sealed.

Chapter Text

The oath is done. Now he is the one who holds power over Tom. If he wanted to kill him, he only needs to make him lose his temper, and Severus is an expert in making people lose their tempers. This time he is free to choose what to do next, and that freedom is overwhelming him.

He feels numb. They talk to him, but he doesn’t respond. They shake him by the shoulders but he is still staring at the emptiness. He doesn’t know what to do next. The conversation with Narcissa has given him something to think about. The relationship with Tom will never be the same, no after all they have gone through, but they still love each other. Sometimes love is not enough, but now Tom can’t force him, it doesn’t matter how stronger than him he is.

Several minutes pass, until he finally can move. He slowly focuses his eyes on the others, who look scared at him. Narcissa reaches for a potion, a calming draught, but he rejects it.

“Can I speak with Tom in private, please?”

“Yes, of course,” says Lucius and, as they exit the room, Narcissa sends him a warning look. Severus nods, he won’t break his promise that night.

“How do you feel?” Asks Tom, “Are you sure you do not want the potion? Brandy? Whisky?”

“No.” He answers, more concerned about Tom, and how all of this is affecting him. He remembers how it was when he first learnt about the bond, and realised his life didn’t belong to him anymore. “How are you?”

“I do not know. It does not feel any different.”

He reaches up to brush Tom’s cheek with his fingers. The skin feels warmer now. He is in the last stages of his transformation, and his body will be completely human in a few days.

But it is not his physical appearance what worries him the most. It’s been a while since the last time he saw the red eyes, but it doesn’t mean the insanity isn’t there.

“What happens now?” Whispers he, still with his hand on his cheek.

“It will be as you say, I will not start to courting you without your consent.”

“Courting me?” Severus repeats frowning, and then burst into laughters., “I am sorry Tom, last time I check, I was far away from being a damsel looking for marriage.”

“You know what I mean,” says Tom as his cheeks dye in red, “what do you say? Do I have your consent to courting you?”

It is the question he is making to himself. He knows that Tom is a hopeless romantic, and he doesn’t want to give him false hopes if he changes his mind.

However, it is what he misses from Tom. The dinners together, breakfasts in bed, or just having someone with who to talk about everything. All of that will be lost if he says no. They deserve to at least give themselves a chance.

“Only if you want to,”

Tom smiles as a child on Christmas, and Severus realises he has not seen this happy since they were together the first time.

“Give me your arm Severus, I think it is time to remove that mark and rule the world as equals.”

Severus gives a step back. “No.”

“Severus, I have been thinking it for a while. Even if our relationship does not work—”

“Twenty years ago, I took the mark willingly,” Severus interrupts him. He also has been thinking it for a while and the dark mark could be more useful than what they give it credit for. “and you take a mark a few years later also willingly. Both marks are connected and I think that connection is what brought me back to you without my wand.”

“It could be the other mark. This is not my old body, and the mark didn’t appear again.”

“But you could feel it. When I scratched my mark, you felt it.”

Tom is frowning. Then he takes Severus’ left arm and pass his wand over it. Warm surrounds the area around the mark and Tom’s hand goes to his own chest. It is where the mark used to be and it is working. Tom points to his chest. It feels like splashes of water against the warm skin. Both of them smile. The connection still exists.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After several failed attempts, Tom learns to summon Severus at will. They never know when it can be useful, especially considering he will be back at Hogwarts soon. He has given up in trying to convince Tom, his ex-lover is stubborn and anything he says will fall on deaf ears, but Severus needs to make sure Lily and the children are fine.

Lily must escape from Hogwarts with her son, and they can’t plan anything without talking in person. Letters would be intercepted, and she or her son would be in danger.

He finds a way of talking with Lily without unnecessarily risking himself. It will be during Hogsmeade weekend, and he will use the occasion to ask her if it’s safe to go back to Hogwarts. Depending on her answers, he will either go back to the manor, or he will go inside the castle when they are all returning from the town. It’ll buy him some time. Dumbledore won’t know he is there until a teacher tell him, and for when he has to meet him, he’d already have collected his things. At the first signal of danger, he’ll cut over the mark and Tom will summon him back.

“What are you thinking?” Asks Tom at breakfast, putting his hand over his.

Severus always withdraws his hand when they are with Lucius or Narcissa, but now he just smiles back at Tom. He is nervous, in a few hours he will be back to Dumbledore.

Narcissa stands from her seat and leaves the room, slamming the door behind her.

The men share a look of confusion. She has been acting strange since the oath, and it has something to do with his relationship with Tom. Lucius is going to follow her, but Severus indicates him with a gesture that he will go this time.

“Narcissa, wait!” He calls her when he reaches her in the hallway, “What was that about?”

She turns around, her glassy eyes looking furious at him, “So, you are together now”

“Nothing has happened between us. He is not taking advantage of me if that is what you are worried about,” he says confused, thinking in his promise, though she looks more angry than worried in his opinion, “we are going slow;”

“But you forgive him,” she accuses him in a low tone, “So easily. After all he has done, after he abused you and almost killed you, you forgive him,”

It wasn’t so easy as Narcissa says, but Tom has taken an oath, an oath for which he could die. If he does as much as slapping Severus in a minute of insanity, the oath would activate. If that is not an apology, he doesn’t know what is.

“It was not so easy,” he says, still not understanding her behaviour. “I thought you were fine with this.”

“No Severus, I am not fine with almost losing you,”

“He changed.” The words leave a bitter taste in his mouth as he remembers it’s the same excuse that Lily uses when she talks about her husband.

“Tell that to Regulus!”

He flinches at the words. The death of Regulus was totally unexpected. He spoke with his cousins the day before, and besides feeling worried for his elf, there wasn’t any indication that something was wrong. Next day the date of decease was written under his name on the Black’s tapestry.

“Cissa, we do not know if Regulus’ dead was caused by Voldemort.”

“I am afraid it was,” interrupts Tom from behind him, “and I think it is time for a long, overdue conversation between Narcissa and me.”

Narcissa beckons Tom to follow her. They walk down the hallway, and he watches them disappear through one of the doors at the end.

His eyes meet Lucius when he turns around. “They will be fine. He knows he will hurt me if he hurts her. She is safe.”

“I know,” says his friend simply.

They go back into the room again. The plates are still over the table, likely warms thanks to a spell, but neither he, nor Lucius are hungry anymore.

He sits in a chair and sighs. “She was fine with it before. She even looked amused by us.”

“She was amused because you ignored Tom, and that was a small punishment for what he did. But now you are willing to start a relationship, you can’t blame her for feeling betrayed.”

“If she just had told me,”

“At times not even I understand her, and we have been married for over twenty years.”

He sighs again. He won’t pursue a romantic relationship with Tom without Narcissa’s blessing, he owes her at least that. And he will try to convince Tom to leave the house, perhaps go back to theirs. Hopefully, they will come to an agreement, because there is not better healer than Narcissa, and they will need her if they want to defeat Dumbledore.

It is nearly the hour. According to his calculations, Lily should already be in Hogsmeade, and they have to plenty of things to discuss before it’s time to return to the school.

“I am going out for a walk,” he announces, rising from his chair and walking to the door.

He can’t apparate, so he will have to go through floo powder. It’s dangerous going without a wand, but if he asks to Lucius and Narcissa for theirs, they will make him swear on his magic he won’t go near Hogwarts. And he can risk to lose their wand if something goes wrong. Who knows what crimes were committed by those wand, and if they could be somehow linked to the Malfoys.

The fastest he can, he hides in the drawing room. It is not hard to open the floo network to go anywhere, since is the one they use for visitors.

“Am I interrupting something?”

He curses his luck. Lucius is at the door and the tone in his voice tells him it will be difficult to convince him to let him go. In the best of the cases he will offer to accompany him in his ‘walk’.

“I told you, I am going out for a walk,”

“You have enough place to walk here,” says Lucius summoning the bag of floo powders from his hand, “Going anywhere is too dangerous,”

He huffs in exasperation. “Then you should put the collar back,”

“Severus—”

“That is what I am for you, aren’t I? A dog that must be tied to a wall. You hate when I think on my own, and I have no doubt you would like to make the bond for yourself—”

“Shut up,”

“—why don’t you ask Tom for a transference? You know what, I think you already did and—”

“Shut up!” Lucius says, tears running down his face. It is the first time he sees Lucius like that, with his shoulder convulsing with the sobs and eyes tightly shut, as if the memories were too painful. “I didn’t want to do it; I was an idiot. I thought it will be easier to break it.”

Severus doesn’t know what to do. He expected to start a fight and not to break Lucius.

“I know,” he whispers, trying to calm his friend.

“I was desperate, I didn’t know what else to do. I never wanted this and I am so sorry, Severus, I really am. I regret it and I have been trying to make it up for you all these years. You have to believe me. Please, believe me”

It is the first time he hears Lucius begging, and he wishes he had never done it. “I know you did. You did your best,”

“Sometimes our best is not enough.” says Lucius collapsing in a chair.

It’s getting late, but he can’t leave Lucius in that state.

“Lucius, I do not blame you.” He kneels in front of Lucius, keeping his tone soft. “I should not have thrown that to you, I would not be alive if it weren't for you. I would not have studied. You have been the only one who had been by my side even when I was not able to see it.”

Lucius cleans his eyes with the sleeve of his robe, his voice a little hoarse. “Where were you going?”

“There is a cabin, near the old house, I liked the place so I built it. It is connected to the floo network.”

“Outside the property?” Asks Lucius frowning.

Severus shrugs, “I needed a place where to go when I fought with Tom. It does not belong to me, but it was a good place to stay until things calmed”

Lucius nods. “You use the mark if you see anyone else. Wizard or muggle.” He gives the bag back to Severus, who hastily takes it and goes to the fireplace. Before he could throw the powders to the fire, Lucius calls him. “Severus, promise you are not going back to Hogwarts.”

“I promise I am not going back to Hogwarts,” The lie slips easily off his tongue. Lucius has always forgiven him in the past, and he hopes this time won’t be the exception.

Chapter Text

It is not a complete lie. He repeats to himself as he leaves the Hog’s head. The cabin exists, and he went there after his talk with Lucius. He had to go, if he didn’t, Lucius would have heard his true destination and locked him in the manor for good.

His hood is up to cover his face. The Hog’s head is a fairly discreet place, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of risks. Students go there all the time to try the fire-whisky and other alcoholic beverages. Besides, it is run by Aberforth Dumbledore, and he doesn’t know how is the relationship between the brothers lately.

People doesn’t pay much attention to him as he walks, the day cold enough to use his cloak. He spots several teachers watching the students, more than usual, but he manages to stay away from them. Lily is with her son and friends near the three broomsticks, her husband far away, talking with Black and Lupin.

Hiding in the Shrieking Shack, he observes her in the distance. Granger and she appear to be engaged in an animated conversation, while Ronald nudges Harry as he points at something. Severus follows their gazes to where a group of slytherins are chatting. He notices it is Draco’s group, and he also notices that Ginnevra and Lovegood are among them.

Ronald seems impatient, and Severus sees his chance when the boy gets tired of glaring, and walks towards them. He recognises a fight when it is about to start, and this is not an exception.

His friends follow him, leaving Lily behind; but there are still other teachers watching her. Ronald grabs his sister by the arm, while his friends try to stop him. Draco intervenes too, and the fight starts. He is not sure who gave the first blow, but he sees all the teachers going to the place.

Luck is on his side. Lily pass relatively close to the shack for him to grab her from behind and to drag her inside. He covers her mouth so she cannot scream and takes away her wand.

“It is me,” he whispers to her ear and waits for her to calm down before letting her go.

She glares at him. “What a wonderful way of greeting you friends. Really wonderful, Severus.”

Severus lifts an eyebrow. “Were you expecting an invitation card?”

She shakes her head with a smile. “Are you okay? What are you doing here?”

“We need to find a way of getting you out of here. You and your son can stay in the manor.”

“And James?” She asks and Severus shakes his head. She crosses her arms over her chest with an angry frown. “No, Sev, I am not leaving James.”

“Then I cannot help you with this.”

He hates to say no to Lily, but he won’t provide accommodations for James Potter. First would be James, and then Lupin and Black. He can trust Lily, and if he has to leave the manor, he can take her with him, but not to James, and certainly not to Black or the werewolf.

“I don’t understand, Severus. You insist we are friend, but when I need you — when I really need you, you put that stupid grudge you have with James first.”

“It is not my house,” he says. Using Lucius as excuse will be the safest, he can’t lose time in a petty fight with Lily.

“I am still not going, not without James.”

“Lily...” He stops there. Reasoning with Lily will be pointless, and they need an alternative. “When do you plan to leave then?”

“On Easter holidays; it is only a few weeks far.” She peeks through the window. “Flitwick said you came with this idea of teaching the students side along apparition. It will teach them how to guide in the apparition of someone else and I think it is necessary for Harry.”

“You can teach him,”

“I can’t, I don’t know how”

“But Potter can.”

Being muggleborn, Lily never needed to guide someone in an apparition. If she wanted to go somewhere, she was already in age of doing it herself. But Potter was a pureblood, his parents must have taught him how to escape in case of an emergency.

“Harry will not learn anything from James. He is in this rebellious phase where he hates James and apparently Sirius and Remus too. It is strange, he used to love Sirius.” She looks outside again. “I think James is looking for me.”

They have to hurry. A missing teacher would start a searching in no time. “Do you know where are you going when you escape?”

“We don’t know yet. James has a couple properties that aren’t in any paper. I guess we will move between them.”

“If you need help, you can go to Malfoy manor. Lucius will know where to find me.”

She nods and smiles at him. “You should go back.”

“I was thinking in entering to Hogwarts. Has Dumbledore said anything about me? Is he looking for me?”

“He looks worried, but it seems too risky.” She takes her wand from his hand and goes to the door. “Go home, Sev. Do not risk yourself unnecessarily”

He nods. She is right, he is of no use if he goes to Azkaban. But while he waits for an opportunity of leaving the shack without being seen, his eyes go to the passage that goes to the school. Nobody will see him. He can go inside, grab his things, and be done in matter of minutes. Nobody will see him as he enters the castle, he knows enough secret passages to go unnoticed.

His friends wouldn’t understand what is not to have anything of his own. What it is to have to depend of others for money and a place to live. His belongings, as little as they are, are for what he has worked all his life. The books are unique, the locket is the only picture he has from old times, and his money is his.

And there is the castle. Hogwarts has been his home for so many years, he needs to enter, even if only to say goodbye.

He goes through the tunnel almost without notice what he is doing, and when he notices it is too late. He is already in the Whomping Willow, pressing the knot and running to hide. He hopes that if someone saw him, they will think is just a mischievous student sneaking to Hogsmeade.

There is a secret passage to Slytherin common room in the lake. It is under the water, in one of the many caves but he is not sure if he remembers which one; last time he used it he was still a teenager.

However, he doesn’t have another option; the other entry is through the kitchens and the domestic elves will inform Dumbledore no sooner he puts a foot on there.

The mermaids will not be a problem. Their relationship with Dumbledore has never been the best, and they have a soft spot for Slytherins.

He breaths deeply before submerging in the water, swimming to the cave he believes is the right one. A wave of relief fills him when he finds the door. Opening it, he passes and appears near the ceiling of the sixth years’ bedroom.

He jumps on a bed, not caring if he is dripping water on it. The door is open, and there is no one in the common room. He thanks his luck and run for the entry, and from there to his quarters. The wards let him in, and he goes straight where he kept his things, ready for a quick escape.

There is nothing there, and the shelves are empty too. He starts to panic, someone arrived there first and took everything. He looks everywhere, trying to save at least something. The books, the important ingredients, everything is gone.

There are steps on the hallways, and he recognises Dumbledore’s voice. It is too late; he doesn’t have time for anything before an incarcerous traps him.

“Severus, I knew you were going to return, my boy,” says Dumbledore putting a freezing spell on his arms, “come with us”

It is not a suggestion. Two men who appear to be aurors take each one arm, and force him to follow the headmaster. Dumbledore opens a room to an unused classroom that has been prepared for him.

There is only a chair at the centre, the kind of chairs they use in trials at the ministry. As they drag him to it, he starts to fight, once the chains take place on his arms, he won’t be able to send the distress signal to Tom. In his struggle he manages to bite one of the aurors, and he is about to free himself when Dumbledore intervenes. With one spell he sends him to the chair, and the chains take place in his wrists, ankles and — to his surprise — neck.

Another man enters in the room. Turner, the man from the ministry who went to investigate Black’s claims. He smiles broadly at Dumbledore.

“I see you capture it, headmaster. We could not be more grateful with you.”

“The transference has been approved, then?”

“Of course, there is some paperwork for the minister to sign and it will be ready.”

“I am honoured to be so important that you owe favours to Dumbledore,” spits Severus struggling with the chair. “May I know how will you do the transference without my master’s approval?”

“I think it is better to explain him,” says Dumbledore kneeling in front of him. Severus bares his teeth at him. “There is evidence that proves you guilty of torturing and killing a man. And you will remember that if your master can’t control you and contain you from harming people, then his rights over you are terminated.”

“Do not bother headmaster. It cannot understand you.” The man is going to put a hand on the headmaster’s shoulder but a look stops him. Nobody touches Dumbledore without permission. “Any- any modification of the body you want to make, headmaster?”

“There are a few,” says Dumbledore and Turner starts to take note, “the nails and teeth must go, though I would like to keep his voice. I am sure proper training will do the job...”

Severus stops listening. He has really outdone himself this time. Returning to Hogwarts is by far the stupidest thing he has done in his life. He had not planned this thoroughly; Dumbledore obviously was going to put surveillance spells around his quarters.

His eyes sweep the room looking for a solution, anything he can use. He only needs to scratch the mark and Tom will summon him back. Or so he hopes. Because he doesn’t know if the wards of Hogwarts will allow him to escape.

He tries again pulling on the chains but it is fruitless. His arms are still frozen and he can’t move enough to bruise the skin over the dark mark.

“No, Severus,” whispers Dumbledore to his ear, sending shivers down his spine. He notices they are alone in the room. “I see what you are trying to do. You disappeared on front of my eyes; don’t you remember?”

Severus wants to sigh in relief. The mark works through Hogwarts wards, now he just needs to find a way of breaking free and send the distress signal.

“Though I do not know why I bother,” continues Dumbledore, “he doesn’t care about you. Let’s say you already reached your expiration date.” He starts to scratch his head, playing with his hairs in a loving way. Severus tries to move his head, only achieving choking himself with the chain. There is a chuckle from Dumbledore. “Now, now, I wouldn’t do that, you are just hurting yourself.”

He growls, earning another chuckle from Dumbledore.

“And then they say you are not an animal. Well, the truth is, you are not. You are even lower than that, lower than a domestic elf. Did you know they used domestic elves to train slaves,” Dumbledore’s hand grabs his hair and pulls it tightly. “When I ask, I like answers, Severus.”

“Fuck you,” spits Severus.

Closing his eyes, Severus expects pain. A slap, a cruciatus, but nothing happens. Dumbledore touches his cheek and kneel in front of him.

“That attitude will change with the proper training. I know it is not your fault, you were spoiled too much.” He kisses his forehead, and stands again. “What was I saying? Yes, you are dispensable. You are too old for your master, and you are not useful as a spy. He is a monster, a paedophile, don’t you understand that?”

The words penetrate on his mind. Tom had never sexually abused him and Severus witnessed in first-hand how hard was for him to come to terms with his age. It was Tom who insisted in waiting until he graduates, even if he was already of age. But it is also true he is not young anymore, and Tom could be acting because of gratitude, or because low self-esteem after his disfigurement.

Severus discards the last idea. Tom made an oath for him; he does love him.

“Projecting yourself on him, Dumbledore?” He says with a calm he doesn’t feel, “Or are you going to deny that those were your plans all the time? That you weren’t going to do this after the war, when I wouldn’t be useful as a spy anymore? That you didn’t know what my parents did?”

A maniacal laugh escapes from Dumbledore. “If I knew it? I created it, Severus. I created you.” His lips curves in a mocking smile, “Oh, do not worry, your mother really hated you. When I presented her with the idea, she came along pretty easily.” With a last scratch on his head, he starts to pace in front of him. “But your father did love you. A little too much if you ask me.” The wink makes Severus feel nauseated. “He fought the potions and spells. Oh, how he fought them. He tried to hate you, beat you senseless to not fall in the temptation, but eventually the disinhibition spells did their job and he could love you on the way he always wanted.”

Severus is out of words. Any sharp reply banished from his brain before such revelation. He had already figured out Dumbledore had a hand in the events, but not at that point.

“And answering your question, no Severus, those weren’t my plans for you. I planned to have you earlier, but I wanted you to come to me willingly. Eileen was supposed to sell you, and then I would rescue you. The bond cannot be undone but I supposed you would prefer to be my slave. I wasn’t expecting Tom to lure you, or as you call it, show love to you. I wasn’t expecting you to be such a—” Dumbledore makes a pause, as selecting carefully his next words. “—whore. I am sorry Severus, I tried to look for a less crude word but this is the one that fits you best. I was waiting for you to come to me before—”

Someone knocks the door and, without waiting for an answer, opens it. Dumbledore turns around, his blue eyes staring coldly at Shacklebolt.

“I am sorry to interrupt you headmaster, but the minister wants to see you. He said it is urgent. Something about speeding up the transference...?”

“Of course,” says the headmaster, smiling at him. His mask of kind-old-man back in place, “Would you be so kind in staying with Severus? He is a little anxious, and I do not want anyone seeing him like this.”

“Yes headmaster. Nobody will enter or exit this room. The slave must go to Azkaban.” He shows Dumbledore some sort of human muzzle and the slave shackles he brings under his arm. “He will be ready to go at your return.”

Chapter Text

As Shacklebolt walks closer, Severus burst into a bitter laugh. The man who had offered him therapy no long time ago, is now is treating him like a rabid animal. A part of him had wanted to believe that there was some decency in Shacklebolt, yet at the end of the day an auror is an auror.

“Severus…” says Shacklebolt cautiously, as if he were talking to a scared dog. Severus laughs harder at this; he isn’t the scared one.

His mind is drifting away, he can feel it. And soon, he will fall in the same headspace he fell the last time or in one much worse. He ought to get a grip on himself, because he needs to be present. They will untie him eventually, and then he can attack. He doesn’t need to escape, that would be impossible. But he knows Tom, and he knows the man is expecting any change on his mark to summon him. A scratch is everything he needs, and it shouldn’t be so hard to put his arm in front of a spell when they try to control him.

“Where is that psychologist now, auror?” He sneers. He needs to keep fighting. “Or she only treats closeted slaves?”

“Severus, listen…”

“Oh, are you going to say you are sorry? Because those shackles say otherwise.”

