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Death Eaters At The Malfoy Estate

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Death Eaters at the Malfoy Estate: The Boiler Room


ooo

In the late seventies, on a rather large and conspicuous hill outside of Hogsmeade lay, stretched like a drugged cat on a furry green dinner roll, the sprawling and ridiculously large estate of the Malfoy family. In the basement worked an industrious and high strung young man by the name of Severus Snape.

He bent over a cauldron, a green light emanating from its contents. Thick goggles protected his eyes, as he worked with rather nastier-than-normal stuff. The upper half of his long black hair was pulled away from his face with a silver clasp, leaving the rest trailing down his back in a fetching and bishounenesque manner.

He lit his cigarette with one hand and poured a vial of silvery liquid into a pressure slot with another. "I am an antichrist," he sang softly to himself, "and I am an anarchist, a doo-doo doo doo dah do..."

There was a knock at the door.

"What?" he barked through his cigarette-pursed lips as he filled a beaker, emptied a vial, filled a vial, cleaned a dish, and mixed a few things together.

A mousy woman with extremely thick circular glasses and gigantic puffy black curly hair by the name of Myra Psue entered. She wore a black robe over a curvy, stout body. She held a slip of yellow parchment, looking distressed.

"Severus, you're not supposed to smoke in the lab"

"My lab," he replied, not bothering to look up at her. "What've we got?"

She shook her head. "He's lost his mind, I swear. The guy studies the Dark Arts for what, twenty seven years or something, and he thinks we can get this for him in two days."

He took the parchment from her. "Infusion or distillation?"

"Infusion. With distilled helbagrout."

He paused. "Thats horse shit."

"Yes. It is." She sat at a table, resting her face in her hands. She rubbed her eyes, her temples. "I was hoping to sleep sometime this week."

"Wait. He wants THIS is two days? Are you quite sure?" He examined the parchment closer, as though he may have missed something.

"Yes."

"That's horse shit."

"You said that."

" It will be repeated, I assure you." He grumbled and flicked his cigarette.

She jumped. "Severus, for fucks sake, don't ash on the product!"

"I'm not ashing on the product, I'm ashing significantly away from the product."

"You should really stop smoking. You'll ruin your lungs."

"Myra, I work among sulfurous fumes all damn day. Why not help the process along?" He adjusted his goggles, pushing them up on his nose."Two days. This is a joke. It takes at least five." He took a drag off his cigarette and adjusted his goggles again. "Can you get Barty down here? Have him tell He Of The Ridiculous Time Limit we need some high grade kitchenware, and fast, or he's bloody fuckled." He fiddled with his goggles again, finally taking them off to adjust the headstrap. His eyes were red and tired. He shook his head. "This is horse shit."

"A man true to his word," Myra said with a flourish. "Issue number one, I don't think it's wise to go in and start demanding things of the Dark Lord He gets huffy. Issue number two, you've got rings around your eyes, lab rat. Those goggles make you look like a bug."

He lit another cigarette. "Issue number one, you're right, make a pit stop at Lord Malfoy. Issue number two, go fuck yourself. If you want to burn your eyes out with acidic vapor, be my guest." He took a drag and began setting up for the upcoming task, then gave her a piercing look.

Myra raised her eyebrows. "Fine, Scuba Snape, I'll see what I can do. I'm going to Knockturn. Would you like me to grab you an air tank and some fins while I'm topside?"

"Fuck off. Oh, and could you see about getting some grindleweed? Were running low."

"Of course. Im going to McCaligula's too, you fancy anything?"

He gave a wayward glance. "You eat there? And you're telling me to quit smoking?"

She shrugged. "Its food."

"In a purely technical sense."

"Take it or leave it."

He thought for a moment. "Ill have a Hammy. With pickles." She gave a brief salute and headed out the door. "And some salt and vinegar chips!" he called after her. "And a pack of Devil's Owns!"

"Don't push your luck," she called back.

He looked at the parchment again. Shook his head.

"Horse shit."


ooo

Myra returned forty five minutes later and tossed a paper bag in Severus's direction. He caught it without looking up, reached in, removed the sandwich, extracted the cigarette from his mouth, took a bite, chewed, swallowed, and put the cigarette back in his mouth.

"You're welcome," Myra said, pulling on her gray lab robe.

He chewed thoughtfully. "This is turkey."

'What?"

He glared at her. "This is a turkey sandwich."

"Are you quite sure?"

"Myra, speaking from years of experience applying and identifying substances of various sorts, from a professional standpoint, I feel I can be relatively certain that this is a turkey goddam sandwich."

She shrugged. "I ordered ham."

He continued. "A turkey sandwich suffering from a lack of pickles, I believe, and the bag in which it came is utterly devoid of cigarettes."

She huffed. "I don't believe in assisted suicide."

He rolled his eyes.

She raised her eyebrows. "Didn't mean to ruin your day, Jesus."

He glanced at her. "Jesus? Thats a Muggle expression. How uncouth."

"Actually he's a Muggle deity. Once you pick up using his name in vain its a really hard habit to break."

"You'd best break it. Lord Malfoy would come thundering down upon you if he heard you talking like a full-blown Mud."

She sighed. "Between you and me, Severus, Lord Malfoy can eat me."

Severus raised an eyebrow.

"Here's the extra Grindleweed you asked for." She threw another bag at him which he snatched expertly out of the air. "I asked him, very politely, about the new kitchenware and he promptly turned into a bitch. I wanted to say 'Look, you dried up old turd, we're the potionmasters, okay? Don't go telling us what equipment we need, just shut your mouth and foot the bill.'"

Snape mixed the contents of two vials together. "You didn't say that."

"I said I wanted to say it."

"Said, wanted to say, same difference, get to work! We need a mixture of commilingus and detourche! Hurry, hurry!"

Myra rose from her seat and started digging inside a cabinet for the proper materials. "By the way," she said, "whatever became of the turkey sandwich that so upset Severus Snape? Its gone! He ate it! Jesus, did you even breath?"

"I was so hungry I would have eaten a goat."

He held a beaker up to the light and waved his wand at it, uttering a quiet incantation. It let out a brief huff of pink smoke.

"Or my sandwich, which you always seem to mistake for a chaser. A chaser very clearly marked 'Myra' and placed -"

"Later. We have to work. You did get the equipment, didn't you? We need a Cromley High Speed Distillator. There's no way were getting this done in anything near two days without one."

"I know, Severus. Malfoy ordered it. He's having it apparated this evening."

Snape let out a low whistle and rubbed his thumb and forefingers together. "You must have given him an above average blow job."

She gave him a look of utter disgust.

"I just don't know any other way a woman manages to get such expensive things out of a man," he said.

"I think it has more to do with the Dark Lord having his hand wrapped firmly around Malfoy's testicles than it does with me. Trust me, I barely managed it his time. I thought his head would explode."

He turned, grinning at her.

"Oh, bloody you," she cried.

"You walked into that, my dear."

"I know, I know. Leave me with my pride. The old fart has the money. He may as well use it to buy us toys instead of that little prat Lucius."

"I hear that," Severus said.


ooo

"It's beautiful," Myra breathed, touching the chrome distillator that now hummed away in the corner. She ran her hand along the rim, bent down to have a look inside.

"It would be more beautiful with your head out of it," Severus snapped. "We've still got a ton of work to do. No matter how efficient that thing is, it's not going to get us our potion in two days."

She reluctantly removed herself from the machine. "Right. I know. What next?"

Severus cleared his throat. 'An infusion of mariseed and goldenwort, excuse me, elmwort. No, red elmwort extract." He tapped the butt of his cigarette to his temple.

She nodded and set up the proper tools, the reached behind her. "Could you hand me the saline solu- thanks. You might want to boost up the hood in a second, this stuff is rough."

"Mmm. Just tell me when."

He glanced at the hood, an airtight pump closet that sucked the poisonous fumes from especially smoky potions. He slipped the goggles back over his head and adjusted the lenses, then opened a book. He flipped through the pages, studied an entry, then went to the poison cabinet. He smirked at a coma inducing draught. "Wouldn't that be nice," he muttered sourly.

"What be nice?"

"Nothing," he said. 'Sleep."

Myra said a brief incantation over a serum. The liquid changed from a watery purple to a slimy, crawling black sludge. She gave it an approving nod and poured it in the cauldron. "Sleep," she said, "would be a delicious joy. But that's life under the Dark Lord. What do you do, we get great benefits in this industry."

Severus huffed. "If you're referring to the money and power, I haven't seen any. All I see, day in and day out, are these basement walls and your nitwit face."

''Hrm."

He paused, looking at her. "Your nitwit face and your gigantic head."

She cast him a brief glance.

"Your head," he began, leaning upon the table and lighting a cigarette, "defies gravity by the very fact that it stays perched atop your neck. It's huge. It's like looking at an asteroid on a toothbrush."

Myra's face reddened. She vigorously shook a vial and mixed it with another.

He took a drag. "Quite a remarkable phenomenon, really, this head of yours. Floating there like a...a..." he made a summoning gesture with his hand, as though looking for the correct word. "A great fuzzy black Snitch, yes."

She glared at him but said nothing. He took a step closer.

"Or, perhaps, like the independently mobile pubic hair of a giant - "

"Shut it, you fucking git, before I jam this vial rack up your ass," she growled.

A look of satisfaction crossed his face.


ooo

A little while later, after she had cooled, Myra asked Severus what he supposed The Dark Lord would do with the potion.

He was looking at a bottle of a milkish liquid., flicking it with a long fingernail. Particles moved at the bottom. The solution had gone over.

"Fuck my cock," he muttered.

"Excuse me?"

"The dogweed serum has gone over. We'll have to send Barty to get some more."

"Did you say 'fuck my cock'?" she asked incredulously.

He paused at the expression on her face. 'No."

"Yes you did. Just now."

"I said no such thing." He turned partially away from her to check a dial.

"You said 'fuck my cock.'"

"So what? Shut up and work, will you, we're wasting time."

She laughed. "Who says that?"

"Quiet! Work!' he snapped, thrusting a pair of potions at her.

She snickered and took them, shaking her head. 'What a prat you are." She sighed. After a moment, 'You never answered my question. What do you think he's using this for?"

Severus shrugged. "Assassination. It kills in larger doses, though administered a bit at a time it's quite effective for torture ... causes a most unpleasant burning and cracking of the skin. Given with a clover-based balm it makes peeling back fingernails fifty times more painful. Mixed with carrionweed and given in a dropper it'll dissolve the eyeball into a white, veiny foam. Saw it done once, actually, amazing to watch. Yet it's so versatile, add some vodka and you have a very effective decongestant. Lovely thing." He shook his head in amazement, his eyes alight.

She smiled at him. "Fuck my cock."

"Lordy, I always walk in at the best moment," came a voice from the door. They looked up so see young Barty Crouch Jr., arms folded, looking stern. He wore his robe open to reveal tiny orange gym shorts, sport socks pulled up to his knees, and a white t-shirt bearing a picture of an ice cream sundae that revealed a thin line of midriff. He tucked his blonde hair behind his ear. "Lord Malfoy sent me to check your progress. He wants to know if the dist-ill...e...thing...that thing, whatever that is - " he pointed to the Distillator in the corner "-if it was working well for you."

Severus crossed his arms, giving Barty a sour look. "Yes, it's fine, give Lord Malfoy our thanks."

Myra sighed. "Barty, you'll catch your death of cold running around in that little outfit. Severus, could you turn on the hood, we're going to need it in a minute."

"This?" Barty pointed at his shirt. "Isn't this great? I saw it at Vanishing Vintage, and I was just like, ice cream, yay!" He wiggled a bit. "Everyone likes ice cream."

Severus snorted.

"It's a cute shirt," Myra admitted.

"Oh, it would look better on you, though, you have those sweet boobies. It's yours if you ever want to borrow it."

Severus snorted again, louder. Myra threw him a cross look.

"Thanks sweetie, I'll keep that in mind," Myra said from behind Severus, who was staring coldly at Barty. There was a sizzling sound. "Severus, any time now with the hood. I'm almost at peak reaction, here"

"Right," he grunted.

Barty clucked his tongue once at Severus. "What are you looking at?"

"Nothing. We need you to fetch a new bottle of dogweed."

Barty bit his lip and smiled.

"Severus," Myra repeated.

"That all?" Barty asked coquettishly, twisting his hair around his pinky.

A barely restrained look of disgust flashed over Severus's face. "Quite all, thanks."

"'Kay. Oh, um..." Barty paused at the door, looking a bit forlorn. "If you see Lucius, could you, um, tell him I'm looking for him?"

He glared at Barty.

"Severus!" Myra exclaimed as the sizzle grew louder, "I'm peaking here!"

Barty pouted at Severus, running his thumb along the elastic band of his shorts. "Please?"

"Get out of my lab, you filthy little pouf!" Severus exploded.

"SEVERUS!" Myra yelled.

Barty jumped up and slammed the door behind him as yellow smoke began to fill the room.

Severus coughed. "What the-?"

"The HOOD!" she shrieked. "Turn on the hood! We'll be poisoned!"

She dashed across the room with the fuming potion as Severus grabbed for his wand, aiming an activation charm at the pump closet. From the other side of the room he heard a sputtering. He could just barely make out Myra shoving the potion behind the glass door. She was hacking.

"Merlin's blood!" she coughed, "you fucking *hack hack* amateur. If I had known you found *hack* Barty *hack* that distracting..." She felt around for the vent latch. "Are you trying to *hack* kill us?"

Severus tried to reply but choked on the foul air. Myra managed to open a vent and he heard the first few words of a clearing charm. The sputtering from the corner grew even louder. Myra finished the charm and the room was clear of smoke, leaving only a sulfurous odor behind. Severus lit a cigarette.

"Did the infusion survive?" he asked cooly.

She was hunched over a table, both palms flay upon it. Her eyes watered. "Are you smoking?" she asked, aghast.

"Did the infusion survive?"

"I can't believe you."

Yet another sputter from the corner of the room.

"I asked you a question, Myra."

She narrowed her eyes at him, coughing. "Go check it yourself."

He stared at her for a moment, then lowered his cigarette. "I think you should," he said softly. 'You could use the experience."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

He took a few quick steps until he was right in Myra's face. He looked livid. "I have more experience with Potions, and the Dark Arts in general, than you do or ever will have. Don't you ever, ever, call me an amateur, or I'll show you just what an amateur is. Try to keep in mind, Myra Psue, that you are my assistant."

"Oh, that is such horse shit Severus, you know as well as I do-"

"-that you are my assistant. You are assistant Potionmaster. Vice. Potionmaster."

Their noses were nearly touching, the smoke from Severus's cigarette curling like a decaying hand above their heads.

"Technically," she spat.

Severus opened his mouth to reply, give a cutting last remark, when the sputtering became obtrusively loud. "What the bloody hell is that?"

As if on cue, the Cromley High Speed Distillator emitted a low moan, coughed, and shut down.

Myra and Severus blinked.

"No..." they said in unison.


ooo

"Can you fix it?"

Severus slid himself out from underneath the Distillator. He sat on the floor, leaning against a cabinet, brushing his hair out of his eyes. "No, we need a new one. The fumes from the infusion must have damaged it somehow."

Myra shook her head. "This is not good. Lord Malfoy nearly had an aneurism when I told him how much the first one would cost. This'll get us black - marked as liabilities."

Severus snorted. "I wish it were as simple as just the Distillator. The last of the helbargrout was in there. It only blooms every six years. We have to make a synthetic helbargrout, that'll take about seven hours, and then you have to sweet-talk Lord Malfoy into getting us a new Distillator - "

"-why do I always have to do do the sweet talking?"

"Because he wants to fuck you. All in all this is going to put us fifteen, sixteen hours behind schedule. We're buggered." He gave Myra a salute. "Nice knowing you."

She began to bite her nails. Severus winced, watching her.

"Maybe…maybe we can talk to the Dark Lord...tell him the situation...I mean, shit happens, right?"

Severus looked at her for a moment and burst out laughing. "Do you remember the Arithmancy Guy who was late with those charts? I heard the Dark Lord ate his testicles." He gave a grim snort. "Give me a cigarette, will you?"

"No. We need to think."

"I need a cigarette to think."

She gave an exasperated sigh and threw the pack at him. They were silent for a moment, Severus smoking, Myra biting her nails, Severus wincing at Myra biting her nails.

His eyes suddenly cleared. When he looked up his expression was not one of relief.

'What?" Myra asked. "Have you got something?"

"Lucius," he replied.


ooo

Lucius Malfoy sat on the green couch in the far left corner of the lab. The couch was usually reserved for either Severus or Myra's eventual collapse. Severus had awaken many a morning with the lines from the corduroy embedded in his cheek. But now a smug blonde boy in his young twenties lounged upon it as though it were a throne of the highest order. His arm was slung across the back. A creak emitted from his dragon skin pants as he crossed his legs.

Lucius licked his lips and smirked at Severus. "So," he said, "what's so urgent that I have to be called from whip practice?"

Myra was across the room pretending to work. Severus saw her tilt her head slightly to better listen to the conversation.

"I need your help," Severus finally said. It was a hard admission for him.

Lucius grinned. "Imagine that. I heard you had a bit of an accident down here."

"How did you know?"

"A little Barty told me," Lucius replied with a flip of his hand.

He leaned forward, all creaking pants and black silk shirt, balancing his elbows against his knees. There was a sparkle about his hand - a single serpent's eye diamond engagement ring. He shook his platinum locks out of his eyes with a brief movement of his head.

"So what do you need fixed, Snapey-loo?"

Severus's jaw locked at the name. Lucius knew he hated it. It was borne of a rather embarrassing incident at Hogwarts many years previous.

"Let's try to keep this short, I don't have a lot of time. I need a some helbargrout - "

"Not very easily obtained right now. It's going to cost you."

Snape took a breath to steady himself. "Some helbagrout, and a new Distillator."

There was a pause. Lucius's eyebrows rose. He smiled and sat back, stroking his chin. Severus never allowed his black, glittering eyes to leave Lucius's watery blue ones, hoping to intimidate the young prince into giving him a reasonable deal. This was not to be achieved. They both knew who had the better hand.

"Well well well," Lucius said smoothly, "We do have ourselves in a pinch, don't we?"

Severus didn't reply.

Lucius made a great show of considering the deal, his eyes raised to the ceiling in "thought". Severus knew Lucius already had the price in mind.

Finally Lucius spoke. "I can get you these things, but I have a request to make of you. Or rather, a proposal."

Severus crossed his arms, waiting.

"Actually it's something I've wanted to discuss with you for quite some time now. How fortunate that I finally have an opportunity." A look of earnestness came over him. It was chilling.

"Severus, I want you to go back into business with me."

He started. Blinked. "Business?"

"Don't be coy. We ran quite a racket back in our Hogwarts days. You made it, I sold it."

Across the room, Myra cocked her head.

"Lucius-"

"You produced some of the best metamorphine I've ever had the pleasure of putting in my arm," Lucius whispered savagely. "Don't you remember the night I swore I knew what it felt like to be the roof? That, my dear Severus, is what we call good shit."

Myra looked over her shoulder at Severus, amazed.

A sour look crossed Lucius's beautiful face. "What are you gawking at, you fat cow? This is private business."

"Leave her be," Severus snapped.

Lucius rose a perfect blonde eyebrow.

"I'm glad you enjoyed my...handiwork, but I can't do that anymore. You have to realize that working for the Dark Lord takes up all of my time - I can barely sleep, much less make shipments for you on a regular basis." He lit a cigarette.

Lucius gestured to the wrecked Distillator in the corner. "That pile of junk over there seems to be saying you can. Listen. You can hear it."

Lucius leaned forward, putting his hand on Severus's shoulder. The other hand he formed into a beak with his finger and thumb, which he made "talk".

"Hi, Snapey-loo. This is the Distillator. I'm a fucked up piece of trash that's going to cost you your job and your life, so I think you had better get off your ass and make Lucius some drugs. Comprende?"'

Lucius smiled at his hand. "You're a persuasive little bastard."

"Why thank you," the hand replied.

"No no, thank you, gorgeous," Lucius said back. "There, see. That's how it is. We'll split the take, say, thirty seventy until such time as I deem fit."

"I'm not doing it for any less than forty," Severus balked.

"You're hardly in a position to argue," Lucius's hand said.

"Lucius-" Severus began.

"I can get you what you need within the hour. Or you can rot. Do we have a deal?"

Severus was silent, too tired to fight him. "Fine. Fine, we have a deal. Just give me some time for the first batch, I have to finish this potion in a day and nine hours."

"Of course," Lucius said, extending his hand. Severus reluctantly shook it. "A pleasure, my friend. Glad to have you back on the team." He smiled. "I don't know about you, but I'm going to get some new boots."

"With the cut I'm getting I won't be able to afford new boots," Severus spat.

Lucius laughed and patted Severus on cheek. "You're funny. Always were a charmer."

The door burst open to reveal a panting Barty Crouch. His sport socks had fallen down to his ankles. He held up a vial. 'Here's your dogweed! I brought it as fast as I - Lucius."

"Hi Barty." Lucius got up to leave, giving Severus a parting nod. "Come now, let's go upstairs, you can make me smoothie."

Barty's expression brightened as he handed Severus the dogweed and followed Lucius out.

Myra turned to Severus and began to speak. 'Metamorphine? That's-"

"Not a word, Myra" he said. "Not a word."


ooo

The Distillator and the helbargrout were delivered within the hour as promised. Severus didn't allow himself to think of the price had paid for it. Metamorphine was such a good drug because it was extremely difficult and time-consuming to produce. It was now guaranteed he would never see the sun again.

Seven hours of solid work. He felt the hours tick by like a blade nicking at his neck. There was too much to do and not enough being done. He was exhausted, wired, so on edge that Myra had all but stopped speaking to him for the sharpness of his retorts.

He tried to steady his shaking hand as he filled a vial. Mentally sifted through a baffling number of computations. Couldn't keep anything straight. A sour ache of frustration throbbed in his chest.

There was a tug at his robe.

Severus jumped. Before him was Dobby.

"Don't startle me like that, you rodent!" he spat.

Myra glanced over. "Oh look, it's the Bludger," she said coldly, with eyes undone by stress.

Dobby cowered, his thin arms covered his huge head. "Not again, Miss Psue! Oh no, me is not Bludger, Miss Psue, no no no. Me is Dobby. Me is a good house-elf. Me is-."

"We know what you is," Severus spat. 'What the hell do you want? Make it fast."

"Such language! You is a bad Snape - "

"Wrap it up, fuckwit," Myra said.

"The Taskmasters is telling me to give Mr. Snape this, sir." He handed Severus a slip of parchment and quickly left.

He opened it.

"Oh god. You're kidding. What've we got?" Myra asked, rubbing her eyes.

Severus crumpled the parchment and stormed out of the lab, slamming the door behind him.


ooo

He burst into a horribly lit room where black robed witches and wizards moved silently but efficiently, filing and sorting task requests for each of the Death Eaters. A long line of rather bored looking people standing outside Processing waited to fill out request forms. Across the one moldy window was a string of black and white letters that read "HAPPY H LLOWE N".