Shacklebolt glances the door and puts the shackles and the muzzle on the floor. “I am trying to help you…”

“Right, I can see that,” he says sarcastically, “the leather in the muzzle looks like good quality.”

Shacklebolt sighs and walk to his side. “I will take off the chain from your neck first.”

He touches the chain with his wand and this retract itself. As soon as he can move his head, Severus bites the auror with all the strength his jaws can muster. The man let his wand go, and this falls on Severus’ lap. To his disappointment, his arms are still frozen with Dumbledore spell and he can’t reach for it.

The auror follows his gaze and recovers his wand, jumping back holding his hand.

“Shit, Snape, I am trying to help you here.” Shacklebolt shows him his bleeding hand in anger.

Severus quirks an eyebrow nonchalantly. “Our concepts of helping differ considerably”

“I know it wasn’t you who killed Macnair, I was there.” He speaks so low that Severus has to make an effort to understand him. “We can discuss this further later, but right now I need to untie you and get you out of here.”

“I have a freezing spell on my arms,” he says. If Shacklebolt wants to play hero, Severus will use it at his advantage, but he won’t follow his rules.

“Finite incantatem.” Shacklebolt whispers and his arms recover sensitivity. “Will you let me take off the rest of the chains now?”

Without waiting for an answer, Shacklebolt goes back to his side and undoes the other chains. Severus waits patiently for him to finish, and then he charges against the auror. He needs to get out of there before Dumbledore returns, even if that mean to betray the auror. He can’t trust they will not be caught in their way out, and he has not time to discuss his plan with Shacklebolt.

In the struggle, he achieves to get hold of the wand, just enough time to press over the dark mark. Before he can push Shacklebolt away, an invisible force pulls them both and throws them at Tom’s feet.

Before they can react, a death eater with his mask on disarms Shacklebolt.

“He helped me,” says Severus when he sees the wands pointing at the auror.

At Tom’s signal, the death eater lowers his wand and exits the room.

“Give me your arm,” orders Tom and he uses his mark to call the death eaters who were probably looking for him. “Well?”

Severus tells him what happened, sticking to the facts. He went to Hogsmeade and then to Hogwarts. Dumbledore captured him, not giving him time to call. As he talks, he can see the lips pressing together, and the flickers of red in the brown eyes. Tom is angry, and with reasons. He not only put himself in danger, but also brought a stranger with him. He will explode in any moment, and he knows how hurtful Tom can be when he is angry.

It wouldn’t be a problem if it were just about Severus’ feelings. He can be hurtful too, even more than Tom, and it wouldn’t be their first fight. But the oath would activate if he tries to hurt Severus in any way, and Tom would be killed.

“They have false evidence that points me as the murderer of Macnair. It revokes your right as my master, which mean I am property of the ministry now. They already approved the transference to Dumbledore.”

“Narcissa will heal you, I want a word with the auror now.”

Severus nods and leaves the room. They will talk later, when Tom is more calmed, but now he needs to stay away.

Outside Narcissa is waiting for him. He follows her in silence to one of the guest rooms. There are several potions besides the bed and Narcissa motions him to sit.

“I am not hurt,” he says, but sits anyway.

She casts a diagnostic spell to confirm his words. “You sleep inside tonight”

Her tone is cold, businesslike, and he knows she is angry. Narcissa is extremely protective of her family, and he harmed Lucius in order to go Hogwarts. After their fight about Tom, this only made it worse.

“Cissa, I am—”

“You are what? Sorry?” She snaps at him, “Sorry for what? For betraying my husband’s trust? For almost get yourself killed? For almost get Lucius killed?”

“What?”

“How do you think the Dark Lord reacted when Lucius told him you went out alone? There are at least twenty death eaters looking for you, Severus!”

“He could have summoned me,” He says reluctantly, well aware it is a lame justification.

“No, he couldn’t. Because you convinced my husband they needed to trust you. That you needed your space.” She is almost yelling. He has never seen her this angry, it’s the anger that comes after the worry, and he couldn’t feel more guilty. “So, while you were having fun with your best friend — because I know you went to her — you had Lucius and the Dark Lord fretting about you here.”

“Narcissa—”

“You are not hurt,” she cuts him off, “and you know the way to your room.”

“Cissa…” He tries again but the woman ignores him.

Having enough for the day, Severus goes to his bedroom. Apologizing to anyone would be useless, and he needs to rest. Another wave of guilt washes over him when he arrives. Narcissa and Lucius had designed the room for him from some random information they collected during his first year. They somehow found out that his muggle bedroom consisted in a mattress on the floor and nothing else, and wanted to do something special for his first visit.

Narcissa’s painting of a dragon covers an entire wall. It breathes fire to warm the room, and growls to wake him up from nightmares. The spell she used remains a mystery, but she spent three weeks working on it. She had not married Lucius yet, and she never said anything, but he knows she had problems with her family for spending so much time in his fiancé’s house.

“It is an interesting room.”

Severus turns to see Shacklebolt at the door. He looks considerable pale, but alive, which is a lot considering he just comes from a meeting with the Dark Lord himself.

“It used to be mine, before building the lab outside.”

“They make you sleep outside?”

Severus sighs; he has realised too late how wrong that sounds. “No, they do not make me. I can sleep inside whenever I want, and they usually insist for me to do so,”

Shacklebolt shakes his head as if he doesn’t believe him but won’t start an argument in the enemy’s house. “Can we talk now? Is this place private?”

“Private enough.” It is a lie. The owners of the manor have access to everything that happens inside the manor if they want, but he is almost certain that they are not interested in listening to them.

The auror closes the door behind him. “I am staying tonight.”

Severus snorts. “What is so private about that?”

“No, is not— I mean, we need to talk about what happened. The aurors, Moody, he attacked Macnair. They didn’t even question him.”

“And that is unusual because…?” Says Severus lifting an eyebrow.

“Because it is wrong! I found some papers, this is going on for a long time, since the first war.”

Severus can’t do anything but stare, trying to decide if burst into laughter or yell at the auror. If Shacklebolt is feigning ignorance, he is a better actor than himself.

“This is going on since the first war,” confirms Severus frowning, “but you already know that.”

“I didn’t,” he says and Severus raise an eyebrow again, “I swear. I wasn’t around during the first war. I was working undercover with the muggle minister.”

The benefit of doubt is all he can offer. It is hard to believe that someone who has worked so many years as an auror, was oblivious of something that most of them feel proud. But it is possible, nobody is stupid enough to admit murder to those who don’t know about their side activities.

“What did you do with the papers?”

“I gave them to my boss, he told me to forget about it,” he says bitterly, as if it were a surprise that aurors defend each other. This time Severus can’t avoid to laugh at his naivety. “Though they were copies, I kept the originals.”

Smart, and a plan starts to plot in his head. But first, he needs to know how much Shacklebolt is willing to give to make things right.

“What are you willing to sacrifice to bring the guilty to justice?”

“Everything, if it means there are no more cold blood murderers among the aurors”

It is a naive belief, but it works for Severus. “Good, because you might need to sacrifice just that.”

Chapter Text

“If we leak the information to the press, they will see themselves forced to start an investigation,” says Severus. His idea is contact with journalists of trust, journalists who are not scared of exposing the renowned aurors. “You will know in whom you can trust once they do,”

“You mean working with the death eaters?” Shacklebolt’s mouth twists as if the thought disgusted him.

“Not death eaters, but independent journalists,” replies Severus calmly.

“This may ruin any credibility the aurors have.”

It is exactly what Severus wants. If people realise that the aurors — and Dumbledore’s side by extension — have been torturing, and killing innocents, they will be more open to listen to Tom’s ideas.

“Would you prefer that people continue to believe murderers?” He asks coldly.

Shacklebolt winces at the words. “They will know it was me.”

Shacklebolt’s boss already knows he has the evidence, if it suddenly appears in the newspapers, he will be the first suspect. Considering most of the organization is involved, he will be persecuted and his life could be in danger.

But this is an opportunity they can’t pass up. It is a way of finding justice for his friends, and also to work in the future. So far, they have been only resisting, waiting for Tom to completely heal. Tom is almost healed now, and they need to start moving.

“You will need to hide. We can help with that,” says Severus, a part of him feels bad about manipulating the auror, and this is the best he can offer, “Once you return, you will go back as a hero.”

“I do not care about being a hero!” The glint in Shacklebolt’s eyes belies his words, every Gryffindor wants to be a hero.

“There is nothing wrong with wanting to save the department of law enforcement and the ministry from corruption,” Severus says but Shacklebolt still looks hesitant. “It is your decision, Shacklebolt.”

The auror nods. “When can you put me in contact with that journalist?”

“I have to speak with the Dark Lord first. I should have an answer for you in the morning.”

Shacklebolt looks nervous at the door, as expecting someone burst into the room at any moment.

“Something happened to Albus, he is acting strange. I heard what he said, but there is no way he could do those things, not the Albus Dumbledore we know. Something is making him say those things,” says Shacklebolt in almost a whisper, “I don’t know in who to trust anymore.”

“I assure you, Shacklebolt, all Dumbledore said it is the true. The only thing that changed is that he is not subtly about his actions anymore.”

“I hope you are wrong,” says the auror in a defeated tone before leaving.

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He is tied to a chair in front of a mirror. He can see his reflection struggling with the ropes as Dumbledore’ long fingers caress his face.

Leaning forward, the headmaster whispers to his ear, “do not deny this is what you always wanted. I do love you more than Sirius, and I am going to show you”

“Please,” he begs, because he is so scared that he doesn’t care about his pride.

“You were a bad boy before, Severus. You bit that auror and I cannot have a dangerous slave with me.” The headmaster’s hand goes to Severus’ mouth, “I think it is time to get rid of these. You will not need them anymore.”

Severus keeps his mouth tightly shut as the wand comes closer. His teeth have been repaired so many times that they will not grow again. Tears prickle on his eyes when he feels the wand against his lips.

The roaring of the dragon wakes him up.

The lights are off but he can see most of the room with the fire the dragon is breathing. With a wave of his hand he turns on the lights, and the beast seems to calm.

“I am fine, go back to sleep.”

He snorts and shakes his head. He must look ridiculous speaking to the painting of an animal.

You are even lower than that, lower than a domestic elf

He shakes his head trying to forget Dumbledore’s words. The sudden noise of the door opening startles him.

“Lucius,” he recognises his friend, “what do you want?”

“I heard it,” says Lucius simply, pointing the wall.

“Can this wait until morning?” He still feels sick because of his dream and a scolding from Lucius is the last he needs. “Please?”

Lucius sits at the end of the bed. “I want to be angry at you. I really do. But you are not a child anymore, and you shouldn’t be asking for permission to go out in the first place.”

“To what I owe this sudden maturity?” He jokes but Lucius keeps a serious face.

“You are obsessed with going back, Severus. Even since you were young, I remember you telling me about Hogwarts as your main reason to survive. I offered countless times to hire private tutors and you declined every time. And it does not make sense, because your experience at the school wasn’t the best, and the mud—” Lucius stops at the glare, “she wasn’t worth so much suffering.”

“I spoke with Lily before going into the school,” says Severus. He will not enter in an argument with Lucius about what Lily’s worth, “but I had to go because my things were there.”

“What things, Severus? What could it be so important for you to risk yourself in such a stupid way?”

“All I have. My money for example.”

“You have money here.”

“Your money, Lucius. Also, my books,” replies Severus, running his fingers through his hairs. Discussing with Lucius about money is useless, “and don’t tell me we can buy others because you know they were unique.”

“We would have thought in something to recover them. They would probably go to Hogwarts library, from where your friend could have taken them.”

“And there was a locket, with the picture of Agatha.”

“You risked your life for the picture of a snake?” Exclaims Lucius with incredulity. When Severus glares at him again, he adds, “We are wizards, Severus. If you want a picture, you only need a memory. You can do it yourself; I am sure you know one or two potions which can do the job.”

It sounds so easy, and he can understand how his decisions don’t make much sense to Lucius ears. If he has to be honest to himself, they neither make much sense to him now. He needed to plan it thoroughly, consider all the factors. It was obvious that Dumbledore would have something prepared for his return.

He knows where Lucius is going and he has to admit it doesn’t sound so crazy when he thinks about it. “How could it be? You would have noticed if there is a compulsion spell on me.”

Lucius shrugs. “Perhaps is disguised. Perhaps is too ingrained. We never actually looked for one, so it could be. If you let me enter in your mind, I could confirm it and see when it was cast”

Enter to his mind and look through memories that are too close to the events with his parents is not something he wants to. Lucius could feel tempted to peek at them, to know even the things Severus can’t remember. And if the spell was cast then, he will have to forcibly go into those memories, and they will be free on his head. It will be impossible to forget again.

“I do not think it is a good idea,”

“I will be careful. I will not go anywhere near. If the memories are too close, I will leave,” promises Lucius as reading his thoughts, “or I can ask Narcissa to do it tomorrow if you feel more comfortable. The point is, Severus, that I do not want you escaping in the middle of the night to go to Dumbledore again.”

Neither he wants it. But Narcissa is angry and he doesn’t feel comfortable letting her wander around his mind. She is a professional, but he is having troubles trusting in anyone lately. Lucius, on the other side, is not as good legilimens as Narcissa is. Lucius is the safer choice, because he can still mentally overpower him if he goes to a place where he doesn’t want him to go.

“First I will check with a diagnostic spell, and if it is positive, you may enter,” he says still not fully trusting, “but you will not push in any memory or I will throw you out.”

Severus casts the spell on himself, and takes the parchment with the results. There is a mild compulsion spell, which means there is a constant suggestion of staying in the school, but it was still his own idiocy what took him there.

After a nod, Lucius whispers ‘legilimens’ and enter to his mind. He can feel him looking for the spell. It is uncomfortable, but not painful and when he arrives to memories that he doesn’t want him to see, he just blocks them and Lucius passes them.

Suddenly, he goes out, and Severus stares at him without understanding.

“Are you okay?” Asks Lucius.

“Yes, why?” Says Severus massaging his temples.

“You pushed me out,”

“No, I didn’t,” he replies confused.

“Well, we know how they hide them. Now the question is who.”

“The same person that put the spell on the Dark Lord?” Severus proposes, examining the parchment again. It doesn’t look as something too advanced, and probably the only reason why they didn’t see it, is because how weak the spell appears to be.

“I will ask Narcissa in the morning. I don’t think she will forgive you any time soon, but this could help.” Severus just groans in response and Lucius pats his leg chuckling. “She will do it. Eventually.”

Chapter Text

Resigned he won’t fall sleep until he speaks with Tom, Severus redresses himself and goes to his rooms. Lucius is right, he is no longer a child and they can’t keep treating him like one.

He knocks loudly at the door. It is four in the morning but he doesn’t care. Tom can say all he wants that he is not a slave, yet his words become meaningless if he tries to control every aspect of his life. It is his right to take his own decisions, even if those decisions turn to be stupid ones.

Tom lets him in, his eyes more red than brown and his fingers drumming on his left thigh. Both are angry, but Severus promises himself it will not be he who apologises this time.

Slamming the door shut behind himself, Severus speaks. “You have no right to be angry.”

Tom lifts an eyebrow trying to apparent calm, yet he catches his lips twisting down just for a second. “Don’t I?”

“I am no longer a child, Tom. You cannot keep treating like one.”

“If you want to be treated like an adult you must act like one,” says he coolly.

“Well, you didn’t care too much when I was an actual child and you wanted to fuck me,” replies Severus with a sneer.

He can see in Tom’s face that the comment affected him. “You weren’t a child”

“And now I am?”

“I trusted you!” Snaps Tom, anger rising in his voice again.

“Trusted me? Trusted me?” Severus words grow louder with each word. “You had twenty death eaters looking for me. That is the level of trust you have on me!”

“And you wonder why? Do you really like—” Tom stops dead and press his right wrist. Whatever he was going to say was aimed to hurt, and the oath is warning him. “Maybe we should wait to have this conversation.”

Severus has waited too long to have this conversation and won’t stop. If Tom wants to hurt, he can hurt twice.

“You made me kneel before you,” hisses Severus dangerously, “you humiliated me, tortured me until I begged. You bought a fourteen years old child, and made him your slave, and now it is me who has to apologise?”

Tom’s eyes fill with tears as he opens his mouth and then closes it again. He is out of words. Severus knows where to hit to destroy him. But there is something bitter in his victory, something unfair. Tom can’t defend himself; he can’t release his rage without risking to die.

“You are right,” says Tom finally and Severus flinches at the broken tone, “I have done unspeakable things to you, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to make it up to you. But I was scared, because you might not see it this way but there are people who cares about you, I care about you. I don’t know what I would do if something happens to you.”

“Lucius and Narcissa have the recipes for your potions.” He mumbles, uncomfortable with the excess of honesty. It was easier in old times, when after a fight an apology and make up sex was enough.

“Are you even listening?” Tom looks at him with incredulity, then his lips form a fond smile when he sees how uncomfortable he is. “I cannot lose you, Severus. And you are right, you are not a child, you never were, but you are not thinking clearly now”

Severus crosses his arms over his chest. “Entering to Hogwarts was stupid, but I am not going to apologise for going with Lily.”

“I know you will not, and I am not expecting an apology from you — Merlin knows I owe you more — but promise me that you will not put yourself in danger again.”

Severus stays in silence; it is a promise he cannot make. Lily will need his help and he will have to risk again. And the kids are still in school, if something happens, he won’t think it twice before going.

“Just do not escape that way again, not without telling anyone, and especially not without a wand,” tries again Tom.

“I will not tell you every time I go out,” he starts warily, “and I will not ask for permission. But I will inform you if I decide to go to a place particularly dangerous.”

Tom nods. “It is not optional anymore, Severus, I can’t accept you back with the death eaters. I gave you an order, and you didn’t obey”

“Is this some sort of punishment?” Asks Severus even though he knows the answer. The oath doesn’t allow Tom to punish him, which means the problem is the trust.

“No, it is not,” says Tom, looking away from him, “but today I realised I cannot think objectively if I send you in a mission.”

“You need me.”

“I do. And if you are willing, we will work together. But if you keep working under me, you will end up locked in a lab for what is left of war.” Tom shakes his head. “You have clearly your own agenda, your priorities are different. Your friend will always come first.”

A part of him wants to contradict him, to tell him he is loyal to the cause. And he is, but the cause is not the only thing in his mind. As Tom said, it is not his priority. Lily is in a vulnerable state, he has to look after his students, and he wants to destroy the bond. Besides, the idea of have some of his freedom back is tempting.

He knows Tom only speaks about his obligations, but it wouldn’t be fair for him if he has to keep worrying about Severus. It is time to break the connection, to return a little of freedom to Tom too.

Severus extends his left arms. “I think it is time.”

Without a word, Tom presses his wand on the dark mark. A comfortable warm feeling turns into unbearable pain, while tongues of fire surround his arm. His lips are bleeding for how strong he is biting it and there are tears escaping from his eyes. But Tom doesn’t stop. It must be finished. Nobody knows the consequences of a half-performed ritual, and Severus is not up to find it now.

The fire is gone and he can see his clean skin. No evidence of the tattoo could be seen. He brushes his finger over where it should be without reaction. It is gone. The mark he has equally loved and hated is gone.

“It feels odd,” says Tom broking the silence, “as if I lost a part of myself.”

Severus feels the same. “I will not participate in meetings at least you need me there, but I need a last favour.”

He explains him what he wants to do with Shacklebolt.

“I will need to see those papers, see if they are enough to start a case. Have you someone in mind?”

“Skeeter is known for writing controversial articles, but I am not the best person to judge. I offered Shacklebolt someone external to the death eaters.”

“I will ask Narcissa, she might know someone. I will talk with her before the meeting of this night.”

“Everything fine between you two?”

“As fine as it could be, considering my implication in her cousin’s death.”

“Will you tell me what happened?”

“Perhaps another time, one fight is enough for a night,” says he opening the curtains, “or day.”

Severus snorts. He walks to see through the window, which gives to the front of the house. From there he could see who enters and who exits the mansion. It is the first time he has been in that room, but he can understand why Tom likes it. It is the constant need of control, something both lacked in their childhood.

As if it were an involuntary gesture, Tom holds his hand. Severus knows better, Tom knows exactly what he is doing and it is working. He thinks in Narcissa, in how much she has given to him. But it is not fair, and he is getting tired of the unfairness in his life. He won’t lose Tom, he has sacrificed too much already, and he knows he shouldn’t take Narcissa for granted, but she always has forgiven him in the past.

He turns to Tom, and squeezes his hand once. He worked hard in having him back, and he deserves something his for once.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

By the afternoon, Shacklebolt already agreed to bring the evidence to Tom first, and only waits for the meeting Tom is holding to end. A couple of death eaters will escort him first to his house and then to a safe house, keeping him alive for the next few days.

They are in the lab while the death eaters are in the drawing room. It is for the best if the auror doesn’t meet the former prisoners, for everyone’s safety.

“How can I contact you?” Asks Shacklebolt as he helps him to bottle some skele-gro potions.

“You can come, you can call. Tom will probably assign someone to protect you,” says Severus thinking. “They will send you to a safe house. Take only the essential from your house, but have in consideration you won’t be back. They may already have ransacked it while you were here. It is better if you go prepared.”

They finish in silence, Shacklebolt has clearly not considered the consequences of helping Severus. The first few days are crucial for his survival, since he has to return to work and ask for holidays. If he disappears overnight, people will suspect about what he is about to do.

The door opens and Narcissa enters. “I have news about your girl.”

“Lily?”

The woman scowls at the name. “Try again.”

“Ginnevra?”

She extends what seems to be an empty parchment to them. “Is it your friend single?”

A privacy charms that requires the blood of a single pureblood male. It is a good way that the parchment gets only to the target audience. If things were different, they would ask to some of the pureblood death eaters for their blood, but the presence of Shacklebolt was a plus. Once he realises what his side is going to do to a child, any doubt about helping them will disappear.

“What?”

“I need your blood. This is a magazine, at the lack of a better word, and contains a list of witches looking for husband.”

“I know about it,” he says examining the parchment, “I had never seen it though.”

Narcissa passes him a letter opener, and Shacklebolt pinches his middle finger, pressing it on the corner.

The white paper starts to change to a green, and golden letters begin to fill it. The witches are in order by surname, always highlighted to know to which family they belong.

There are considerable few witches, clearly the magazine is becoming less popular as the years go by. He counts fifteen, and the publication go from only name and contact, to detailed information about likes and hobbies.

Those who put their age are usually between twenty-five and thirty, but he catches an eighteen-year-old (only name and age) and a forty-one (with complete description of about ten lines that Severus will not read).