It was May.

He had entered the Taskmasters Office.

"Who ordered the sleep draught?" he demanded loudly. Conversation stopped as about thirty heads turned his way. He focused on the Woman Behind The Counter. Everyone knew who she was but no one seemed to know her name. She always lined her lips just outside of their natural limit, unknowingly creating the illusion of a very thin mustache. She had jowls.

She gave him a bored look. "What was that, hon?"

"I want to know who sent down the order for the goddam sleep draught."

"Just now?"

"Yes, just now."

"Let me check." She shifted through a stack of parchment. "Hmm. Says here it was a Mr. Grindow Holland." Her eyes suddenly flew to the back of the line. Instinctively he tracked her line of sight. A figure was pushing through the line, trying to leave the room. Severus's eyes glinted, suddenly feral.

He charged up to the man, seized him by the collar, and slammed him against the wall.

"Are you Grindow Holland?" he hissed. Spittle landed on the small, bald man's cheek.

"Y-yes."

"Did you order the sleep draught?"

"Y-es, yes, I did. I can explain."

"Please."

"It's for my - my wife. She's having trouble-"

Severus pulled against the man's collar and shoved him back against the wall."Listen to me, you useless, pion piece of shit," he growled, "You go back home and tell your wife that I have a deadline. I have things to do. I won't be interrupted because some simpering bitch can't get her beauty sleep. Tell her to drink some warm fucking milk, I'm. BUSY."

Holland's jaw bobbed wordlessly.

"Can you HEAR ME?" Severus shrieked. "Am I making myself PERFECTLY. FUCKING. CRYSTAL. CLEAR?" He shoved the man against the wall with each word.

"Y-e-y-y-es!"

Severus glared at him for a moment, then released him. Just as the man took a breath of relief Severus raised his hand in a sudden motion, as though he were about to backhand Holland across the face. The bald man flinched.

Severus gave a single nod.

He looked up at the silent crowd of people in the Taskmaster's office, staring at him.

"What?"

Not waiting for a response, he turned on his heel and swept out of the room.


ooo

"Where the hell did you run off to so fast?" Myra snapped upon Severus's return. She was stirring two cauldrons at once while watching a mixture that threatened to boil over. "What was that?"

"Nothing, I took care of it," he replied, pulling his goggles back on with a savage jerk and reducing the heat on the boiling mixture. He took over one of Myra's cauldrons, which she gladly gave up. "Did you skim this for yeast residue?"

"Of course, what do I look like to you?" She rolled her eyes.

"Don't start. Just don't bloody start."

She started to reply, but someone opened the door to the lab. The creak made both of them jump.

"Helleeeeuw!" exclaimed the platinum blonde head of Narcissa Vontaine. She stepped fully into the room, all smiles and woodchips, her hair done in a neat and solid pile atop her skull. The glitter of her ruby earrings emphasized the blinding white gleam of her teeth. On one hand gleaned a single serpent's eye diamond in an engagement setting.

"Oh God," Severus heard Myra mutter. "It's the Thing."

Narcissa smiled as she descended the small staircase to the lab floor. "Hello there Severus, and, um..." her eyes fell upon Myra, "...Severus's little friend. I ran out of facial regenerator and Lucius told me you had some extra lying about, so I thought I'd come down here and offer to take it off your hands. So I can put it on my face." She laughed in a high squeal, as though she has just made the funniest little joke in history.

Severus clenched his jaw, trying to retain his calm. Had it been anyone else he would have slammed her face into the wall, but he knew well that Lord Malfoy considered Narcissa as his daughter.

He rubbed his eyes. "Facial regenerator? Of course. Myra, could you please fetch that for Miss Vonatine?"

"Soon to be Mrs. Lucius Malfoy," Narcissa giggled, waving her ring at Myra, who shook her head as she unlocked a cabinet and began to dig on the lowest shelf. Severus began to stir the cauldron again, flipping pages in a potions spellbook, trying as best he could to ignore the glimmering princess before him.

"Oh Severus," Narcissa sighed, "I look just awful today, don't you think?"

He bit the inside of his lip. Hard. "You're as lovely as always, Narcissa."

Her eyes lit up. "Really?"

"Oh. Yes. Definitely." He filled a beaker and turned some more pages in the book.

"Oh, come now. I've got such awful skin and my hair's all out of place. I'm an absolute terror!" She looked at the floor, then raised her eyes in a coy and vulpine manner. "You don't really think I look as lovely as always, do you?"

Some of the contents of a beaker spilled as Severus poured it. "Shit," he muttered.

Narcissa looked a bit taken aback.

"Yes yes," he said, then glanced quickly up at her. "You're a sight to behold."

"You think so? Honestly?"

He put the empty beaker down on the table a little too hard, glaring at her. "Yes, Narcissa, you are a flawless vision of crystalline, unchangeable beauty. You're a china doll, Aphrodite herself, the breath of spring after a long and frigid winter. Your very presence would induce a long-dead corpse to rise again to admire even for a single second your awesome and unequivocal perfection."

There was a pause. Her jaw fell slightly agape, hand held over her heart. "Severus, that...that was the most wonderful thing anyone has ever said to me. I'm...I...I had no idea you were so..." her eyes trailed along his chest and shoulders, played on his face, "poetic."

She smiled.

A scowling Myra pushed past Severus, nearly shoving the bottle of facial regenerator into Narcissa's chest. "Here," she barked.

"Oh, thank you." Her eyes lingered on Severus for a moment before she turned to Myra. She cocked her head as though admiring a curious insect. "Dear, you look a touch puffy under the eyes. When I get like that I use a coconut meat compress for about fifteen minutes." She lowered her voice to a secretive whisper. "It works."

"Thanks for the tip," Myra said dryly.

"Of course dear, I'm always here for those in need. Well, I best be going. Thank you again." She gave a slight nod and a cool smile. "Severus."

"Narcissa." He had turned back to his cauldron, absorbed in a book.

Myra crossed her arms and glowered at him. It took him fully forty five seconds to notice.

"What?"

"Tell me you didn't mean all that."

He snorted. "Don't be silly. There are few things I wouldn't say to get her to shut up. Back to work."


ooo

Five and a half hours later.

The beaker fell out of focus, into focus.

Severus shakily mixed it with an ammonia solvent.

Into focus.

He took a small black pebble from a nearby jar, dropped it in, waited for the fizz.

Out of focus.

There was a sizzling sound. Throbbing yellow blur.

Into focus.

The beaker was fuzzing over.

"Shit," Severus muttered. He reached down for the dragon hide gloves that were usually hooked to his belt and found them missing. He patted his robe's pockets - nothing but the feel of the instruments he usually kept there, the circular hardness of a small scale, the nub of a thermometer. A wave of exhaustion moved through him.

He looked about for them and spied them on Myra's hands. They were flat on the table before her, between them an empty vial. Her head lolled ungracefully to one side, eyelids drooping. She rocked forward slightly in her seat.

He slammed his hand on the table. "Myra!"

"Jesus!" she jumped, her eyes wide. "Christ...did I fall asleep?"

He shot her a look of pure venom.

"I'm sorry Severus, I just -"

"I haven't slept in days either, but you don't see me crashing, do you now?" With that he turned to another cauldron and slammed his shin against a table leg. Hard.

"Bloody bugger!" he cried, hunching over the leg. .."

"Severus-"

"I'm fine, leave me alone. Bloody fucking table."

"Just jumped right out at you, didn't it?"

"Exactly. Check B Cauldron, will you, for film? Bugger."

She did. There was none. When she looked back at him her face folded into an expression of sympathy. "You look as tired as I feel," she said softly. Severus detected an undertone of maternity in her voice. He was too exhausted to resist its odd lull, and the determined visage he wore fell. He couldn't get up from the floor. He ached.

He looked to the couch. The soft, green, inviting couch. Sleep on me, it purred, bury your face in my pliant, breast-like pillows. I want you, Severus. We need each other.

"Oh God, yes," he said.

"Hm?"

His head snapped. "Nothing at all. No, no, this won't do, Myra. This won't do. We have to remain awake." He watched her for a moment as she weaved on her feet, nearly fell. "Awake, awake, AWAKE!"

"Mrg. Ug. Stop yelling." She held a hand to her head, used the other to balance herself on a table.

He rose, with some, effort, to his feet, looked at her, then limped to a cabinet.

"What are you doing?"

"Drastic times," he said, pulling a few bottles out of the cabinet, "call for drastic substances."

"What are you making?"

"A little concoction I made great use of in my later years at Hogwarts. The testing is quite intense in the Seventh year. Requires one to stay awake. If one is studious. It's a stimulant commonly referred to as Hype."

She watched as he combined the three ingredients into a jar and stirred them with a glass mixer. Together they turned a swirling purple gray. From a drawer underneath the table he took a circular brass mold, about the size of a tennis ball. With a click a small hole opened in the top. He poured the concoction in, sealed it, and placed it on the table.

His wand tapped against it with a sharp little "clink".

"Hyperious!" he said.

There was a crisp sound, something instantly solidifying. The brass mold clicked open a crack; Severus opened it the rest of the way to reveal a white globe with the consistency of talc. This he placed in a bowl and crushed into a fine dust. He removed a small capful, dumped it on a glass plate, and with a separator carefully arranged it into a precise and perfect line.

He looked at Myra, bags under his eyes. "Do you want to go first or shall I?"

She held a cuticle torn finger to her mouth, hesitant. "I ... er … what are the effects of this?"

"It's a stimulant," he replied impatiently.

"I know that, but...how does it make you feel?"

"Awake."

She gave him a pleading look.

He sighed. "Sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, accelerated thought. Other than that it's different for everyone."

"What is it like for you?"

He paused. "Well...when I was a student I always made sure only to use it when I could be alone to study. Otherwise I'd get distracted."

"Why?"

"Hype makes me...a bit chatty."


ooo

Half an hour later Myra wore Severus's goggles, leaning over Cauldron C, two beakers in each hand, controlling a heat petal with one foot, working a pressure pump with the other, her wand held precariously, like a cigarette, between her index and middle finger. Her hands shook slightly. She chewed her lip, her tongue, stuck the pink end out of her mouth, pulled it back in.

"Fuckity fuck fuck fuck," she said. Her jaw vibrated slightly. "Fuck. Fuck-fuck. This isn't coming along fast enough. Severus. Fuck."

Severus wasn't listening. He giddily slit a live mouse from anus to throat and poked around for its heart. 'Once Siruis, may he r - r - rot in hell, was wandering the school campus as that mongrel. M-most likely to show off to his little Gryffindor clique, may they die of syphllis, to show that he could d-do it. He was b-busy being pet and doted up-pon by a group of first year girls, looking so proud with those doggy dogy doggy eyes. Have I t-t-told you this story? I informed the girl that this was a p-professor's dog named Tender Lumpling, and that it might be best if I were to secure him to a t-t-tree in case the Professor was looking for him. He couldn't revert, every one in the courtyard would s-s-see him! He had to stay there till nightf-f-fall. Oh, it was glorious, Myra, g-glorious. Are you listening to me?"

"Fuck. Shitfuck," Myra replied. She stirred both cauldrons at once, tapping her foot. She looked at her watch. "My God."

He happily mashed the warm mouse heart in a bowl with crushed sage and and quail egg. "You know, I gave some serious thought to p-purchasing a rifle and hunting down 'Prongs' - I could make it look like a mere hunting accident. Rid of b-bloody James Potter and it would be c-c-ompletely legal. 'Just huntin' d-deer, sir!'"

"Severus-" she bit her lip and hopped a little.

He poured the mixture into the cauldron. It fizzled and sent off a sulfurous stink. "I c-c-could have done Sirius too...b-but sir, the dog attacked me, I had to cut off it's head!"

"SEVERUS!"

"What?"

"This isn't fast enough! Look at my watch!"

"Oh d-dear. You're r-right." His teeth chattered.

"We'll run out of time! The Dark Lord will kill us! I'm not going fast enough, you're not going fast enough! We need more Hype!" She rushed to the table and took another capful of powder. She sloppily spilled it on the glass plate, looking at Severus. "Hurry!"


ooo

It was two in the morning and a deafening sound was pounding from the basement of the Malfoy Estate. Barty Crouch Jr. was found, roused, and sent to discover its source. As he got closer he realized it was music... drums ...coming from the lab.

There were words.

Here comes Johnny M again ... with liquor and drugs, and the flesh machine ... he's gonna do another strip tease ...

Barty cocked his head, pulling his satin nightshirt close around his body. The potions door loomed before him. Hot air blew out from under it, warming his toes.

Hey man, where'd you get that lotion? I've been hurting since I bought the gimmick...of something called love, yeah something called love, well that's like hypnotizing chickens...

Beneath the music he heard two voices, talking, animated, bouncing back and forth like a tennis ball. The Potionmasters, babbling like two teenaged girls. He reached for the hot doorknob. He turned it and opened the door. What he saw astonished him.

Thirteen cauldrons burned at full heat in a ring around the lab, making the room unbearably hot. Books of spells lay strewn haphazardly about the place, empty beakers turned on their sides, broken glass. Symbols and incantaions were written on every available surface - chalkboards, walls. The empty husks of ten disemboweled mice were in a pile on a counter; Barty gasped and jumped away from them.

Well I'm just a modern guy ...

In the middle off the room now stood some sort of...contraption. Beakers and burned and cauldrons and pipes, all hooked together into a baffling maze of glass and stone. Substances boiled and bubbled, traveling from pipe to pipe, beaker to beaker. From behind it he heard the gabbing voices of Severus and Myra. He saw her step out from behind the contraption, wearing nothing but a modest camisole and pair of thin white shorts, her hair in a lopsided poof on the side of her head. Every muscle in her body was tense, her teeth gritted. She held numerous bottles and bounced on the balls of her feet.

"Cobra's blood, I know, I know, I know, I know..."

"Reads f-f-f-f-fifteen thousand...we n-n-n-need need need a bl-l-l-oody Sarus, M-Myra, go."

She rushed off - ran - to a cabinet. Severus emerged from behind the contraption, hunched, wearing an undershirt that revealed a thin yet firm frame, and long, thin black pants that tied at the waist. His hair had been twisted into a wiry knot at the nape of his neck., around which hung three pairs of goggles. He busily mixed things together in one of the many vials connected to the contraption. His foot tapped to the music. His teeth chattered. His eyes were afire.

"Um," Barty said, loud enough to be heard over the music. Severus jumped.

"W-w-w-w-what!" he yelled . 'What? What?"

"What!" Myra called from across the lab. "What are you whatting?"

"What?" he replied to Myra.

"Did you say what?"

"I said what what! Why?"

"What?"

They held each other's gaze for one furious moment, then both turned to Barty.

"WHAT!" they demanded.

"Lord Malfoy wanted you to turn the music down," he said quickly. "That's all. I'll go. Um...what is that thing? No, nevermind, I'll go."

"We invented it," Severus suddenly gushed. He shook all over, eyes red. "We inv-vented it. It's b-beautiful." He mixed three things together, grabbed something out of a little cage, threw it squealing into a cauldron. "We INVEN-N-NTED it. It's beautiful. So sh-hut your mouth. We could make m-money off this. Lots money off this. So. So. So. So." He twitched, eyes wet and sharp.

Myra suddenly rushed Barty, shaking him by the shoulders.

"Baaaaaaaaarty! We made that. It's the best thing since a Distillator. A new cycle system. It gets everything done ten times as f-fast." She took his face in her hands. "Everything is clear, B-Barty, so clear, you don't understand-" her eyes were full of sweat, the edges of her lips turning blue. She pushed his eyebrows up with her thumbs. "The world is in my head, Barty. everything...that was out there...is in here...oh god. Oh god. It's too much. Oh god."

She suddenly threw her head back and let out a cry, a terrible, wrenching sob.

"Stop t-t-t-that!" Severus yelled. He held three vials and beaker, all which were shaking. The veins in his neck pulsed, his face a deep vermillion. "B-arty, you sodomy-r-r-riddled nancy, g-get out of my l-l-ab, or I'll sh-ove this ent-t-tire cy-cle system into your willing r-rectum, which I'm s-sure wouldn't p-pose pose much of a ch-challenge." Some of whatever was in the beaker spilled over his hand.

Myra sank to the floor, her arms around Barty's legs, sobbing.

"You have to turn off the music!" he yelled back, wide-eyed. "Lord Malfoy!"

"SILENCIUS!" Severus shrieked into the lab, and all of a sudden it was deathly quiet. No sounds but the bubbling cauldrons and Myra's heavy sobs.

"Are you okay?" he asked Myra.

"I need more," she moaned into Barty's shin.

"Do w-w-what you have to do," Severus replied. He rubbed his nose, then looked longingly at a glass plate on a counter. His eyes flashed to Barty, and in a quick motion threw a beaker at him, which exploded against the far wall. "GET OUT!"

In a panic, the boy wrenched the sobbing Myra off him. He ran out and closed the door in just enough time to see her stumble over to the counter and lean her face over the plate, Severus close behind.


ooo

Seven hours later, at nine in the morning, there came a triumphant shout from the lab, followed by a high pitched, awful wail.


ooo

At ten, a pair of delicate white hands stroked a cashmere blouse.

"This," purred a low, silken voice, "is exquisite."

The same hands ran through long, straight black hair, shaking it back into place. The fall of hair down the white, smooth back was like an oil slick on an alabaster floor. The ends passed his hips, just barely brushed the taut curve of his black vinyl - covered ass. An ass like a young girl. Lucius bit his lip.

The dark angel before him turned, holding the blouse to his chest. He smiled with his perfectly shaped lips, the corner of which was dotted with some of the dark eye makeup he had let run down his face in gray tear-trails.

"What do you think?' he asked Lucius. "Does it make me look fat?"

He moved his hips a bit, and smiled. His voice was the slightest bit muffled. Blocked.

"Of- of course not, my Lord," Lucius stuttered. "Nothing-"

"Of COURSE it doesn't make me look FAT! I'm the DARK LORD. EVERYTHING looks good on me. We all know that." He sniffed and began to laugh a bit. "Don't we now? Hm? I want to hear you say it, Lucius, precious, you slick little twat. Say it!"

"Say what, my m-master?"

"Say everything looks good on me," he sneered.

"Everything looks good on you!"

Voldemort smiled. "Yes. It does. Because I am the Dark Lord."

From out of the shadows emerged a freakishly tall, thin house elf. He had a long face and a dour expression. He bowed to Voldemort, holding out a sumptuous blood red velvet robe. "My Lord, the Potionmasters have arrived with the requested mixture. Shall I make ready?"

"Yes, thank you Martino. And grab me the dragon hide hat as well."

"The one with the blue gecko streak, my Lord?'

"No, Martino, the one that goes with this. What on earth are you thinking?"

"I apologize, my Lord. I shall flog myself at the nearest convenience." He bowed and faded back into the shadows.

"Dry old fellow," Lucius commented.

"Quiet. I have more respect for him than I have for you."


ooo

They stood outside the door to Voldemort's main chamber. Severus had a death grip on the opulent, bejeweled silver flagon that contained the potion. If he dropped it, he would put his wand into his mouth and perform a Sudden Projectile Spell.

Next to him Myra weaved on her feet, barely conscious. With a joyous shout he had shakily poured the very last of the finally-finished potion into the flagon. Myra has collapsed to the floor, heaving, moaning that everything was in her eyes and her evil couldn't get out. Her evil, her evil, she wouldn't stop talking about her evil. Finally he had yelled at her, declaring that they all had evil, and she would get to know his personally if she didn't get the hell off the floor and get dressed.

She had stumbled to her feet, and her face had made Severus's heart skip in alarm. Ghostly white with blue lips. She couldn't stand for very long, and she soon fell again to her knees. He had given her a restorative, but not a very strong one. He wasn't a healer, and he had no idea how much Hype she had taken - a strong restorative might have worsened her condition. He had had to dress her, pulling her thick robe on over her bare shoulders, the thin camisole, against which pressed rather voluminous breasts.

"Quite an im-impressive rack you h-have there, Myra," he had said.

"Shhh. Shhh, you, shhh," her teeth chattered. "Need more Hype."

"I think not," he whispered, clasping her robe about her neck.

The restorative seemed to have worked fine - she was now hyper-aware, eyes wide and unblinking, back rigid - but it could go at any time. She was awake but barely conscious. He himself was on the verge of collapse. He thought with near fetish of the green couch.

On the way to Voldemort's chambers, he has seen Narcissa in front of a mirror licking her arm. He stared for a moment, brow folded, before the guard moved him on.

The guard bowed to them and opened the door to the main chamber. There Voldemort sat, on a throne of gilded skulls, his legs thrown over one arm, his elbow resting on the other. He wore dreadfully thick and velvety red robes, and a dragon's hide cowboy hat with a single huge vermillion feather poking out of the band. Lucius was at his side.

The Dark Lord greeted them with a huge, toothy smile.

"Hello babies," he grinned. "What have you brought Daddy?"

Severus knelt before him. Myra remained standing, dazed, unaware of the dark look Voldemort gave her. Severus pulled at her robe. She stumbled to one knee.

He held out the bejeweled flagon. "The potion you requested, my Lord. I only hope it meets your expectations."

The flagon was removed from his hands by the tall house elf, who took it to the corner and poured it into a ruby goblet.

"My expectations?" Voldemort sniffed. "You took far too long."

"We have delivered it in two days, sir, as was ordered."

"When I say I want something in TWO days, I want it in ONE! You must go beyond the call of duty for your Lord, you insolent prick. Don't expect any great praise from me. On time is too late." He seemed to be about to say something else, but he suddenly released a loud, unceremonious sneeze.

"Bless you, my Lord."

Voldemort narrowed his eyes at Lucius, pointed his wand, and uttered, "Cruicio."

Lucius fell to the floor, contorted with pain, mouth open in a silent scream. Voldemort regarded him with a dark smirk, then turned to Severus and Myra.

"Says 'bless you'. Can you believe that? It's gesundheit!" he screamed at Lucius. "As though that little git could bless me. Imagine." He rolled his eyes as the elf delivered the goblet. "Thank you, Martino. Could you do me a favor and give Lucius a little kick in the side, if you have the chance?"

"My legs are like pine needles, my Lord."

Voldemort considered this. "That would make it even funnier, though, wouldn't it? Ah well. Another time then, if you're not in the mood."

Severus looked at Lucius, who flipped on his back, spasming like a suffocating fish. A cold dribble of fear worked its way down his throat. If the potion was of less than perfect quality, he was sure that was what he would be doing in a moment.

Myra chose that moment to fall flat on her face.

"What on earth is wrong with that one?" Voldemort snuffed.

Severus tried not to panic. "Exhaustion, my Lord."

Voldemort pointed his wand at Myra. "Awake."

She leapt to her knees. "My LORD!"

His eyebrows raised. "I would throw a Critatious at you, but you really look like hell," he said, then sneezed again. "Wow. Have you tried a coconut compress?"

"Gesundheit, my Lord!," Myra yelled, as through responding to a drill sergeant.