He marks Weasley’s publication with his finger. Beside her surname, a silver ‘S28’ stands for what Severus can only deduce is ‘the sacred twenty-eight’. It sounds only logic they would use it, as logical as not putting he age in anywhere in the article.

S28 Weasley, Ginnevra Molly.

Young healthy witch (Fertility, purity and any other request can be confirmed by a mediwizard.). Red hair, brown eyes, cooking skills and general house chores. Basic Hogwarts training, and interested in finish it if the husband allows.
More information. The burrow, Ottery St. Catchpole, Devon, England.

Shacklebolt stares at the parchment with wide eyes.

“Is this some sort of threat?”

“No, that publication is not from us. That magazine requires blood confirmation to publish, only her parents could have done it.”

He rolls the parchment and puts him on his pocket, “I will take it with me. I will show it to human traffic tomorrow, I have some connections in there and they will start the investigation right away.”

“We are willing to take her in,” rushes to say Narcissa, “We have some common relatives.”

He shakes his head sadly. “I will see what I can do, but the girl has relatives everywhere. You are not in first or the seconds in the list for her custody.”

Chapter Text

Severus closes his eyes and exhales loudly when the last of the diagnostic charms hits him. It doesn’t hurt, but it has been two hours and he is bored. After removing the compulsion spell, Narcissa wanted to be sure there are no more hiding, and for that he needed to stay still, doing nothing but staring at the wall.

At least she is not angry anymore. She was when she entered the room, but when she realised she had to go inside his mind, she looked at him with sympathy, and did her job. She also took some samples from the caster’s magic to compare with Tom’s spell. It seems not to be the same person but she promises to examine it more carefully later.

“Well, it was clearly put there by someone with access to your mind, at some point before…” Narcissa stops there, as if her next words were something forbidden.

“Before…?”

She hesitates before responding. “Before your parents”

Skilled legilimens, as Narcissa is, can use important events to build timelines; and that is his worst memory by far, even if most of it is blocked.

“I was just learning occlumancy then, Dumbledore had not access to my mind.”

The only ones who could have entered into his mind were Narcissa — who was teaching him — and Lily. Lily was just a kid as himself, it was ridiculous to think she would be capable of casting a compulsion spell and hide it inside his mind.

“It is a weak spell, as if a kid had done it.” Narcissa also knows there is no one else, only she and Lily.

“Lily did not do it.”

“It was not me, or I would not be losing my time in here.” She takes two parchments, one with the results of his compulsion and one with Tom’s, and looks at them carefully, as looking for something she missed.

“I know it was not you,” he says in an annoyed tone, “but Lily was just a kid.”

“You are right there,” she agrees after a moment of silence. She leaves the parchments over the table. “I think we are done here”

He nods and stands, but when he is on the door, he turns back to her. It is better she learns from him about Tom and he.

She lifts an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“We are together with Tom again.”

Her eyes turn cold and she purses her lips. “Good. Then you may remind him he has two days to leave my house.”

-------------------------------------------------------------------

“You are telling me my house has been there all the time?”

He has just repeated the message from Narcissa to Tom, trying to make him see reason and go back to his home instead of another death eater’s manor. Tom didn’t know the place was still there, assuming the it was destroyed after the first war.

“You are the secret keeper. You never died,” says Severus matter-of-factly.

He can’t read Tom. He can’t say if behind the blank face he wears he is angry or happy. It’s his home, the sacred place where he could go and forget about the war even if for a few minutes.

“Will you come with me?”

Severus nods. He misses the place, but he isn’t brave enough to return alone. It’s too lonely, as it was when Tom started to live in his followers’ manors, thinking he deserved better than a simple three bedrooms house.

But it was his three bedrooms house. Tom had bought it in 1971, thinking it was good to have something his for once, somewhere where he and his snake would be safe. The only ones who could apparate inside were Tom and he, and the wards only allowed Lucius and Bellatrix to visit.

“You will have to take me; I do not have a wand.” He hates side along apparitions but there is not much of an option there.

“Lucius arranged a visit from a wandmaker for tomorrow. Gregorovitch, I think.”

The only wandmaker he knows is Ollivander. He made his wand after he destroyed the first one — a second-hand wand his mother got him when he was eleven. Dumbledore had taken away his wand every summer until he turned seventeen, and Severus wasn’t going to take to Tom’s house something that spend so long with the headmaster.

In silence, they walk outside the property to apparate. They are nervous about what they are going to find. The place has been abandoned since before the end of the first war, when Severus started to work as a spy.

Tom slides a hand around his waist, drawing him close. Their surroundings vanish and they appear in a front of a white stone house. It is not small, but certainly not a mansion. There is a small garden, and a potion lab separated from the dwelling. Around the property, a forest with wards on it protect them from muggle view.

“Welcome home, Severus.”

Severus smiles at Tom, and together they walk to the house. His happiness only last until Tom opens the door. The smell of confinement hit his nose, taking him to a place where the windows didn’t open so the neighbours couldn’t see what happened inside.

He grasps Tom’s wrist. “I can’t.”

“It is fine, we are together in this,” says Tom soothingly.

“No, I can’t

He needs to get out of there if he doesn’t want a panic attack. Tom seems to understand and closes the door.

“Severus, what is it?”

Severus ignores him and pushes him aside, going as far as he can from the house. Tom follows him, and waits in silence for him to calm down.

“Sorry.” He avoids Tom’s eyes; he had acted like an idiot. Again.

“Nothing to apologise, love. What was it?”

“The smell.” He sits on the floor, not trusting in his legs holding him anymore. “Can you handle the cleaning on your own?”

“Yes, of course. Just wait here.”

He exhales deeply, running his fingers through his hair, wishing he could just obliviate himself. It is always like that, sometimes just a smell or a sound could trigger those irrational reactions.

Standing from the floor, he goes to where Agatha’s grave is. Agatha was the rattlesnake that accompanied Tom most of his adult life. There was nothing magical in her, but they loved her nevertheless.

She accepted Severus as her child, making sure he ate and he didn’t spend all his time brewing potions. She was there when he was not allowed to leave the house, and everyone else was busy with the war.

Tom hugs him from behind. “She loved you.”

“She did.” He turns around and kisses him. “Is it ready?”

Tom leads him inside by his hand. This time the house smells to freshly made cookies, and Severus knows it is just a spell, but the idea of Tom baking cookies brings a smile to his face.

“There is something I must show you,” says Tom serious when they arrive to the sitting room.

The smile banishes from his face as he nods. He watches how Tom moves forward one of the bookshelves and passes his wand over the wall. A small space with books and papers opens before them.

He grabs a small leather book and hands it to Severus. It doesn’t have a title, and when he opens it, he finds yellow pages filled with handwriting.

“The diary you talked me about.”

“Yes. Here is everything about slavery I found. All the important papers are here too.”

All the important papers. It takes him a minute to understand what Tom means. “The contract you made with my mother.”

“Yes.”

“I need to see it.”

“Later,” says Tom closing the space and moving the bookshelf back in place, “When we have something concrete.”

He is curious about what was the agreement with his mother, but he is also curious about the little book, so he let it go for now.

“Something else you want to see here?” Asks Tom when Severus is halfway of sitting on the sofa to read. “We need to go; I have to bring Nagini and find another place to hold meetings.”

Severus scowls. “Does that beast have to come?”

Tom chuckles and kisses Severus’ nose. “It is not optional. I will not choose between you and Nagini.”

“You can’t have it all,” says Severus properly kissing him. He is just teasing, even though he doesn’t like Nagini, he knows Tom loves her. “And I can do things that that beast could never do.”

“She is not replacing Agatha,” whispers Tom, his mouth just an inch of distance.

Severus notices the note of concern in the voice. He needs to stop or he will end hurting Tom. “As you wish, but I am not feeding her.”

With another chuckle and a last kiss, Tom takes him back to Malfoy manor.

Chapter Text

“I have the evidence,” says Tom when he apparates in the sitting room.

They moved to Tom’s house as soon as Severus got his new wand. It’s been a busy couple of days and Tom had had no time to go to Shacklebolt, who refused to give the evidence to any other than Voldemort himself. He finally had the afternoon free and first thing he did was going to the auror’s safe house.

He places the box he carries on the desk and start to extract its content. It is mostly parchments in various states of deterioration and bottles with memories in them.

Severus watches from the sofa, a cup of coffee in his hand and the diary lying beside him. “According to Narcissa, memories are not admissible as evidence in a trial.”

“Shacklebolt said they are investigating Weasley’s case,” says Tom ignoring his comment about the memories and sitting in front of the desk, facing the wall. He extracts a pair of glasses from his pocket. “An undercover operation. They want to whoever accepted the publication too.”

“Did he tell you when they plan to arrest them?”

Tom shakes his head, leaving the empty box on the floor and unrolling the first parchment. He writes a few things in a clean parchment, rolls it again and throws it in the box.

“Getting them arrested is just the beginning. Their brothers will certainly ask for the custody.”

Tom groans, already engrossed in his work.

Severus sighs. Perhaps Weasley would be better off with her brothers. Percival doesn’t work with the order; it would be a safer option. However, he can’t be certain if the boy would want to be responsible of two teenagers, or if he will leave the task to William. William is closer to Dumbledore, he might be involved, and if he is, he will try to finish what his parents started.

As he takes a sip from his coffee, he glances the diary. He knows he is only thinking about Ginnevra to avoid to read more.

The diary has graphic descriptions of the tortures to train or punish slave, and he cannot avoid to think it could have been him. If Tom had arrived too late, someone else would have taken him, someone who wanted a submissive slave. They wouldn’t allow him to finish the school, making him good for only one thing.

He feels something hot on his leg and he notices he is not holding the cup straight. There is a puddle of coffee on the floor that he vanishes with his new wand. He gets up for a shower, going first to his lover and kissing his head. Tom barely looks up, but a smile forms on his face.

As the water falls over his head, his mind goes to what he has read until now. Tom have total control over him through the mark. If he wants to modify his body, law allows him, but the mark goes further. He has read about masters binding their slaves magic, turning them into squibs; slaves who were unresponsive, as if they were subjected to the dementor kiss.

When he returns to the sitting room, Tom is in the exact position than before, yet the box beside his chair is considerably fuller.

“How is it going?” He asks and Tom responds again with a groan.

He opens the diary where he left it.

‘October 12, 1901
My new Master is glad I know how to write. He is experimenting with slaves, trying to break the bond because he fell in love with one. Yes, it is hard to believe, but Master treats her really well. She sleeps in her own room when she is not being used by him, and Master speaks highly of her. She does not have contact with the other slaves, Master says it is not good for her.

For now, I am well treated too. I have my own bed, three meals a day, and my new functions is to record the experiments Master is doing. I will try to transcribe here his progress, he promised to free us all if he finds the way.’

The entry ends there. This is the first time they mention something about breaking the bond. He doesn’t fool himself; it doesn’t matter how well treated those slaves were, they were going to be used as rat labs. It won’t be an easy reading, but he hopes it will be worthy.

Severus feels Tom’s eyes peering at him and lifts his gaze from the book. He smiles at him but Tom doesn’t smile back. “Tom?”

Standing from his chair, Tom walks over to him and sits at his side. He extends a parchment to him. “I will make it disappear if you want me to.”

It is some sort of magical auction. He was in one a couple of years ago, bidding for a strange potion book. The participants write their name and offers on the parchment, and they sign it with magic. The offer disappears before the next person can see it. When all the participants have signed, the offers appear to the public and the highest bidder keeps the object.

His lip curls in disgust when he sees it is a person what they are auctioning. Edward Ferguson, captured on 3th of march, 1979. Severus never met him but he assumes he was a death eater. He continues reading with a sense of dread, already knowing what he is going to find but not wanting to believe it until he sees it.

There, halfway down the page there is a name: Lily Potter, offering eight hundred Galleons for a human being.

A hand passes over his shoulder and he rests his head in Tom’s chest. He feels the faint smell to perfume, the same he used in old times. It comforts him to have something known after so much change.

“Show it,” says Severus in a bitter voice, “Show the world who their heroes really are.”

Tom kisses his forehead, and Severus tilts up his head, searching for his lips. It is a salty kiss, and it takes him a moment to realise it is his own tears what are making it salty.

He breaks away. “I am sorry.”

“Hush, just come here, love,” says Tom pulling him again against his chest.

“I trusted her.”

She said she was forced to watch, but she offered money to torture a person. It is her signature, not her husband’s. She didn’t win that time — The best offer was one thousand Galleons — but it disturbs Severus that she was capable of doing it.

He rises from his seat. “I should…”

He doesn’t know what he should be doing, but Tom doesn’t stop him when he walks outside.

Wandering around the garden, he thinks of Lily and how kind she was with him when they were young. She was the only one. His parents hated him and the other adults looked at him with suspicion. The other kids avoided him, but Lily didn’t. And when he told her about his parents, she wasn’t disgusted with him. She supported him. It was impossible to reconcile that kind girl who cared about him, with someone who torture people for fun.

It is confusing. She isn’t there to defend herself. But even if she were there, even if she had an excuse, he isn’t sure he would believe her.

Going into the potion lab, he starts to brew. It always relaxes him, giving him something else in what to focus. After two batches of draught of peace he feels better, ready to go back inside the house.

It smells like cookies again, but this time it’s not a spell. They are waiting for him in the kitchen counter, Tom in no place to be seen. He curses his own selfishness, Tom only bakes when he is upset. The papers must have reopened old wounds, because despite what most people believes, Tom truly cares about his followers.

“Tom?”

He is already in bed with his eyes closed, but he is not sleeping; Severus can tell it by how his hand is clenching the sheet.

He sits at his side and scratches his head. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“About your friend?” Spats Tom.

“About Ferguson, about the others,” says Severus softly. Tom wants an argument, something to release his anger, but Severus will not fall for it.

Tom clenches the sheet harder. “They were just children, Severus. Ferguson was eighteen. And the best I can offer is to send their torturers to prison.”

Severus strokes his cheeks and cleans a lonely tear with his finger. “It will be done whatever you say. If you want to chase them and have your revenge, I will support you.”

“Your friend is among them.”

Images of his student graduating come to his head. Young faces, stained with tears and wearing wide smiles, all of them waiting for their turn to say goodbye to their teacher. That was what Lily was trying to buy, a kid who had just graduated to torture him.

“She is not my friend.” His chest hurts as he says it. After all he has done for Lily, he cannot protect her, not from this. “Not anymore.”

Chapter Text

Severus sits on the bed with a thick book on his lap and the diary on the night table. He is reading about blood magic, struggling to understand the basic, and waits for Tom to help him.

He barely sees his lover lately, only when he arrives to sleep, late at night. Their conversations are of two, maybe three words, and Severus wouldn’t complain, but Tom is his only connection with the outside world. The wards of the house don’t allow owls to pass, and he can’t go out without risking to be captured.

The isolation is taking a toll on him, and keeping himself busy is not working anymore. Severus likes solitude, but he feels like in a prison.

The wards of the house waver, and the door to the bedroom opens. Nagini is the first to enter, his lover not far behind. The snake hisses at him and lies at the end of the bed.

“Have you eaten?” Asks Severus.

“No, I will prepare something now.”

“Nonsense,” he says standing from the bed, “you are exhausted, go to bed and I will bring you some food here.”

It takes him no more than five minutes to warm the food, but when he returns, Tom is already sleeping. With a sigh he puts it on the night table; it’s been a while since the last time he saw Tom so exhausted.

He takes the books and goes to work to the library, not wanting to wake up Tom. Nagini lifts her head, watching careful what he is doing, slithering to Tom’s side when he crosses the door.

The library is small. Books in three of the four walls, two armchairs and a little desk they never use. They prefer to work in the sitting room, but the library is a good alternative if they need absolute silence.

He takes anything related to blood magic and puts it on the floor. The last entries of the diary make reference of an exchange of blood with a non-slave. They managed to freeze the mark for a few minutes, and they were supposed to cut it, but they run out of slaves and the author was supposed to be used. Considering the diary ends there, Severus can tell the experiment didn’t go well.

Sitting on the floor, he starts reading from the basic, finding what they used was something similar to a blood adoption. The power of the slave mark is too strong for two non-slave parents adopt a slave, but it could work for a few minutes. A theory starts to build in his head. If he finds a way to weaken the slave mark, he could use a blood adoption to change his status.

His excitement only last until next paragraph: Blood adoption cannot be performed in adults.

He throws the books against the shelf. It is useless. Tom had also failed and he had twice the knowledge of Severus. It was ridiculous to think he could get somewhere in the first place.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

A kiss wakes him up. “Good morning. What are you doing here?”

Severus looks around. He is in his old bedroom, he went there last night, not wanting to move Nagini from his side of the bed.

“Didn’t want to wake you up last night. Did you eat?”

“Yes, I am already going out. Are you okay?”

He nods. It is little what Tom can do with his problems if he failed all those years ago. “Will you tell me what is happening?”

“This night. I really need to go.”

Tom kisses him again before disappearing in front of his eyes.

He gets up and starts with his morning routine, walking along the edge of the property, checking on the wards and strengthening them.

He has seen movement around. The house is under fidelius and they cannot see them, but the location is known. There are wards around the forest that should prevent strangers from going close, but Severus will not risk himself in going alone to check if they are still in place; Dumbledore could be waiting for him on the other side.

However, he does make a risky decision that day. He will deliver potions to Malfoy manor. It is improbable he finds Lucius there, considering how busy is Tom, but he will escape from the solitude of the house at least for a few hours.

He apparates in front of the gates, his wand high and ready to attack as he crosses them. Nobody interrupts him in his way to the house, however, when he enters through the servant’s wing a domestic elf appears in front of him.

“Mistress Narcissa waits for Severus Snape, sir, in the kitchens, sir”

Severus dismiss it with his hand and goes to meet Narcissa. She is sitting at the table with a cup of tea in front of her.

“I didn’t want to enter through the main door. In case you had guests.”

She smiles at him. “I was wondering when you would visit.” He frowns. Narcissa is supposed to be angry at him. Last time she was. “Do not give me that look. You made a mistake, and you are putting your trust in the wrong people, but I am still your friend, and I will be there when you realise that.”

“Thanks?” She is calling him naive, but given what he learnt about Lily, he can’t contradict her. He only hopes she isn’t right about Tom.

“You are welcome,” she says as if she didn’t notice his doubt. “Now, sit down, you will want to see this. It came out yesterday”

She extends the newspaper to him. The picture of Molly and Arthur Weasley being arrested occupied half of the page. They tried — unsuccessfully — to hide their faces as two aurors pointed them with their wands, escorting them to a place outside of the picture.

‘COUPLE TRIES TO SELL THEIR DAUGHTER
Arthur Weasley, Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office at the Ministry of Magic, and his wife, Molly Weasley née Prewet, have been arrested when they were trying to sign a magical contract for their fourteen years old daughter.

An undercover officer of the Department of Aurors, contacted the couple, offering a considerable sum of money for the girl. When he asked for her age, they admitted she was underage.

“They assure me she was well educated, as if that were the biggest conflict with her age,” said the auror to the Prophet.

Later, when the contract was written, it was revealed the girl was only fourteen. The auror convinced them to sign first, then proceed with the arrest.

The two underage children of the married couple are under the care of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, until the situation resolves.

“We are giving them all the support they need in these difficult times,” assured Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of the school.’

“About time,” says Severus. The idea of the kids, especially Ginnevra, under the care of Dumbledore is worrisome. They need to find a way to get her out of Hogwarts before Easter, when the rest of the children will go into hiding.

“I already talked to her social worker. She said it will not be easy. The oldest brother is under investigation but the other two have priority. At least we can prove they are involved, there is not much what we can do.”

“I doubt Percival is involved, he does not belong to the order and he is not fond to Dumbledore as his brothers are. Perhaps is for the best to let him have her.” They will have to warn him about Dumbledore’s intentions, though, maybe offer him protection.

Narcissa pats his hand. “We will try. How is your research going?”

He groans, not surprised she knew about the diary; he mentioned it to Lucius before moving to Tom’s house.

“That bad?”

“There are a few ideas by the end, but they used blood magic.”

“You need Lucius.”

“I do.”

“They have been busy; I barely see him these days.”

“I have no idea what is happening out there, Narcissa,” he confesses running his fingers through his hair, his frustration showing in his voice.

“The Dark Lord has not told you? The order has been attacking Death Eater properties. They destroyed one of the children’s safe houses.” She flips through the pages of the newspaper and put her finger in a short article, “Lestrange’s,” she takes an older newspaper, “Dolohov’s, Carrow’s”

All known death eaters’ houses. It was a matter of time until they find the other safe houses. They need to take the children from the school now so they can go under fidelius, they can’t wait until Easter holidays.

“Something about Shacklebolt?” He asks, changing the subject. He will talk with Tom about the kids that night.

“I have Skeeter working on that. She says she has enough information to write a book. I gave her two months—”

They jump on their feet when they hear an explosion in the hallway. Sharing a look, they silently move to the door, their wands high in the air. Severus goes first and the curse is in the tip of his tongue when he recognises grey eyes looking at him from the floor.

Narcissa is the first in reacting. “Draco?”

Chapter Text

Narcissa takes a bottle from her pocket — the identity potion she keeps for when Lucius arrives home — and throws it to Draco, who makes a small cut on his finger and adds a few drops of his blood on it. It turns green, confirming he is really a Malfoy.

“They attacked Hogsmeade,” starts Draco in a shaky voice, his mother already at his side, healing his bruises. “Someone grabbed my wrist, I don’t know who, so I panicked. I couldn’t think in anywhere else to apparate.”

Narcissa and he share a look. It is a miracle the boy didn’t splinch, he is almost certain Draco has never apparate before. He joins Narcissa in examining the boy, checking inch by inch for any missing part, both exhaling in relief when they are done.

“I will call Lucius,” says Narcissa, kissing her son’s hairs before walking away.

“Who attacked you, Draco?”

The boy bites his lip before answering, his voice barely a whisper. “Death eaters.”

“Death eaters?” Severus repeats with incredulity. It’s impossible, Tom would had told him if they were going to attack the town in a Hogsmeade weekend. Or at least he thinks he would, because he has barely seen Tom lately.

“What do you mean by death eaters?” He hears Tom behind him. Draco eyes widens as he steps back, clearly still scared of Tom. Severus can’t blame him; he has not been there to see the change.

Severus glares at Tom and makes him a signal to stop walking. Carefully, he gets closer to Draco, trying not to distress him more than he already is. He takes his wrists and squeezes them slightly, and Draco seems to respond to it. He starts to control his breathing, and Severus waits until he is calmed before talking.

“Nobody is going to hurt you, Draco. Now, I need you to explain me what happened with details so we can figure this out. Can you do that for me?”