He gave her a nod. He sniffed, long and hard, a legendary sound that filled the chamber. Lucius flipped on his stomach, tearing at his white-blonde hair, pants creaking.

"Ugh, God, let's get this over with. Martino?"

The elf delivered a shot glass filled with clear liquid to Voldemort, who snuffed out a thanks. "You took far too long with this, ugh. God." He dumped the contents of the shot glass into the goblet.

Severus blinked as he realized what the clear liquid had been.

Vodka.

No, he thought.

Both he and Myra watched, entranced, as Voldemort downed the contents of the goblet, then winced, wiping his mouth with his hand. "Oh, this tastes bloody awful." He sucked a deep breath in through his nose. "But...my sinuses are clear. Well then. Good work. You're dismissed."

Severus and Myra remained on their knees, disbelieving.

"You may go," Voldemort said. "LEAVE!"

They were escorted out by the guard.

"Severus," Myra whispered, stumbling over her robe. "Severus, I'm going to cry."

"Shhh," he replied.

She suddenly grasped his hand, squeezed.

"Come now, Martino," they heard Voldemort says before the door closed. "Just one little kick in the ribs? For me?"


ooo

Severus saw Myra back to her room. He made sure she collapsed onto the bed, not the floor, before he left to shut down the lab completely. He felt oddly light. The devastation probably wouldn't hit him until he'd had a good sleep. He planned to sleep for days. Weeks.

He lit a cigarette and let the sweet nicotine rush through his veins.

When he got to the lab, Dobby was there, waiting for him with a roll of parchment.

"From Mr. Malfoy," the house elf said.

Severus opened it.

sev-

Need first batch day after tomorrow. creditors. you understand. thanks.

lucius.

The roll of parchment fell from Severus's hand to the floor. After a moment, he joined it.

And the noonday sun rose, blazing, over the Malfoy Estate.


ooo

Chapter Text


Death Eaters at the Malfoy Estate, chapter two: Words, Words, Words


ooo

Severus churned. His teeth ground, he grumbled, carefully dripping a milky purplish poison into a jar of formaldehyde. The mixture turned green and a look of brief hope crossed his face...until it turned brown, then black.

"Fuck!"

He threw his goggles off, lighting a cigarette in the same motion.

"Fuck all."

He stomped off in search of Lucius.

And found him.

The door to the prince's study was open a crack, revealing the bombshell sitting on the couch, his arms spread across the back. His head was tilted, resting against the pillows, eyes closed in an expression of pleased sleepiness.

Severus raised his fist to knock.

"Hmm. Mm," Lucius muttered, shifting on the couch. "That's fucking good, Pink Boy."

Severus lowered his fist, heard Lucius draw a sudden sharp breath from between his teeth. "Gah! What are you doing?"

Severus pushed the door open a mere fraction of an inch more, peered through with one glittering black eye.

Lucius's face was red, glaring down at the gently bobbing, blonde head of Barty Crouch that had taken residence in his lap.

"I thought you liked-"

"Watch the teeth, you twit," Lucius seethed.

"I'm sorry."

"Do I have to tell you everything?"

"I'm sorry."

"Get back to work," Lucius said. Something on the table beside the couch caught his interest. A catalogue. "Oh, the new Bloodworth and Blackchurch. Didn't know this came." He wet his thumb and began to flip through it.

Barty resumed his duties. Severus felt a heat rise in him as he watched, hypnotized, the blonde head working in time with black leather clad hips. His face grew warm. He had to stop looking, watching this. The bobbing head. The tensing shoulder.

He looked away. At the floor. Anything. Don't watch.

Wiped his palms against his pants. No, no, no.

He heard the catalogue drop from Lucius's hands.

"Mmm. Like that, yeah..."

Severus shuddered, his breath catching in his throat. Salivating.

No, he thought. Look away. You're not like that.

He looked at Lucius.

Who was looking back at him.

Grinning.

Severus stumbled from the door as if propelled by a gale and strode down the hall in a panic.


ooo

And almost ran straight into Myra Psue.

"Jesus!" she exclaimed, nearly dropping the rolls of parchment she carried. "What the-"

"What are you doing here!" Severus hissed. He wiped his forehead, panted, bent down to help Myra pick up the scrolls. "I thought you were- you were going to Knockturn- here, take this-"

She placed the scrolls in the crook of her arm as Severus passed them to her faster than she could handle. "I was just going to - hey! Drop these off at the Taskmaster's office. What the hell is with you, anyway? You look like you just ran a mile."

He handed her the last scroll. "It's nothing, I'm fine. Nevermind."

"You're not fine, what's wrong?"

"Nothing!"

"Ok! I'm going then. Bye." She pushed past him and started down the hall.

He leapt forward, grabbing her arm. "Wait, I need to talk to you about something."

A slow smile. 'So you're going to confide in me after all?"

"No, it's not about that."

"About what just happened?"

"Right."

"So something did just happen."

"No! Nothing - Myra, just shut up for a second, will you? It's about other things. About business."

"You mean the business you are currently conducting with Lucius?"

"Yes, I-"

She shook her head. "Nuh-uh. No way. I told you I'm not getting involved with that, that's your-"

"Severus!" came a jovial voice from down the hall. "Fancy finding you here. I take it there was something you wanted to discuss with me?" Lucius stopped before them, smiling, clasping his hands behind his back. There was a tinge of pink in his cheeks. True to form, he did not acknowledge Myra's existence.

"We'll talk later," Severus said to Myra.

"Like hell we will." She nodded to Lucius as she walked by. "Mr. Malfoy."

Lucius smiled at Severus. "So, how are things cooking up down in the lab?"

"Not as well as I'd hoped. I just came up here to tell you that this batch may take another day due to some, er, technical difficulties. I can do it in twelve hours but it won't be as good as the last batch."

"Which was really something." Lucius put his hand on Severus's shoulder and squeezed. 'Quite something."

"Um. Yes." Severus said, stepping away from his hand. "Glad you liked it."

"Oh, I did," he replied. "I enjoyed it...quite immensely. As did you, from the looks of it."

"What do you mean, I didn't-."

Lucius stopped him with a chesire grin.

Severus sputtered a bit. Cleared his throat. "Yes. Well. Do you want the twelve hour batch or the twenty four hour?"

"Twenty four, my voyeuristic friend. Only the best for our patrons."

Severus did a double-take. 'Wh-what did you say?"

"The twenty four hour batch, Severus. I'd best be off now." Lucius nodded in dismissal and strode down the hall.


ooo

Two hours later, back in the lab.

"Myra," Severus said. He was at a table next to a burbling cauldron, face resting in his hands. He rubbed his eyes. "Please."

She crossed her armsbv. "I said no."

He sighed. "As a partner, as a friend, please. I beseech you. How often do I beseech?"

"Not nearly often enough."

"I can't do this alone. I can't make shipments for Lucius and procure the dark Lord's potions needs. It's too much."

"Ha! Whose fault is that? Who's idea was it to go to Lucius of all people in a time of need?"

"You didn't seem to have any suggestions at the time!"

"There must have been a better way."

"We-" he suddenly stopped and shook his head. 'What's done is done. What do I have to do to get you to help me?"

Myra cocked her head, adopting a eerily Lucius-like quality. "I want a cut."

He blinked. 'What?"

"Equal work for equal pay. If you want me to help you with this little project I want a piece of the take."

"You realize I only get thirty percent as it is."

"Then I want fifteen."

"You must be joking."

"Not." She snickered. "What do you think I am? The drug samaratin? That I give away my precious services for free?"

"Half the take is a bit much for what I'd need you for-"

"Then get Barty to do it," she snapped. "He could use the extra money, I hear the paper route doesn't pay well. If you want an expert you pay for an expert."

He averted his eyes from hers and took a breath, as though he were considering something, then made sudden eye contact to see if she flinched. If her resolve was really strong as it seemed.

There was no flinch. She regarded him just as coldly as before.

Which, coming from Myra, he found strangely unnerving.

"Fine," he sighed. 'If that's what you want, that's what you'll get. You realize this won't make you rich beyond the dreams of avarice. We'll probably only pull in a couple hundred extra galleons a week each."

She shrugged. 'It's a couple hundred galleons more than I had. We can start getting real food for lunch instead of McCaligula's, it'll be grand."

"Grand," Severus said.


ooo

Myra had gone to bed an hour or so earlier. Severus had been on his way to his own bed, but had inexplicably made a stop at the green couch and there he remained, limp, immobile, to tired to move properly, so why move at all?

Lucius's mixture simmered softly away in cauldron B, providing pleasant, gurgling background noise. He let his head drop a little, spying a powdery mess on a counter. It was borax, he realized, and should be removed in case one of the house elves wanted to see if it was powered sugar. No big deal. The rest of the lab could use a swift picking up as well

He sighed. But that would mean he'd have to take out his wand and wave it around ... he shifted a little on the couch, getting comfortable. He's clean it up tomorrow. Fuck the fucking elves...and their little pointy shoes...

...no no, house elves didn't wear shoes. They...they hate shoes.

He needed some new shoes...Severus felt himself sinking below consciousness, into the deepest, warmest, silkiest sleep. He brimmed with the last remnant of wakeful pleasure, for he knew this was to be the finest and most delicious sleep ever, the sleep his body had been craving for weeks, the sexiest sleep in the in the history of all manki-

"Hellllleeeeeuuuuuuuu!"

The sudden supersonic shrill hit him like a sledgehammer. Severus yelped, jumped.

"Narcissa!"

Her blonde head was poked in the door. Her hair was down, yet still fell in perfect, fascist waves. She tucked a strand behind her ear and said sweetly, "Oh, did I wake you?"

"No, I was asleep anyway. Awake. Anyway. You simply startled me." He got to his feet, trying to keep his displeasure at the lost sleep of heaven from reaching his voice. "I was just about to close up, was there something you needed?"

"Why yes. Yes there is, Severus."

He waved his wand at the pile of borax on the counter as he heard her come in; it disappeared with a tiny pop. He chided himself - he should have scooped it in with the rest, why was he wasting materials? This was stupid, it was late, and this platinum bitch-

-was perched on the arm of the couch behind him, barley wearing a black silk kimono. It was open enough on the top to reveal the curve of one perfect breast, enough on the bottom to reveal a smooth leg to the upper thigh. She was smiling with closed lips, eye sparkling.

That was strange.

"What did you...need?" he asked, hesitant.

"Sit down," she said silkily, patting the cushion of the couch nearest to her.

"I...um, really, I should be-"

"Severus. Sit."

He froze for a moment but did as he was told, sinking into the cushions with Narcissa watching his every move like a bat. From his vantage point she was staring down at him, dominant, so easy on the arm of the couch.

Unknowingly he folded his hands in his lap, elbows flush against his sides, tense. "A bit late for a..um...chat, isn't it?"

"It's never too late for a chat with you, my old, dear friend." She grinned. "You asked if there was anything I needed. Well, there is."

Severus was silent.

She made a summoning sort of gesture with her hand. When she spoke there was no silkiness, it was more as though she were a director. "This is where you ask what I need."

"Oh. What do you need?"

Her voice resumed silkiness. "I want more of your words, Severus."

"My...words?"

"Don't you remember the beautiful things you said to me? 'Narcissa, you are a flawless vision of crystalline, unchangeable beauty. You're a china doll, Aphrodite herself, the breath of spring after a long and frigid winter. Your very presence would induce a long-dead corpse to rise again to admire even for a single second your awesome and unequivocal perfection.'" At the resolution she tilted her head back and gave a post-coital sigh. "Oh. I've memorized them, those delicious words, so full of truth. They warm my skin, Severus."

He was tempted to tell her that they had been said with a sarcasm that she was obviously too bubble-headed to catch, but he has was too stunned and curious at this development. "I, uh..I didn't intend for them to have that...effect..?"

She smiled. "Of course you didn't," she said patronizingly. "Tell me, do you have any more of those words now?"

"Words now?"

She nodded. "Look at me and soothe me with whatever wonderful poetry you are inspired." She sighed and lifted her chin, closed her eyes, adjusted herself into a pose of statuesque, stiff beauty.

His mind went completely blank.

"It's nice," he finally said, 'that you, um, don't end your sentences in a preposition. It shows...culture...?"

She laughed and broke her pose, pinching Severus's chin. "Oh, you are such a tease. Don't hold back. Say what you really feel."

Frightened, he thought. Baffled. Nauseated sometimes. Most of the time.

"Perhaps," she said, "you didn't find that stance inspiring? I'll try something else. I just love to help the creative process along!" She rose from the arm of the couch and sauntered to a counter covered with beakers and flasks. "Maybe I'll play with some of your toys?"

"I wouldn't recommend that," he said quickly. 'Some of them are dangerous."

She giggled, twirling an empty flask in her hand. "I love danger," she said, and snapped her teeth. "I'm dangerous."

"Ah...yes. Right."

She took a deep breath and began to rub the flask against her cheek. "The glass is so cool...like..like..." she looked him pointedly, the director's tone returning. "like *what*, Severus?

"Like ice?" he spurted.

She rolled her eyes, exasperated. "No, like cold, like me, like what is cold on me?"

The only thing that came to mind was better left unsaid.

Finally he said, 'Your eyes."

She closed them. "My eyes are what?"

"Cold."

"Like what?"

"Glass."

"Go on, go on."

"Cold like...like the tips of vast yet hollow icebergs."

She drew a sharp breath and smiled. "There they are, those words." She put the beaker down and took a step or two closer to him, pleased, catlike. She moved her shoulder in such a way that made her kimono shift, accidentally-on-purpose.

"And my skin, Severus...how does my skin inspire you?"

"I...it...um..."

She crept towards him now, and suddenly knelt on the ground.. "Come now." She rubbed her hands along her stomach, her thighs. "Say them," she purred.

Severus's breath caught in his throat. He hated to admit it, but this bizarre impromptu poetry slam was starting to turn him on.

"Your skin is like the finest parchment..." he began.

Her hand was creeping on a downwards vertical from her breastbone. He watched it.

"...the finest, whitest parchment that...um...awaits-"

The hand crept down further.

"no - that could be nothing but the waiting canvas for, er-"

She slid the hand through the folds of her kimono between her legs.

"-the waiting canvas for words of utmost devotion and love."

She arched a little, gasping. So, it was to be that kind of game.

He experienced a sudden and distinct thrill of arousal, accompanied by disgust at the arousal, and further literary disgust that she had gotten off on so cheap and awful a line. Dobby the house elf could have composed something more riveting.

Apparently she didn't agree with his criticism. 'More!" she demanded, her breath coming in shudders.

He felt a sudden firmness. The disgust was overridden by arousal, and he tried frantically to find the words she so desired.

"I...your hair, it's like cornsilk! Cornsilk woven by the finest fearies, of, um, the corn. Yes. The fearies of the corn!"

"The corn fearies," she sighed.

"Yes! Of Cornwall! That weave hair - er, weaved your hair, that is. Into gold. For the Rupee King, in India, who possesses spices that are nowhere near as potent and arousing as the smell of your very sweat!"

"Yes. Oh, yes, Severus, go on." She bit her bottom lip and it was all he could do from shoving his hand inside his own robes. The left side of her kimono dropped completely, revealing a round and perfect-

"Breast! Breasts, the finest in all of France, and the French are renowned for their breasts, like the famous Delacour women, only yours are more beautiful, like waterfalls, only round and smooth like waterfalls aren't, no, not in the least!"

As he watched her face contort with pleasure he dug his hands into the flesh of the couch to keep them in place. Oh, how he wanted to, oh how he needed to, but he couldn't, not in front of her. Not in front of anyone.

"More!" she barked. 'Speak!"

"The-the-you...' he blanked again. "You! Cold! Like...china!" And suddenly, "I couldn't escape this feeling, with my China Girl, I'm just a wreck without, my little China Girl, I'd hear hearts beating , loud as thunder, see the stars crashing-"

She cried out and arched.

"I'm a mess without my little China Girl!" Severus nearly shrieked.

She suddenly raised her forearm to her mouth, extended her tongue, and licked from elbow to wrist.

Any words that had been forming in Severus's head promptly snapped out of existence.

What...why was she doing that? He had seen her do that before. When?

In the mirror, on the way to give Voldemort his potion.

She continued to lick her arm and rub herself. Severus blinked. There he was, with a huge hard on, and she was...licking her arm, and...and it wasn't sexy at all, it was carnivorous, cannibalistic...god, why...? It was weird.

"More words," Narcissa slobbered against her arm, like some king ordering a wine from a wench, voice muffled by a turkey leg.

And Severus did the worst possible thing he could have done to release his pent up tension.

He laughed.

It was high, shrieking laughter, laughter that made up for his clenched and motionless hands, for the nearly painful erection that threatened to poke him in the eye. He laughed and he could not stop laughing.

"Are you laughing at my arm!" Narcissa demanded.

Severus howled.

"It's the only way, damn you!" she yelled. "It's the only way I can do it! It's not funny!"

Severus gasped for air and resumed howling.

She stood and angrily threw her kimono back on. "You...you bastard! I hate you and I hate your stupid words! Do you think I've never heard Iggy Pop! You slimly, plagiarizing git!"

Severus coughed on his own spittle. "You have to-..." He fell back onto the couch, holding his stomach, tears in his eyes.

She huffed and spun on her heel, heading for the door. 'Lucius was right," she hissed at him. "You *are* gay."

He stopped laughing and looked up.

"...What?"

She was gone.


ooo

Myra cocked her head, brows drawn, smirking. "I've never heard of anything like that. She has to lick her arms to come?"

He was glad her voice was diminished by the low hum of people talking, the clacking of spoons and plates. "I don't know if it's both her arms or just the left one," he said.

"That's bizarre," she replied. "It's bloody great, is what it is."

She laughed a little and sipped her caramel mochiatto out of an oversized mug. Severus had not asked what it was because that was always what it was. She never drank coffee in any other form, as she swore it would give her a heart attack.

Myra looked content enough, curled on the huge overstuffed brown leather couch, but Severus was not nearly so relaxed. The strangeness of the previous night's literary debauchery still hung over his head - that coupled with the fear of a possibly vengeful Narcissa had him completely on edge.

Myra raised her eyebrows. "I guess Lucius isn't socking it to her."

"Not to her, no."

She snickered. "Yeah. Perhaps if she had been born slightly more male. I don't know Sev, maybe it's a cat thing."

"What's a cat thing?"

"The licking of the arm. Maybe she has to pretend she's a cat. Cats are sexy."

"Cats aren't sexy."

"Sure they are. They slink around, they stare intently, they purr, they rub up against you, but they don't care about you. Translate that to a person and you have sex appeal."

He thought for a moment. "Does the person also have tuna breath and shit in a box?"

"Can I get you guys anything?" asked a perky voice, attached to a pair of equally perky nipples. Severus had to remind himself to look up at her face, pretty, framed by a reddish blonde shag.

"No Rachel, we're fine, thanks," Severus said.

"Kay." She took her tray and walked off.

"Sheesh, little cold in here?" Myra snickered. "Seriously though, I love this place."

Percolaters was a small coffee house that was located somewhere. No one really knew where, as it had a habit of moving around so that it could not be tracked by Aurors, who would have quite a reason to track it, as it was *the* place to be if one was a Death Eater. It was usually located at various places in Knockturn Alley and sometimes ran business openly at Durmstrang school in Russia. It appeared at the Malfoy Estate off and on, and that day Myra and Severus had been lucky enough to catch it.

There was a sudden squeal from behind the counter, as though Rachel had just burned herself with coffee. "Oh!" she exclaimed, fanning her forearm. "Dark mark, Dark Mark! Hot hot hot! Oh, the Dark Lord must want his espresso..."

"She's so fucking cute. I'm gonna slit her throat."

"Do it," Severus said. He took a hot mouthful of black coffee.

"Nah. Later. Go on with your story."

"Hmm? There's not much besides that. She just got in a huff and left. Oh. But as she was leaving, she said-"

He stopped suddenly, not sure if he wanted to continue.

Myra looked at him expectantly. "Said what?"

Severus looked down into his coffee at his dark, wiggling reflection. Took a breath. 'She said 'Lucius was right. You really are gay.'"

Myra was silent for a moment. 'Well..."

"Well what?"

"Well I mean..." she looked at him for a second, the looked away. "No no, I can't imagine why she'd say a thing like that. Is Lucius talking shit about you?

"What were you going to say?" he asked, voice soft and dangerous.

"I wasn't going to-"

"What were you going to say, Myra?"

She bit her lip. "You aren't allowed to get mad at me."

"I won't get mad at you."

She crossed her arms. "You're already mad at me."

"I am not. Just spit it out."

"Okay. Fine." She sighed. "Have you ever given any consideration to the thought that you might be just the least bit bisexual?"

Severus stood, spilling his coffee. "NEVER!" he roared.

The cafe fell silent. Somewhere near the back was Mr. Grindow Holland, looking quite paralyzed. The house promptly returned to its usual din. Seeing as it was frequented by Death Eaters and other such evil folk, loud and overdramatic outbursts were not uncommon.

Severus was still fuming. "How could you say something like that?" he hissed.

She stood and touched his forearm. "Come on, let's get out of here. They're launching for Uzbekistan sometime in the next fifteen minutes. Besides, Phoebe's going to sing."

Sure enough, a tall blonde woman was approaching the small stage with a guitar. Everyone groaned.

"Okay, like, hostile energy, whoa," she said.

Myra and Severus apparated-


ooo

-back to the lab.

"Bisexual!" he exclaimed, and realized that he still held the mug of coffee.

She gently took it from him. "Calm down," she said. Despite himself, he did. It was an odd ability of hers. She handed him a towel to wipe his hand. "All I did was voice the possibly, Severus. You promised you wouldn't get mad."

"I am not gay. Why does everyone think I'm gay?" He put his hand on his hip.

"Bisexual, Severus, not gay...there is the way you look at Barty."

Severus's jaw dropped, aghast. "I do not look at Barty! I've never so much as laid eyes on Barty! He is invisible to me! I cannot even see him!"

Myra continued. "Oh really? You were so busy NOT watching him that you forgot to turn on the hood last week, remember? He was seducing you with his boyish wiles and it almost got us killed."

"There are no wiles!"

"There are wiles, Severus. Barty's the the perfect blonde butt-boy any warm blooded fag would kill for."

"You would know," Severus replied curtly.

Myra laughed. "Ok. Fine. Let's take a little test. Last night during the episode with Narcissa, were you turned on?"

"Yes! Very! She's a woman! I like women!"

"Yesterday when you were watching Barty and Lucius, were you turned on?"

Severus froze.

"A little Barty told me," Myra said.

His face flushed. "I...I mean, I...it was- I wasn't..."

"It's nothing to be ashamed of, Sev," she said softly.

"I like WOMEN!" he burst, and swooped out of the lab.

Myra shook her head and looked around at the lab, filled with bubbling poisons and half-finished mixtures. Sighed. "I guess I'll finish up in here while he has his identity crisis," she lamented to the heavy air.

Rubbing her eyes, she removed from her robes a small bottle filled with white powder, and reached for a glass plate.


ooo

Chapter Text


Death Eaters at the Malfoy Estate: Episode 3: Puppet Mania

Severus sipped his too-hot tea, looking over the rim of the cup at Lucius. The dazzlingly gorgeous blonde stretched his arms over his head, lazily, catlike, and said "Well, you're probably wanting your share, right?" He smiled and whipped out a checkbook.

"Two hundred and thirty seven galleons to be deposited into the private account of one Severus J. Snape. Hm. Tell me, Sev, what does it stand for, the middle initial? All these years and you've never told me."

Severus winced, accepting the check. "Thank you. It's selling well?"

"Oh, god yes. I told you it was remarkable stuff. There's a huge demand for Silk Jammies."

"You've named it 'Silk Jammies'?"

"Yes."

"What the hell kind of name is that?"

"One indicative of the sensation it evokes, my friend."

Severus picked up his pack of Devil's Owns, watching for a moment as the sexy mascot Eva Baker writhed around a pole in a fetching devil outfit topped by a glittering pillbox hat. He lit a cigarette, cocking his his head. "Really?"

"Mmhmm. It has all the usual effect of metamorphine but causes a wonderful silken feeling on the skin. Marvelous. You haven't sampled your own work? That's a shame."

"No, I don't have eight or nine hours to spend morphed. To have your carefree life, Lucius," He said with a sting and took another sip of tea. "A silken feeling on the skin. That's odd, I didn't formulate it that way."

"Isn't that wench helping you now?"

"That wench?"

"Your lab wench, you know, what's her name...Alyssa?"

"Myra. Myra Psue." Severus said dryly. "She's not a wench."

"They're all wenches."

"Right," Severus said slowly. "I don't see what she would have to do with it. She wouldn't change the formula without my authorization."

"A happy accident then?"

"Maybe. I'll have to look into it."

Lucius raised his cup. "Here's to a happy accident, and hopefully more to come."

"Hmph. Human error can kill."

"I just gave you two hundred thirty seven galleons, really, must you be so insufferably glum?"

"Give me a reason not to be."

Lucius grinned. 'Stop by my office at half past three and peer through the door again, and you'll have your reason."

Severus flushed. " Bloody drop it, okay?"

Lucius made a dismissive gesture with his hand and there was a brief silence.

"Half past three?" Severus asked quietly. "Is that an every day type arrangement, or...?"

Lucius roared. "Shall we make room for one more then?"

Severus was bright, beet red. "No, no! I'm not going to..I mean, I have no intention of... dammit, Lucius, it was just a question!"

Lucius shook his head, laughing silently. "Yes, I'm sure."

"It was!"

"I'll the door open a bit wider. Just a bit. Just for you."

"*Lucius*!"

"You nancy little fairy."

Severus slammed his cup down on the table and stood. "I'll be going now, you giddy little shit."

Lucius stood, laughing. "No no no! Severus, I was just teasing you a bit, come now, sit down. Have some more tea. We'll talk of happy things that don't involve The Dreadful Homosexuality." He poured Severus a cup of tea, plunking in a single sugarcube. "Like Potter, for example."

Severus moaned. "Why in God's name?"

"I just thought you might like to know that James and Lily are soon to be wed."

"Shocking," Severus said, flat. "They deserve each other, those two."

"What was it you used to call them? Shit: perfumed?"

"I believe the whole phrase was 'typical Gryffindor perfumed shit."

Lucius raised an eyebrow. "I've heard rumors that you were hopelessly in love with Lily, and that's the *real* reason you hated James so, and why you will continue to hate him and his bespectacled progeny until the day you die."

Severus looked appalled. "Where in the world did you hear *that*?"

Lucius shrugged. "Oh, from the piddling legion of teenage girls obsessed with your life story."

"You don't say? Where are they? I have to take advantage of them."

"They're fictional. What teenage girl in her right mind would be obsessed with *you*?"

"Plenty, I'm sure!" Severus huffed.

Lucius laughed. "Oh, you said it, not I."

His dark companion grumbled.

"Hm...makes me think of old times," Lucius said, stroking his chin like an old man. "You and I, Rosier and Wilkes, terrorizing Potter and his band of Gryffindor gits."

"Sod Potter," Severus spat. "He terrorized us."

"Hm," Lucius smiled. "And to think, what all that animosity stems from," he said softly, making a beak from his thumb and fingers.

"Right, Sevvie-loo?" the hand snickered.


ooo


HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY, circa 1972.

A mindblowingly stunning blonde thirteen year old boy led a group of not-quite-as-stunning thirteen year old boys through the secret pathways between shops in Knockturn alley. They were trying to lay low, as they were not allowed in Knockturn Alley. No part of them was allowed in Knockturn alley.

"Come on, come on," Lucius urged. They were on the moldy wooden front steps of a store that sold something spicy and rotten-smelling. Lucius put his hand on the doorjamb, slid it down to a smooth notch in the wood, and disappeared.

Severus, Rosier, and Wilkes glanced at each other, hesitating.

Before any one of them could say anything Lucius reappeared before them.

"It's a portkey, you dense fuckheads," he said.

The portkey took them to the alley in the back of the shop, dirty and swarming with flies, where the smell was even stronger. Severus's eyes watered. He coughed.

At thirteen years old he was silly looking, with hands and feet too big for his body. In a year or so he was scheduled to begin a massive, painful growth spurt in which he would grow into a six foot six batlike stalk, but for now he was round, pudgy even, with darting obsidian eyes and greasy hair that brushed his jaw. He was shy, clumsy and had a habit of chewing his bottom lip.

Lucius shook his hair out of his eyes. "You'd think you silly fags've never seen a portkey before. Come on, it's this way."

"I'm no fag!" protested Rosier, who really wasn't.

"Where's we goin' again?" Wilkes asked. He was a rather thick young man with a harsh case of rosacea that made him appear perpetually drunk, which was a good indicator of times to come.

Lucius rolled his eyes. "To see the naked people, Wilkes." He said "Wilkes" as though it were an insult. "Come on."

Severus didn't say anything. He was the quiet one of the group, and smart enough to know not to cross Lucius lest you be insulted to your wits end. Lucius was their leader. Severus never really wondered why, it was just the way it was. Besides, being part of Lucius's gang meant he wasn't their victim. Often.

He didn't much care about the supposed naked people, he was mildly curious at best - he was more interested in these secret ins and outs of the Alley. Severus has not spent much time in Diagon or Knockturn alley as a child. After his father died and his mother had taken her own life, he had been moving around a lot, handed from family member to family member like a side of beef, a white elephant gift no one knew what to do with. His parents' savings were left in his name and some uncle had arranged for him to attend Hogwarts. Lucius Malfoy had taken an interest in him due to his talent for curses, which Severus had begun to teach himself at eight years of age for the purposes of self defense. The mere cursory knowledge had rapidly accelerated into a full blown obsession, and Severus had tried to visit Knockturn Alley as much as he could. He had lived too far from it for most of his life, however, and relished this opportunity to immerse himself in its dark, crawly little corners.

Lucius, however, was awfully excited about the naked people. "They dance," he said, "they take off their clothes and dance around with knives and torches. But that's just during the day, I hear at night they dance with knives and torches too, but they *do* things to each other."

"Like what?" Wilkes asked.

"Like play with each other's privates!" Lucius said, sparkling.

Severus was alarmed. "They play with each other's privates?"

"Yeah!"

"They shouldn't be doing that," he said seriously. "It makes you go blind."

"No no no, it only makes you go blind if you do it to yourself, not if other people do it to you," Lucius said. "I can see just fine."

"No! Stop! You'll go blind!" Rosier said into to grate, after which Lucius hit him in the arm and hissed at him to keep quiet. The view from the grate, actually a ventilation shaft, allowed the boys to look down onto a stage where nude dancers writhed. Severus had lost interest in the spectacle after about fifteen minutes or so. At first it seemed exciting and forbidden, all the nudity, the way the woman's breasts jiggled, but after a while it was just a naked man and woman twirling about throwing knives at each other. Which, admittedly, was pretty cool, but grew boring - he had seen more skilled knife throwers. And for some reason, the man, so comfortable in his nakedness, frightened Severus - and now if he was doing that thing that would eventually lead to blindness...he just didn't want to see it.

He was looking through the windows into the back room of a shop next door, inside which, on a desk, lay an open potions book. It was turned to a page of a potion that Severus wanted to learn to make but was unable to find references for. It was his misfortune that the window was dappled glass, rendering all but the name of the potion unreadable. Was the door unlocked? No...a clearing charm, perhaps? Or maybe a Smoothing Charm. Would that work on glass? Would it be too loud? Maybe-

"I can't believe you're missing this!" Wilkes said. 'Get over here!"

"Yeah yeah, in a minute," Severus replied, squinting. His foot hit something. He looked down, and peering up at him was one golden eye and a row of very sharp teeth. He yelped and jumped back, tripped, and fell. In a split second he had his wand out and was pointing it at the offending creature.

It stared at him, eye unblinking, fearsome jaw open in a permanent "Nyaaaaaaaaah". It didn't move. Severus crawled to it carefully, poking it with the end of his wand. He realized upon closer inspection that it was just a head, and that of a lizard of some kind, with a gleaming, glasslike eye. It was about the size of a bludger, a little smaller, with a row of horns sticking out of its forehead and running down the back.. He tapped it again and there was a hollow sound - had someone taken the time to clean it before throwing it back here?- he flipped it over. One eye was missing, leaving a smooth and hollow black socket. He poked it with the tip of his wand, suprised at the absence of a squishy mush.

He hit it with his wand. It made a rubbery popping sound.

He realized all at once that it was fake, made of heavy rubber. A toy. He picked it up, examining it. It was startlingly realistic, completely with a glass eye, plastic teeth and horns. The only thing that gave it away was the empty black socket and the hole in the neck.

"Oh hey," he said quietly, "it's a puppet." He put his hand in the hole and felt his thumb and forefingers slip into the jaws, fingertips against velvet, perfect, as though it were made for him.

The jaws moved. "Nyaaah nyah," Severus said, and laughed. "Raar." One of the teeth threatened to fall out - he pushed it back in with his thumb. "This is so cool. I can't believe someone left you out here."

"Me neither," the puppet "said", in a low, American south sounding voice Severus was surprised to hear coming out of his own mouth. He smiled and turned to his friends, still attached to the grate. "Hey you guys, " he said. "You guys, look at this thing I found."

"Shhhh! Either watch or be quiet!" Lucius said.

Severus shrugged and looked back at the puppet.

"This is so cool."

"What the hell is that thing?" Rosier said.

"It's a really cool dinosaur puppet! Look!"

"You missed the naked people for that? God, what are you, six?" Lucius said, rolling his eyes.

"No no, look!" He thrust the puppet at Lucius. "Look how great it is! It's made out of this heavy stuff and has velvet on the inside and the horns and the teeth! Look at the eye, I think it's tiger's eye glass! Can you believe someone just left this out here?" He aimed the puppet at Lucius and said, in the accent of an old southern african american man, "You are a muthafuckah."

Lucius burst into laughter. "Why does he talk like that?"

Severus shrugged. "It's his voice."

Lucius folded his young smooth brow, regarding Severus carefully. After a moment's consideration he gave a single nod. "Okay. I knew you were a little strange when I got you."

Rosier reached for the puppet. "Lemme see it."

"Hands off muthafuckah!" the puppet barked. Rosier jumped back. Severus had never snapped at him before. "Das right. You don't be messin' wid Jackson."

"Ok, ok, I won't mess with it," Rosier said. "Calm down, Snape."

"Raar," Severus replied, laughing. "This thing is so cool!"

"Come on Jackson, we have to get back to Diagon Alley, the mortals are probably waiting for us," Lucius said. He turned and led them back to portkey behind the smelly shop, Severus hopping along, straightening Jackson's teeth, petting his head.

"He's missing an eye," Severus said quietly. "He lost it fighting aurors. Aurorsaurs."

Wilkes frowned, watching him. "I want a puppet," he mumbled.


ooo

Lucius, Severus, Rosier and Wilkes all sat together for dinner as they did every night, next to the wanna - be's and across from the popular girls, the leaders of which were named named Rinata, Sybil, and Deploria. They were there for Lucius; they never so much as looked at the others. Until now.

Jackson suddenly made an appearance from underneath the table. "Pass the mushrooms, ladies," he said smoothly.

They blinked like startled deer.

"Come on now, ladies. Jackson likes 'em."

Their expressions moved from bafflement, then a crack of a smile, then a full smile, then laughter. "What's with the puppet, Snape?" Rinata asked.

"My god, that is so cute!" Sybil said. Severus liked Sybil. She had pretty hair and she was one of the only girls who was nice to him. When she became older and grew a pair of ample breasts, he often scammed her for hugs - she was so friendly that all he had to do was open his arms and say 'Sybill!" as though he's never been happier to see anyone. This had stopped when he had cupped one in his hand in a very, very badly executed attempt to cop a feel undetected, after which he received his first 'I like you as a friend" speech. Soft, warm Sybill hugs were few and far between after that.

Deploria looked rather puzzled. She was only popular because she was beautiful and mean. "Where did that come from? Was that Severus doing that voice?"

Severus smiled and nodded. "Das right, woman."

"That's weird! It doesn't even sound like you! How do you do that?"

"It's his voice."

Rinata laughed, trying to speak in a baritone. "Das right, woman. Das right woman. I can't do it. You gotta teach me how to do it."

"Oh, you just kind of close your throat and-"

"Where did you get him?" Sybil squealed, reaching for Jackson. "Lemme see him."

Severus let Sybil have the puppet. "Aww, look at him," she said. "He's all beaten up. He needs an eyepatch, can I make him an eyepatch?"

Severus's face lit up. "Yeah! That would be cool."

"Hey, have any of you seen my new boots?' Lucius asked. 'They're really coo-"

"What do you want on the eyepatch?" Sybil could draw.

"A skull," Severus said immediately.

"Ok good, I'm good at skulls. I drew, like, this really cool monkey skull on my parchment this morning. It was cool."

"Yeah, it was totally cool," Deploria said.

"Garra grraar graar-gar!" Sybill made Jackson say.

"That's pretty good," Severus replied.

"Seriously, look at my boots! These are really expensive boots!" Lucius insisted.

"Yeah, I saw them they're great, Lucius," Deploria said dismissively. "Severus, do the voice again." She took the puppet from Sybil and handed it to him.

"What do you want him to say?"

"Oh, anything," Deploria said. They girls leaned forward, waiting. Severus felt a twinge of excitement seeing the sparkling anticipation in their eyes. Three girls who had barely noticed his existence prior to Jackson were now hanging on his every word. As he cleared his throat and raised the puppet, he realized what he had on his hand was not just a toy.

It was power.


ooo

It was a near riot in the Slytherin common room after dinner. He sat on the floor with the other second and first years crowded around him. He had never had so much attention in his life.

"Fuck ya'll muthafukahs!" Jackson yelled. The kids shrieked with laughter. "Ya'll be wanting a piece a me? Huh? You wanna mess wid Jackson?"

Lucius was curled in an armchair in the back of the room, scowling like a bitter angel.

"What do I always say?"

"You don't be messin wit Jackson!" they cried in unison.

"Das RIGHT! Step back, watch yo'self!" Severus did the closest approximation of a funk dance while sitting cross legged on the floor with a puppet.

The children howled. Severus was flushed, alive. His eyes sparkled.

"GO TO BED!" came a sudden roar from the entrance. It was Professor Hannah Phillips, the head of their house. She was tall and frazzled, with the hoarse voice of a woman who'd smoked her whole life. "And Mr. Snape, if I ever hear language like that coming out of your mouth nothing else will because I'll slit your throat, understand?"

The younger students quickly rushed to their dorms, afraid of her. A couple of seventh years hung around, trying to look nonchalant.

She sighed. "You guys have any more weed?"

They nodded.

"My office, fifteen minutes. And keep it down this time."


ooo

Lucius was exasperated. "Don't tell me you're going to sleep with it!"

"I'm not sleeping with him. He's just hanging out on the pillow."

"Severus, are you messin' wid Jackson?" Wilkes snickered.

"Wilkes, shut your mouth. All of you, just shut your bloody idiot mouths. I'm going to bed," Lucius snarled, jerking the green curtains closed.

Jackson was still a hit at breakfast the next morning. Severus had placed him next to his plate so he could eat, trying to ignore the rather nasty look Lucius gave when someone asked Severus to pass the puppet around so they all could look at it. He watched nervously as a couple of first years tossed it around, playing loudly - he didn't want Jackson confiscated because of some stupid kids.

"Afraid they'll hurt poor Jackson, Sev?" Lucius purred.

There was a sudden squeal, and footsteps, and suddenly arms around his neck. Severus jumped and found Sybil to be the administrator of the odd hug.

"Yeah, kinda..."

"Hi!" she squeezed. "Where is he?"

"S-somewhere down there." He pointed down the table at the first years.

"Oh, ok, be right back," she said quickly. A second later there was a yell of protest and Sybil returned with Jackson. She dug in her robes.

"Look, I made it last night," she said, and placed a black, skull bearing eyepatch over Jackson's empty socket.

The table quieted with reverence.

Jackson was now The Coolest Puppet Ever.

"Wow," Severus said. 'Thanks. He looks great."

Sybil looked shyly away. "Aw. It's not that great. And I hope you don't mind, but I was making stuff last night, and I just had to..."

And she removed from her robes an old pink sock upon which had been sewn some triangular felt pieces and bead - eyes, a stitched nose and mouth. Sybil slipped it onto her hand to reveal a little pink cat puppet.

"I wanted one too," she said.

Wilkes laughed with his mouth full of cereal. "Your puppet sucks," he said. "It's nowhere near as cool as Jackson."

Lucius's spoon hit the bottom of his bowl with an overloud "clink".

"Well I know that!" Sybil protested. "We can't all have Jacksons!"

"No. But you can have your puppet, Sybil," Severus said a little too sweetly, letting Wilkes know he was getting in good with Sybil. "I like her. What's her- er, wait." He slipped Jackson onto his hand, and spoke in that deep voice. "What's your name, Lil' Miss Kitty?"

The kitten also spoke in a southern accent, only this one was light and feminine. "My name is Scarlet O' Hara," she said.

"Oh, for God's sake," Lucius moaned.


ooo

Puppet mania spread like wildfire throughout Hogwarts over the next week, multiplying throughout the first and second year Slytherins, then to the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, and finally to the Gryffindors who, despite entering the game late, displayed quite an array of impressive specimens. But none so awesome as Jackson.

Severus was the proud owner of the undisputed Best And First Puppet. All subsequent puppets including Scarlet O' Hara were just chickens on the pecking line. Jackson told the best puppet jokes. Jackson won all the puppet fights. Jackson had yet to be confiscated by a teacher, which was saying quite a bit considering the professors were nearly at their wits end dealing with the craze.

"I mean, we've dealt with fads before," Severus overheard Professor McGonagall lamenting to Dumbledore outside the Great Hall. "You remember Exploding Whizzerfizzers a few years back? Rockin' Robgoblins? And god forbid Nasty Squirrells?"

"Ah yes. Nasty Squirrels. I believe I have the entire first edition set somewhere in my office."

This put her at pause for a moment but she continued. "Those were nothing compared the the first and second years with these puppets! If I see anymore animals with southern accents in this school I'll...oh, I don't know, Albus."

"Look on the bright side," Dumbledore said cheerily. "At least they don't explode."

Severus had momentarily considered an exploding puppet (what a gag!) but put the thought out of his mind when a trembling first year Ravenclaw asked to see Jackson. The reverence in her eyes made Severus want to hug her until her guts flew out her mouth.

She ran her little fingers over Jackson's white horns. "Wow," she said. "This is amazing. Can I show you mine? It's not done yet, but maybe-"

"Brenda! Get away from that!" came a sudden voice down the hall. Severus looked up to see the Faggot Foursome, as Lucius had lovingly named them, striding down the hall.

Sirius Black, or Shaggy Faggot, rushed up and put his hands on the girl's shoulders, dragging her away from Severus. "But I just wanted to show him Morgan!" she protested.

"Yeah, and get yourself cursed in the process," James (Four-Eyed Faggot) said. "This guy is evil. And I won't allow any sister of Sirius Black's consort with evil."

"I'm not evil!" Severus retorted.

Remus Lupin (Quiet Faggot) snorted.

"You so are too evil! You're like sooo evil!"" chimed Peter Pettigrew (Oh Just Such A Little Faggot).

"How do you figure?"

"You're all..dressed in black...and all, like...with your hair. And you're into curses. And you're all evil." He crossed his arms and gave a nod.

"I'm not evil just because you're ignorant!" Severus said, exasperated. "You-"

He was cut off by Sirius, who suddenly slammed him against the wall.

"If you ever go near my little sister again, I'll eat your eyes. Understand, chicklet?"

Severus blinked confusedly. 'You'll eat my eyes?"

"YES!" Sirius roared.

The rest of them laughed.

Severus tried to push Sirius off him. "Look, she just wanted to see Jackson, okay? That's all!"

"Yeah, that's all that happened!" Brenda Black piped up, still holding the puppet. "Leave him alone!"

"Don't talk about stuff you don't understand!" Sirius snapped at her.

Remus took Jackson from Brenda. "So this is the famous Jackson?" he said in his infuriatingly subdued manner. "The one that started it all, right? He is pretty cool. Too bad we left our puppets in the dorm, we could have compared."

Severus knew they currently had the best puppets in Gryffindor but they were not cooler than Jackson. No competition.

"I bet he wouldn't be as cool if I gouged out his other eye," Sirius grumbled.

"Now now Sirius, we should always take the high road. Let Severus have his cool puppet. It won't be the coolest for long." He looked at his brood smilingly.

"Yeah. Yeah," Pettigrew snorted. "Not for long."

"Can I punch him?" Sirius asked James.

"I didn't even DO anything!" Severus protested. "If you're going to punch me at least let me get a kick in, or something!"

"He has a point, " James said, looking critically at Severus. "Let's just let him off with a warning, shall we?" He pointing his finger at Severus's nose. "Now you stay away from Brenda and Sirius will stay away from you, okay?" he said condescendingly.

"Whatever, fuckface," Severus snapped.

Sirius made a lunge but James stopped him. "Now now, lets not stoop to his level." He straightened the fuming Sirius's robe, then motioned for the group to follow him. "Come now, lets go win us some Quidditch!" he rang out, and they followed him out the door.

Brenda followed them but turned to mouth "sorry" at Severus on her way.

"It's ok," he mouthed back, picking Jackson up off the floor and dusting him off.


ooo

Severus was a little less active with Jackson the next day. He was cautious. Why wouldn't Jackson be the coolest puppet for long? What were the Faggot Foursome planning? Severus unconsciously clutched the puppet to his chest, refusing to display him for an obsequious first-year.

Rosier and Wilkes regarded him strangely. Severus didn't want to admit to them that he was nervous, because then he'd have to tell them about the whole thing. He didn't like admitting he had intimidated by the Faggot Foursome - it made him look, as Wilkes put it, like a pussy.