Draco nods, taking a deep breath before talking. “We went to Hogsmeade today. Dumbledore gave the usual speech about these being dark times, telling us to be careful. Everything was normal until the end of the apparition class. People in black robes and white masks appeared from nowhere. We ran. Some to the school, others apparating somewhere else. It was a chaos. I was alone and someone grabbed my arm, when I freed myself I apparate here. I know it was dangerous.” Draco looks at his parents. “But I was scared, and there was no one close with who apparate. They seemed to be looking for me, I counted four following me.”

Severus lets go Draco’s wrists and sends a questioning look to Tom. The other man shakes his head. It wasn’t them.

“Draco, those were not death eaters, are you sure it was their masks?”

The boy shrugs. “They started to attack as soon as they saw us. It didn’t give time to look.”

He moves to let Narcisa comfort her son, while he goes to talk with Tom and Lucius. “I have to go”

Lucius lifts an eyebrow. “And do what? Bring them one by one?”

“If I have to.”

“You are smarter than that. They are waiting for you. They know those kids are your weakness, but if Dumbledore captures you, you will become a bigger problem. I will send death eaters.” Lucius waits until Tom nods. “Enough death eaters, to protect the children. But I need you with Narcissa in the hospital. We do not have more healers.”

Severus clenches his teeth. He knows Lucius is right, he is more useful with Narcissa. The kids were probably injured and they are too many for a single person. But he can’t avoid the feeling of failure when he agrees with his friend.

“We will take Draco with us,” Severus says. They can’t leave the kid alone in the manor, and it will be helpful to have another pair of hands. He waits for Narcissa approval before continuing. “And you will keep me informed.”

Before Lucius could answer, Narcissa grabs his arm and apparates with Draco and him in the “hospital”.

It does look like an hospital, with its white walls, identical beds and the antiseptic smell of one. The new headquarters are at walking distance, and can be seen through the windows by whoever has the address.

Narcissa gives him a quick tour and shows him the grounds. Kids will arrive through portkeys or apparition, and two death eaters will protect them from unwanted guests. Once everything is over, the students will be sent to different safe houses with their families.

Little by little, the students start to arrive. The first ones are those children of death eaters, who apparate near their houses. The parents will not leave them alone, and they need a place to stay while they go to Hogsmeade.

They repair a few broken ankles, and heal those who splinched in the hurry. But waiting is becoming a torture for Severus. They know nothing about their classmates, since they were the first to escape. He neither can see the students outside, and he is thankful when one of them offers to make a list. There are a few sixth years, those who still didn’t turn seventeen, and several third and fourth years, brought by their older housemates.

The seconds are those who come through portkeys. They come with a little more of information, telling him who run back to Hogwarts — those with younger siblings — and who apparate away. They come with more injuries too, but nothing that cannot be fixed.

When Goyle sr. enters with his son in his arms, Severus thanks Lucius for not let him go. Gregory is in bad shape, his arm and part of his face are destroyed, and the bleeding doesn’t stop. It requires Narcissa and Severus’ magic to keep him breathing. It takes them an hour to stabilise him, and by the time they do, both are exhausted.

It’s Narcissa who goes to speak with the father, while he goes with Draco. The boy has done a good job alone; he will be a great healer one day.

“He will be fine,” he informs Draco, who looks worried for his classmate. “It will take time, but he will be fine.”

“A kid came looking for you. He said they need you with the portkeys.”

Severus nods and goes there, finding chaos outside. Someone is cursing and yelling and he recognises the voice. Ginnevra.

He runs there and sees two seventh years holding the girl and two death eaters holding one of her brothers. They don’t have their wands but it doesn’t stop them from kicking and struggling. A fourth year is trying to talk to the girl but she doesn’t seem to listen.

“Let her go,” Severus orders, “take off your masks.”

As soon as she is free, Ginnevra charges against the seventh year who has her wand. They grab her again.

“I said ‘let her go’. And give back her wand. She is one of us.”

Ginnevra look at him surprised and, as if she just recognises him, goes to hide behind him. She points at the death eaters with her wand.

“I assure you, Ginnevra,” he says not looking at her but at the other Weasley, “it wasn’t us who attacked you in Hogsmeade.”

“The hell you weren’t!” Yell the other Weasley, one of the twins.

“Give me your mask, Parkinson.”

“Snape…”

He lifts an eyebrow, and the mask is extended to him. “Is this the mask of the death eater who attacked you?”

“I don’t know, I was too busy trying not to die,” she says, taking the mask anyway to examine it.

His lips curl at the corner; he is not angry but amused. The nerve of the girl. Anyone else would be dead. But her brother is in danger, and people reacts to stress in different ways.

“Remember you sister is at my side, Weasley,” He puts a hand on the girls’ shoulder. “Think very careful what you are going to do. Let him go”

The death eaters let him go, and he stands there, without moving. “Let her go, traitor bastard,”

He chuckles, but it’s a dark chuckle, and he feels Ginnevra tensing under his arm. “Your sister is free to go wherever she wants. But I am your safer option right now.”

“Ginny, come here.”

“It’s fine, Fred. You are Pansy’s dad, aren’t you?” She asks to the death eater who gave them his mask, her voice is slightly trembling. “I am a friend of your daughter.”

“Ginnevra, isn’t it? Yes, the gryffindor girl. Pansy has told me about you,” says Parkinson serious.

She forces a smile. “See, Fred, It’s Pansy’s dad.”

“Yes, another snake—” Before he could say another word, a wand is on his neck.

“Give me his wand,” orders Severus and pockets the boy’s wand, his other hand still in Ginnevra’s shoulder, “I will let you explain everything to him, before he gets himself killed.”

Chapter Text

“I already told you what the newspaper said was true,” starts Ginnevra, not caring they were in the middle of a crowd. With a gesture, Severus tells the two death eaters to clear the area, while he casts a muffliato around them for privacy. “They told me to look for a husband, because if I didn’t do it by myself, they would do it instead. I am fourteen. I don’t want to marry, but they looked serious about it. So, I went to professor Snape — I was taken to professor Snape for help. And he helped.”

“And of all people, you went to Snape?” Says her brother with a sceptical sniff.

“I didn’t! I went to Dumbledore and McGonagall first, but they supported mum and dad. I was desperate, I didn’t know what to do. And then Pansy found me. She took me to Professor Snape.” She walks towards Fred and held one of his hands. “They offer me in exchange of money, Fred. They even made an advertisement offering me to any pureblood fanatic with enough money.”

“Ginny, mum and dad would never do that. They are brainwashing you.”

She draws a crumbled paper from her pocket. “Read this. It’s the letter they sent telling me they already found a husband.”

Weasley reads the letter in silence. His eyes stop moving, and his hands start to shake. He looks at his sister again and hugs her.

“I will kill them. I will fucking kill them. Let's go home.”

“This is the safest place for me now. Dumbledore is looking for me.”

“Dumbledore?” Asks Severus, and the siblings flinch. They look around as just remembering they were in a public place.

“I told the social worker and the auror who talked with me that I went to Dumbledore first. They are starting an investigation.” She bites her lower lip as she looks at Severus, moving closer to her brother. “Are you angry?”

It will rush things, but they can make it work to their advantage. Dumbledore credibility will be questioned if he is involved in a case of child traffic. “No. Are you hurt?”

“Fred has an ugly burn on his arm.”

“Ginny!”

He takes them to the hospital and tells them to wait for their turn with Draco. He is still weak after healing Goyle, and he needs to save his magic for more serious cases.

“Keep an eye on him,” he says to Ginnevra before going away.

When adults start to arrive for healing, Severus knows the battle is over. It is surprising the amount of death eaters wounded by friendly fire, specially by the older students who went to help. They said it was hard to distinguish between them, they were identical. Fortunately, they had the good sense of not to cast deadly spells, and Severus only has to deal with broken bones and other minor wounds.

As soon as he is sure there are no one else seriously injured, Severus goes to the headquarters to speak with Tom and Lucius. He wants to know what happened in Hogsmeade, and they need to come with a plan to remove the younger kids from Hogwarts.

His lover is talking with a death eater he doesn’t recognise. The man gives Tom a long parchment, pointing with his finger something on it. Tom frowns and shakes his head, saying something he can’t hear.

When Tom sees him, he beckons him to come closer. He introduces the death eater as Pearson, who he is in charge of organizing the children. Severus wanted one of the parents to be in charge but Pearson isn’t a bad option. Broad shoulders, muscular body, and military stance, he looks as someone who can take big responsibilities.

“The ones in green are those who refused to go the safe houses. They will put their own houses under fidelius. The red ones we are still trying to locate them. The parents should be speaking with Dumbledore in this moment to take them from Hogwarts, if they are there,” explains Pearson, handing him the same paper he was showing Tom earlier, “in a couple of hours we will be able to tell if there are missing students.”

Severus nods, hoping the students in Hogwarts are fine. “Byrne, Thomson, Crawford and Hunter live among muggles. I will go with their families now.”

They are all half-bloods, but Crawford and Hunter only live with their muggle parent. Both have a magical guardian, Severus asked the parents to choose one before their second year in case of emergency, and if they agree to take them from Hogwarts, it could be quickly done.

“Take Lewis with you.” Tom uses Pearson mark to call Lewis and orders him to assist Severus in everything he needs.

For the first time Severus doesn’t complain about his lover’s protectiveness, this mission is too important to fail. The life of his students depends on it and the order is probably waiting for him. It will be good to have a way of calling Tom if things go wrong.

Though his companion doesn’t share his idea. Lewis wears a scowl all the way, and Severus has to order him to stay outside to not make the families nervous.

Convince the parents is relatively easy. After he explains them that being killed or harmed at the hands of Dumbledore is worse than being expelled, and mention the attack in Hogsmeade, they accept to remove their kids from the school. Byrne and Thomson will go under fidelius, Crawford’s mother will temporally move with the brother of his late husband out of the country, however Hunter’s muggle mother refuses to go anywhere. She was divorced from an abusive wizard and will not go with a group of people who can ‘kill her with the flick of a stick’.

“I will need two death eaters here,” he says to Lewis, walking to a place where they can discreetly apparate. He wants to visit s couple of families of his older students to inform them about the situation.

Lewis stop walking. “You are kidding.”

Severus turns to him and lifts an eyebrow. “Do I look as someone who is kidding?”

“We are not spending resources in muggles, Snape.”

“That is not up to you to decide.”

“Neither is up to you. Our master will never agree with this—”

“Your master, Lewis.” Severus corrects him nonchalantly.

“Who do think you are? Do you believe I don’t know what you are?” Bursts Lewis, as if he has wanted to say that for a long time. “You are not more than a prostitute who lured our master.” Severus restrains himself from reacting. He had killed for less, but he doesn’t believe Tom will appreciate if the death eater he borrowed arrives death by his hand. “You know he is your master too. At least I chose to follow. You are not more than a slave, a glorified pet who doesn’t know its place. You should be licking—”

Severus pushes him against the wall and closes his hand against his throat. He has had enough and won’t allow to be treated without the respect he deserves. That man wouldn’t treat Bellatrix or Lucius like that. He was an equal with them when he was a death eater, and he will have to remind it to Lewis.

Lewis hands go to his arm, digging in his skin, trying to free himself. If they compare physical strength, Lewis would easily overpower him, but Severus is quicker. He casts a wandless freezing spell and keep strangling him until he is blue.

“This is what we are going to do,” he hisses in his ear, “I will let you go and you will follow me in this little trip and obey any order like a good dog. Do you understand me?” He finishes the spell and the man weakly nods. “Good boy.”

He lets him go, but not without putting a powerful silencing spell on him. Lewis takes his hands to his neck, trying to form words but unable to do so. He tries with his wands, but it is useless. The spell is of his own creation and can’t be undone by a ‘finite incantatem’. The effect should last a couple of hours, enough for them to finish and go back to Tom. Enough for Lewis to learn his place.

The other two families, a muggle single father and a mixed couple, act surprised for the news. Nobody from the school has informed them about their children being missing, and nothing has appeared in The Prophet yet. Severus recommends them to leave the country until things are calmed, assuring them their children are fine, but reminding them that they are already of age; they can take their own decisions now.

“Time to go back,” He informs to his companion when they are done. “You better behave.”

They apparate in the entry of the headquarters and make their way to Tom’s study.

“I will need two death eaters protecting Hunter’s house. The mother refused to go to a safe house, and wants her son with her.”

“Of course. I thought I had told Lewis to take care of that.”

The man tries to defend himself but is still unable to speak.

“He is a little indisposed right now,” he says with an amused glint in his eyes. “I would give him a couple of hours… or days.” He smirks at the panicked face of Lewis.

“We will talk later, Lewis.”

Lewis bows before going away. Tom waits until the door is closed again to speak.

“What did you do?”

“He pissed me off. Be grateful I didn’t cut his tongue.”

“I am grateful,” says Tom not sharing Severus amusement. “Do you mind telling me why?”

“He disrespected me.” There is a pause when Severus expected Tom to speak in support, but the other man just keeps staring. “Is not my word enough for you.”

“It is, but you are not one of my death eaters. When you were, I could let you to resolve your problems between yourselves, but now I am supposed to protect them.”

“Should I allow them to call me prostitute, then?” He snaps, glaring at Tom.

Tom’s eyes turn red. “Lewis is dead.”

He gives a steep back. It’d been a long time since he'd seen the red eyes, and suddenly to have silencing Lewis doesn’t seem such a good idea. He rather a disrespectful death eater than an insane Voldemort.

“Tom?”

The eyes are brown again. “I am sorry.”

“Are you taking your potions?”

“Yes,” replies Tom, “I am sorry”

Severus nods. He knew it was going to be slow, and even when Tom is fully healed, there will still be those sudden changes. At least Tom can control it now.

“Do not worry about Lewis. I think he learnt his lesson,”

“I worry, Severus. You are right, I cannot have a death eater disrespecting my allies. I will talk to him.” Seeing Severus’ incredulous look, he adds, “I will not kill him, I promise.”

“And do not tell Lucius, or Narcissa,” he says. They do not have many death eaters, and they can’t go around killing them. “You know how they are.”

Chapter Text

Lewis is reassigned, and as the days pass by, he and Tom’s red eyes become a distant memory. Meetings with Pearson to discuss the children’s safety, visits to the safe houses, contacting the families of the students who aren’t death eaters’ children, the hospital — where Gregory Goyle is still recovering — and the Weasleys. Time is scarce and he has to prioritise; and the children will always come first.

Tom’s house is completely isolated; therefore, Severus has been living with the Malfoys since the incident in Hogsmeade. That way, when a family wants to abandon a safe house in the middle of the night, Pearson can easily contact him.

The situation inside the houses is tense. Three or four families have to coexist in the same space and every day at least one leaves. They put their own homes under fidelius, or travel abroad, and decide the risk is worth their privacy. With Pearson, they make sure the families arrive safely to their final destination, but their job ends there; they don’t have enough death eaters to protect them all.

Ginnevra and her brother are at the manor too. A social worker came to talk with the girl and granted the temporary custody to the Malfoys. Ginnevra ran away while being under Dumbledore’s care, and she accused him again of being involved with her parents, both things resulting not only in the loss of the custody but also in a restraining order against the headmaster.

There are newspaper and magazines interested in hearing her story, and she speaks with Narcissa to make the arrangements. She will give a single interview to The Prophet, and Narcissa will be present the whole time. She will also choose the reporter, making sure is not someone who will attack the girl to protect Dumbledore.

The older Weasley doesn’t leave his sister’s side, but even though he doesn’t trust them, he respects her wishes of staying there. They still keep death eaters meeting away from his ears. He will eventually try to return to Hogwarts to find his two brothers and they don’t want to take any risk.

It is his turn of watching them. Narcissa and Draco are at the hospital and Lucius is at work. The three are in the potion lab, they are running out of potions, and the adults don’t have time to brew. Severus is determined to have some help from the siblings, the twins are part of his NEWT students after all.

He is instructing them with the basic when someone knocks at the door. The siblings jump, they are supposed to be alone in the manor, but Severus knows it must be an elf; the elves have forbidden to apparate in the labs to avoid accidents.

“Master Malfoy is calling to Severus Snape sir,” announces the elf in his acute voice when he opens the door.

“Floo call?”

“Yes Severus Snape sir. In the library.” replies the elf bowing and disappearing.

With a ‘do not burn anything’ he leaves the siblings and hurries to the library. Lucius rarely calls, and it must be important.

“Yes?” He asks to the fireplace.

“It took you ages,” says his friend’s voice, “are you with Weasley there?”

“No, they are in the labs.”

Lucius makes a pained gesture. “I do not want to rebuild it again.”

Severus snorts, remembering why the potion lab was built far away from the house in the first place. “Why are you calling, Lucius?”

“Percival Weasley wants to see his sister. I told him he could go now.” Before Severus can remind him how dangerous it is for him to be seen by someone who is loyal to the Ministry, Lucius keeps talking. “I was supposed to go home now but something came up. I will be there as soon as possible. Do not let him in.” Lucius cuts the call, not giving Severus time to complain.

He returns with the children, who are trying to open the door to his private office. Quietly, he closes the door behind him and clears his throat. “Am I interrupting?”

The Weasleys turn around surprised, tripping between them and falling.

“I am sorry, sir,” says Ginnevra with her face red as she stands, “we were curious.”

Severus nods, not because he doesn’t care, but because they have more important things to talk. “Your brother is coming.”

“Charlie?” They exclaimed at the same time.

“Percival.”

Their eyes widen, and they share a surprised look. Fred puts himself in front of his sister. “No. He is a traitor. He won’t take her.”

“Nobody is taking anyone, Weasley. He is only coming to visit.”

She pushes Fred aside softly. “I will talk with him, but only if Fred and you are there.”

They walk outside in silence. Percival is already waiting in front of the gates, and smiles nervously when he sees his younger siblings.

“Ginny! Fred!” Percival tries to open the door but it is locked, and when he looks at Severus in askance, the potion master shakes his head. “Are you okay?”

“We are,” says Fred coldly, “what do you want, Percy?”

“I was worried. You two were missing from Hogwarts. George wrote to me.”

“To you?”

“I am your brother, Fred. Your big brother, whether you want to accept it or not.”

“The newspapers are right.” Ginnevra interrupts the fight and goes closer to Percival. “Do you believe me?”

“Of course I believe you. You wouldn’t lie with something like that.” He reaches a hand through the gates to Ginnevra and she holds it with a smile. “I will ask for the guardianship. I already spoke with Charlie; he will help so you don’t have to return to the Burrow.”

“It’s not so simple, Percy. Things are bad. The attack in Hogsmeade was orchestrated by Dumbledore, those weren’t real death eaters. And I was one of the targets. Professor Snape convinced the Malfoy of taking me in, and they are now protecting me. You don’t have the means to do that, this is safest place for me now.”

The door suddenly opens, all the eyes going to Lucius who just arrived. “Weasley,”

The two of them enter, Percival going to his brother, who crosses his arms in front of him. “I know you are angry at me, but I tried to return. Father didn’t allow me, he asked me to leave the Ministry, to give up my career. I wasn’t going to do that. I didn’t know they were going to do something like this.”

“George and Ron are at Hogwarts. They won’t believe you.”

“I know. But I will ask for Ron’s guardianship, and we will take him from Hogwarts. George will believe you, but I don’t think Ron will. I will need you to talk with them.” says Percival, and Fred stays in silence. He doesn’t seem convinced by his brother. “Look, Fred, you are an adult and I know is a lot to ask but I need you to act like one. I am not asking you to love me, not even to forgive me or trust in me, but Ginny and Ron need you. We cannot let Dumbledore to have Ron, and we cannot let him hurt Ginny.”

“As touching as this scene is, I will ask you to move inside the manor,” says Lucius, leading them to the drawing room.

Lucius and Severus give some privacy at the siblings, who will need some time to resolve their issues. Time Severus doesn’t have, because he has to go to the hospital. Narcissa has been there all day, and she needs to rest too.

“Take Tom home tonight,” says Lucius, “he is burying himself in work. Pearson can handle the houses for one night.”

Severus nods. His lover is stubborn and at times he forgets he is human too and needs to rest, and he won’t listen anyone but Severus.

Narcissa greets him at the entry of the hospital. She updates him about Gregory — their only patient left — and goes to look for her son.

Draco is at his friend’s side, speaking in hushed tones as Gregory’s mother dozes off in a chair nearby. “Are we going?”

“Yes,”

Draco says his goodbyes, and disappears with Narcissa through the door.

Gregory’s mother sits straight on her chair and smiles at him, “Good afternoon, professor.”

“When can I go home?” Asks Gregory, as he asks every afternoon when Severus enters the room.

“I do not know.” It’s the same answer he gives every time. Narcissa has the last word in anything related to the health of her patients. “How do you feel?”

“My eye hurts a lot.”

Severus touches the area around the eye and Gregory makes a gesture of pain. “The pain is normal, we had to reconstruct all your right side. I will give you an analgesic”

The afternoon goes quietly. Gregory requires to be monitored every couple of hours, but he is almost healed. If nothing changes, he should be discharged from the hospital in one day or two.

He spends the time he is not with the boy in a small office, talking with Pearson through floo. The last three children have been removed from school without incidents. Dumbledore can’t refuse to let the kids go if a guardian asks for it. He tried, but in the end, there was nothing he could do.

Little by little people of the others houses, Ravenclaws and siblings mostly, have been leaving too. Pearson will talk with the children next day. Severus remember Ginnevra’s best friend is in Ravenclaw and if Pearson makes a list, he can find more about the other families. They can be potential allies, or at least one less enemy to fight.

It is almost three in the morning when Narcissa returns, this time without Draco. Severus tells her about the new potion he prescribed for Gregory, and she agrees he should be ready to go home in two days. When they are done, Severus makes his way to the headquarter, walking straight to Tom’s study, finding his lover sleeping at the desk.

Severus touches his shoulder softly. “Let’s go home.”

“What?” Asks Tom, trying to focus his eyes. “You are going home tonight?”

“Yes. Get up, you need a real bed.”

Tom doesn’t fight him. He calls Nagini and the three apparate in their home, going to bed as soon as they arrive.

Severus is awaken by the wards wavering. It’s already morning, and he turns around expecting to find Tom’s empty spot on the bed. He fully wakes up when he realises Tom is still there. They share a concerned look and jump from the bed.

“Who else can see the house?”

“The Lestranges and the Malfoys.”

He moves slightly the curtain and sees flashes of light illuminating a figure at the edge of the property. “There is someone outside.”

“I am calling the others, do not go outside.”

Tom disappears and he is left with Nagini, who hisses at the door. He looks through the window again, this time noticing there are more than one person. He waits five minutes and make a signal to Nagini to go out. Tom will return at any minute, and the wards should protect them until then.