Lucius, for some reason, appeared today to be quite smug.

"What is it?' Severus asked.

"Hm? Oh, I'm just happy because I got a good grade in Potions. Father will be so proud."

"Yeah, Potions is cool," Severus agreed, which was an understatement in his case. Potions was rapturous, the heat, the smells, the possibilities. Why, he thought, I could stopper death, brew fame-

"But Potions isn't as cool as puppets, right Snape?" Rosier asked.

"No way."

Lucius snickered.

Somewhere in the back of the hall there was an awestruck gasp. A group of Gryffindors were laughing and applauding. Severus and Lucius turned to see what it was.

"Ah, they've got something," Lucius said softly.

Severus crept closer, heart sinking.

"Behold!" He heard James Potter call out. Over the crowd Severus could see the top of his messy brown head. "Behold!"

Suddenly something flew up over Sirius's head. Something amazing. Something awesome. Something unequivocal, something that made young Severus Snape's heart stop.

A dinosaur head. But bigger than Jackson, much bigger, With moving eyes, and a wet, gaping mouth.

"I AM MAGURTHY!" it roared, lips actually forming the words. The puppet was still for a moment as the crowd seemed to part for Severus so he could take in more of the horror.

And horrific it was. The puppet was so big that both James and Sirius had to work it - one to hold it up, and one to speak into a wand - apparently it worked by way of some charm. It was realistic enough to frighten - the skin appeared to be real dragon hide, the eyes made of crimson burning-stone that sparkled with immortal heat. The mouth was most amazing however - it was shiny and wet looking, with huge, gleaming teeth, and a flexing tongue and lips that moved with Sirius's speech.

Tied to the neck of it was a black cape. A smiling Sirius balanced Magurthy on his head and covered himself with the cloak. It looked like a five foot five cloaked dinosaur had somehow strut onto Hogwarts grounds.

"Behold and fear me, Magurthy, the uber - puppet!" James said into the wand. The crowed ooooooh'd. Severus held back a choke and unintentionally released a small, girlish squeak.

Everyone turned. Quick as lightening Severus put on his most threatening scowl.

"Who is that boy who squeals like a girl?" Magurthy boomed. The crowd laughed. "Could that be Severus Snape and Jackson the Lame?"

"H-he is NOT lame!" Severus chortled. "He's still the best puppet at Hogwarts! Way cooler than...than that." A wave of ache passed through his chest as he realized how deeply, deeply weak that was. He ground his molars at the snickers.

"Bring Jackson out," Magurthy said, "and we shall see."

Severus clutched for Jackson, dropped him. "Smooth," someone in the crowd muttered, and everyone laughed. Severus felt his face flush. He shoved Jackson onto his hand and held him up so as to be eye to eye with Magurthy, though given his height this was not possible. Jackson's head was right at the level of Magurthy's gaping, shiny-fanged mouth.

"Why you be trashin' up my street, bitch?" Jackson said in his famed southern drawl.

A chorus of "ooooh"s.

"Such big language from such a little boy," Magurthy replied contemptuously.

"You can-"

"Only have one eye, I see? How pathetic. Did a mouse run away with the first one?"

"Pff. You ain't shit, honey-chile. Whatchoo think you are, Elvis or somethin' with your, er, movin' parts?"

Someone in the crowd made a noise of bafflement.

Magurthy smirked. He SMIRKED. Severus realized with an acidic lurch that Magurthy could also move his brows. Jackson opened his mouth to say something, the loose fang wiggling.

"I believe your tooth is falling out," Magurthy said contemptuously. "How very common."

"Bitch, you gotta make this a class issue, don't you? Das because you're WEAK, you know dat, you WEAK-"

"I'm weak? You're the tiny little hand puppet being controlled by, I say, a rather pungent Slytherin fart. Can you smell that?," Magurthy asked the crowd. "Ahoy-hoy, that's a sharp odor!"

A chorus of laughter. Severus was so frustrated he could barely breathe.

"You want to make it about class, fine - I am bigger than you, yes, and therefore higher on the food chain. Bigger than you, better than you, higher tech than you..." Magurthy's voice faded to James's, "and way, way cooler than you'll EVER be. So, Snape, why don't you just put your little puppet down, go back to your dorm, and we'll call this over. I think we know who has the better puppet. I'll let you leave with your dignity."

"At least I ain't - " Ain't what? Amazing? Perfect? Incredible? Severus tried to think of the worst thing he could possibly say. He locked eyes with James and felt a white hot fury. This wasn't about puppets anymore. He had to say something that cut and cut deep, and he had to say it now.

And, before he could stop to think, out came, "Lily Evans is an oozing cuntface."

The crowd gasped. Someone whispered "What's a cunt?".

Severus wasn't entirely sure himself.

James's face suddenly turned bright red, and he jerked his head forward. Magurthy jerked to life and pitched, making Sirius yelp - faster than a bat's eyelash Magurthy had Jackson off Severus's hand and in his mouth, vigorously chewing.

"NOOOOO!" Severus screamed, flying at Magurthy, trying to jump high enough to open the mouth but to no avail. Instead to only managed to infuriate Sirius, who was trying to keep himself vertical against Severus's flailing weight. "What's going on? What's going on?" Sirius kept asking, trying to see out of the cloak.

"Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!" the crowd chanted.

Severus whipped around to James, who still held the wand., and was making chewing motions with his mouth. Severus moved on sudden instinct and rushed James, who was too stunned by Severus's sudden uncharacteristic aggression to move out of the way. Severus lunged and hit James, a good, solid punch across the jaw.

Severus had never heard, and would never hear again, a more satisfying crack of impact.

As James's fell backwards so did Magurthy, down and off Sirius's head. The punch had sent a mauled Jackson flying across the room to hit the opposite wall. Severus wanted to breathe a sigh of relief.

He didn't have time.

Sirius was upon him like bronze knuckled thunder. Nary had two seconds passed before Sirius had wrestled him to the ground, straddled him, and was, quite repeatedly, punching Severus in the face.

Severus tried to go for his wand - he felt it slip out of his belt just as he did. Between strikes and through blood he saw a bloody nosed, bruised-jawed James over Sirius's shoulder, tapping Severus's wand against the palm of his hand.

"Give me-" Severus said. Sirius's fist connected with his jaw. "Put it-" His eye.

"You. dumb. bitch," Sirius said, punching. Severus tried to breathe and felt blood go up his nose. He choked on it. "Say mercy," Sirius said. "Say mercy and I'll step off. Say mercy."

Sirius grabbed Severus by the collar, lifting his head enough so that more blood rushed up his nose. He scanned the crowd with eyes confused by red. By the looks on their faces it must have been bad.

Where the hell was Lucius?

Severus sneezed, sending blood flying into Sirius's face.

"Why you little-" Sirius readied another punch.

His arm was held back, however, by Albus Dumbledore himself.

"I think that will be quite enough," he said softly.

Sirius released Severus, whose head lolled to the right. Before his eyes shut he spied Jackson, now missing his good eye, mangled, laying in the curve where the ceiling met the floor.


ooo

The next night, in the dorm, Lucius brought Severus some of the gauze Pomfrey had sent down, with which he re-bandaged his eye. "Here you go," he said jovially, his face still smug.

"Hrmph," Severus muttered, snatching the gauze out of Lucius's hand. That day had been hell. He had to walk around Hogwarts looking like a mummy while James gloated about the brave victory of Magurthy, marketing it as a defeat of Gryffindor over Slytherin - they could not show him off, however, because Filch had put Puppets on the contraband list, and they'd all been confiscated till the end of the year.

Nevertheless, the stigma held. James was exalted, while Severus heard whispers at his back in the halls, giggles as he walked by. Sybil had tried to comfort him, sappy with sympathy, which only made him feel worse. Young Brenda Black avoided his eye completely. He had gone from the school's most popular novelty to the school's biggest, most bandaged loser.

But what was worst of all, what made it sting the most, was that he had started the whole puppet thing.

Lucius sighed. "Leave it to the Faggot Foursome to use a puppet that requires teamwork,' he snickered. "Hey, cheer up. You got a good punch in. Sirius just got a whole lot more!" The blonde boy laughed.

Severus turned away. Rosier, Wilkes, and Lucius certainly were not making this any easier. He hated their feigned sympathy, which only gave way to cruel jokes. Wilkes had even gone so far as to crown him King Pussy, which Severus felt was unfair. He had gotten a good punch in, after all.

Severus took a look at Lucius's smug face and told him to get off his bed. "I'm going to sleep," he said, drawing the green curtains around so completely not even a crack showed through.

"Careful the blood doesn't run up your nose and make you sputter," Lucius said. "It wakes me up."

Severus cast a glare in his direction, then reached under his pillow, where he felt the cool roundness of Jackson's yellow glass eye, which Rosier had somehow managed to find in the hall after the incident. In an uncommon show of kindness, Rosier had given Severus the eye without first playing some kind of awful keep-away.

Damn James Potter. Damn him. Damn him and his high and mighty attitude, his stupid thug Sirius, his goddam fucking amazing puppet. Damn him straight to the dirtiest ghetto in the seventh scalding ring of hell.

He'd get revenge one day. He'd show all of them. He's show James, if it was the last thing he ever did.

Severus rolled the eye in his palm for a moment before drifting into a sweaty, tense sleep frequently interrupted by his inability to breathe through his nose.


ooo

He slept though breakfast the next morning, whereupon he missed Pettigrew, with the excuse of grabbing a platter of sausages, walk to the Slytherin table and stand next to Lucius. Had Severus been sitting at just the right angle, he might have spotted Pettigrew slip something into Lucius's lap - a catalogue of theatre props. Expensive, lifelike theatre props.

"Thanks," Peter whispered as he walked away with the platter.

Lucius winked, then called out, 'What're you planning on doing with those sausages, Gryffindor?" at which the whole table laughed uproariously.

"Hey! Hey Deploria!" Lucius said. "Have you seen my new cufflinks? Look!"

He displayed his wrist for Deploria. "Wow, ruby snakes!" she exclaimed. 'Awesome!"

Lucius grinned.


ooo

Present day, or rather late seventies Severus and Lucius were startled out of their reverie by a crash in the hall, followed by a rather loud obscenity. Severus opened the door to find Myra Psue quickly stuffing various bottles into a Pieter's Poisons shopping bag.

"Just dropped this, no big deal," she said.

Severus scanned over the bottles he could see. Some of them were metamorphine supplies, but the others weren't. Was she re-stocking? They weren't out of anything.

"What do you need all that stuff for?" Severus started to ask, but he was cut off by Lucius.

"I loved your happy accident," he said to Myra.

'Wh-what?" She was taken aback. Lucius had never directly addressed her before.

"Whatever you did to the last batch, since Severus doesn't seem to know what it was, was a wonderful improvement. I applaud you."

"Really?" Myra seemed delighted.

"What did you do?" Severus asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Nothing," she said smoothly, rubbing her nose. "I used fresher grousefrinkle this time. I'm glad you liked it, Master Malfoy."

"The pleasure was all mine, Allisa. Glad to have you on the team."

"Myra, actually," she said as she gathered up her bag. "My name's Myra."

"Yes yes," he said dismissively. Myra scowled and left them.

Lucius turned to Severus. 'You still haven't answered my question."

"Which?"

"What does the J stand for? Your middle initial."

Severus sighed, lit a cigarette, idly wondering why he was about to subject himself to yet more mockery.

He inhaled.

"James," he said in a cloud of smoke.

He walked down the hall to the sound of Lucius's high, ringing laughter.


ooo

Severus went back to his spartan room, shutting the door a little too hard. He took one last drag, then looked at the old, scarred dinosaur puppet that sat on the knob of his headboard. The golden eye stared at Severus, having been glued back in long ago.

He put his half-finished cigarette in the puppet's mouth.

"You don't be messin' with Jackson," he said softly.


ooo

Chapter Text


DEATH EATERS AT THE MALFOY ESTATE, Episode 4: Brimstone Bridges Everywhere

The sexiest picture Severus had ever seen was the tamest image in Rosier's favorite porn mag. It was of a voluptuous nude woman with a short black bob sitting on a white shag rug. Her legs were folded together in such a way that blocked her naughty bits from view, and in her lap she cradled a black cat with intense green eyes, which obstructed her breasts. As porn goes it was quite benign. Rosier had allowed Severus to tear it right out of the magazine, as it didn't show anything good.

But it did. Something in that picture had been setting fire to Severus for five years. It wasn't her pose, her skin, or her hair; it was something juxtaposed between the way she held the cat and the look on her face.

She held the cat tenderly, protectively, red nails on long fingers spread over its sleek back. The look on her face was both an accusation and a dare, and she was looking right at him.

The various thoughts of what he had done, or what he was about to do, to deserve that look had stirred him for a long, long time. It had gotten to the point where he had but to think of the image and blood started rushing away from his brain.

Which was why he was puzzled at this latest development as he held the actual picture, a little faded and cracked, in his left hand while his right was in an entirely different topographic location.

It was the first time he'd failed to react to her. Puzzled, he had tried to ignite things without the usual mental foreplay. Nothing there either. Which was quite a shame, since Severus really had his heart set on masturbating that morning. He hadn't all week (all week!) and decided that was something of a travesty - though he hadn't been feeling sexual at all lately. The long hours burned it out of him, he supposed. It had taken his morning shaving cream exploding all over his hand in a vicious spurt to even give him the idea. No, not sexual at all, lately.

At least not for the right reasons.

He put that out of his mind as tried to focus on the picture.

"Come on. I'm petting the cat. I'm petting the cat and breathing on your neck, and you can feel it, only you're acting like you can't. No! You know what, I'm TAKING the cat! Ha! So there! Now you'll pay attention to ME! Oh, does that piss you off? I'm so SORRY...I can make it better.…"

She scowled at him.

"Oh, you're a stubborn bitch, aren't you? I've got a cure for that…."

Severus's stomach lurched. Christ, that was corny. He made a mental note never to write porn. He couldn't even make his own fantasies compelling. He was about as aroused as soggy cardboard.

He focused once more on her.

Why are you even trying? This is a joke, she said.

"No, really, I want to fuck you. Savagely."

She rolled her eyes. You do NOT. She made kissing noises at the cat, who climbed back into her lap and glared at him. You're not even hard. You're usually hard by now. Hell, you're usually DONE by now. Is something wrong?

"Nothing's wrong! Will you just shut up and let me do this?"

Allow me to help. Do you want the one where I talk about how badly I want you inside me but it's a no-go because Mr. Tibbles hates you? Or perhaps the one where I play with myself with my back turned to you, you love that.

"I do not, it's the most infuriating-"

You LOVE it. Oh, I know, the one where you recite bad poetry to me while I lick my arm-

"Hey!"

Sorry, had to get that in. Nothing yet? Maybe the one where I speak in tongues and you have to figure out-

Severus held up his hand. "No, none of those. It has to be something...different...I think."

She considered this for a moment. How different?

He shrugged. She gave him a cruel smile and beckoned him closer.

"You're not going to make me fight for it?"

She rolled her eyes again. Oh, for crying out loud. She collected herself and said, sparing no sarcasm, Gosh, I'd be really upset if you were to take Mr. Tibbles away. Boy howdy, that would make me mad - oh, you're taking him. Oh. Severus. You bastard. Give me my cat back. Good enough?

"I...suppose..."

Good. She suddenly lunged forward, wrapped her arms around his neck, and shoved her tongue into his mouth in what was the deepest, hardest imaginary kiss he'd ever received. Mr. Tibbles gave a yelp as Severus threw him aside. She pulled him down to the floor so he was atop her, but her body felt...different. Firmer. He ran his hands in her hair, and it was still short, shorter maybe, and fine...her hands caressed his back, flatter and warmer than usual. Thick thighs wrapped around his hips. Her lips were rougher, but, god, so nice, these changes...

He pulled away from the kiss to catch his breath, eye still closed. Oh, that had done it, whatever she had thought of this time - his very palms tingled.

"Oh," he said, "Bloody brilliant, you are."

Thanks, replied a light but decidedly deeper voice. You're not so bad yourself.

He opened his eyes to see a shy, smiling Barty Crouch beneath him.

Severus cried out and leapt away. Barty sat up and smiled playfully. You said something different, love.

"Not...not that! You know how I feel about...that!"

It's YOUR head.

Severus quickly raised his hands to his head and pressed his temples. He squeezed his eyes shut, hoping that when he opened them the Barty apparition would be replaced by the black-haired woman. When he did open them no one was there; just Severus, alone, in his dingy room holding a faded picture.


ooo

The sexiest image Dobby the House Elf had ever seen was a picture of a blueberry pie from a "Better Homes and Gardens" cookbook. It was, literally, a perfect pie, gorgeous and unattainable in its flaky crusted mixed berry sweetness. Hard as he may try to reproduce such a specimen (how he would love to present it to his master!) his efforts were in vain. A confection possessed of such white, clean light was never to be made in such a dark and Death Eaterly kitchen.

It was his private agony, but such was the life of a house elf.

At present he had work to attend to - when didn't he? - a special message to be delivered to the young Potionsmaster. A message given him by the young Malfoy himself. Dobby dared not read the message.

He found the potionsmaster heading down the hall in his usual gait- eyes cloudy with thought, head bent forward as though he would plow through anything that got in his way. He reached into the pocket of his cloak and produced a pack of cigarettes, one of which he stuck in his mouth.

Alarmed, Dobby ran up to him and tugged on his pant leg. "Master Snape! Master Snape! I has a special message for you!"

"What now?" Severus growled.

"A special Message from Master Malfoy!" Dobby waved the scroll.

"From Lucius?"

"Yes!"

Severus stared at it and had a startling moment of clarity.

"I don't want it," he said. "Not interested. Take it away." He held the tip of his wand to his cigarette to light it.

"But, M-M-Master Snape, you has to...and, uhm, you is not to smoke in here. Is bad for the drapery."

"It's the seventies. You can smoke everywhere," he replied around the cigarette.

"Please, Master Snape, I is asking you please not to smoke, I is asking you please take the scroll, I is asking very nicely, I is-"

Severus took a deep drag on his cigarette and kicked Dobby somewhere in his nondescript abdomen, which sent the elf flying down the hall.

"Greasy little vermin," he muttered and stormed away.

When Dobby regained consciousness he re-rolled the scroll and found himself, oddly enough, wondering what it would like to be free. A free house elf. Possibilities that had never before tickled his tiny, furry brain now began to drip in like clean water out of a rusty pipe. Catching his dim reflection in a panel of polished wood, he briefly considered what he might look like in a nice pair of boot-cut jeans and a striped polyester shirt. Maybe with a little navy blue beret, oh yes, that would be lovely...

It could really be something. The places he could go, the things he could do, if only he could free himself of this genetic burden of service, were endless.

But then again, he may have just hit his head a little too hard.


ooo

The pleasure portion of his day having been sufficiently squandered, Severus went to go sit in the garden and chain smoke for approximately half an hour. Though he did see a rather rare and remarkable violet butterfly, which sent him thinking of butterflies in general, and their meaninglessness, and thereby his meaninglessness, and thereby again the meaningless of the universe, which proved to be a rather depressing and existential thread of thought, his actions there were not too exciting. However, what was happening the in the Potions lab at the time was food for thought indeed.

Myra Psue had been awake for three days. Her eyes were bright red and misty as she pored over books and formulae. Her hands shook and she gently poured a flask of black oily stuff into a beaker of heavy water.

"This should do it," she muttered softly. "This should soooo do it."

She waited a moment. It didn't do it.

"Fuck my cock," she said. Sighing, she prepared another line of Hype. Dirty, inefficient Hype that only did the job for a short time and didn't have nearly the addictive qualities it should.

Then again...

She wiped her nose from a fresh snort. There was a voice behind her.

"Excuse me," it said.

"Jesus fuck!" Myra cried. Behind her stood a teenage girl in a Wizarding school uniform. She had bunched, frizzy hair, buck teeth, and held a small gold timepiece.

"I'm sorry to interrupt your...uhm...cocaine," she said, "but I was just wondering if you might tell me where I am?"

"Where you- ? Kid, how did you get in here?"

"I don't...I just...where am I?"

"Is that a Time Turner?"

"This? Um, yes, I, no...I-?"

"You're wearing Hogweasel's robes! Are you from the school?"

"Hogwarts, yes. I'm from Hogwarts. Where am I now, though?"

Myra gasped. "Did that old wizard send you? Dumbledore?"

"No, no! He had nothing to do with this! Neither did Professor Mcgonagall, I swear, it was all my fault, don't blame them!"

"Kid, what are-?" Myra turned. There were voices in the hall, someone distinctly saying 'Are you sure this was it, my Lord?'

"Someone's coming." Myra said. "Quick, we've gotta hide you."


ooo

Barty Crouch Jr. was jogging up and down the circular staircase in the highest turret of the manor. Sometime he exercised there when the weather outside was not to his liking. Today it was just too hot for his usual one and a half mile run and fifty sets of jumping jacks in the front expanse of lawn. The turret stairs were a better workout anyway.

"Huh one and huh two and huh three," he panted, trying to lift his knees up more on each step.

"Little Barty Junior," whispered a voice like bath oil.

Barty jerked to a stop. "Who...who's there?'

On the wall was a relief of an old church. It was dark in the turret so the church appeared as a large, solid black shape in the wall. There was a rustle from inside the relief. A flicker from the torches caught movement.

"Over here," the voice said.

Barty took two steps closer to the relief. He gasped as a flicker of torchlight revealed a face, alabaster-white and pearl smooth, with the slightest hint of a satisfied smile. It was Lord Voldemort himself, sitting inside the what Barty could now see was a castle shaped hole and not a picture at all. Voldemort wore a stunning wedding gown, his straight black hair falling over his shoulders, his knees drawn up to his chest.

"My...my Lord." Barty alternately gasped and swallowed. 'I..I had no idea you were here, my, my Lord, if I dis-dis-disturbed you-"

One long, cool white finger barely touched Barty's lips. 'Shhh, precious boy. Oh, precious, naive little Barty, who takes such good care of himself."

"What are you doing here, my Lord?"

"You don't wonder why I'm wearing this wedding gown?"

Barty blinked, realizing it was a cue. "Why are you wearing a wedding gown, my Lord?"

Voldemort sighed. "Because I shall never be a bride." He straightened out a cuff. "Never ever, I'm afraid. Narcissa, ah, so lucky. Now you shall ask what I'm doing here."

"What are you doing here, my Lord?"

Voldemort sighed again, with more flair. "Sometimes...well, sometimes I come here to think. Even Lords must have private time, you know. Special time." Voldemort drew the back of his hand along Barty's jaw line. The boy took a sharp breath. All he could think about were snakes, snakes crawling around him, through him, inside him, the queasily exciting sensation of their cool writhing.

"A penny f-for your thoughts, My Lord."

"A penny? That's Yank money, practically worthless." He smiled. "I want at least a shilling."

"A shilling for your thoughts, Lord. Many, many shillings. A pound even, if it would please you. Anything to please you."

Voldemort tilted his head and looked softly at Barty for a moment. He reached forward and cupped the boy's face in his perfect hands. "Do you know what used to please me, a long time ago?"

"Oh...oh..." Barty said.

"There were beautiful dens of sin in the mansion, years and years ago. Downstairs in the basement, as I recall."

"Dens of sin?"

"You know..." Voldemort stroked Barty's hair. It was all the boy could do to remain standing. "Idling places for the rich. Secret dens for pleasure potions and, dare I say it...sex." He said the last word about two inches from Barty's ear. "Why don't you escort me down to "-the basement, so I might see again these dens once again?"

"O … okay."

Voldemort slid out of the relief and took Barty's arm, a frosted glass princess guided by a strapping blonde knight.


ooo

There was a knock on the door to the lab. When Myra opened it, Barty was in the midst of saying "This is the potions lab, my Lord, I think-"

"Do you doubt me?" came a sharp retort.

"My LORD!" Myra gasped. 'My Lord, My Lord, I - I mean we - weren't expecting you, my partner is out, was there something you needed, we can make anything you know, potions, tonics, balms, you name it, we-" Myra backed into a counter, knocking a flask to the floor, where it shattered. "Oh my, I dropped that, didn't I, my fault, I'll-"

"SILENCE!" Voldemort said. "There is only so much pitiful groveling I can stand in a day, Miss Psue. Prior deeds notwithstanding, I really can't stand the sound of your voice."

Myra nodded.

"Now, as I recall, this was at one time a den of pleasure. Of sorts. Yes?"

"Before it was a potions lab, I think it was a-"

"Oh!" Voldemort exclaimed, holding his hands to his ears. "Oh! That sound, that sound! Barty, be a dear and grab Miss Psue and pad and quill. It really is too much."

Barty looked about frantically for a pad and quill. "I uh, uh..." he turned to Myra. "Where do you keep them?"

Myra pointed to the third drawer from the left in the second row on a chest of drawers that had about seven rows. Barty went over to it and started to open random drawers in a blind panic. "This one? This one? Which one is it? I can't find them! Where are they? Where are they?"

Voldemort sighed and extended his hand. A pad and quill flew out of the drawer and into Myra's chest, where she barely caught them.

"Now, continue," Voldemort said.

Myra began to write.

"Write faster."

She wrote faster.

Before this was a potions lab, it was some kind of opium den. Lord Malfoy had it refitted for your purposes.

"For my purposes?"

We needed a lab and this was the best space for it.

"I don't remember ordering that."

You never were one for micromanaging, Lord.

"That's not true! How dare you-" Voldemort stopped for a moment to think. "Okay, well, I suppose that's true. I do have better things to do than worry about Malfoy's little basement projects. Hm, well. It's a shame, really. Good times were had here." He shrugged. "Thank you very much, my dear. I'll leave you to your duties."

Thank you, My Lord.

Voldemort gestured for Barty, who came rushing over to take his arm. Voldemort laughed a little. "You may not be the sharpest tool in the box, little Barty, but I do enjoy having something fresh and young upon my elbow, yes indeed I do."

Myra was frozen, a smile on her face, until they left. After that she rushed to an old armoire and pulled open the door. Inside, curled into a fetal position and sweating like a bull in August in Death Valley, was the frizzy haired girl. She stared up at Myra with wide eyes, the tips of her buck teeth just barely sticking out from beneath her top lip.

"You OK?" Myra asked.

"Was that - was - was that-?" the girl replied.

"Voldemort? Yes. Fuck." Myra slammed the door shut and whirled about as someone else entered the room.

It was Severus. He glared at Myra as he lit a cigarette.

"Get. To. Work," he said.


ooo

They had three cauldrons going and the lab had heated to ungodly degrees, which only serve to enhance Severus's already fuckfoul mood. "Fuckfoul" was not a term he used lightly. Something had to be pretty awful to be up for consideration.

This mood gave new meaning to the term "fuckfowl". It radiated from him like poisoned ether. There were many things Severus didn't like, perhaps more than he did, and a morning straight out of the prolific young Gilderoy Lockhart's "Tales of the Sexually Bizarre" was one of them.

What was worse, that morning's exertions hadn't even been kind enough to leave him with the same feeling of exhaustion and minor nausea he had been lucky enough to associate with sex only last night. He had lit a fire that shouldn't haven been lit and was now suffering the itchy, moody, disgruntling consequences.

He tapped a pencil lightly on the table and watched Myra work, pushing her hair back, wiping sweat from her brow, rubbing her nose. He felt suddenly certain that if he could get a look at her chest he would feel better. Her robes were still on so she resembled a tent, but he was sure that if he could look upon the great, heaving breasts of his lab partner he would remember where his real sexuality lay. He still had a sexual trigger for breasts. He liked breasts. And Myra had the only pair in the room.

He watched her for a moment. She was stiff and kept glancing towards the old armoire in the corner, the unused one with the broken door. She mixed a potion, rubbed her nose, looked at it. Cut open a frog, scratched her chin, looked at it.

"Waiting for the boggart?" Severus asked.

She jumped. "Huh? Uh, no. I'm just...a little wired. You know how it is."

"Hm. Maybe we should put on another cauldron," he said thoughtfully. "Get started on the asphodel thing what's-his-name wanted."

"You're not serious. It's a million degrees in here." She glanced at the armoire.

"Why don't you take off your robes, then?"

"Oh. God, I forgot I had them on. God." She tapped her forehead. "Not enough sleep."

She began to undo her robes as Severus watched. She stopped as she was about to slide them from her shoulders and cocked her head at him. "Is there any particular reason you're looking at me like a vulture, or...?"

"Was I?'

"Quite."

"Sorry," he said, and continued staring.

"Riiiight," Myra said, turning away from him as she slid off her robes, underneath which she was wearing - huzzah! - a very tight tank top. All she had to do was turn around and there would be breasts aplenty.

A bang came from the empty armoire. As Severus leapt to his feet there was another bang - that of the lab door flying open.

"YOU!" Lucius cried. He was a platinum blonde fury in creaking leather, holding a squealing, parchment-bearing elf by the scruff of his neck. "I told you not to abuse Dobby!"

He released his hold on the elf and dropped-kicked him a good ten feet directly into Severus's chest. Severus dropped with Dobby on top of him, the parchment unrolling with a flutter over his face.

"How dare you ignore a message from me! If you had read that you would have known you were supposed to meet me in the parlor half an hour ago! No get off your ass, we have things to discuss! Now, now, now!" Lucius turned on his heel, slamming the lab door behind him.

Severus rose and brushed off Dobby, who fell with a plop to the floor. He jerked his thumb in the direction of the armoire. "Whatever's in there," he said, "kill it."


ooo

"Where is it?" Myra demanded after tossing the unconscious house elf outside. He'd skidded over the basement halls like a hockey puck.

"Where is what?"

"The Time Turner."

The girl , still curled in the bottom of the armoire, sighed. "As a fellow thinking woman, it's my sincerest hope that you'll understand why I did this, as I have virtually no idea of the consequences were such a powerful object to fall into Voldemort's hands."

She reached into her back pocket and yelped as her elbow brushed against the invisible Wall of Pain Myra had erected around the girl to keep her from getting out of the armoire. There was a flash of gold; she held up the watch. The face has been smashed. It was useless.

"Kid, you didn't have to fucking do that!" Myra neutralized the force field and yanked the girl out by her collar. "What should I do with you? What should I do with you?" Myra asked as she shook her. "You have no idea what a windfall you are, kid. A girl from the future. I could be promoted to Senior Death Eater for finding your ass. Senior Death Eater, with the cool gold mask and the little pin."

"I - well - I suppose this would be a good time to exercise the excellent diplomacy skills I've learned from being smarter than everyone around me." She cleared her throat. "I would ask you, please, as a consideration, not to hurt me."

"I'm not going to hurt you! I'm not, anyway. If my bosses find you, they will. They'll probably torture you for information for the next thirty years. But there's something I need from you. Help me and maybe I'll help you fix that watch and get out of here. Or maybe I won't." She released the girl. "Tell me, kid. What's your name, anyway?"

The girl pursed her lips. "Why not just call me 'Kid'? You seem fond of it and it's a lot easier to say than my real name."

Myra shrugged. "Have it your way. Want a granola bar or something?"

"If I eat one will I be trapped here, like Persephone with Hades's foul pomegranate?"

Myra looked incredulous for a moment, then chuckled. "I don't know who think you're impressing with that, but it sure isn't me. No, I have a question for you."

"As they say, shoot."

"Okay. In the future, given current trends, you know, I'm guessing education is pretty liberal. Way more liberal than it is now, anyway," she said, sitting at a cauldron,."So what do they teach you about making drugs?"


ooo

Lucius shut the heavy oak parlor door, rather serene, given his previous outburst. The door was carved in the design of an ancient forest, complete with tigers, dragons, fearies, and other, older creatures spoken of only in myth and remembered only in the blood and loins. Standing in front of it Lucius looked like a shiny metropolitan who had wandered into some kind of fucked up fairy tale. And the scowl on his face meant he was pissed off, lost, and wondering where the maitre^d was.

"They're on to us," Lucius said. He slammed open a cigar box filled with cigarettes and pulled a cigarette holder out of his silk jacket.

"Who?"

"The Ministry, that's who. Law enforcement. Something your lab woman bought in Knockturn sounded some alarm bells. They keep tabs on it. Abyssian grousefrinkle, I believe-"

"Abyssinian grousefrinkle? I didn't tell her to add that."

"Well apparently she does a lot of things you're not aware of, because that stuff is rigged. All they have to do is break down some metamorphine, find the grousefrinkle, trace is back to us, and it's bye bye business."

Severus shook his head. "Well, they're not going to trace it back to us, because there is no Abyssian shit in my metamorphine, case closed." Severus lit his own cigarette and took a puff.

"That's where you're wrong. They already traced it. Good thing I have a friend in the Ministry who saved my ass for a little favor. But there's only so much time before someone catches on, and frankly, only so many blow jobs I can give. You have to reformulate the stuff. Have your woman buy ingredients no spooks can trace back here."

Severus blinked. "That's going to be pretty fucking hard to do, Lucius, considering that grousefrinkle is the man ingredient."

"You know what's hard to do? Suck off the four hundred pound oliphaunt that's in charge of Dark Substances, that's what. Change the shit."

Severus choked.

Lucius cocked his head at Severus and gave a tiny laugh.

"What?' Severus asked.

"You get so flustered," Lucius said, "whenever I talk about sex."

"Which is always, and I'm never in the mood." Severus ground his cigarette into the ashtray and made to leave.

"What?' Lucius called after him. "Has the cat-lady gone on strike?"

Severus bristled but pretended he didn't hear. He had too much to do to let Lucius provoke him.

Lucius ashed his cigarette. 'Never in the mood," he whispered. "I'd fix that right up, you know. You're begging for it. You all are." His leather pants creaked as he crossed his legs and leaned back against the desk for a long, hard smoke.


ooo

"Hrm-hrm," Myra said, clearing her throat into her fist. She and the girl were in a small, cold stone room so the sound echoed - this was the cool potions storage unit underneath the labs. Barty had all but lost his virginity to Lucius there. Myra exhaled and offered the pipe to Kid. "Want another hit?"

"No no, I'm really quite fine," Kid replied. "More than enough for this little foray into the world of cannabis, I believe. I used to be so uptight, you wouldn't believe it. If my parents knew they'd just drop their dental records." She giggled.

"C'mon." Myra shook the pipe at her.

"No, really. I'm fine." Kid hiccuped and giggled.

Myra took another hit and rubbed her eyes underneath her glasses. "Okay, so, what were we talking about?"

Kid was rocking back and forth slightly, her arms crossed at her waist. "Your glasses are thick. What prescription are they?"

"What? These glasses? Oh, they're like fuck-me-I'm-fuckng-blind, fuck.."

Kid considered this for a moment then nervously smiled. "Is that worse than 'Hey, where'd everybody go?'"

"'Hey where's everybody go' is...is..." Myra's voice drifted off. "...is ...worse."

Kid nodded. She rubbed her upper arms and shivered. "Why don't you have them fixed? Your eyes, I mean. I was thinking of having my front teeth done."

"They are pretty obnoxious."

"I know," Kid said lowly. "I can't even...it's to the point where, in my everyday life, I'm incapable of even considering them. If I think about it I get just...completely depressed and down on myself. I mean it greatly depresses me right now even to think about them."

"Hey, calm down. We all have...things." Myra waved her hand sleepily.

"Oh, I know that. To each our own problems. You see, I'm smarter than everyone, that's my problem." She sighed. "So what about your glasses? Why don't you have your vision corrected?"

Myra shrugged. "Sentimental reasons. My parents where Muggles, kid." She took off her glasses and twirled them around her finger.

"What does that have to do with it?"

"It means ... these are kind of ... Jesus, this is so stupid. You're right, I should get rid of them." She started to get up. "Let's go look in the book for a good ocular healer."

Kid grabbed Myra's arm. "No no. Tell me."

"It's boring."

"If you're a ... a mudblood, how did you get to be a Death eater?"

"Jesus, would you mind your own bloody business! Jesus! You little snoop, I should turn you over to my bosses just to get you out of my hair."

Kid looked uncomfortable. "I'm don't have to talk about it. It's probably a long story and we have-"

"I killed a lot of people."

Kid hesitated, swallowed. "That's... not boring."

"No," Myra said. Her eyes were locked on the girls yet glaring through her. In the splotchy light of the cellar it appeared as if they were about to water. "It's not."

There was a brief moment, then Kid blinked. "Do you remember the name of the potion we were looking for?"

"Oh! Right, that's why we're down here. Um..Finore's Breath, right? Isn't what you said?"

She winked. "It's what, from my modern Potions knowledge, I was able to deduce."

"God," Myra said as she scanned labels. "People are going to be calling 1993 'modern' some day. That's such a trip."

Kid smiled. "I was born in 1980."

Myra gasped, waved her hands, and mouthed "SO WEIRD."

The Kid smiled. "Yes, here it is...Eye of Newt and distilled horse vinegar," she said. "Both things you can get at any corner supply, mixed together with the proper sulfates..." She paused for a moment, then looked at Myra. "You know, I'm having some moral qualms about helping you invent what may be the most addictive drug in the history of man."

"Is it? What's it called?"

"Self-replicating diamorphine," she said. "Known in the history books as Super-Stunner."


ooo

"Oh. Oh dear God," Myra whispered, nearly sliding off the green couch. She and the Kid had set up shop two hours ago, and Myra had just sampled the first batch.

It was good.

It was really fucking good.

"So, uh...how do you feel?" Kid was wringing her hands.

"Like the universe just bought me diamonds," she replied, writhing. "Oh, this is unREAL."

"Are you um...going to be all right?"

"I'm gonna be fiiiiiiiiine," Myra replied.

"Well um..you know how this works, right? Why it's called self-replicating diamorphine? Right now it's in your bloodstream, bonding with your red blood cells to make more and more of itself, kind of like a virus. It'll hit a peak in about six hours and you'll fall asleep, but if you take more you could die."

"Ohhhhooo...I don't think I could...take more of this...ooh..." Myra panted and ran her hands through her hair. "Oh dear god. Hmmm." She crossed her arms over her chest and fell back on the couch, purring.

Kid crossed her arms and sighed. "Well, if you're all well and good, I believe I'll be on my way."

"Hmm," Myra replied. "Don't let the bed bugs bite."

"I'll be careful," she replied, and left.

About ten minutes later it occurred to Myra that she had no idea where Kid had gone.

It occurred to her also that this was potentially bad.

When the first full-body orgasm rippled through her nothing occurred to her at all.


ooo

Kid padded silently along the halls of what she didn't know what Malfoy Manor in a barely contained panic. All she did know what that she was in some huge place rife with Death Eaters, that Voldemort himself was somewhere on the premises, and all she had to protect herself was her wand, two and a half years of magical training, and a broken Time Turner.

Someone was coming down the hall. She quickly hopped into a shadow behind a sculpture. All the shadows in the place were dark, inky, and good at concealing things. She crouched down and peeked out.

A tall, thin figure strode down the hall, leaving a trail of smoke. "Fuck," he said. "Reformulate the metamorphine, he says. Fuck my fucking cock, Lucius. Who do you think I am, Christ Jesus?"

The figure, still muttering, turned down the hall and strode away. For a second Kid could have sworn the voice was familiar ….

As soon as the coast was clear she crawled out of her hiding spot and started again down the hall. There was an impact and she gasped; she was tumbling over a small, warm body.

"Oh, miss, I is so sorry, I is not meaning to hurt you miss, I is helping you up!"

"Dob - Dobby!"

The house elf cocked her head and looked at her strangely. "I is Dobby, yes ... have we met?"

"We have! We will! Oh, I am so happy to see you!" Kid lunged forward and wrapped her arms around Dobby.

"Oh! Miss! Is is to small for that! You is hurting me!"

Kid let go. "Sorry. Listen, Dobby, I don't have a lot of time but maybe you can help me."

"Yes, miss?"

Kid's eyes brightened. "House elves have magic, right?"

"Yes miss, powerful magics."

"Can you fix things?"

He blinked. "I is supposing I could fix things. Like what things?"

"Could you fix this?" Kid asked, letting the Time Turner fall from her hand, dangle on its chain.

ooo

"Miss, I is finding somewheres to hide you!" Dobby insisted. They stood outside the door of the cool potions storage. It would take Dobby a few hours to fix the watch and he insisted that this was the best place to hide.

"But I was just in there!" Kid protested.

"Miss, you is must hurry! Go, go now! Before someone comes!" With unnatural strength he pushed her into the room. "Hide behind racks, in dark places!" he hissed, and closed the door behind her.

Kid crossed her arms, sighed, looked around. "Bloody hell," she said. "I suppose this is what I get for hooking a Time Turner up to a car battery."


ooo

She had settled quite comfortably behind a rack of vials and was nearing sleep when the door to the storage unit creaked open. A shaft of light nearly touched her toes. She tensed. A thin figure stepped in, momentarily blocking the light, and shut the door.

"Always dark in here," he muttered. He help up his wand and said "Lumos". There was a tiny light.

Quiet as she could possibly be, she watched as he stepped carefully along the rows of vials, considering them. "Where the fuck is Myra when you need her," he muttered. "She would know this. Oh, what the hell am I thinking. Myra barely knows her ass from her elbow and her elbow from her eye." He shook his head. "And I'm supposed to synthesize grousefrinkle HOW?"

Kid quickly computed the answer in her mind but said nothing. His voice was so weirdly familiar. Very eerily, oddly familiar. Something about the drawl, the lilt, the contempt.

"If there is a bloody way to do this my name isn't Severus J. Snape."

Despite herself, Kid gasped.

The tiny light whipped about. "Who's there?"

She didn't dare to breath.

"Perhaps," he said softly, in the same tone he would use years later to frighten confessions out of unruly students, "you didn't read the little bulletin I put up in the Taskmaster's office about fucking in the storage unit? About how the sexual energy produced can ruin some elementary poisons? And about what I would DO to said fuckers?"

Kid drew her knees tighter to her chest.

"Come now, where are you? You can either say something now or I'll find you and see all your bits."

Before she knew what she was doing, Kid spoke in a tiny voice. "Is just me, Master Snape. Just me, a little house-elf."

Severus cocked his head. "A house elf? What are you doing in here?"

"I, uh ... I is doing maintenance, Master Snape. Polishing bottles."

He seemed to accept this. "I thought I knew all the house elves. You new?"

"I is, um, on loan."

He had gone back to looking for his ingredients. "You can be loaned?"

"You can do most anything to a house elf, Master Snape. House elves is no better than slaves. House elves is very persecuted if you thinks about it. Someone should be taking up the humanitarian cause of freeing them, one of these days."

This put him at pause. His eyebrows raised every so slightly. "I never did give that any thought. I believe I'll stop now. Awfully bitter for a house elf, you are."

"I has seen better days."

"You too, eh? What's your name?" He selected a bottle from the rack.

"My name is Herm - Hermi."

"Hermi?"

"Er - yes. Hermi."

"Isn't that a name for a boy house elf?"

"My masters are cruel."

"Yours too, eh?" He was quiet for a moment. "I find it unsettling how much I have in common with you. A house elf."

Kid paused, unsure of whether to respond. Finally curiosity got the best of her.

"How so?"

He shrugged, bending down to look at a bottom rack of black, sludgy vials. "Cruel masters. Practical slavery. Hiding the the dark. You know." He sighed. "Sometimes I just look at my life and think, ah, Snape, you are nothing but a house elf after all. I'm treated as one. No offense."

"I is taking none."

"It's just...well, what do you do? This was really the only place I had to go after Hogwarts, after all, and I am very good at what I do. I'm the best potionsmaster in Britain, you know. I could have worked for the Ministry. But all that paperwork and bullshit. And no use of the Dark Arts allowed, of course, which makes everything that much harder. Do you have any idea the amount of shortcuts evil intent allows you? It's like building little brimstone bridges everywhere."

"I is - "

"And the people here, Jesus. Having to deal with Lucius every damn day, and his little appetites. I swear, Hermi, if I didn't owe him so damned much I'd cut off his ears and use them as zwiebacks for baby trolls."

"What is you owing him?"

"Heh. What is I owing him? If he hadn't befriended me at Hogwarts I don't know what would have become of me. I would have been eaten alive. I owe him … let's see … my job, my shelter, the clothes on my back, my affiliation with the Death Eaters and my subsequent life, etcetera, etcetera, fuck fuck fuck."

"I is seeing."

"And to say nothing of Myra. She...ugh, she irritates me. For your own sake, don't get into a conversation with her, she'll call you on everything you say, constantly making stupid little comments. Makes me want to smack her in her big fat bloody face." He sighed. "But, no. No. Myra. I don't know. What do I know about Myra, really...she's capable. Enough. Usually. Nice teats. And she's considerably less annoying than Barty Crouch."

"Oh?"

"Oh. How I despise Barty Crouch. How I deplore his...him. How I hate his...self. I could just take his nice yellow hair and just rip it out of his skull. How I could just tear his stupid little babydoll tees right off him, rip them to shreds and just grab him and just..." he paused for a moment. "Jesus! What the fuck!"

Kid jumped. "What is it, Master Snape?"

"Nothing! No! I just! God damn it!" He closed his eyes for a moment, sighed, collected himself. Kid noted that, just for an instant in the wandlight, he was almost attractive.

"It's just," he began. "My god, I can't believe I'm about to confide to a bloody house elf. What I have been reduced to. Hermi, I am placing you under a strict order now, and that is never to tell anyone, ANYONE, what I'm about to tell you. If you do, I'll find out, and bad, bad things will happen. Understand?"

"I is understanding."

"Okay. Good." He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "I think I might be attracted to a young man who lives here, Barty Crouch. In a very, er, non-heterosexual manner."

Kid was utterly, utterly silent.