Holding his wand tightly, he gets closer to the edge, freezing in shock when he recognises the figures. The youngest Potter is casting spells at the wards, as his parents, Black and Lupin sit not far away. Severus doesn’t know about the adults, but the boy can definitely see him.

Chapter Text

Severus darts towards the wards when he sees the three Lestrange arrive. Rabastan attacks Harry from behind while Bellatrix and Rodolphus deal with the adults. The Gryffindors don’t resist when they take away their wands, but Lily hurries to put herself between Rabastan and her son.

Without leaving the safety of the property, Severus watches how the three death eaters surround them. He spots Lucius not far away, concealed by a tree, ready to step in if necessary. Tom should be close too, probably making sure there are no other members of the Order in the forest, and waiting for the right moment to appear.

“My, my, what do we have here?” Bellatrix says, licking her lips in anticipation. “Who shall I thank for such delightful present?”

Her eyes are glued on her cousin. Black not only ruined her family name, but also abandoned his little brother to their abusive parents. To someone who took punishments instead of her sisters all her life, that is unforgivable. Bellatrix’s been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time, and her twisted smile shows it.

Rodolphus and Rabastan don’t share her excitement, both well aware of how easily Bellatrix gets distracted when it comes to family. It is how the Lestrange work, when one of them acts a little crazier than usual, the other two are there to watch their back.

“We come to talk with your master,” says Lily, holding her hands up as if surrendering. “We have information.”

“Information? What kind of information could be so important, for me to forgive the life of a mudblood and some blood traitors?”

“That is none of your business, crazy bitch. She told you, we are here to speak with your—”

Black’s words die in his mouth. Tom emerges from the trees behind Bellatrix, his red eyes looking first at Harry and then at Black. Lily grabs her son’s arm and pulls him closer to her, and James moves protectively to their side.

Severus swallow dry. Tom and Harry cannot be near each other. They couldn’t deactivate the compulsion, only make it more manageable. Having the boy there is like putting whisky in front of an ex-alcoholic. He can resist it, but not for long.

“And you will speak with me, Black. But not before you pay for your insolence,” says Tom coldly, avoiding to look where the Potters are. “Bellatrix, if you please.”

A silent curse hits Black on the chest. For a moment, they are not sure what is happening because he is in silence, glaring daggers at his cousin. Eventually, a scream escapes from his mouth and the inevitable tears of pain roll down his cheeks. James jumps to help his friend, shouting insults to the woman in his way. Rodolphus reacts faster, and with another cruciatus he keeps the Gryffindor in his place.

“Stop!” Lily yells in what reminds to Severus her prefect voice. “Stop it, now!”

Trying to give orders to the death eaters when they are torturing your husband proves not to be the best of the ideas. The curse intensifies, showing Lily who is in control. Harry and Lupin drag her back when she tries to get in the way of the spell, a hand over her mouth to avoid her sharing the same fate as her husband.

After seven minutes of incessant screaming, Tom makes a signal for them to stop. With a smile of satisfaction, Bellatrix lowers her wand, blinking an eye to her husband who does the same.

Lily frees herself and goes with James, whispering questions about his well-being and getting groans as answers. Black is in worse condition, vomiting on Lupin’s shoes, unable of standing by himself.

Tom clears his throat with an air of impatience. “I am listening.”

Lily steps forward, balling her shaking hands into fists. “We demand protection. For the five of us.”

“You want... no, you demand protection,” says Tom, giving a humourless laugh. His irises pass through different shades of red. He is on the edge, but he is still fighting. “I have to admit it, this is interesting. Please, continue.”

Severus chooses that moment to intervene and take Harry away before Tom loses control. His entry is far more dramatic than he anticipated, but it worked to distract his lover. Lily gasps, taking a hand to her mouth while the marauders stare with mouth agape. Tom smiles at him, the red eyes going back to their natural colour, focusing in him rather than the boy.

“You were listening,” says Lily, sounding accusatory, “you could—”

“Rabastan, take the boy away,” he orders ignoring her.

Her reaction is frantic. “No! Please, not Harry!” She yells as the boy is taken away. She falls on her knees, tears streaming down her face. “Please, I am sorry. Please don’t harm Harry.”

“He will not be harmed, not yet. But for everyone’s safety, he needs to stay away from my sight.” explains Tom calmly. “Please continue.”

“There is a connection between Harry and you.” This time is Lupin who speaks. He seems the only one capable of doing it, with Lily crying on the floor and the other two still recovering from the cruciatus. “That is why he can see your house. If you kill him or harm him in any way, it is likely you harm yourself.”

They already knew about the connection, but if the boy can see the house, it means it is stronger than they thought. But it wasn’t just the house. Everything Tom does or think, Harry knows it. He could sell the information, or use it against them. From now on, Tom’s occlumancy shields would need to be always up.

“What you are saying is I cannot kill Harry. Why should I keep you four alive?”

“Because we are with him.”

“If I refuse to give you this protection. And if I let you go, what are you going to do?” Asks Tom lifting an eyebrow. “Killing him?” He turns to Lily. “Your own son?”

“Sev,” she says with a trembling voice, “you promised me you will keep us safe.”

“I told you from the beginning, I will not provide protection to your husbands and friends. And I am afraid I can no longer offer it to you.”

“You promised to help me. Please Severus, I need you.”

“I know what you did in the first war.” His voice is calmed, studied, the opposite of how he feels inside. “Does the name Edward Ferguson mean something to you?”

“Who?”

His stomach sinks. A part of him trusted there’s an explanation, but she seems genuinely clueless of who Ferguson was.

“Eight hundred galleons.” He is determined to get an answer. “You thought his life, the life of a child, was worth eight hundred galleons.”

Her eyes widen in understanding. “I can explain. It was a bet; I didn’t mean to actually buy him.”

“A bet? Do you think a simple game justifies to buy a person?”

“It doesn’t, but it was the way it was. Everyone was doing it, and you were with or against them,” she says, her voice confident, “we did horrible things, it was a war, Severus. We both know your hands aren’t clean either.”

“I never buy anyone to torture him.”

“Torture him?” She exclaims offended, “I would never do something like that! I am not the only one here who has tried to bought a human being, but at least I wasn’t successful.”

Her argument sounds convincing, but Severus notices how her eyes shifts towards James for less than a second. Lily didn’t want to buy Ferguson to torture him, but it wasn’t to protect him either.

“What it was, Lily?” He starts to walk around her like a cat chasing a mouse. This killed whatever was left of their friendship. Now she is just another auror. “Your wedding anniversary?” She shakes her head and gives a step back, tripping with her husband who look as scared as her. “His birthday?”

She flinches. Anger fills him, and he has to fight the urge of jump at James’s throat. Lily changed when she got involved with James, doing things he never imagined she was capable of doing. He killed the innocent girl he met.

Except she wasn’t innocent. He had seen her manipulating her parent, using fake tears to stay at the park a little more, or to escape from a punishment. It was only children’s stuff at first, but he remembers a few occasions where she used the same techniques with him.

He stops in front of her. “There was a compulsion spell on me. Was it you?”

“You don’t understand, Sev,” she says looking for James’ hand. “You were talking about that scholarship to Durmstrang. I had to do something.”

Severus nods. He is not surprised. “How did you get the spell?”

“Dumbledore gave me a book when I told him we were learning occlumancy.”

He turns around. He has his answers and doesn’t need anything else from them, but he doesn’t deceive himself into thinking he will be able of killing Lily. Tom will have to take over, and he is certain he has a few questions of his own.

“Do what you want with them. It is none of my business.”

“Stay,” says Tom before he could cross the wards back to their home, “I will not kill her, but I need you here.”

Chapter Text

Severus raises his eyebrows in question, but his lover simply smirks. The Gryffindors still have something to offer in exchange of their lives. Money, though unlikely, is plausible. Wars are expensive, and the Malfoy’s money isn’t endless; it could also be some family heirloom, something hidden in the Potter or the Black vaults. Whatever it is, Severus hopes is not enough to give them their freedom back.

He observes the marauders mostly to avoid Lily. James and Black stare defiant at them, the promise of keeping them alive has restored their bravery. The corner of his mouth lifts in an involuntary sneer, they should know by now there are fates worse than death. The third marauder doesn’t share their confidence. Lupin’s eyes are glued in Tom, his nose wrinkled and some teeth on the view, he looks like a scared animal and Severus would swear he hears a low growl from him if it weren’t for the distance between them.

Lily, still on her knees, crawls to him and pulls at his robes, taking him away from his thoughts about Lupin. “Sev, please. I did what I thought was best. If I was wrong, I am sorry.”

“If you were wrong?” Says Severus with incredulity, taking a step back. She supposedly did some ‘thinking’ while she was imprisoned, and yet she is incapable of understanding what was wrong with her actions. “You tried to buy a person, Lily. You hexed who was supposed to be your friend, your best friend. You lied multiple times, and you still think there is an excuse for that?”

“I treated you well,” she yelled in desperate fury, “I hugged you after your father beat you, and sneaked food for you when you were starving. Did you forget that? Did you forget that I—?

“What do you expect, Lily?” He cuts her off, losing his patience. “An award for being a decent human being?”

“Then just protect Harry. I will give you anything you want, but please protect Harry.”

His mask of impassivity slips for a few seconds when he hears her broken tone, and the words are out of his mouth before he can realise. “I am sorry, Lily.”

He shouldn’t have stayed. He is too weak and soon he will be asking Tom to set her free. To set them free. Because Lily isn’t speaking about her own freedom; she wants to save them all.

Tom glances at him. “Perhaps the protection of your son can be arranged…”

“Tom, you don’t have to—”

“…for a price.”

A price. Severus suddenly understand it’s not his relationship with Lily what will save Harry. Tom is just trying to get something in exchange even though he has to protect him.

The green eyes bright with hope. She seems to have forgotten about the connection between Tom and Harry too, or perhaps she is just worried about what will happen with the boy if he is left alone. “I will give you anything. Whatever you want if you protect Harry.”

“Oh, not you,” says Tom dismissively, “Black, your cousins want to make a deal.”

Black narrows his eyes, his fist clenching at his side as he looks at Bellatrix. “What do you want?”

“What is rightfully ours. You will stop whatever you are doing to make Potter your heir.”

“And who will inherit? You?” Said Black lifting an eyebrow.

“My second child will take the Lordship and the house.”

Black chuckles and shakes his head. “Your second child? You don’t even have one. Accept what everybody already knows, Bellatrix, you are as barren as your sister. Even more, I would say.”

Severus holds his breath. There are two things you don’t mess with. One is Bellatrix’s sister, and the other their fertility. Rodolphus and he share a look, knowing they will have to intervene if Bellatrix tries to kill Black. Dead men cannot make deals, and it is important for the sisters to recover the Lordship and the seat on the Wizengamot.

Her nostrils flare and her lip curls in anger, but she doesn’t speak the killing curse. Instead she gets closer slowly, and with a wordless spell she immobilises him.

Kneeling at his side, she points her wand to his crotch, her mouth is only an inch from his ear. “Crucio”

Severus looks aside, but he can hear the little yelp from Lily. When he turns to see her again, she has one hand over her mouth and the other gripping her husband’s arm, as to avoid him to go and help his friend. Not necessary, James is in clear shock and won’t move.

The freezing spell must have stopped, because now Black is screaming. He curls on his side, trying to cover himself, but Bellatrix just pauses the spell, turns him around, and continues where she left it.

It feels like hours. Hours that nobody dares to say anything, not even Tom. Sometimes she withdraws her wand and even stand, but is just a game to give Black hopes. Eventually, she gets tired, returning to her place at Tom’s side and leaving Black whimpering apologies on the floor.

“Bring me the boy,” orders Tom.

Severus takes Rodolphus’ place as he goes to find his brother. They arrive dragging Harry by the shoulder, his hands tied behind his back, and dry blood on his face.

Tom lifts an eyebrow, untying the boy with his wand.

“He tried to escape.” Rabastan points a broken lip on his own face. “He will not let me clean him.”

They let the Potter run to their son and make sure he is fine. The boy hugs his mother but shrugs away his father’s hand. Tom waits until the family scene is over to speak again.

“The boy will not be harmed. He will go to Malfoy manor and you will be sent with the other prisoners. Black has twenty-four hours to give an answer, after that you will be executed and your son will be left to fend by himself.”

After giving the instructions and calling Lucius with his hand, Tom disappears.

It should be quick and easy. The Lestranges would apparate with the three marauders in the prison, Severus would do the same with Lily, and Lucius would go with Harry to the manor. It should be, but when Rabastan touches Lupin, the werewolf attacks him with inhuman strength.

His yellow eyes and growls remember Severus of that night in the shrieking shack. He freezes for a moment and the Potter take advantage of it. While Bellatrix, Lucius and Rodolphus help Rabastan —Bellatrix having the good sense of kicking Black’s head before going— Lily pushes him aside and run to her son. James tries to wake up Black but ends abandoning him and following his wife and son.

“Severus! The Potter,” yells Lucius and Severus snaps out of his shock.

He only needs to stop Harry. Lily and James will not go anywhere without their son. He cast a stupefy on the youngest Potter, his parents not noticing he has fallen behind. When Harry reacts, Severus is already grabbing him and pressing his wand against his throat.

“Not a move,” he warns before calling the other two, “stop!”

They turn around when they see Harry is not with them.

“You will come with me, calmly. Or your son will be killed.”

“You are bluffing,” says James from the distance, “It will kill your master if you do.”

“You mean the man who tortured me? The man who bought me and made me a slave?” He replies with hate in his voice. He forgave Tom long time ago, but he knows how to act.

“You are a good person, Sev,”

He makes a small cut in Harry’s neck. Not enough to do any real damage, but enough for him to scream at the sudden pain.

“Am I?”

Not waiting for an answer, he walks back to where the others are, James and Lily following behind. There, only Lucius and Rodolphus are left, blood staining their robes.

“Did he bite you?” He asks to Lucius.

“No, but Rabastan got scratched. Nothing serious.” Lucius wave his hand dismissively, and takes Harry from him. “They already left.”

James and Lily arrive, their hands raised. “Just don’t harm him”

“He will not be harmed, but you will come with me and won’t give me any more trouble.”

Chapter Text

Instead of taking Lily to one of the cells, he leads her to the interrogation room. There is no violence as he does, but his wand is ready in case she attempts to escape again. She doesn't, but she stops at the door when he turns on the light.

It is an intimidating room. There are no window and its only furniture is a chair with chains attached to it. They rattle threateningly when Lily sits, as if they were asking for permission to lock the prisoner. Severus silences them with a spell; he isn’t there to interrogate Lily — someone else will probably do it later — but to get some answers. He thought he had all the information that he needed, but it isn’t enough. He still can’t understand how the kind girl she met at Cokeworth became this woman who has so little respect for human life.

"You are not an angel, Severus," she says with a slight tremor in her voice, "I know what you did to Macnair"

"I did not kill him."

Though Severus knows she is not talking about Macnair's death. He has tortured merciless, making a name for himself as a dangerous death eater. To difference of Lily, he had reasons; revenge, getting information, but never because it was fun.

"It felt good to torture him, did it not? You cannot hide it from me. I saw it in your eyes, Severus, and I know you enjoyed every second of it."

He can't deny it. He did enjoy torturing Macnair, but he did not do it because of it. He needed to send a message with him, ‘not to mess with Severus Snape’. The death eaters had learnt about him being a slave, and he couldn't afford to be seen as weak.

"I didn't do it because it was fun, and you saw what he tried to do." Severus stays calmed, Lily is no longer a friend and he can't let his guard down with her. "What is your excuse? What did he do to you or your husband, to deserve being tortured by him?"

A part of him still hopes there is a reason. Perhaps Ferguson killed someone they cared, or hurt them in some way. But it is almost impossible; according to Tom, Ferguson had joined two months before being captured.

"He was a death eater. They killed many of us." Her voice is wavering again, at least a part of her knows it is not a good excuse.

"What did he do to you? Because he was so young, Lily. Just three years older than your son now." He wishes there were some place where to sit because his legs feel suddenly heavy. "I could understand if he had died in the battlefield. Or if he had killed someone you care. But you wanted to use him as a gift, can't you see how sick is that?"

"But I didn't. That is the important." Her lip quivers and her body trembles. "They told me to do it. I didn't want it, and in the end, I didn't do it."

Severus shakes his head. He can't say by her reaction if she really regrets what she did, or if it is another trick to manipulate him. If she was forced, it would be a valid excuse, but she saw him as an object. She practically confessed she wanted him as a gift for her husband earlier.

"I could have gone to Durmstrang," says he, changing the subject," perhaps they would have noticed there was something wrong at home. Durmstrang cares a little more than Hogwarts about their students, and they do not trust muggles."

"You can't know that,"

"No, I can't. But even if they didn't, I could had left Hogwarts and stay away from your husband. Lucius offered me private tutors. Did you know that?"

She nods, and Severus thinks this might be the only time she is having an honest reaction. "I was scared, Severus. I was only a child."

And back to the lies. Lily didn't show any remorse earlier, when he asked. She offered an explanation, but even if she was only a child — a brilliant child who should had known better — she didn't admit she was wrong.

"You had enough opportunities to tell me the true."

"Yes, but I didn't know how. I was only a child, and then it was too late. I tried to tell you, but every time I was going to do it, you mentioned something Malfoy offered. Tutors, local schools in I-don't-know-where, another boarding schools. They were jokes for you, but if I told you the true, they would become a real thing and I couldn't lose..."

He closes his eyes and focuses on his breathing, blocking whatever she is saying. He doesn’t want to keep listening. It is too late; she chose a side long time ago. Deep inside he always knew it wasn’t his side, even if he didn't want to admit it out loud.

“I think we are done,” he says, interrupting her in the middle of her half-excuses and offering his hand to help her to stand.

He takes her to the cell between Black and Lupin. She glances at him as he locks the door, but doesn’t stop him or beg for help. The game is over, and both of them lost.

 

An elf informs him that its masters wait for him in the kitchen. He finds Lucius, Narcissa, and Ginnevra in there. Ginnevra face is red and she is glaring at Lucius, who just stares back at her calmly.

“Potter locked himself in a bedroom. He will not go out and he is threatening with killing himself,” says Lucius in an annoyed tone before he could ask, “We already tried with Ginnevra.”

Mentally sighing, he grabs a knife from the counter. He doesn't have time for Potter's tantrums. “Which one?”

Lucius frowns. “What are you-?” He shakes his head. “I don’t care, just get him out of there. Third bedroom to the right.”

Ignoring Ginnevra's questions, he walks upstairs and knocks on the third door.

“I want my parents; you have an hour or I will kill myself. Let’s see if your master likes that,” yells Harry from inside.

Severus rolls his eyes; the boy has a thing for the drama. An 'alohomora' grants him access and as he walks in, a lamp is thrown at him. He dodges it easily, casting a shield with his wand for any other flying object. There is none. Potter stares at him with wide eyes from over a chair, a sheet is around his neck and he has one foot in the air.

“Go away or I’ll jump,” Harry says again.

“It will never work, it is not high enough," he says nonchalantly, "here, I brought you a present.”

Severus throw the knife at him. As Harry leans forward to grab it, he loses balance and falls on the floor, the sheet detaching from the ceiling. He stares at the knife in his hand — luckily grabbed by the right side — as the sheet hangs loose over his shoulder.

With his finger, Harry test the sharpness of the blade, grimacing in pain when it cuts his skin. He takes the knife to his neck, and press softly, not enough to harm.

“Bring my parents or I will do it.”

“Your parents will not be released, Potter. If you are so kind, I will like to finish this quickly.”

The boy will not do it. He can recognise a suicidal person with one look. Harry is desperate, but not enough to kill himself.

“I am sure you have many questions; I will answer them if you put the knife down. Otherwise, finish this quickly, I have better things to do with my time”

Harry's hand is shaking, his eyes full of tears. Hesitantly, he lowers the knife, letting out a breath of relief when his arm falls to his side.

“What will happen to my parents?” He says as he gets closer to Severus. His hand holds tightly the knife and Severus doesn't think he will let it go easily.

“It depends on the Dark Lord. They committed crimes against the death eaters and it is his place to decide.”

“What did they do?” Asks Harry wary, as if he doesn’t really want to know the answer.

But Severus will not perpetuate the lie. Harry is no longer a child and he needs to know his parents aren’t saints as they made him believe.

“In the first war, aurors auctioned human beings. Death eaters. They tortured them and then dispose of the bodies. Many weren’t found. Ourselves learnt about these auctions just recently.”

“My mother would never do something like that!” Harry puts the knife in front of him, as if he is going to attack him. Severus puts his hand over his, making him flinch. He seems to realise what he is doing, and doesn't resist when Severus takes the weapon from him.

“Your mother’s magical signature was in one of the documents. She didn’t win the auction, but she offered the money.”

“I want to see them,” says the boy defiant, crossing the arms over his chest.

Severus nods and Harry looks surprised. He probably wasn't expecting that the documents really exist. “I will bring them to you next time I come. Also, a book will be published with the information if you are interested.”

"What will happen to me?" Asks the boy defeated.

"You will be kept here until tomorrow. After that, and depending on your godfather’s decision, we will decide if you are allowed to stay.”

It is his first lie to the boy. They can't let him go until they confirm his death will not affect Tom. Even after that, he doesn't feel comfortable leaving the teenager on his own, no after spending so much time protecting him.

“Why is Ginny in here? Why she isn’t at school? Did you kidnap her?”

“Ginnevra is here for her own safety. You must have read in the prophet what her parents tried to do.”

“What did they tried to do? We have been out of Hogwarts for about two weeks.”

Severus made a mental note of interrogate Ginnevra, or send someone to do it. If possible, under torture. The brat should have told them that the Potters were missing.

“There was an attack in Hogsmeade, staged as if it was done by death eaters. We captured some of these fake death eaters and identified as members of the Order.”

“Yes, my parents said something about Dumbledore going after me. They say you would help. Can’t you do something about my mother?”

Yes, he can do something. He could ask Tom to let Lily and the marauders go, but he will not do it. They have to pay for what they did.

“Best I can do is asking the Dark Lord to keep her alive. But she could be tortured, or imprisoned for the rest of her life.”

A tear rolls down Harry’s face, and he bites his lower lips. He looks considerable younger, as a lost child. It must be difficult. After finally meeting his parents, just to lose them again not a year later.

“Do what is best for her,” he whispers.

“Ginnevra will update you with the last news. If you still have questions, you can ask the Malfoys. I will be back tomorrow."

They walk to the kitchen in silence. Harry stares at the floor, a tear falling down his cheek every once in a while. Severus doesn't offer comfort. He doesn't know how. And he guesses it is just normal for the kid to cry. His parents would likely die in less than a week, Tom can go insane and kill him, and Dumbledore is looking for him.

When Ginnevra sees Harry entering to the room, she runs to hug him. Severus considers his job done and leaves without a word.

Lucius stops him before he could go out. He invites him to the drawing room and offers him a glass of whisky. Severus refuses with a movement of his hand and both sit in front of each other.

"I heard you needed my help with your research." Lucius extends a book at him. "You left him here the other day."

"Did you read it?" He says, taking the diary and opening it in the last entry, "they use some sort of blood adoption."

"I read it. It is not a blood adoption, Severus. It is a trade."

His face is deadly serious, and Severus can understand why. A trade would mean someone else needs to take his place as a slave. Someone willingly needs to take his place. He will have to trick someone into it, because no one in their right mind would accept such a deal.

’Perhaps someone desperate’, he thinks. Does he hate the marauders enough to force them to become slaves? Because he knows he can't do this to Lily. He is angry at her, but they had good times together.

Does Potter love his son enough to make the ultimate sacrifice for him? Or Black? Or Lupin? Lupin didn't care about the child in twelve years, for all he knows, and Bellatrix will be dealing with Black.

"What do you need to make it possible."

Lucius stares guilty at him and shakes his head. “I do not know. They tried cutting the mark but your mark in on your neck. It is too dangerous. And I would have to study more deeply, to find a spell…”

“And you do not have time for that,” completes Severus.

“I will make time,” says Lucius standing from his seat and ruffling his hair. He leaves his hand over his head. “But we still do not know if it will work. Do not get your hopes up”

“I won't," he replies, moving away from Lucius and avoiding his eyes. “I won’t”

Chapter Text

Severus paces back and forth in the sitting room. Tom will arrive at any moment, and with him, the conversation he has been dreading all day. He will ask for his opinion about Lily and the marauders, but Severus refuses to have a hand in Lily’s death. It will lead to a fight and…

The wards waver and Tom materialises in front of him, interrupting his train of thought. He stares at him with exhausted eyes, and sits on the sofa, patting the space at his side. As he gets closer to him, he can feel an upsetting energy emanating from him. Tom is not just tired, he is angry. If it is with him, with the world or with one of his death eaters he cannot say, but as he hesitantly kisses him, he wonders if he shouldn’t be running instead.

Tom doesn’t kiss back, but doesn’t pull away. It is enough for Severus to step back, waiting for the eyes to change their colour.

“I tried to order Rodolphus to interrogate the Potters, however my wrist started to hurt.”

It doesn’t matter how many times Severus tells him he doesn’t care about Lily, Tom knows he does. The oath Tom made won’t let him hurt him in any way, not even indirectly. But she has information with her, otherwise they wouldn’t have gone to the house of the Dark Lord demanding protection. He can’t stay out of the decisions as he had hoped. The order will have to come from his mouth.

“I will speak with Rodolphus.”

Tom remains in silence, but his eyes agree. To convince Rodolphus will be hard, he belongs to the inner circle and is older than him. Not to mention he is Bellatrix’s husband. They don’t follow orders from a half-blood, much less if the Dark Lord doesn’t confirm them. But perhaps if he explains, without his wife there, he might have a chance.

“I am not angry,” says Tom after a while.

“Right.”

“I am not angry at you.” Forcing a smile, Tom pats his side again.

This time Severus sits, letting out a breath of relief. Tom’s energy has calmed a little, and there is no danger for now. “Then?”

“It is frustrating. Not only the oath, but I want Potter to willingly cooperate, and killing his parents will not help our case.”

“We will find a way. One thing at the time. First to get the information, and then we decide what to do with them."

 

As he promised, he goes to the manor next day with copies of the papers he had offered. Among them, there are letters from James Potter describing what he did to some death eaters to another auror. How Shacklebolt found them remains a mystery, but it is his handwriting and it is his signature.

He is welcomed by a peculiar scene. Bellatrix is teaching Ginnevra a spell, and she has an actual smile on her face. He looks twice to confirm it, the smile banishing when their eyes meet. She whispers something to Ginnevra, who greets him and excuses herself. They watch her disappear upstairs before speaking.

“Bellatrix.” He keeps a neutral tone; it is not the moment to start a fight.

She nods curtly and open her mouth as though she is going to say something, but no words come out. Severus lifts an eyebrow and waits. She just closes her mouth and glares at him.

“Do you happen to know which bedroom is Potter’s?” Asks Severus, not really expecting an answer.

“Next to Ginnevra’s,” she says walking away.

He is surprised of not hearing any insult. Something strange is happening but he doesn’t have time to find what. Enough he has with the Potters.

He climbs up the stairs and walks to Potter’s room warily. There is still a possibility of this being a sick joke from Bellatrix, and the moment he opens the door a Boggart or another creature will attack him. Not her style, but with Bellatrix you never know*.

Harry opens the door himself and moves aside to let him in. Severus gives him the papers, noticing how the hands of the boy shake as he takes them. He passes page after page, until he finds his mother’s signature.

“Could it have been someone else? If they had stolen her wand?” He asks waving softly the document in front of Severus.

“It was a possibility until she confessed. I will give you the memories, if it is what you want.”

Memories are something private to him, and the thought of sharing them with Harry almost makes him cringe. But the boy needs to understand their actions. That way there are less chances of him escaping to rescue his parents. Dumbledore method of keeping Harry in the dark had never worked to keep him out of danger, so they better try with honesty.

Harry sits on the bed, his shoulder slouched in defeat and staring at his hand as though they had the answers. “No. Despite what you seem to believe, I am not stupid. But I— I want to see her. I need to ask her.”

Ask her. Not them.

Severus is curious about the relationship between the two male Potters. Harry doesn’t question James’ responsibility, he doesn’t try to defend him. He asked for his mother’s life, no one else.

“Not your father?”

“No.” Harry frowns and studies him with his eyes, then he exhales loudly. “He mocks at me. I know he doesn’t mean it, he thinks is funny, but it is not. And Sirius changes when he is with him. They are sick, their sense of humour is sick”

“I will see what I can do about your mother.”

“And I want to talk with Voldemort.”

“I will arrange a floo call so you do not have to be in the same room. But there is a compulsion spell in the Dark Lord, and even in the distance, it could be activated. You must be quick. I recommend you to have your questions prepared.”

 

Once he is done with Potter, a domestic elf takes him with Rodolphus. The man is talking with his brother, brooms in their hands and smiles on their faces. Severus knows both of them belonged to the Quidditch team while they were at school and they were probably remembering old times.

Unlike Bellatrix, Rodolphus doesn’t hate him. He mostly ignores him. It was a habit from when Severus was an annoying brat who followed Lucius everywhere. They worked well together, if they had to, but there was never a friendship between them... Bellatrix would never allow that.

“We had not flown since before Azkaban,” says Rodolphus turning to him, “please, join us.”

Rabastan moves a little from his brother, leaving space for Severus to join.

“I need you to interrogate the Potters,” he says bluntly.

“And I need a favour,” replies Rodolphus calmly.

Their eyes meet and he sees fear. Whatever he is going to ask is bigger than an interrogation not approved by their master.

“Yes?”

“Bellatrix is pregnant.”

“Congratulations.” It is not in the most enthusiastic tone, but it means well. Those are Narcissa’s sister and her husband, and Severus would do anything for Narcissa. “She will have her potions. How far along is she?”

During Draco’s pregnancy, Severus improved several potions. It was a high-risk pregnancy and after multiple miscarriages his friends were desperate. Bellatrix’s health is probably similar to her sister, he knows she and Rodolphus had tried before Azkaban. It doesn’t matter how much Bellatrix hates Severus, she knows he is the best and won’t hurt her.

“Eight weeks,” Rabastan answers instead of his brother. “twins”

It’s far too early to say if the pregnancy is viable, but the youngest Lestrange seems oblivious to it. He is grinning as though he were the father, passing an arm around his brother’s shoulder. His happiness is contagious, and little by little, a smile forms in Rodolphus’ lips.

“I will bring you the potions tomorrow.”

“What do you want in exchange?” He asks, his face serious again.

He can ask for anything, and he knows Rodolphus will agree. But the birth of the heir of the Black is important for him. Once the child is born, there is no need to keep Black alive. He will do everything within his power to bring that baby to the world and get rid of Black for good.

“Get the information from the Potters.”

They stay in silence for a while, giving Severus time to make any demand. But Severus has none.

“What do you want me to do about your friend?”

“Do what you have to do. She is just another prisoner.”

Chapter Text

Severus is present at the meeting with Harry to make sure Tom doesn’t lose control of himself. The beginning goes smoothly, Tom giving straight answers and explaining Harry the things his parents didn’t, like the compulsion spell. But by the end, and almost like an apology, Harry asks: ‘What will happen to me if my parents die?’

That question unintentionally raises another, more important, question: Who is Harry’s magical guardian if Black dies? Because there are spells that allow magical guardians to find their charges, and they can accuse them of kidnapping if they refuse to let Harry go. If James and Lily failed in choosing someone else, or if they didn’t change their wills, this person is Dumbledore.

Tom doesn’t tell the last to Harry and gives him just the short version. He stays with them until they can contact his magical guardian. He had the vain hope that Harry would know who it is, but the boy doesn’t even know what a magical guardian is.

A visit to his parents is arranged. It will be after the interrogation is done and always there is someone of their side present. Later that day Harry asks Severus to do it.

Black signs the agreement, and Narcissa and Bellatrix promise to ‘protect Harry Potter at the best of their capabilities’. In exchange they get the house with everything inside, including the domestic elf. There is another clause Narcissa adds. Black will have to wear a collar that will trap him in his animagus form. In an act of kindness, she only asks for twenty years, though Severus doesn’t believe he will live that long.

The interrogation proves to be harder than they expected. Rodolphus is the best they had but the Gryffindors are determined to keep their secrets. The only thing he can obtain is a confirmation that Harry’s magical guardian, in case Black and his parents are incapacitated, is Dumbledore.

It is downright stupid. They are giving Harry to Dumbledore in a silver plate. The old man just has to kill them or fake their deaths again, and it is over for the boy.

But stupid as it is, they will have to keep at least one Potter alive, since Black will be trapped as a dog.

After two days of interrogation, and giving some time to Narcissa to patch them up, Severus takes Harry with his parents.

The boy ran to his mother as soon as he sees her, grabbing the bars of the cell whilst he waits for Severus to open it.

Severus deactivate the wards around Lily’s cell, and unlock the door. Harry hurries to hug his mother, staying like that for good five minutes.

He waits patiently, playing with his wand between his fingers. Being things as they are, Severus wouldn’t be surprised if Lily tries to run, but he is ready for such eventuality. There are three death eaters outside the prison, and he knows he can react faster than Lily without a wand.

“They told me you made these horrible things, is it true?”

She glares at Severus and takes her son’s hands. “I was young and I made mistakes.”

“They told me you tried to buy a man.”

“He was—” She stops herself, and Severus knows the ‘he was just a death eater’ almost escapes from her mouth. “I wasn’t going to actually buy him, I didn’t offer enough money for that, but you have to understand that sometimes you have to blend in.”

“Did he force you?”

“No, love. Your dad and I did what we thought was best. But whatever our mistakes were, it doesn’t change how much we love you.”

Harry nods unconvinced. “I am staying with them. I don’t know... they will not kill you.”

“You must thank Sirius, he is sacrificing a lot for you.”

“I know,” Harry turns to Black’s cell. “Thanks, Sirius.”

The man forces a smile, and Severus enjoys the fear in his eyes. “No problem, Harry.”

“You ought to behave, Harry, because we will not be around to protect you anymore. Do you understand me?” Says Lily, cupping her son’s cheek, “Do not do anything stupid.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

A promise the boy is waiting to break, if someone asks Severus, because Potter and stupidity come together. But since nobody is asking, Severus keeps his mouth shut.

“Mum? Who is my magical guardian?”

“We are, of course.”

“Yeah, but if you die?”

“Sirius.”

“And if Sirius dies?”

Lily glares at Severus again, her hand forming a fist so tight that he can see the knuckles go white. “I can’t believe you did this. Putting my own son against me.”

“Mum?”

“We will not die, Harry. That is all you need to know,” she says crisply.

Harry looks at her mother with resentment. Noticing the change on her son, Lily smiles and softens her tone again.

“I am sorry, baby. Don’t believe everything they say, okay?” She hugs him again. “Go and speak with your dad. He wants to say hello too.”

Severus is giving Harry all the time he wants to be with his parents. He watches him going first to Black’s cell, thanking him again for taking the deal, and then to Lupin’s. Severus’ eyes remain there, even when he leaves to finally speak with his father. Lupin isn’t Harry’s magical guardian even if Black’s dies. He was never a true marauder, a true friend, he was a charity case. He is a charity case.

Hadn’t he been the same to Lily? A part of him wants to empathise with the werewolf. Half of his actions are controlled by the beast, and the other half by the fear of being alone. He can understand what it is not being able to control his actions because of something other people did.

Yet Lupin had put others in risk. Not only when they were teenagers, revealing his secret to his so-called friends, but when he was an adult with students on his charge. Having the power of controlling the beast in him, he chose to skip his potion and go helping his friend. Because of his irresponsibility, he could had done the same it was done to him.

An idea starts to form in his mind, but he is suddenly interrupted by the metal sound of someone slamming at the bars. He feels some unsettling magic quickly fading away, the same kind of magic that comes from Tom when he is upset.

“What is wrong with you? How can you be making jokes in a moment like this? Your best friend is about to pass the next twenty years as a dog, you and mum are in a prison, and next full moon is close. Grow the fuck up!”

“Harry!”

“No, mum. Someone has to tell him the truth for once.”

“Harry James Potter, you don’t talk to me like that,”

The cold tone makes Severus come closer, it is the same his own father used when he wanted to do ‘parenting’ and teach him a lesson.

The expression in Harry’s face has changed to fear, and Severus wonders if it is because it reminds him of Petunia, or because his father has used corporal punishment with him.

James grasps his son’s arm before the boy can get away from his reach. “You don’t talk to me like that.”

“Do not give me an excuse to cut your arm, Potter,” says Severus, but James doesn’t let go his son.

“It is a family business, Snivellus. You wouldn’t know what a family is, so you better not interfere.”

Severus knows that is not a family. ‘All you need is love to make a family’ is bullshit, and he won’t allow the abuse of a child. With a wave of his wand he cuts the hand. It is a reversible spell; the hand can be reattached to his arm… if Narcissa is in a good mood.

James cries and curses, taking what is left of his arm inside the cell and cowering to the corner when Severus walk to them. With wide eyes, Harry shakes his father’s hand that still holds his arm and jumps back.

Severus ignores the panicked faces and examines the place where Harry hit in his rage outburst, not surprised when he finds a crack on the metal.

Repairing it with his wand, he turns to Harry. “Are you ready to go?”

Chapter Text

Getting information from Kreacher, once the transfer of the house is done, is useless. Elves are bound to protect their old masters' secrets, and the use of potions or spells would only result in the dead of the elf. They were willing to take the risk, but a private conversation between Tom and Narcissa determined that Kreacher will not be sacrificed for the cause.

The Order isn't using the house anymore, and they see marks of failed attempts to burn it. The house wouldn't allow it. There are protection spells and runes all over the place to avoid it. The only way to destroy it would be with fiendfyre, but it would also destroy the whole neighbourhood.

Tom sends the Lestrange brothers to look around the place. The books are taken to Malfoy manor, where they will be examined one by one by Draco and Ginnevra. They make a list of the important objects that Black didn’t throw away and change the wards, placing a fidelius again, this time with Rabastan as the secret keeper.

They don’t get anything else from the place. The Order probably abandoned it when Black left Hogwarts with the Potter, a story Severus can’t completely understand yet.

Severus knows the basic. They abandoned Hogwarts through one of the hidden doors, which they insist they are the only one who know where it is. Rodolphus couldn’t confirm if it’s really unknown since the Gryffindors refuse to tell them the exact location. And even if the death eaters ignore there was a hidden door in there, it doesn’t mean Dumbledore does.

But it doesn't matter how they left. The question is why? Lily told him they planned to leave on Easter holidays, but they changed of opinion abruptly. Dumbledore is doing something at Hogwarts, and they need to know what.

The newspaper doesn't help them either. There was an article about the attack in Hogsmeade, but after that Hogwarts has not been mentioned.

The first day of Easter holidays Percival visits his sister. He agrees to give them all they information they want after he speaks with his sister and Harry. After half an hour, he gives a rolled parchment to Harry and goes with them.

"Dumbledore has been calling parents in small groups,” Percival starts as he, Lucius and Severus enter to Lucius’ private study, “he recommended us to keep the children at school during the holidays, after what happened in Hogsmeade. He was convincing, at least he was to the other six persons that were in the room. They decided to leave their kids at school."

Did you?" Asked Severus.

"No. But I had to go to Hogwarts myself, the Hogwarts express was cancelled. George came with me, too."

If the Hogwarts express was cancelled, it means most of the students ‘decided’ to stay. Somehow Dumbledore had managed to convince the parents of not going to the press. He only hopes this won’t give Harry a reason to go and rescue his muggleborn friend, who is now trapped with an insane Dumbledore.

"Something about the Ravenclaws?” He asks, remembering they were abandoning the school too. They will find a way later to keep the boy under control. “How many students are left in Hogwarts?"

"A quarter of the school, maybe,” says Percival half shrugging, “George told us all Ravenclaw is gone, along with Slytherin. They took the siblings too, which is half of the other houses. Flitwick has resigned and now he is missing. Dumbledore didn't say anything about any of this in the meeting."

“Flitwick missing? When was that?”

“Three days ago. George said he left the Great Hall after an argument with Dumbledore, and the last three Ravenclaws followed him. At dinner they were gone. People said they saw them entering to Flitwick’s office but they never came out.”

It sounds like an urban legend, but so it sounded the story of a basilisk wandering around the school. He wonders if Flitwick found a way of breaking Hogwarts’ wards or if he is just another victim of Dumbledore. He and three kids.

“Do you know the names of the kids?”

Percival shakes his head. “Third and second years, but George never spoke to them and Ron refuses to say anything.”

“We will need to speak with your brother.”

Percival nods. “He wanted to come, but we fear that Ron will escape if he has the opportunity. He wrote a letter to Harry, and I hope the answer will help him to see the things more clearly.”

Brainwashed. That is the word for what is happening with Ronald. He has been brainwashed like all the kids who are at school, like all the parents of said children. A letter won’t change the ideas Dumbledore has put in his mind. Luckily, he doesn’t have to say it out loud, Percival’s defeated look tells him he already knows.

“Another thing. George tried writing, but the letters never arrived. I think Dumbledore is filtering them, because I did receive a letter from Ron telling me he wanted to stay at school.”

“They probably are. Anything else?”

“Bill wants to visit Ginny.”

Lucius looks at Severus, making clear it is his decision. And Severus wants to say ‘no’. He doesn’t want to expose Ginnevra to her brother yet, but he can’t protect her forever. William was her ‘favourite brother’ she had said, and it will be good to know his real intentions.

“I will allow it if she agrees, but it will be here. He is not taking her anywhere.”

Percival smiles. “Thank you. He really regrets what he did. He said he didn’t know.”

“He needs to give those excuses to Ginnevra,” says Severus coldly, “when?”

“Tomorrow if possible?”

After asking Ginnevra if she agrees, Percival leaves. William will visit her next day, and Severus will be there.

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” he says to his friend as they watch him crossing the gates.

“Ginnevra is the less of our problems,” replies Lucius taking something from his pocket. It is a letter, and he gives it to Severus to read. “This arrived this morning.”

‘Dear Mr. Malfoy,
I would really appreciate if you join me in the Sweet Lighthouse this Wednesday at five p.m. to talk about a mutual friend of ours. I am certain you know the address.
Sincerely,
Filius Flitwick.

“It is short,” comments Severus rereading the letter. It is Flitwick handwriting, and a simple spell reveals it is his magical signature.

Flitwick has disappeared, and it could be Dumbledore. If someone can falsify magical signatures it’s him. However, Dumbledore doesn’t know that Flitwick was helping him with the bond.

“It is too risky,” says Severus after a while. If it is Dumbledore, he will try to get information from Lucius. “How do you know the place?”

“We used to go with Narcissa there. It is in the muggle world.” Lucius looks aside, his cheek slightly flushed. “We ran into Flitwick one day. We thought he didn’t see us, but I guess we were wrong.”

Severus nods. “He could have told Dumbledore. They were friends.”

“What if it is really him? What if he has information about the bond? He said about a mutual friend, I can’t think in anything else he could want.”

“It is too risky, Lucius. Don’t go.”

Lucius doesn’t say a word, he just pats his shoulder and leaves him alone.

Chapter Text

He is with Ginnevra, at the drawing room of the manor, waiting for the arrival of her brother.

Any other day she would be chattering about whatever popped into her mind, but she is unusually quiet that day. She lies on the floor as she leafs through a Quidditch magazine, glancing at the door every few pages.

She jumps on her feet when William enters. Severus stands too and greets him with his head. William takes a few tentative steps, stopping when Ginnevra gets closer to Severus.

“Hello, Ginny.”

“Bill.”

“Can we talk?”

Ginnevra nods, gesturing a table with two chairs.

Severus watches carefully as the siblings sit, the table acting as a barrier between them. It will not do anything to protect Ginnevra, but it makes clear she isn’t accepting her brother back easily.

After a moment of silence, William glances Severus, and then to his sister. “Can we talk alone?”

“No,” answers Severus instead of the girl.

Ginnevra stares at him and forces a smile. “It’s okay. I can— I can do it.”

“I said no,” he says in a firmer tone, “you will talk with your sister with me in here, or you will not talk with her at all. You will not be alone with Ginnevra.”

William looks offended, but they have reasons to believe he can harm her or try to kidnap her. He could try to finish his parents’ job or want revenge for what happened to them.

He finally nods and looks at Ginnevra again. “I swear I didn’t now, Ginny. They told me you wanted to marry; I didn’t think they meant now.”

“Okay,” says Ginnevra crossing her arms over her chest. Either she doesn’t believe him, or she doesn’t consider his excuse good enough.

“I worry about you, Ginny.” Williams runs a hand over his face when he doesn’t get an answer. “Are they treating you well in here?”

“Yes.”

William sighs and shakes his head. “I will ask for the custody. Yours and Ron’s. You will come with me. We will be a family again.”

“I am fine where I am, thank you.”

“You are my sister, Ginny. I can’t offer you the luxuries the Malfoy can, but I will fight for you whether you like it or not,” he says with determination in his voice.

Ginnevra gives him a hesitant smile. “Okay.”

“Might I have something more than ‘okay’?” William replies with an exaggerated pout. “Something like, ‘I am happy to see you’ or ‘I forgive you, brother’?”