"Ah, nothing from you! Is it that shocking? Am I that disgusting and shameful that even a wise-ass house elf like you, Hermi, cannot say a thing in response to such a pronouncement? Perhaps I'd be better off just hanging myself now to save coming out of such a big dark be-spiderwebbed closet! I -"

"Master S-Snape, I-" Kid thought fast. "I is just surprised at your confession, Master. I is not finding you disgusting or shameful. Is is finding you completely normal."

He turned. "Normal? How so?"

"Well," Kid began, "though you is not striking me as gay at all ... well, on second thought, actually, that would explain quite a bit ... well. Yes. Anyway, it is normal for human peoples to have feelings for each other."

"Feelings, yes, but this is ... this ... this is just wrong."

"Is not wrong. You feels what you feels."

"I don't like what I feels," he spat. "I'd like to feel it for girls. What's strange is I used to feel it for girls. All my life. This is sudden. A sudden occurrence of...gayness. How does that happen?"

Kid shrugged. "Maybe ... maybe you is just curious. Everyone wonders. Is nothing to be ashamed of."

"That's what Myra said," Severus replied quietly.

"Myra is good friend, then."

"Myra is a frizzy bespectacled beast," he said, snickering. "But yes ... a good friend, I have to admit."

"Is not as bad as all that. You is giving it time, you is working it out. You is behaving in a natural and healthy manner. You is doing fine."

"Yeah, wel l..."

"I is proud of you."

"Oh, QUIET with you!" He snapped. "Proud of me! What are you, a therapist? I can't believe I just told you all that. You, a house elf. Shut up, will you, I have work to do. I have to find something that will allow me to make a synthetic. fucking. GROUSFRINKLE. Fucking Lucius fuck!" He struck the side of a potions rack, making it rattle.

"Try Burning Root and Bauhaus Stink pressurized at three hundred and eighty g's for seventeen minutes followed by a slow yeast burn with an infusion of wheatgrass and Chanel No. 5," Kid said softly.

There was a long silence.

"I … I actually think that would work," Severus said.

Kid hunched, sure her cover was blown.

"What are you, some kind of ... genius elf?" Severus asked incredulously.

"I is smarter than the other elves. Is giving me problems sometimes," she replied softly.

"Well, I ... I order you not to patent that!" he said suddenly.

"House elves can't hold patents, Master Snape."

"Good. Because I will be. On that." He quickly collected the necessary materials. "Good day, Hermi. Thanks for the sweet little tete-a-tete. Don't ever change."

He blew a kiss on his way out the door.

"I'd tell Harry and Ron," Kid whispered to herself a few moments later, "but I don't think they'd believe me."


ooo

Upstairs, up in some far away part of the castle, Voldemort spun slowly in front of a mirror.

"Never a bride, never a bride, never a bride," he said softly, over and over, like a mantra, watching the china circumference of his wedding gown as it slid over the marble floor.

There was no particular reason for it. He was just feeling angsty.

ooo

Severus kicked open the door to the lab, his arms full of bottles, holding a cigarette between his lips.

"I finally got a fucking break," he told Myra, whom he barely noticed was writhing on the couch. "You would not believe my bloody day today, it was surreal. First Lucius rags on me about some bullshit, shit YOU apparently put in the stuff that's getting us in trouble."

He lined up the bottles on the counter. "But then by some freak miracle slash act of Jesus slash completely fucking bizarre shift in reality, a house elf - are you listening to me? - a house elf tells me how to make was looks like a completely revolutionary synthesized grousefrinkle, after an odd session of elven therapy. Do you fucking believe that? Completely surreal day."

"Severus," Myra said.

Something about the way she said it made shivers run down his spine.

He turned to her. She was breathless and flushed, eyes half closed, arms tossed wantonly over the armrest.

"Are you quite all right?" he asked.

"Come here," she whispered.

"Are you drunk?"

"Just come here."

He did.

"Closer."

He tilted his head towards her.

"Closer."

He bent over her. "You don't look so good," he said.

"You look so good," she said, and leapt up, seizing him with freakish strength. Severus cried out and tried to push her away but it was of little use. She had him on his back on the couch quicker than he would have thought possible.

She pressed herself against him, writhing, pressing her face into his neck, growling. "Ohhh, Severus. God, excuse me. But I really, really fucking need you right now." She violently shoved her hands up underneath his cloak and shirt.

Severus jumped, trying to push her away. "Myra, what the hell has gotten into you?"

"Hopefully you. Very soon," she purred. She ground her hips against his, rubbing her warm hands along his ribcage. Severus gasped. "God," she breathed. "God you're delicious. Mmmm. God. I could just eat you. I want to just taste you." With that she took the soft flesh of his earlobe into her mouth. He cried out, either from surprise, pleasure, or surprise at the pleasure.

"You like that?" she whispered, giggling. "You like that?"

"I, uh...huh...I ...hmmm-" Despite himself, Severus let his eyes close a little. Some little voice chided him for it, but she was...warm ...

She kissed his jaw, the soft skin underneath his chin, his neck. He let his hand trail down to her behind, the other up, through her hair. She nipped the tip of his nose. He snickered a little bit, letting his hands roam, beginning to move with her, follow her lead.

She felt good. She just felt ... so ... good …

Just before all semblance of rational thought left him something cold fell on his face and blurred his vision.

Glasses. Thick, circular glasses, which had slid off her nose.

Myra's glasses.

"Oh good god!" Severus cried out, pushing her away with all his might. She gave a little yelp when she fell off him and onto the floor. "Jesus! No! What's wrong with you! You're on something! Tell me what you're on, Myra, NOW."

"I'm high on life," she said, lying on the floor.

"No! Dammit, you've been doing way too much substance lately. Tons of fucking Hype, I can see it in your eyes. What are you ON!" Severus was screaming. He was surprised at his own concern.

"I'm on what the history books call Super -Stunner," Myra said, reaching up and stroking Severus's calf. "And we are going to be so fucking rich."

With that she gasped, arched her back, and passed out.


ooo

"Oh, Dobby," Kid cried as the elf handed her the repaired Time Turner. "How can I ever thank you? I do believe you've saved my life."

"Miss...is you thinking, maybe, one day, I might be able to be a watch repairman? For pay, maybe?"

She hugged Dobby. "You can be whatever you want," she whispered, and smiled. "I have to go back to my own time now. Farewell!"

"Wait! Miss! I is sorry I has to do this, but you must understand, it is for plot purposes. I is apologizing. Nothing personal."

With that, Dobby made a quick grab for her wand, pointed it between her eyes, and exclaimed, "Obliviate!"

Kid went limp and dumb.

Dobby sighed, put a little charm on the Time Turner so it would spin her forward to her time, and put the wand back in her lap. She disappeared.

"The things I does," Dobby sighed, "in a day's work."

Wiping his brow and stretching his arms, the elf trudged down the dark halls of Malfoy Manor, wherein which, somewhere, a Dark Lord smoothed out his veil, and a potionsmaster had an urgent reunion with a long treasured image of a beautiful feline enthusiast.


ooo

Chapter Text


DEATH EATERS AT THE MALFOY ESTATE, Episode #5: To Be Someone's Chicken


ooo


TOKYO FALLS, NEBRASKA: The early seventies

Voldemort sat back in his foldable lacquer lounge chair sipping at a pina coloda. He stirred it in its coconut, tapping his red-slippered foot to a tune in his head:

"Oh now go, doo doo doo, walk out the door, doo doo doo, just turn around now, you're not welcome anymore...aren't you the one who tried to break me with desire, did you think I'd crumble...did you think I'd crumble...Lucius!"

Lucius, trembling, smitten, and barely out of his teens, started. He brushed soft blonde hair out of his eyes. "Yes my lord?"

"Next line!"

"Oh, um...'did you think I'd lay down and die?'"

"Oh no not I! I will survive!" Voldemort clapped with delight, this weekend's dragon nails sparkling in what was left of the moonlight. "But these people won't. You there! How goes it?" He waggled his eyebrows and sipped, holding the straw neatly between his index and middle fingers.

About twenty feet away a teenage girl with a great head of frizzy black hair and mascara tear trails looked up. She crouched over a virulently bubbling makeshift cauldron, constructed from a saucepan on a hot plate. She wiped her eyes so the pale, effeminate stranger could not see her crying, then looked up at the moon just as a rain cloud covered it.

"It's coming along," she shouted over the great din of rushing water that was Tokyo Falls. "Just a few more minutes."

A heavy raindrop fell on the part of her hair, sending chill reverb along her scalp.

"Lucius, umbrella," Voldemort said. Lucius hurriedly retrieved the umbrella, opening it to reveal a repeating pattern of wet, red Rolling Stones lips. The Dark Lord bounced in his seat with joy. "Oh yay, that one. That's my favorite one."

Lucius grinned. "I know, my Lord."

Voldemort took Lucius's chin in hand and made kissy noises. "You are so good to me, my precious supple puppy boy."

"Forever and always, My Lord."

Voldemort gave him a smile. "Come on, come on," he called to the girl. "Let's start this show, shall we?"

"A few more minutes yet, my lord," she called back.

"Hmmph. Lucius, another pina please, love."

The girl pulled her hood over her head to protect herself from the rain, and the world.


MALFOY MANNER: The late seventies

Severus smoked a cigarette, inhaling with luxury, holding an ice pack to his cheekbone. He sat on the stone floor of his room, leaning against the armoire, which was banging, because Myra was in it.

"You FUCK," she screamed. "You fuck, you fuck, you FUCK!"

"Oh, me fuck," Severus sighed, taking another long drag.

"WHAT did you SAY, you FUCK? Let me out of here, you PIECE," bam, "of FUCKING", bam, "SHIT!"

Severus looked at his watch. This had been going on for three hours. He wondered how she was banging. It must have been with her foot. That was the only thing he had left unbound. When she had awoken and started to withdraw she started convulsing and scratching at her arms enough to draw blood. When he tried to touch her she socked him in the face with a brilliant roundhouse, then ran around the lab screaming obscenities looking for the Stunner, which Severus had hid.

He put a binding spell on her. It didn't stop her from screaming so he threw her in the cabinet, hoping that, like a parrot, she would shut up if he put her in the dark. No such luck. He considered putting a vocal silencer on her but couldn't bring himself to do it: she was in some nether dimension of pain and to deprive her of that last outlet seemed cruel.

The banging and yelling paused. Severus turned toward the cabinet, eyebrow raised. He could still hear her breathing.

"Can I have a glass of water?" she asked, teeth audibly clenched. "Please? I'm so thirsty."

"Do you promise to be good?" He ashed his cigarette on the floor.

"Yes."

"Okay." Severus held his cigarette between his lips and rose from the floor to fetch the water, wondering if he should perhaps put it in a sippy-cup so she wouldn't spill it all over herself; thinking better of it since he had no idea where one would find a sippy-cup in Malfoy Manner where there were no babies that he knew of (except the dead ones crawling on the walls in the game room).

He finally decided on a big plastic cup with a bendy straw. Everyone liked bendy straws.

He opened the armoire to reveal Myra, writhing against her bounds. Her face was covered with the hem of one of Severus's robes and her hands were claw like and white knuckled behind her back. She struggled free of the robe, raising her face to Severus with an unnaturally tight grin.

"Here's your water, Creepy." He sat down on the floor next to her. "Here, look," he said, bending the straw with a c-c-c-crick.

"Ooh, a bendy straw," Myra choked. She squirmed like a scorpion had crawled into her chemise. "You make me feel special."

"Yes." He extended the straw to her lips. "Drink."

Her eyes darted from him to the glass and back again. She lunged, snapping at his lip and cheekbone. He ducked away, pushing her off him, too hard, to the floor, then scooted away from her as quick as possible. On her side she tried to wiggle towards him, to no avail.

"You promised to be good, you bloody psychotic bitch." He lit another cigarette, rubbing his forehead.

"Fucking bendy straw, fuck you!" Myra drew in a sharp breath and arched her back in pain.

"Interesting." Severus nodded. "I know you had it in your head to sell this stuff, but how could we if the comedown is this bad?"

"There's not supposed to BE a comedown, you faggot. Do you know how much money I would give you for another dose right now? That's the whole principle of the thing." She flipped on her back, sweat suddenly beading on her face. "It would make us a fortune."

Severus lowered his cigarette. "Did you venture so far as to call me a faggot?"

"What?"

"Was the 'faggot' comment really needed?"

Myra strained. "You prissy little shit. Do you understand what I'm GOING through right now? I feel like I'm going to barf little Ethiopian children and all you can think about is your latent homosexuality? " She curled in a fetal position, wracked with chills. "I hate you and I want to die - hegghkh. Heegghkpuutpah -" she spat something. Something small and white.

"My...my tooth! Severus, my teeth are falling out!"

He picked up the tooth between his thumb and middle finger. "So they are."

"How do I keep my teeth from falling out!"

Severus shrugged, exhaling. "Don't do drugs."


ooo

Three days and a Skele-Gro session later, when Myra could properly function, she returned to a very busy lab. Eight cauldrons were going and Severus was backed up at least twenty orders. He was in his work trance so she tried not to disturb him, but he glared up at her anyway.

"Look who's back. Pull up a cauldron, Ms. Stardust. Not only have I not slept the past three days, I haven't ate or shat."

"Really? I woke up in a puddle of vomit." She grabbed and ticket off the line and gathered ingredients from the weed cabinet.

"Delightful. Was it yours?"

"Most decidedly so."

"Ah." He jerked his head vaguely to the left; Myra tried to see what he was gesturing to but the lab was too much of a mess for her eye to settle on one thing.

"Our little friend in the cage there," Severus said, referring to a hamster in a little portion of habitrail. "I've been dosing him with Stunner. Check him out."

The hamster was flipped on its back, eyes rolled into its skull, little pink feet in the air.

"Happy little fellow, isn't he?"

Myra drooled.

"I take it you sympathize."

She bit her lip, eyes watering. "Severus, it was so incredible, you don't understand-"

"Shut it. No more for you. Not till we test it on Mr. Rigsby. You know not enough about this substance to make it a lifestyle choice." Severus poured an oozing gray sludge into an oozing green sludge to produce an oozing greenish gray sludge. He smiled and extended it to Myra. The smell was foul.

"But-"

"I said no!"

"Oh, fuck off," she muttered under her breath, taking the mixture. Too tired to argue she got to work.


ooo

Myra was going slowly about her work and Severus was tempted to yell at her, but wouldn't. He would never admit it but the state he found her in that night disturbed him greatly. He had seen many a friend in the throes of chemical bliss but this was something else. Even after she passed out she still writhed with pleasure, as though stuck in some impossibly ecstatic dream, her face flushed and smiling. She fell into a dead sleep later. Severus, watching her, was sure at some points she had breathed her last, but always another breath came. The intervals, too far apart, were what worried him.

His feelings were so mixed now, and there was so much work to be done, that he had to compartmentalize and allow the rest of his brain to be a function of potions work; in the small portions of time which he allowed himself to open that compartment all he found was an undesirable mess of unallowable arousal (Myra's body pressed against him, it kept coming back).

Perhaps that meant he could put his fears of gaiety to rest? All he needed was to be attacked by a drugged woman? But it was Myra. She didn't count. Even she called him a faggot! There was no hope for him. Momentarily convinced that his penis was good for nothing but trouble, he entertained the thought of devoting himself entirely to work - maybe get a job far away somewhere where they needed a theoretical potioner, leave the Death Eaters somehow...

Leave the Death Eaters?

"How the hell am I supposed to do that?" he asked aloud.

"Two parts bitters, two parts rum," came a voice from the door. "What do you think, Narcissa?"

Severus turned, pushing his goggles up. Lucius and Narcissa stood in the doorway, Lucius with arms crossed and a smirk, Narcissa holding a stack of folded, iridescent fabrics. His gaze met with Narcissa's only for a moment before he looked away. He felt her cold stare boring through him like she was trying to extract a core sample with her eyes.

"I think they'll fit," she said. "He'll need a belt, though, he's scrawnier than you are."

"A shrinking charm, then."

Severus took off his goggles and slammed them down on the counter.

"What now?"

Lucius took some of the fabric from Narcissa, unfolding it to reveal and pair of maroon velvet hip-riding bellbottoms. He walked up to Severus and held them against his hips.

"What are those? Get those away from me." Severus pushed away Lucius's hands. Lucius looked up and met Severus's eyes, then wrinkled his nose in disgust. "Oh, look at you," he said. "All greasy. Be sure to take a shower before tonight. Narcy-poo, do you like the maroon?"

"Try the gold," she said, pulling a pale shimmer from the stack.

"With his coloring?"

'What the HELL is going ON?" Severus roared.

"Settle down, will you?" Lucius said. "So on edge, all the time, you are. Hold still." He pressed the gold fabric against Severus even as he backed away. Lucius rolled his eyes. "Well it's not like you own anything stylish, I'm just trying to help you!"

Myra toddled in from the adjoining cold storage unit, rubbing her eye and holding a wriggling vine in a terra cotta pot. "Sev, I got the murdleweed. What are the- oh. Mister Malfoy, Ms. Vontaine." She watched Lucius attack Severus with the pants for a moment with a flat, expressionless face, as though there were no more room in her head for unusual things, they no longer registered.

"You never used that coconut compress, did you?' Narcissa asked Myra from the door. "Help is on the way!" She gave the pile of pants to Lucius.

"Severus, my darling, we're taking you out on the town," Lucius said, holding up a pair of touquoise satin with a "southwestern" design. He cringed. "Don't worry, I won't inflict these on you."

Severus balled his hands into fists. "Lucius..." he began very evenly, doing his best not to scream, "I don't have time to go out on the town. I have twenty five orders to be filled by midnight, not including starting your next batch."

"Oh, yes, the trials of Severus, poor plagued Severus," Lucius said absently, fondling a pair of opalescent white silk bellbottoms. "Try these on, will you? I got them in Antigua from a rarities shop some years ago but they-"

Before he knew what he was doing Severus grabbed the pants and threw them into a burner. They went up in a great explosion of flame and a very loud POP, gone in an instant, leaving behind only the scent of cocaine and strobe lights.

Lucius's eyes widened. "You gamey little bitch, those were made of silk straight from the ass of Shelob! Do you have any idea how much those cost? You can't go around destroying things people just want to SHARE with you. That's what I get for being generous. See, Narcy-poo, that's what I get when I try to be nice."

"Why be nice to people who laugh at inappropriate times?" Narcissa replied, delicately rubbing under-eye cream on a subdued, sniffling Myra.

"I couldn't tell you," Lucius turned to Severus, shaking his head. "Spark me up a fag, will you? Thanks. So, on the menu for tonight. You and Narcissa and I are going to a sweet little soiree at Bob's Big Boomshanka."

"What in gods name do you need me for?"

"Oh, just a kiss-the-cook thing. We have a big buyer who wants to meet you. It's going to be like a swap meet there tonight, everyone will have their little inferior goods out, but they all want to meet the man behind the meta, as it were."

Myra glanced up from her makeover.

"Lucius…" Severus waved his hand at the lab. "What part of 'I have to work' don't you understand? There is no way in hell I can go out tonight, there's no way in hell I can go out ANY night, there's far too much-"

Lucius held something up that made Severus stop in mid-sentence. A fabric thick and dark as desire. Lucius let it unfold slowly to reveal a pair of black bellbottoms. There was nothing overtly stunning about them, yet they withheld something. Some seductive possibility, some secret.

Lucius swung the pants with a tantalizing smile.

Severus was spellbound.

Narcissa stood. "Lucius! You can't let him wear those!"

"Nonsense. Just look at him."

"They're...they..." Severus said, reaching for them.

"I think we have a winner," Lucius said. He carefully folded the pants and handed them to Severus. They felt warm in his hands. "I entrust these to you, dear friend. Wear them in good health. Meet us in the parlor at ten all spiffy and fresh."


ooo

"Oh Narcy-poo, please don't pout," Lucius said as they walked along the halls of Malfoy manor. "What's wrong, what's wrong? Aren't you happy, my sweet crystal?" He stopped and took her by the shoulders, lifting her chin.

She couldn't help but smile. Lucius never failed to melt her heart, and her smile made Lucius feel like some sort of gallant, heterosexual knight, a fiction he enjoyed enough to support a marriage of convenience.

"I'm very happy, Lucius," she said, pecking him on the cheek.

He gasped. "Ah, the touch of your cool lips! Don't tease me so. How I long for our wedding night."

Narcissa giggled. "Now now, sweet man, behave yourself."

He put her arm through his. "Come now, we have a while yet before it's time to go. What do you say we take a peek at our registry? Or better yet let's look at the chinaware catalogue. I still can't decide between the obsidian filigree or the gold."

"Ugh, not the obsidian. It's a wedding, not a black mass."

"Can't it be a little of both?"

Arm in arm they walked back up to Lucius's rooms to put away the remaining pants.

And around the corner was Barty, sipping a peachapple-pineberry smoothie and looking stricken. He hated it when Narcissa commanded Lucius's attention so, and soon she would be commanding it all the time. He watched their retreating backs, chatting and laughing; they were a gorgeous couple. A gorgeous couple, soon to be married, soon to bear children, soon to no longer carry on amorous affairs with young sweet houseboys.

"Woe," Barty said meekly. "Woe!"


ooo

"I just...will you LOOK at these?" Severus, freshly showered and dressed, wiggled in front of a mirror.

"You're smitten," Myra said.

"I am utterly smitten."

"They just look like pants to me."

"Shows what you know." How could they possibly look like just pants? Couldn't she see the way they made his ass look like some ass of legend, an ass discussed in hushed tones in times of lack? They way they made him look even leaner and taller, with Leggy McLegs?

He topped the pants with a black, wide collared silk shirt also obtained from Lucius and a pair of dark sunglasses. The overall effect was understated coolness, the kind of understated coolness you feel on the blade that's slitting your throat.

"Fuck," he said, looking at himself in the mirror.

He lit a cigarette.

"That looks even better."

Myra eyed him. "I still don't get it," she said. "They're just pants."

"I can't believe you," he said, twisting so as to better view his magnificent behind.

"I really don't."

"Try to imagine yourself wearing them."

She thought for a minute. "I can't."

"No?"

"They're men's pants."

Severus grinned. "That they are, and aren't you jealous." He patted her on the head and made for the parlor. He turned and eyed her suspiciously. "Don't go brewing up any more Stunner while I'm gone, you hear me?"

She raised her arm, extended her middle finger, and turned it to face the ground. "Death Eater's honor," she said.

"Yeah," Severus said, "Because that's worth a lot." He made his thumb and forefinger into a gun, shooting an imaginary bullet at Myra and winking. He left Myra to commander the mirror. She leaned in, examining the skin under her eyes. Narcissa was right. The coconut compress did work.

Myra smoothed her smock. Had she lost weight? A little, maybe. She didn't keep close track.

"What to wear, what to wear," she sighed.


ooo

"Oh oh oh, you absolutely murder me, you great slinky snake of a man," Lucius exclaimed as Severus climbed into the limo. "Look at this sexpot, Narcissa. Mmm."

"Ho. Hum." She replied, looking into a compact to pick dried lipstick from the corner of her mouth.