She chuckles and puts her hand over the table. “Okay. I forgive you. I missed you, Bill.”

“I missed you too, Ginny.” William grins and hold her hand between his. “You know I would never force you to marry with some stranger, don’t you?”

“Then why did you do it? Why were you helping mum and dad?”

“I didn’t know they planned to marry you so soon. I thought, if I found someone from a good family it would give you time to know him. It is a lot of time before you marry, but it is good if you have options—”

“But you think it must be done.” The smile disappears from her face, and she withdraws her hand.

“Ginny, you are a girl. You will need someone to protect you.”

“I assure you, Bill. In this moment, I can protect myself better than Ron. But you are not thinking in marrying Ron, are you?”

“I know you are not thinking in marrying yet, but you will change your mind. How do you plan to support yourself? I would do anything for you, but I will not be around forever. And the older you get, the harder it will be for you to find—”

William stops abruptly when a wand is pressed against his neck. Ginnevra is on her feet, with a gaze so cold that would make Bellatrix proud. Two seconds later, Severus is at her side.

“It is better if you go away now. We don’t have anything else to talk.”

William’s hand goes to his pocket, but he seems to think it twice and shows his empty palms to Ginnevra. “I will go away if it is what you want, but don’t forget I will be there whenever you need me.”

-------------------------------------------------------------------

After her brother leaves, Ginnevra locks herself with Harry in the boy’s room. Narcissa will try to speak with her later, but for now is better to let her stay with her friend.

Severus returns to Tom’s house, surprised of finding his lover there. He is working at the desk of the sitting room, as he always does when he is at home, and he seems immersed on his reading.

“How did it go?” He asks, without lifting his gaze from the papers.

“A disaster,” says Severus getting closer to him, “I wasn’t expecting you here.”

“I left Lucius in charge. I needed to get out of there at least for a couple of hours.”

Severus leans forward to kiss him. Tom turns over the yellowish parchment on the top before returning the kiss.

“What is that?”

“Just paperwork.”

“Just paperwork,” repeats Severus, not believing a word. The books at his side, placed upside down so he can’t read the title, tells him that Tom is doing some sort of research. A research neither his followers nor Severus can see.

“I can have secrets, can’t I?” Replies Tom harshly, adding a second later, “Sorry.”

“As long as it doesn’t affect me.” Severus puts some distance between them. He is curious, but Tom is entitled to his privacy, and he won’t start a fight because of that. He doesn’t share everything with Tom, after all.

“It doesn’t,” says Tom going back to his parchment.

Severus goes away to work in Bellatrix’s potions, not wanting to interrupt Tom in whatever he is doing. He had found his old notes at the manor and he believes he can improve the old recipes. It will still be a high-risk pregnancy, and she will need to be careful, but it should be easier than Narcissa’s.

He fails at the first and second attempts, unable to focus. The talk with Tom reminded him of a secret that does affect him, a secret that shouldn’t be a secret at all.

The contract Tom made with his mother.

It’s a part of Severus’ history, and it shouldn’t be hidden away. He understands that Tom wants to protect him, but Severus already knows his parents hated him.

But he waits and forces himself to have some progress in the potions. It is not the moment, not while Tom works in his secret project.

The door opens and Tom appears behind. “I was thinking in dinner together.”

Severus is not thinking in eating. “I want to see the contract, Tom”

Tom turns around without a word, and Severus follows him back to the house. For a moment he thinks he is going to ignore him and hide in the kitchen or somewhere else, but he walks straight to the sitting room and opens the space where the diary was. He extracts a rolled parchment from the back and closes it again.

“Sit down, Severus.”

Severus obeys. With a kiss to his head, Tom gives him the contract and sits at his side. it is just a piece paper, he says to himself but he can feel the powerful magic emanating from it.

His eyes go immediately to the place where his price was written. Two thousand Galleons.

“At least I wasn’t cheap,” he says with a soft snort.

Tom doesn’t laugh. He drapes an arm over his shoulders and pulls him closer.

“Shouldn’t be clauses to protect me? Something that says ‘you can’t starve him to death’ or something?”

“She could put them if she wanted,” says Tom, showing where it says he couldn’t kill him at least he broke the rules written in there.

He is supposed to use the collar all the time, and be on his knees when his master is in the room. He couldn’t look his master into the eyes, and couldn’t speak without permission. All those rules he has broken them in a daily basis, so Tom could legally kill him.

Severus shrugs, Masters would always find a way of legally kill their slaves.

His function is not sexual, as Black had said to the Ministry, and as Severus always believed. He doesn’t have a function and is supposed to obey whatever his master says. It is not relevant, but it is interesting to know.

He studies the parchment itself. It looks like new and it is written in a bright red that appears to be fresh blood.

“It is blood,” says Tom as reading his thought, “your blood.”

He looks at his hands. He doesn’t remember anything from that night. Tom has never told him what happened and Severus never asked.

“That one.” Tom gently opens his left-hand and points a cut in his ring finger. “There is where we cut.”

Severus frowns, trying hard to remember. His eyes go to his finger. The cut has the shape of a cross, probably one line was from his mother and the other one from Tom. But it is not that what bothers him. The cut was done with precision, as if he had not resisted at all.

“It looks like if I had done it willingly.”

“You did it willingly,” says Tom carefully, “you don’t remember, do you?”

Severus closes his eyes and shakes his head. He doesn’t remember and he isn’t sure he wants to.

“When we made the deal, you were there. At least physically, because your eyes... you were just gone. When your mother called you, you came and showed us your hand. You reacted at the end, when you saw me handing the money to your mother. You calmed when I put the mark on you and started to fight again when you were here.”

He listens in disbelief. It had been his fault. All his life he blamed Tom, Lucius and his parents but he has done this to himself. If he had refused to give his blood, if he had run from there, he would be a free man now.

“...Severus, listen to me,” says Tom, touching his face, “It was not your fault. She could had done it with her blood. You were still her son, and you were underage. She could do it if she wanted. You never had an option.”

“But I gave in so easily.”

“You were drugged, love. There was nothing you could do.”

“But—” He holds Tom’s hand and squeezes it tightly. He needs something to ground himself, and make the questions now, so he doesn’t have to look at that parchment again.

“What happened if it had been her blood?” He asks separating himself from Tom.

“If you broke the contract, you would be returned to your parents and they would have to return the money.”

“I would be free.”

“We do not know that. If you returned with your parents as a slave, you would be her slave.”

“My parents are dead. I wouldn’t be their property anymore.”

“And you would be property of the ministry.” Tom presses him against his chest, running his fingers through his hair. “What is the last you remember, Severus?”

“I don’t know,” he says, frowning and trying to remember again, “she was cleaning me. She told me a man would come and take me because if he didn’t, my father would kill me. She said she would come for me later. Next I remember is being here.”

There is something else that he remembers. Something he will never share with Tom or anyone else. The last words his mother told him: I love you, Sevie

Chapter Text

He tries to speak with Lucius before the hour of meeting Flitwick — or whoever says to be Flitwick — and talking him out of it, but he is too late; Narcissa tells him he will go after work and sends him back to Tom's house. There is nothing he can do but obey, if he apparates outside the Ministry to stop him, he will be captured and become a bigger problem.

The aroma of home-cooked food greets him. His mouth waters as he hears the clatter of dishes in the kitchen, his mood changing instantly. He decides that Lucius can take care of himself, he is going to enjoy whatever Tom is cooking.

Bowls and plates fly in the kitchen, landing in the sink to wash themselves. Tom moves his wand as if he were an orchestra director, stopping and turning to him when he sees him at the door.

"I hope I am invited," he says as his lover puts down the flying things and kisses him.

"It is almost ready. Where were you?"

"At Lucius' home. The idiot went to the meeting."

"Meeting?" Tom frowns. "What meeting?"

Severus had not told Tom about the meeting, thinking Lucius would do it. He should have known that Lucius wouldn't, because Tom would never approve a mission so dangerous. It's better ask forgiveness than permission, isn't it? But It isn't something Lucius usually do. Risky, suicidal missions are more Severus' style, and he wonders what got into his friend's head.

"Flitwick sent a letter asking Lucius to meet him in a muggle hotel."

"Are you sure it was Flitwick?

Severus shrugs. "It was his magical signature."

"He will be fine. When he reports tomorrow, I will send him to you," says Tom with a reassuring smile, "Lucius wouldn't go without a backup plan."

"What are you making?" He asks changing the subject.

"Salmon,"

Tom turns off the oven and takes out the food. It smells amazing, and again Severus forget about Lucius. Tom serves two plates and takes them to the dinner table, with Severus following close behind.

They sit in front of each other, and he lifts a bite to his mouth. As the smell promised, it's delicious.

"What would your follower think if they knew you cook so well," says Severus with a smile.

"They wouldn't think anything, because they will never know."

Severus chuckles and they continue eating in a comfortable silence. When they finish, he takes the dishes to the kitchen and puts them in the sink. Two arms grab him from behind, and he feels Tom's nose pressing against the back of his head.

Tom takes a deep sniff. "You were working in Bellatrix's potions earlier."

"Are you smelling my hair?" He tries to move away, but Tom embrace doesn't let him. "Tom, that is—"

"Dirty? I like dirty," he says in his ear, and Severus legs start to fail, "thank you for helping her."

"Do you mind if we go to the bedroom?" Severus breaths out, his eyes closed.

"I don't need a bedroom," replies Tom nibbling his neck. There will be marks later but he couldn’t care less.

"But I do," he says managing to free himself, "I am not twenty anymore."

He takes his him to the bedroom by his hand. Between kisses they end on the bed, Tom on top of him.

"Do you remember when Narcissa announced she was pregnant?"

He remembers, but he won't admit it. They were talking about children. With nineteen years old Severus just broke into laughs. Jokingly he told him to ask him in fifteen years, he wasn't really expecting Tom would remember.

"It was sixteen years ago, Tom,"

Tom's lips are on his neck. "We talked about children. Do you want them?"

The heat of his breath sends shivers down his spine. He tries to hold back the moan, his mind ought to be clear to answer his lover without hurting him. He fails.

"That is why Hogwarts should give sex education class." His voice sounds breathless. He tilts his head to the side to give more access. "We are men, Tom."

"We can blood adopt." Tom has stopped kissing to look into his eyes.

"I am a slave; my children will be slaves too."

"When you are free? Do you want them?"

Severus sighs. He knows Tom dreams with a family, but Severus is not ready. If he is free, he wants to enjoy that freedom. He wants a house, a career, and everything he lost being a slave.

"I am not ready, Tom. I am sorry."

"You do not need to apologise," says Tom disappointed rolling to the side, "I would never force you to have children if you don't want them."

He climbs on top and feathered kisses from his temple to his ear. "I am not saying no."

"You aren't?"

"I am saying I need some time," says he, playing with the first button of his lover's robes." Let me get my life together first."

Tom grins. With a hand behind his head, he pulls him into a deep kiss.

Severus knows the weight of his promise, but he has not seen Tom this happy in years. And he has to admit, even if only to himself, that the idea of a little Tom running around doesn’t sound as crazy as it sounded sixteen years ago.

 

He doesn’t start to worry about Lucius until Thursday at noon, when he sees Narcissa crossing the wards in a coat. She has never visited before, and he has never seen her in muggle clothes; something serious happened. He rushes to open the door and let her in, but she declines with a movement of her head.

“Lucius didn’t arrive last night. He didn’t go to work today.” Her voice is trembling and she wraps her arms around herself as if she were cold. "I am going looking for him."

Severus nods. "Give me a second to change, I am going with you."

It takes him no more than five minutes to change into muggle clothes. He also takes a coat, and asks Narcissa to guide him to the place.

Severus was wrong before; it isn't a hotel. It is more like a guest house, just a little bigger than the other houses around it. He turns to Narcissa with a questioning look but she ignores him, walking straight to the door.

"I am sorry but you can't be here," says a muggle in police uniform, putting himself in front of the door.

He sees Narcissa waving her wand and hiding it in her coat. "You have to go home."

"I have to go home," confirms the man going away.

They enter quietly. A woman kneels at the side of a body, covering with a plastic a few seconds later.

The woman notices them and gets closer. "You cannot be here."

This time is Severus the first in reacting. "We are not here."

"You are not here." The woman turns around and leaves to the next room.

He casts a disillusionment spell on the two of them and they keep walking. There are three bodies in the sitting room, and Narcissa kneels to remove the plastic sheet. They breath in relief when they confirm none of them is Lucius.

"Avada?" Asks Severus as Narcissa examines the body on the floor.

"Seems to be. There are not wounds."

They move to the kitchen, where they find other two bodies. The same as the sitting room, no wounds. Climbing up the stairs, they check in the bedrooms and bathrooms. There is no sign of Lucius, not even a hair.

"Why to attack if he never entered?" Severus says as they leave.

Narcissa shakes her head. "We need to find him, Severus."

"You are going home. Lucius will go there if he needs to be healed, and I do not want Potter unsupervised."

"Lucius will go with the Dark Lord first and I do not care about Potter right now."

“But you care about Draco, and by now he probably realised that something is wrong.”

Narcissa gives a hesitant nod. "I will take them with me to the headquarters."

"I will talk with Tom," he says, putting her hand over her shoulder, "we will find him, Narcissa. As long as he is alive, we can find him."

They take separate ways. Narcissa goes for the children while Severus speaks with Tom. In less than an hour, thirty death eaters are ready to go.

Severus gives the instructions. Some death eater will check in Malfoy's properties, others in Flitwick's. He has people looking around the guest house, extracting all the information they can from the Muggles. At the end of the day they have nothing, and he starts to get nervous.

"Rodolphus," he calls when he sees him, he needs another favour, "your brother in law is missing."

"I know. Everybody knows."

"I need you to interrogate the prisoners. I need names, anyone who can have some information."

"Where do you believe I am going?" says Rodolphus serious, "I am going with Rabastan. I will get you the names in a couple of hours."

Severus grabs his shoulder before he goes. "I don't care if you have to kill her, get me that information."

There is not much Rodolphus can get in one night, not without Bellatrix to read their mind, but he gets some names of aurors and members of the order who were known for capturing death eaters in the first war. He is up all night interrogating them. Nobody knows anything about Flitwick, but he learns they are looking for him too.

He returns to the headquarters to listen reports and give orders, calling Avery and Mulciber when he is done. Their relationship is not the best, but they are useful for what he needs to do next.

"I need you to come with me," says Severus and holds up a hand when Avery is going to protest, "it will be fun."

It is a known fact that Avery and Mulciber are sadists. They like to hurt people, and are especially good at it. In any other occasion he would avoid them, but sadistic is what he needs now.

"I want to make a visit to Moody."

There is a twisted smile in Mulciber. Moody is the biggest prize among the death eaters, being responsible for the arrest and torture of many of them. It’s risky, but they are running out of options.

"We are going with you," says Rabastan, joining to them. Rodolphus is not far behind and supports his brother with a nod.

Moody and Longbottom were the ones who tortured Bellatrix when she was captured, and it’s only logic that the brothers want to join. Severus has no objections, they are better than Avery and Mulciber, and Moody is dangerous.

“I will tell Tom.”

He finds Tom speaking with a death eater. When he sees Severus, he dismisses the death eater and gets closer to him.

“I am going for Moody. I am taking Mulciber, Avery and the Lestranges.”

“Bella can’t go.”

“Of course not.”

Tom looks as if he wants to say something, but instead he kisses him. Severus blushes in embarrassment, anyone can see them there.

“Be careful.”

 

He instructs them how to disarm the wards around Moody's house. For years Dumbledore has been sharing his spells, never giving him the credit. Many order members use the wards he had improved, believing they were Dumbledore’s spells. Now they will pay for their naivety.

With a last warning about possible traps, they start to work.

When the wards fall, Dumbledore will be warned. He will probably send a patronus to check on the ex-auror. If he doesn’t get an answer, people of the Order will start to arrive. They have about ten minutes until that happens. They will have to act fast.

The wards are down but the others stay away. They will be spotted by Moody’s magical eye if they try to hide closer.

He cast a protego just in time, causing an explosion in front of him. Moody already saw him, but Severus can’t see him yet. The man is attacking through the windows and Severus have to hurry if he doesn’t want him to escape. A luck there are anti-apparition spells all around the property.

He manages to get closer between attacks and destroys the wall in front of him. They start to duel, his spell aiming for the magical eye. Moody is slower than him, and when Severus is close enough, he finally makes it explode.

Moody roars in pain, taking his hands to his eye. It won’t kill him; Severus needs him alive.

He makes a signal to the others and they get closer quietly from behind.

“Hello, Moody,” he says, “I need you to come with me.”

Moody cast an avada, but Severus is faster. The spell pass by his side.

Two incarcerous stop the ex-auror. They take away his wooden leg and drag him outside the property, apparating with him in an old building.

It’s an old interrogation room, away from everywhere. Nobody will hear him scream there, and nobody can locate him.

“I have a question for you, Moody,” says Severus as he is tied to a chair. “Where is Lucius Malfoy?”

The man spits at him in response.

“No, no, no, this will not do it. Rodolphus, if you please.” He waves his hand and Rodolphus cast a cruciatus straight to the spine. With a spell he opens Moody’s eye and enter into his mind.

He doesn’t find anything. Everything is blurry. Moody has managed to use occlumancy in spite of the pain.

They try again, and again, but Severus isn’t skilled enough. That is why they used Bellatrix in this kind of cases. But Bellatrix can’t risk herself, not now.

Rodolphus uses everything he can think of. He crushes his hands, cut the only leg left, uses cruciatus in several parts of the body and even beats him in the muggle way. Nothing works.

“Snape!” Avery calls him from outside.

Severus follows his voice and he finds someone who shouldn’t be there.

“Narcissa.”

“Where is my husband, Severus?”

“We do not know yet.”

She enters into the room, and Severus feels tempted to stop her, but there is a glint in her eyes that tells him she isn’t the Narcissa he knows. This Narcissa is as insane as her sister is.

“Hello, Moody,” she says kneeling in front of him. “I would like to know where is my husband.” She takes a bottle from her pocket and gives it to Rodolphus. “Make him drink it.”

“Narcissa?” Severus asks, not sure how to approach.

“The potion you created for the Dark Lord.”

The potion he created to break occlumancy shields. He had not thought in that. He is going to take Narcissa’s place and enter in his mind but the woman stops him with her hand.

“We both know I am better legilimens than you.”

Severus nods and let her do her job.

She enters into Moody’s mind, keeping eye contact and frowning in concentration. For the first time he sees the ex-auror scared, truly scared. He stops his struggle and tries to close his only eye.

When she finishes, she stands and leans forward, whispering something to Moody’s ear, her wand pointing his crotch. The pant dyes in red. “That is for my sister.”

Narcissa makes him a gesture to follow her outside. They send Avery and Mulciber with the Lestranges so they can satisfy their sadistic desires and leave them alone.

“He does not know anything about Lucius.” She is shivering but not from cold. Narcissa, as he knows her, is back. “But it was them who attacked the hotel, looking for Flitwick.”

“Then Lucius is with Flitwick.”

She looks at the floor and shrugs

“Narcissa,” he says, tilting up her chin with his hand, “if Lucius is with Flitwick, he is fine. Flitwick didn’t take him with him just to kill him.”

“Then why?”

“Perhaps he wants to make a deal. Lucius in exchange of protection for the Ravenclaws. I know he cares about them,” he says with more confidence than he feels.

 

"I don't know what else to do. It has been hours since last report, Tom," says Severus to Tom in the privacy of his study.

On Saturday at three in the morning, they still don't have news from Lucius. Severus is becoming desperate, there are no more places where to look and it is only left to wait until Flitwick contact them.

Or the body turns up.

Severus doesn't want to think in this last possibility. He can't think in a good reason to kill Lucius. Not for Flitwick at least, because he has plenty of his own. Going there was risky, going there without telling Tom was idiotic at best.

"He thought Flitwick wanted to talk about me."

"It is not your fault, Severus. Lucius knew the risks."

"But why going? Why not to call for you? Can you try locate him through his mark?"

"No. Somehow he blocked it."

Severus sighs and runs his fingers through his hair. He was expecting that answer. "I don't know what else to do. I don't know what to tell to Narcissa."

Tom gets closer and hugs him, separating almost immediately when someone knocks at the door. He opens it but doesn't let the other enter.

"He arrived."

Severus rushes to the grounds, seeing his friend hugging and kissing his wife. It is an unusual view, the Malfoys don't show affection towards each other in public, but he knows how worried was the woman.

She touches his face as checking it is really him and whispers something to his ear. Lucius nods and goes with Severus.

"We need to talk."

"Are you hurt?" Asks Tom, casting spells to confirm it is really Lucius.

"No. We need to talk."

They enter to Tom's study again, and Lucius closes and locks the door behind. He supports himself on the desk, his eyes eyelids falling. He rubs his face and starts to pace in the small space.

"You do not look like someone kidnapped," Severus points out. His friend looks exhausted, but otherwise he is fine.

"Kidnapped?" Says Lucius stopping. " I was with Flitwick."

"You weren't captured?" Asks Tom.

"No."

Severus feels the anger building up. Lucius is fine, he has been fine the entire time. His hand forms a fist, but before he could raise it to punch Lucius, a hand squeezes his arm.

“No,” orders Tom without taking his eyes from Lucius.

"Do you have any idea—?" Severus starts but Lucius interrupts him.

"I think we find a way of breaking the bond.”

Chapter Text

“The sigil we created to prevent bonds. If it is drawn with blood and with a few changes, it will enhance its power and block any attempts to activate the bond,” says Lucius. Despite his tiredness, there is a glint of excitement in his eyes.

“What is the price?” Severus asks. A sigil made with blood is blood magic, and he is not an expert, but he knows blood magic is never free.

“Magic. It will take some magic from the donor, and it will take all your magic. Part of your magic will be restored once it is erased — yes, it can be erased.”

“How much will be lost?”

“Yours, it depends in how many times it blocks Tom. I don’t know about the donor.”

He trusts Tom to never use the mark, so blocking the bond doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t resolve the legal issue, which is the main reason to break the bond. And being a squib was never an option, he fears losing his magic almost as much as Tom fears death. Severus makes a gesture of impatience. “And?”

Lucius nods. “There is an object. A pendant. Any spell that touches it will rebound to the caster and that, combined with the sigil, will destroy the bond.”

A trade, as Lucius told him when he saw the diary. Lucius knows Severus will not do to Tom what it was done to him. He will not sacrifice his friends or his lover to destroy the bond. It doesn’t matter how much he wants it.

“You are saying —” Severus takes a deep breath to control his anger. “— Tom will have to take my place?”.

“I will do it,” says Tom before Lucius can answer.

Severus turns to Tom. “You most certainly will not”

“Severus—”

“So, my options are,” he says looking at Lucius again, “I become a squib and Tom doesn’t hold any power over me, or I stay like I am”

“Severus, it is only fair if I—”

“I said no, Tom.” He is losing his patience, but he isn’t sure who he is angrier with — Lucius for giving him false hopes, or Tom for speaking nonsense. “You want to rule the world. You want to defeat Dumbledore. You want children. You want us to be together. None of those things will be possible if you are a slave.”

“Stop it,” says Lucius with a huff of exasperation. “Yes, someone else has to take your place, but I think I can modify it so that person doesn’t have to be Tom. It will take a little more time, but we have to find the pendant first.”

His anger vanishes. It can work. And Lupin and Potter will be useful for once in their lives. “Any idea where that pendant could be?”

“I will go to Knockturn Alley, see if they know something about it.” Lucius sighs and closes his eyes. “But tomorrow.”

“Your mark,” says Tom and Lucius extends his left arm. Tom uses the dark mark to call the death eaters who are looking for him.

“I need to talk with Severus.”

Tom nods and walks out the room, leaving them alone.

“Flitwick gave me this for you.” Lucius takes a locket from his pocket and gives it to him. He doesn’t need to open it to know what it is inside, but he does it anyway. A smile forms on his face when he sees Tom, their snake and himself staring back at him.

“Thank you.”

Lucius looks in his pocket for something else. He extends him a muggle credit card. “He put your money in a muggle bank. Muggles abolished slavery long time ago. And he said he was sorry, but he couldn’t do anything about your books.”

It takes Severus a moment to take the card, his eyes still on the locket. He examines the new object carefully. It wasn’t optimal, he has never trusted muggles, but it was better than not having any money at all. And since he can’t go to Diagon Alley anymore, having the muggle world as alternative could be helpful.

“Did he say where he will be?” He wants to thank him, to offer him protection or anything he wants.

Lucius lifts an eyebrow. “Would you?”

 

Next days, Severus barely leaves the library of Tom’s house. It is not his favourite part of the house, too small to be comfortable, but now he needs quick access to the books. He isn’t sure what he is looking for, so any book mentioning the pendant is marked and left on the table.

He doesn’t find much information. It was made by goblins, working only after touching the blood of the enemy. It was used during the meetings with wizards — to make sure the goblins wouldn't be attacked — until it was stolen by Gwydion Blackmore. After that, the books don't agree. Blackmore ran to America, Australia or Egypt, and when he was captured, he was executed by the goblins. The pendant has not been seen since then.

He can feel the wards reacting to someone entering. Thinking it is Tom, he goes to greet him to the sitting room, frowning when he doesn’t find anyone in there. With his wand in hand, he gets closer to the window. If it is not Tom, they should be outside.

Tom is walking towards the house, and at his side is Ginnevra. Severus puts the wand back in his pocket and opens the door with a lifted eyebrow, curious about their visitor. Ginnevra hurries when she sees him, stopping a few steps away from him.

Years of teaching have taught him to recognise when a student has done something bad with one look, and Ginnevra has guilt written all over her face. “What did you do?”

She bites her lip but doesn’t speak. Severus is going to insist but Tom reaches to them in that moment.

“Shall we enter?”

Ginnevra jumps when she hears him at her back, entering quickly when Severus moves aside. Tom goes to the kitchen, leaving them alone in the sitting room.

“I will ask one last time, Ginnevra. What did you do?”

“Would you be angry if I did something that I shouldn’t, but because of that I can be useful?”

He thinks carefully what he is going to say next. “If what you have to offer is good enough, there will be no consequences.”

“But you will be angry.”

“I am angry right now. Speak.”

“I heard you were looking for a pendant. I know where to find it.” She closes her eyes and shrink in her place, but Severus doesn’t do anything. She is right, he is angry. She, and probably Draco or Harry, were spying in their conversations. But he has to keep his promise, the information is indeed good.

“What do you know?”

She opens an eye, and then the other. “When Bill was starting to work in Egypt, he found this thing in the shape of a star. He took it as a… souvenir… and well, in the beginning didn’t do anything, but one day he accidentally cut himself and his blood touched it. When he tried casting spells on it again, the spells were returned to him.”

He can imagine the Weasley siblings playing with the pendant, not knowing how dangerous it could be. William was an irresponsible, not only for using the object without knowing what it does, but also for stealing from the goblins. They punished stealing with death and they won’t hold themselves back if they learn one of their employees did it.

“Who else knows about this?”

“Only the twins and me,” she answers looking him at the eyes. “Yes, we know he could be killed for this and we know how to keep a secret. I am just telling you because you helped me, and because I know you will not turn him in.”

Severus nods to confirm her words. “Were you with Potter or Draco?”

She looks aside. “I was alone.”

“Ginnevra, as I said, there will be no consequences this time, but Potter cannot be close to the Dark Lord.” His tone is not angry. It was they who should put privacy spells around the room. But the teenagers need to understand how dangerous it is what they were doing. There is neither points to take nor detentions to give, so he has to appeal to their logic. “Tell Potter that if he goes close to him again, he is risking not only his life, but the lives of everyone around. And that includes you.”

“About Harry,” she says playing with her hands. “He wants to make a deal with you. He says he knows the information his parents are hiding.”

Severus stares with curiosity. It is likely the boy wants to save his parents, but the question is, why now? “What does he want in exchange?”

She shrugs. “He didn’t tell me. He asked me to tell you that.”

 

Ginnevra offers herself to talk with William and try to convince him to give them the pendant. Severus is still worried about a kidnapping, especially now he knows Ginnevra will not go with him willingly, but she insists in doing it. After a while, he has to admit, albeit with some reluctance, that it is the easiest way.

“I know he loves me. He is just an idiot,” says Ginnevra with confidence, but Severus knows about people doing horrible things believing it is in the best interest of their loved ones.

“I will allow it, but you will not offer anything in return. He will not take you anywhere and you will not meet alone with him.”

She agrees to spend the night in there. It is late and he has to go to the manor next day anyway, to talk with Potter. After eating something, he shows her the room where she will be sleeping — Severus’ old room — and goes to Tom’s, hoping his lover is not sleeping yet.

He finds him reading on the bed and he lies down at his side. “I found the pendant. And Potter wants to make a deal.”

“Is that what she wanted to talk with you?” Tom puts the book in the night table.

“Yes, William, her brother, has it. She will try asking for it.”

“That sounds too easy.”

Severus shrugs. It does, but they deserve something easy for once. “She didn’t say what Potter wants, but I guess he will ask for his parents release.”

“And what do you want to do?”

“I think he will be willing to negotiate, but I need to know what are you willing to give.”

Tom stares at him thoughtful. “Their lives. You can offer him that.”

Their lives. He hopes it is enough because he knows how stubborn the boy can be. They need the information, and with Bellatrix pregnant there is no way to know if whatever they confess it is the true. Pain weakens occlumency shields, but without a skilled legilimens, it is useless.

“Why did you bring her, Tom? I could have gone to the manor tomorrow.”

“I wanted to know how strong is my connection with Potter. He was who gave Ginnevra the address, and she was able to see the house.”

Severus curses internally. If the boy realises how powerful is his connection with Tom, and if they don’t give him what he wants, he could feel tempted to make a deal with Dumbledore instead. And odds are that Ginnevra will tell him she could see the house, because that girl just can’t keep her mouth shut.

 

Next day he takes Ginnevra to the manor. He speaks with Narcissa alone, asking her to keep an eye in Harry, now more than ever, and explains her about the connection with Tom.

He finds Harry in the library, where Draco and Ginnevra are still working in the books from Black’s house. He beckons him to follow him to an empty room, and this time Severus makes sure to put privacy spells around.

“Ginnevra told me you want to make a deal.”

“I know you are torturing my parents to get information.” Harry makes a pause, as waiting for him to deny it, but Severus doesn’t say anything. “I want you to stop. I know you want to kill them, but you don’t have to hurt them.”

“If you give us the information, there will be no need of torturing them.”

Harry nods. “And I want you to rescue Hermione.”

A rescue mission to Hogwarts is not among their plans. It is too dangerous to go so close to Dumbledore. They will save the kids eventually, but he supposes Harry wants more immediate results. However, they don’t know if Granger is on Dumbledore’s side. Even if they rescue her, she might try to return, or be a spy.

“I can’t offer you that, Potter, not without asking Tom.”

“He will do whatever you say. I know Ginny told you we were listening, and he didn’t exactly sound like your boss.”

“He is not my boss, but it is he who controls the death eaters,” he says coldly. He will not give details about his relationship with Tom to Potter. “We are trying to save all the students, not only your friend. And the information you are holding can be essential to do that.”

“I don’t care about the others!” Snaps Harry, tears filling his eyes. “I know how horrible it sounds, but she and Ron are my best friends. They are my family. And now she is alone. She is smart. She knows something is wrong with Dumbledore and she will try to do something about it. And when she does, Dumbledore will kill her. I can’t lose her. I already lost my parents. I can’t lose her too.”

“I will see what I can do.”

“No! I want an answer now. I know you can take decisions. I know you can convince Voldemort to do it.”

He studies Potter. There is determination in his eyes and it will be not easy to convince him. “Potter, going anywhere near Hogwarts now is too dangerous. Dumbledore has locked himself with the remaining students, and he will not hesitate in using them as leverage.”

“But you can surely do something”

“If the information is good, I will ask the Dark Lord to send someone from the Ministry to Hogwarts. I can’t guarantee they will take your friend from there, but they will protect her.”

“Swear it. Swear on your magic you will try to rescue her.”

“I swear on my magic I will try to take Granger from Hogwarts.” A warm sensation ran up the length of his arm, sealing the deal.

“Do you believe I am stupid? Swear on your magic you will do your best to rescue Hermione.”

Severus can’t avoid to smirk. He underestimated Harry. Whoever taught him that someone could swear on his magic, had coached him well. He could just ask Tom to do it and the moment he says ‘No’, the promise would be fulfilled.

“I swear on my magic I will do my best — without risking my life — to take Granger from Hogwarts in exchange of information.”

He feels the warm sensation again. The oath is not as strong as the unbreakable vow. If he fails to fulfil his part of the deal, his magic will be lost. It can be recovered. Severus knows some rituals to do it. But they require several rare ingredients and someone with magic. And wizards are not always willing to help someone who broke an oath.

Harry nods. “I followed Dumbledore. He was with Moody, and they were talking about killing my parents. Moody didn’t want to, but Dumbledore said that they can’t be around, that I must die if they want to kill Voldemort and they can’t afford my parents interfering. He said I was one of Voldemort’s horcrux, whatever that is.”

A part of him refuses to believe it. A horcrux causes great instability in the mind and the body of a person. It would explain the outbursts of rage, and why they can’t achieve a complete healing yet. But Tom is one of the smartest persons he knows, he wouldn’t deliberately poison his soul… would he?

Chapter Text

He came across the horcruxes in one of the books he kept in Gringotts. It was just a paragraph, comparing it to the effects of the dementor kiss. Unlike the kiss, the horcrux only takes a part of the soul. The soul is not loss, but the person is not complete. They cannot fully feel; they cannot think straight. A person with a fragmented soul is mentally and emotionally unstable.

A person without soul cannot love.

It is what worries him the most. If Tom can't love it means Dumbledore was right and he just wanted to use him.

'But he made an oath for you', reminds him a voice inside his head. Why would he do that, when he could easily use the slavery mark to do his will?

After finishing with Harry, he goes to the headquarters to speak with Tom. He is aware he shouldn't jump to conclusion so quickly, but he feels his anger growing with each step. The more he thinks about it, the more sense it makes. His insanity, the outbursts of rage, his survival to the killing curse.

The death eaters move out of his way as he passes them, following him with curious eyes. When he reaches the door to Tom’s study, he enters without knocking. Tom watches with a frown how he casts privacy spells around the room, but Severus wants it done before saying the first word. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice, and the conversation they are going to have needs to be private.

“Should I be worried?” Asks Tom jokingly, the smile vanishing from his face when Severus turns to him.

“Tell me it is a lie,” Severus says studying him with his eyes, looking for any sign of a lie. “Please tell me that my partner is not stupid enough to create a horcrux.”

Tom stands from his seat behind the desk and walks to him. "Severus, it is not so simple..."

"Of course it is not so simple, you created a bloody horcrux!" Severus takes a step backwards, and looks with helpless eyes at Tom. When he speaks again, he does it in a begging tone. "Please, tell me it is a lie."

"It is not a lie, Severus. I made an horcrux when I was sixteen."

He bites his lips, trying to control his emotions. He wants to punch him and cry at the same time. Sixteen. They had not meet yet. Nothing in their relationship was real.

"You lied to me. You never loved me. Dumbledore was right."

"Severus...” says Tom trying to touch his arm, but Severus jerks away. "Severus, calm down."

"Don’t tell me to calm down! You lied."

"I can love, Severus. And I love you." Tom walks back to his desk. "Please, just listen to me. Let me explain."

Severus nods and Tom waves his hand towards one of the armchairs. He ignores him, getting closer to the door.

"It started in my fifth year. I already told you about the cursed journal, and how it took away part of my magic. I didn’t know the reason yet and I was too scared to go to the infirmary. I thought they would send me to St. Mungo, and then back to the orphanage." Tom closes his eyes for a second. "Lapses of memory, weakness, hearing voices. All the possible illnesses ended in death. So, I tried to find a way of stopping death, and my research took me to the horcruxes. The ritual was in one of the books, but there was no further information. I asked Slughorn, but he refused to tell me. The only thing he said it was that I needed to kill someone. Nothing about the consequences—"

"Why did you do it? If you didn’t know what would happen, why did you do it?"

"I was desperate. I had a black out by the end of the term, and I found myself locked in a bathroom with Warren dead at my side. Somehow I knew I had killed her, don’t ask me why but I knew. And there was a basilisk in there. I thought I was going to die. So, I performed the ritual with the journal and made my first horcrux.”

The first one. It's worse than he thought. How much of his soul is left? "How many?"

"Six."

"Tom, I know you need to mean the killing to fragment your soul. It can be just an accident."

"Yes, Severus. I wanted her to die. Do not ask me why but I hated her. I shouldn’t, she never did anything to me, but I hated her. I didn’t feel bad for her dead. I didn’t feel guilty." Tom runs a hand over his bald head. "You know me. I am not a good person, Severus. In that moment I was grateful for her dead because it allowed me to make my horcrux. I did not know I could control the basilisk yet"

Severus doesn’t know what to think. He blamed Lily because she wanted to torture a man without reason, but what Tom did was even worse. Warren was a child, and he killed her in cold blood.

"Do you regret it?"

"I try not to think about that."

"Too late. Do you regret it?" Asks Severus again, determined to have some answers.

"If I had had control of myself, I would never have done it."

"You didn’t answer my question. Do you regret it?"

"I can’t regret something I didn’t know I was doing."

Severus shakes his head. “You can’t keep doing this, Tom. You cannot keep hiding behind your insanity or whatever got into your head at the time. You are smart enough to know that, if a diary answers to you, it is probably cursed. It was your irresponsibility what killed that girl.”

"Why do I have the impression you are not just talking about that girl?"

"Because the creation of the horcruxes could be the cause of your insanity, and why you can’t completely heal now." Severus waits for Tom to say something and defend himself, but he doesn’t. "Let’s say the first one was an accident, what about the other five?"

"I do not know, Severus. When I grabbed that book, I felt the need of create one, and then, when I finally did, I just couldn’t stop. It had to be seven vessels, my body being one of them. I remember as much. And when I reached that number, the need stopped."

Again with the compulsion spells. Dumbledore probably put the spell in the book. Or in the diary. However, Tom can have done a few stupid things, but he wouldn’t accept a present from Dumbledore.

"How did you get the diary?"

"It was a gift. From Hagrid." Tom looks aside. "We used to be friends." Sitting on his chair, he leans forward and fixes his eyes on the table. "We were both orphans and poor. We understood each other. Dumbledore probably used him to get to me. I wanted to think I had a friend, Severus, a real friend. I needed to trust in someone, but I guess I chose the wrong person."

Severus gets closer and puts a hand on his shoulder. He is still angry, but he knows what is feeling lonely, and he knows what it is to be betrayed by the people you trust the most. "We need to fix it."

"I have been looking for a way to join them back together and I have a couple of theories. But I need to recover them first."

"Where are they?"

"The diary was destroyed. There is a ring, I recovered it and now is safe in the Lestrange vaults along with the cup of Helga Hufflepuff. I tried to recover the locket of Slytherin, but Regulus got it first." Tom let out a bitter laugh. "You wanted to know about my conversation with Narcissa, well, there it is."

"She knows?"

"No. I just told her Regulus stole a precious object to me and died. I didn’t tell her it was a horcrux."

"Those are four, I am going to assume one of the others is a Ravenclaw heirloom."

Tom nods. "A diadem. It is at Hogwarts. And you know Nagini."

A living object as an horcrux. Tom, in his right mind, would have never use an animal as a vessel for his soul. Nagini is easy to spot, and even if it is a giant snake, it can be killed. But at least Tom is looking for a safe way of joining his horcruxes — Severus knows he won’t kill Nagini — and that looks good for Harry.

“And Potter,” says Severus after a pause. “You made him an horcrux when you killed whoever was taking care of him.”

Chapter Text

Tom puts the elbows on the desk and covers his face with his hands. “Are you sure?”

“Potter heard it from Dumbledore. Is there a spell to confirm it?”

One of the bookshelves shakes and a book flies to them, landing in front of Tom. As he runs his fingers over the cover, the apparently new book changes. Now it looks old, but in good conditions. The tittle, that used to be ‘Encyclopedia of Runes’, is now ‘Ancient curses: A guide to recognise cursed objects.’

“This is the newest I found,” comments Tom, opening it in a marked place. “Here it is.”

He hands the book to Severus. It is hardly a paragraph, with the spell to recognise them and a warning to stay away from them.

“I will cast it on Potter and look in Lucius’ library if there is something.”

“Nobody can know, Severus. Not even Lucius.”

Severus nods, not because he agrees, but because it is not his secret to tell. Lucius knows his library better than anyone, and it would save them valuable time. But Tom is ashamed, and he won’t admit to his most trusted death eater that he made a mistake.

“We need to recover the diadem. Where did you hide it?”

“There is a room in the seventh floor. It changes according to the wishes of the person who finds it.”

The seventh floor is too far away from any entry. Nobody can go there without being noticed.

Pettigrew appears in his mind, but the idea is discarded almost immediately. They can’t trust something as important as a horcrux to the rat. Besides, a rat cannot run around the castle with a diadem without being noticed.

“How did you find out, Severus? How many people know?”

“Only Potter and me. But you must stop the interrogations, or the Lestranges will know too.”

“I will. And why did Potter tell you?”

Severus curses internally, it was a question he wanted to avoid. “We made a deal. I will take Granger from Hogwarts.”

Tom presses his lips together. “And how will you do that?”

“We will rescue the kids from Hogwarts, eventually. I didn’t tell him when I was going to do it. I just tell him I was going to do my best.”

“Severus, I am not sending death eaters in a suicidal mission to Hogwarts.”

“I am not asking for that, Tom. I am not asking for anything. It is not the right time,” he says, returning the book to its bookshelf. “But Potter has a point. That girl is too curious for her own good.”

 

The book exposing the crimes of the aurors during the first war comes out, and two days later an investigation is opened. Many aurors are accused, but they are not naive, not all of them will pay. Not legally, at least, because Tom will make sure every last one of them faces justice.

Shacklebolt’s testimony is enough to absolve him of Macnair’s murder. He accuses Moody, and the aurors who were with them back him up.

Nobody questions Moody’s involvement in Macnair’s death, the man was crazy and should never have returned to the force. He is also found guilty of several cases of torture during the first war. They use him as a scapegoat, and when the death eaters leave his body — what’s left of it — with the dark mark on the air, there is no investigation. Better put the blame on the death man.

The new is no cause for celebration, though. His slavery is again mentioned in The Prophet, asking for his master. Tom will have to register him, or he will be officially property of the Ministry, and then Dumbledore.

Severus shakes his head and tries to focus in his current task: finding how to restore Tom’s soul.

It’s been several hours in the library. He is growing frustrated, and staying near the rarest books of the Malfoys will only put them in risk. Deciding it is for the best to take a break, he leads to the grounds to take some fresh air.

“Snape!” Harry calls him before he can reach the door. He turns around and sees the boy waving a parchment in front of him. “She is in danger!”

He knows who is ‘she’ and he knows what the parchment is. But there is nothing he can do for Granger. Not yet. “Potter.”

“Hermione has been on Dumbledore’s quarters all afternoon. He is not there. He is not anywhere, but Hermione is. I know something happened to her. You have to do something. You promised!”

Severus takes the map from the boy’s hand. Granger’s name moves around Dumbledore’s quarters. “As far as I can see, she is just meddling where she shouldn’t as usual. As long as Dumbledore isn’t there, I do not see reason for concern.”

Harry glares at him. “This is the first time she goes inside. You have to do something. You promised. He is about to return”

“I promised not to risk my life, Potter, and going there now would be suicide,” says Severus calmly, “I am certain she will leave at any moment.”

Severus is wrong. Granger is still there when Dumbledore walks first to his office and then to his quarters. He stays there twenty minutes before going to kitchens, and Severus hears Harry exhaling in relief when Granger’s name starts to move again. She finally leaves, walking — probably running — to her common room.

“You have to get her out of there. Now.”

“I do not take orders from you, Potter,” he says coldly, returning the map and turning around.

He agrees with Potter. The girl is in danger. But Tom already said no, and he is right. Sending anyone inside to rescue Granger is too risky. But he will talk with Tom and see if there is an alternative. Perhaps trying to contact her, and giving her instructions to stay alive.

“You can keep the map,” says Harry in desperation. “And the invisibility cloak. The death eaters have it, but you can keep it.”

Severus turns around and studies him. “Are you aware of what you are offering, Potter?”

The boy nods. “I can’t lose her too.”

“Give me the map.”

He leaves the manor and apparates on the grounds of the headquarters. He is going to do what he can, not because of the cloak, but because the boy will go himself if he doesn’t. They already have the cloak in their possession, but if Harry is offering something so valuable, it means he is truly desperate. And Severus knows what desperate people can do.

“Severus,” says Tom when he sees him, “come with me.”

Severus follows him into a room. Rodolphus, Rabastan and Lucius are waiting, and immediately Tom takes his place at the head of the table. Lucius sits at Tom’s right, Severus next to him and the two Lestrange in front of them.

“Lucius,” says Tom when everyone is on their seat,

Lucius nods. “Longbottom is awake, and he is accusing Dumbledore of stealing his magic.”