"And you didn't want to come tonight, silly you." Severus climbed over Lucius to get to his seat, and as he did so Lucius took the liberty of slapping his ass.

Severus jumped. "Excuse me!"

"They fit great!"

"I was well aware of that before the inappropriate touching, thanks." Severus settled down and poured himself some whisky.

"Oh, pishposh," Lucius said as he reached behind him for something. "Drink some more of that and there'll be a lot more inappropriate touching. Here's your script, love."

"My script?"

"Well I wouldn't want you spouting off your normal idiocy to everyone at Boomshanka's, now would I?"

"My normal idiocy?"

Narcissa gave a nasal snicker.

"Oh, you know. Severus speak." Lucius pulled the skin of his cheeks down with the tips of his fingers so his face sagged. "I'm Severus Snape. I'm gloomy and persecuted. I whine about things. Blah blah blah potions."

"My name's Severus J. Snape, the J stands for junk, like the junk that I make,' Severus read from the script. "When I cook up it's hot and it's keen, 'cause I'm the best cooker you've ever seen." Severus slammed the script down. "You want me to speak in rhymes? Are you fucking kidding me?"

Lucius rolled his eyes. "It's part of your image."

"As what? Linguistically challenged?"

"As a beatnik! Here, I even brought a beret."

"I'm not a bloody beatnik! Whatever in god's name makes you think - no, I don't want it! Take it back." Severus shoved the black beret back at Lucius. "I will not do this, Lucius."

"Why not?"

"Because it's stupid."

"It was Narcissa's idea."

"Since you already display a love of poetry," she said.

Severus ignored her. "I'm sorry, no. If I'm good enough to make your metamorphine I'm good enough to talk to the buyers about it. In normal cadence."

Lucius crossed his arms. "Severus, it's very important to me. On an aesthetic level."

"Aesthetics? Fuck aesthetics, we're selling drugs, not running an ad campaign."

"It's a little of both! We're trying to build an image here."

"Fuck off!"

"Both of you, stop it, you're giving me wrinkles," Narcissa said. She turned to Severus. "Severus, you will either speak in rhyme like a good little beatnik or I'll tell Voldemort about your spoken word talent. I'm sure he'd love a performance, and afterwards..."

Severus's jaw twitched. Voldemort always had his entertainment killed after their performance was over, so influenced was he by the Impressionist movement. Severus heard rumors about an entire Mariachi band beheaded before The Dark Lord got to his second clap.

"Bollocks to both of you," Severus said, crossing his arms.

"Rhyme that, please."

"Flinging poo."


ooo

Bob's Big Boomshanka was hoppin'. The dancefloor, which lit up in rainbow occult symbols, was jam-packed with drugged, sweaty dancers. Witches in scanty outfits materialized smoky, sparking drinks while the disco pumped away in the background, filling the place so completely as to make thought impossible. Witches doing strip spells writhed to the beat in their suspended cages while pixies sold bags of their dust. At the tables in the upstairs area deals were obviously going down; this was where Lucius, Narcissa, and a cross Severus were led to and seated.

Severus noticed that, as he walked by, he got strange looks. Thus rather surprised him, seeing as he was wearing all black and thereby rendered practically invisible. The looks stuck to him and followed as he crossed the room; looks, he noticed, given by mostly male members of the throng. He couldn't quite place it. Smugness? Hostility? A weird glint in the eyes. It made him uneasy. Perhaps they were looking at the beret and thinking him quite lame.

They ordered drinks. Lucius recognized and summoned someone from across the room. Severus slumped in his seat, determined not to speak if at all possible. Suddenly the amount of work he had waiting for him back at the lab calculated itself in his head. He winced.

Lucius stood to greet his guests. One of them was a very large, very obese black man, his tiny Polynesian girlfriend, and a skinny, strung-out looking character in some kind of chicken suit. Severus puzzled at this; he wore a suit covered in white feathers and a chicken mask that left his entire face open to air. The beak and eyes of the chicken sat atop his head.

"Severus, Narcissa, this is Loverboy, Tricky, and El Pollo. Loverboy, Tricky, and El Pollo, this is my fiancee Narcissa and my cook, Severus."

"Pleased to make your acquaintance," Narcissa said, extending her hand to Loverboy, who kissed it with a lot of tongue. "Oh my, I see where you get your name," she said, flushing.

"Say hello, Severus," Lucius said.

"Hello."

Lucius cleared his throat.

"Um. Yellow." Loverboy was still hard at work on the astonished Narcissa's hand, so Severus went to shake with El Pollo, who grasped Severus's hand with a karate grip and shook it so vigorously he thought he might tear it off at the wrist.

"Hi hi hi. Hi hi hi," El Pollo said, teeth chattering, face waxen. "Love your w-w-w-work."

"This is Loverboy's taster. He's been instrumental in getting the product around," Lucius said.

"Glad you liked it," Severus said, darting his eyes at Lucius to see if he could get away with the non-execution of a rhyme. No such luck. Lucius glared at him.

"Glad you liked it," Severus said, "'Cause I spiked it."

El Pollo let loose with a high-pitched squeal of laughter that made Severus's teeth hurt. He glanced down for a moment at Severus's legs, and got the look in his eye, the one Severus had been getting from lots of men in the club.

"Well hey hey hey," El Pollo said. "I'll sit n-n-next to you." The chicken pulled up a chair next to Severus, so close their thighs nearly met.

It was going to be a long night.

Loverboy's words consisted of unclear mutterings that only Lucius seems able to understand. Severus remained silent, trying to scoot away from the cuddly chicken as much as he could without being rude. Though the state El Pollo was in, Severus doubted he'd notice.

"Yeah yeah yeah," Loverboy said, lighting a cigar. "Hugnubba bunbun widda Tokyo Falls bigga bubum hum."

"I recall that massacre, yes! Tremendous victory for our side."

"Mugga boodacown?"

"As in muggle body count, yes." Lucius raised his glass. "Here's to that."

Loverboy made a vague gesture in Severus's direction. " Dassaw mook?"

"That's our cook, yes."

Severus snapped to attention. Loverboy looked directly at him and said, "Temme bouda muffpuh jon megha liddle moot."

"Uh," Severus said. He looked desperately at Lucius, who, smiling, offered no help.

"Liddle moot," Loverboy repeated.

Severus swallowed. "Um...My name's Severus J. Snape, the J stands for junk, like the junk that I-"

"Tell him about the new formula, Severus," Lucius said.

"Oh! Yes. Well. It's an infusion of tindermill and aspofunk at six hundred kelvin, tendered by a bit of murdleweed and spank for nice legs and a long, happy discharge. Should be out by next week, and, um...rhyming is the way I...speak."

Loverboy snorted. El Pollo gave a crooning giggle and rested his head on Severus's shoulder.

"Get your damned head off my shoulder or else your body will start growing colder!"

El Pollo, looking a bit hurt, lifted his head. "M'sorry-sorry."

Lucius clucked his tongue. "Be nice."

"You can shove it in your face, I don't like chickens in my personal space!" Severus snapped.

"Severus! Honestly." Lucius turned to Loverboy with a reconciliatory grin. "Please excuse my friend. He's not much in the way of social graces."

"Muhhugga bumbum," Loverboy said. "Ew Poyo zashit. Eeso ew poyo!"

El Pollo looked ashamedly at the table.

Lucius laughed. "Severus is a shit, too, believe me. But you know what he does really well?"

A cold rock of dread materialized in Severus's stomach. "Oh dear, oh my, my bowels ache; I must take a bathroom break." He quickly rose from his seat.

"Do it for us before you go!" Lucius said.

"Do what?" Narcissa asked.

"Why The Robot, of course."

El Pollo squawked and clapped. 'D-d-o it, d-d-d-oo it!"

"Fecal matter nearly emergent, the situation is quite urgent," Severus said through gritted teeth.

"Come now! Loverboy wants to see."

Loverboy was, in fact, looking at Severus with some interest. Narcissa made eye contact with Severus, drawing a long, ice cold nail across her throat and mouthing Voldemort.

Severus glared, drew in a breath, and proceeded to execute a Robot so incredibly lithe, studied, and flawless that the entire upstairs area fell silent in awe.

"That's all the time I have for today, show is over and I'll be on my way."

The room burst into applause, and Severus promptly went downstairs before Lucius could demand another parlor trick of him.

Six men followed him down.


ooo

To get to the bathroom Severus had to wade through the dance floor. He was so angry that he had half a mind to draw his wand and bust a path open between all these people, these sloppy, opiate driven assholes, rubbing and feeling on each other like Myra had rubbed and felt on him a few nights ago.

A lot like that, actually.

Someone clapped a hand over his shoulder. He turned to meet eye to eye with a smiling latin man about a head shorter than him. "I saw you dancing upstairs," he said over the pounding bass. 'You're amazing. And I love your pants." He winked.

"Thanks," Severus said, trying to leave.

"My name's Mike."

"Great."

Another man, blonde this time, approached him from the side. 'Hey sexy," he said, grabbing Severus around the waist. "That little show you put on made me hot. Dance with me, Mr. Pants."

Severus gasped, shoving the man off him.

"Um, excuse me," Mike said. "I believe I was speaking to him."

Severus felt hands in his hair. He whirled about to see a soft-faced asian. "I love your hair, so soft."

"Get off him, bitch, he's mine!" said the blonde man.

"Excuse me!"

"Oh oh oh!" A guy wearing a feather boa rushed at Severus with his arms extended. There was nothing he could do avoid being trapped in a cologne - soaked hug.

"You are just bloody brilliant! I saw you and I was just like, yes please! The pants, the pants are fabulous!" He kissed Severus on the cheek. Severus struck out with his arms, wriggling out of his grasp. He was surrounded by amorous men, their hands all over him, under his shirt, on his ass, enclosed by an ocean of desirous, bickering queens.

"All of you, get the fuck OFF me!" he yelled.

They jumped back from him, eyes wide.

"Well excuse me, Miss Thing," the asian man said.

"That's pretty unsexy talk from someone wearing the Pants of Erised."

"Yeah hon, you wear those in here and expect not to get hit on? Shit."

"The pants of..." Severus's eyes widened. He beat his way through the crowd, leaving his admirers in the dust.


ooo

Severus, upon finally escaping into the surprisingly empty bathroom, felt as though he could sympathize with ex-P.O.W.'s. He splashed his face with water. The bathroom was made of stone with medieval looking wooden doors on the stalls. There was a thin coating of water on the floor emitting from a leaky sink, and a small brown lizard on one of the mirrors.

Severus caught himself in the mirror, holding his hands on either side of his dripping face. He saw, suddenly, himself at many ages, as though watching a slide show. Five year old Severus with wide eyes and endless curiosity, eleven year old Severus at his first year at Hogwarts, brilliant and shy, friendless except for one nasty blonde boy; Fifteen year old, oily Severus, bright and bitter, reading everything he could get his hands on, terrified of his nearest acquaintance's social power; seventeen year old Severus with so much potential he was told regularly by his professors he could get a job anywhere but cooked drugs for his friend instead, and now lower-twenties Severus, fending off chickens, speaking in rhyme, dancing, singing, anything to satisfy Lucius's Malfoy's little whims from hell.

Severus punched the wall. What kind of fucking clown had he been reduced to? What kind of ridiculous creature of public spectacle? Why did he let Lucius do it all these years?

As if on cue, Lucius burst through the door. "There you are! Would you get back upstairs, we're about to land a big deal!"

"Fuck you," Severus said without looking up.

"Excuse-moi?"

"I said, fuck you, Lucius. Fuck you and fuck your metamorphine. You've just lost yourself a cook."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"I mean I'm tired. I want out."

"You don't get out. You still owe me."

"For what."

"The Distillator."

"That was a bloody long time ago."

"A deal's a deal."

"A deals a - Lucius, you treat me with less dignity than a skid mark. I won't do it anymore. No more performances on demand, no more berets, no more orders in the middle of the night, no more sleepless weeks. I'm done with it."

Severus realized he was shaking.

Lucius rolled his eyes. "Okay, Severus, could we please stop this little tragedy and get back to the rather pressing matter upstairs?"

Severus straightened and looked Lucius directly in the eye. "I could kill you."

Lucius raised an eyebrow. "Is that so?"

"Quite easily. You have no idea the extent of my powers. I could make your insides rot, I could make your skin crawl right off your body. One day you will push me too far, and you will die."

Lucius sighed and lit a cigarette. "I will not. You're nothing without me. You've never been anything without me. And you know it. You would have had no friends in high school, you never would have joined the Death Eaters, everything in your life has been due to me, me, me. If I were you, I'd be a little more grateful. I even lent you my pants for Christ's sake."

"Speaking of which, how dare you give me these ... gay pants?"

"The Pants of Erised? Because I wanted you to have a good time."

"How would these help me have a good time? By deluging me with really, really unwanted attention?"

Lucius sighed, smiled, and shook his head. 'Oh, Severus, Severus, Severus." He walked towards him with a disarming smirk, running the back of his hand along Severus's cheek.

Severus froze.

Lucius looked coyly at him with big, blue eyes, and stroked Severus's hair with such intense tenderness that Severus's heart skipped a beat. He couldn't move. He never hated Lucius at intensely as he hated him at that moment yet he was completely paralyzed by something so powerful and desperate he felt nearly sick.

Lucius drew his body close to Severus, resting against him.

"Severus," Lucius whispered.

"Stop it,' Severus said weakly. "I'm not - you know I'm not- "

Lucius gently kissed the underside of Severus's chin.

"No."

Lucius's tilted Severus's head down and covered his lips with his, slipping his tongue into Severus's mouth. Severus made a sound of surprise before his mind dissolved into haze, and he kissed back with a need he didn't know he possessed.

Lucius broke from the kiss with a sharp inhale.

Severus, mindless, tilted his head down for more, but Lucius dodged it.

"Oh, Sev," he said. "See? You always were a fool for me."

Standing there, holding Lucius, Severus felt his entire being stop, as though every last atom came to a complete pause as years and years of something became very, sickeningly clear.

Severus did the first thing he thought to.

He kneed Lucius in the balls.

"No means no!" Severus shouted as Lucius doubled over to the floor. The blonde bombshell's mouth was open in a silent scream. Severus kicked him in the ribs, hard. Lucius jerked, grabbing for Severus's shoe; Severus wrenched his foot free and gave Lucius another sound kick.

"You piece of shit," Severus hissed. "You teasing, prissy little fuck. All these years," kick, "all these years!" kick.

Lucius arched and retched up blood.

"You...you..." Lucius chortled, holding himself. He squirmed, pulling his wand. Severus went for his, but it was too late; the last thing he heard was "Crucio!" before he fell to the floor in white-hot agony.


ooo

He awoke to silence, and Myra's concerned face. One of her ringlets brushed his cheek.

"Hey," she said. "You okay?"

His limbs still burned. He couldn't move. "Ughhh god, " he said. "What happened?"

"Lucius Crucioed you."

"Oh. Jesus."

Myra smiled. "That's my line," she said softly, and stroked his head. Severus closed his eyes, allowing, in pain, for that small bit of comfort. "You poor, poor bastard."

Severus looked around. They were still in the bathroom.

"Myra, I'll have you know this is the men's," he said. "Wait a second...what are you doing here? I thought I left you back at the lab."

"Do you remember the little brown lizard on the mirror?"

"Little brown..." Severus searched for it, and suddenly recalled there being a reptile on one of the mirrors.

Myra pointed to herself.

Severus sat up with a little assistance. "Oh what, you're an animagus now?"

"I always have been. Unregistered."

Severus's mouth drooped. "You shit me."

"I shit you not."

"You never told me that. It could have come in handy numerous times."

"Yeah, well ... a girl has her secrets."

"Wait ... if you were on the mirror, than ..." Severus went quiet, realizing that she had seen everything. He inhaled deeply, turning his head away. "Shit. Shit shit shit."

Myra put her arms around Severus and leaned her head on his shoulder, rocking him as if he were a child, there in the bathroom of Bob's Big Boomshanka. He was too weak to resist her, and he found he really didn't want to. He let his head tilt to rest against hers and closed his eyes.

"You're here selling Stunner, aren't you?" he said.

She grinned and pulled a sack from her robe, and from it spilled over three hundred galleons onto Severus's lap.

"Holy shit," Severus said. "This is just tonight?"

"Yes. You should have seen Lucius, he was so pissed off. Come outside and look."

She helped Severus up from the floor and led him outside. The club, once filled with light and movement, was now filled with people writhing on the floor. The music had stopped because even the DJ was Stunned. He glanced upstairs, where Narcissa and Loverboy lay on a table, Loverboy licking Narcissa's arms to her very vocal satisfaction. There was no sign of Lucius.

Severus felt as though he had entered some kind of otherworld. Perhaps it was the after-effects f the Critatius curse, but he felt light and alive, as though he had felt the worst pain imaginable and was now free from all pain. As though he had paid his dues.

Myra turned the shell-shocked Severus to face her.

"Sev, if you had a choice, would you stay with the Death Eaters?"

"Absolutely hell no.."

"I'm glad to hear you say that. I have a plan."

"A plan?"

"An escape plan," she said. "And I want you to come with me."

She took him by the hand and led him out of the club.


ooo

Outside it was cool and incredibly still, as though the whole world was at pause just for him. El Pollo sat in the bouncer's seat, the bouncer having fallen over Stunned. He had taken off his chicken hat and held it on his lap, looking almost sober.

"Hey. El Pollo," Severus said. "What're you doing?"

El Pollo jerked his feathered thumb over his shoulder. "Waiting for th-the boss," he said.

"He won't be out of there till morning," Myra said. "You may as well go home."

"Yeah. I would have thought you'd be first to be Stunned.," Severus said.

El Pollo shrugged. "B-boss t-tasted it before I did, you know? And I thought maybe...maybe I don't want to be someone's chicken, you know, just for a night." He looked up into the sky. "Just wondering what it'd be like to be free range I g-guess." He chuckled softly. "You have a good night, Severus."

"Yeah. Yeah you too," Severus said, and walked with Myra into the night.


ooo

Chapter Text


DEATH EATERS AT THE MALFOY ESTATE, EPISODE 6: Vomit Green and Sparkly


HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY, Late Seventies:

Albus Dumbledore sat in his circular office. He chewed, with bliss, a week-old Cashew Creme. His schedule had kept him from getting a new supply from Honeydukes, but luckily he found one at the bottom of some drawer. He didn't mind that it was a little stale - the crunch gave it an intriguing new texture he rather enjoyed. And so Albus, blessed with the blood glucose of a champion for a man of his age, chewed.

"Phineas," he said. "You must try these."

Phineas sighed, idly stirring his cosmopolitan. "If you attempt to shove that vintage confection through my canvas I'll be quite annoyed."

"I'll have a student paint one up for you."

"For the last time, no." Phineas downed his drink and yawned. "I'm off - perhaps the Fat Lady has some more of those chocolate liqueurs..."

"Watch yourself, 'Fin," Dumbedore said, winking.

"My dear friend, when you're trapped in a frame, pissed is the best option. I expect you'll understand that when your day comes. By the way, that delightful little minx of a second-in-command is on her way to see you as we speak."

"Minerva?"

"Yes, Minerva. Oh, I'd lick her off a spoon." Phineas gestured to his empty glass. "Look who's talking. Adieu." He vacated the frame with a stumble as Minerva strode into the office, soaking wet and exhausted, feathered hair sticking to her face.

"What news?" Dumbledore asked.

She took a deep breath and slumped into an armchair in a most un-Minervalike manner. "Death Eaters. Killing people. As usual. Anything new here?"

He manifested some tea and set it before her. "Ministry's trying to close the school. As usual."

She nodded. "The Order is starting to lose hope, Albus. We need something, and we need it quickly. Some information, some...inside track."

"How odd," Dumbledore said. "I was just thinking something along those very lines."


MALFOY MANNER

Dobby the house elf looked in the mirror and smoothed the white tailcoat and bow-tie he wore. With the white top hat set off with a red rose, he looked, in his opinion, rather devastating. He raised his eyebrow in an intrigued expression, holding an imaginary martini. Yes. Quite debonair.

This outfit had been given to him on a purely non-firing basis. He was to hand out the tenth set of invitations to the Malfoy-Vontaine wedding, after all, and no one wanted to accept anything from a stinky, dour house elf in a dirty tea towel.

How lucky that he had been selected for the job this go-round! These were the tenth, and last, set of invitations - reminders, really. The Malfoy's had been sending them out once a week for the past ten weeks, lest people forget the date. As though any of them would dare. The wedding was a few days away, so the last set went out today with Dobby.

Dobby tilted the top hat so it offset his huge green eyes and knocked on the door to young Master Malfoy's wing. After a moment his master opened the door, glaring at his disturber. Dobby held back a gasp. How beat upon his master looked! Master Malfoy sported a black eye and swollen lip, and looked nothing but irritated to find Dobby before him.

"What?"

"Dobby is here to fetch the invitations, sir."

From somewhere behind Master Malfoy came a curling sound of female pleasure, which Dobby pretended not to hear. Master Malfoy rolled his eyes and glanced over his shoulder. "Merlin's ass," he muttered.

"Sir?"

"Oh, right, right, the invitations, right. Let me fetch them, hold on." Master Malfoy left the door for a moment. He hadn't indicated whether Dobby was to step inside so the elf remained where he was; from his vantage point he could see past the parlor to the doorway of the anteroom, where, slung over the arm of a couch, he could see the white thigh, calf, and foot of Mistress Vontaine. There was a giggle, and the leg stretched, toes curling.

"Oh, my my," he could hear Mistress Vontaine whisper.

Dobby glanced at Master Malfoy, who was digging in a dresser for the invitations, than back at the limb of Mistress Vontaine.

"Narcissa?" Master Malfoy asked, having abandoned the dresser drawer, "do you recall where you put the invitations?"

"To what?" she moaned.

"To our wedding, you stupid cow!"

There was a high pitched giggle, and a long, delicate arm pointed to somewhere out of Dobby's sight.

"Thank you," Master Malfoy hissed.

Narcissa suddenly sat up, so her head appeared in the frame of the doorway. Her long blonde hair was loose and mussed. Her eyes were yellowish and bloodshot, as though she had been up for days. She stretched and looked in Dobby's direction, smiled, and gave a coy, flirty wave.

Dobby glanced behind so he could move out of the way of whomever she greeted. There was no one there, so he turned back. Mistress Vontaine beckoned him closer. "Come here, you funny little man in the funny little suit, look at you."

Dobby did as he was told. "Can Dobby help Miss Vontaine?" Dobby could see now that something was not correct with the Mistress. She gnashed her teeth. Her eyelids fluttered. "Is Miss Vontaine sick?" he asked.

"Oh Dobby," she purred. "I feel better than I've ever felt before." She leaned over the arm of the couch to take his hat and put it on her own head. "What do you think?"

"Dobby thinks it quite lovely!"

Her eyes rolled up to the ceiling and she released a cry - a certain kind of cry Dobby knew was specific to human mating - he had never seen it done but knew the sounds. She flopped backwards on the couch, pressing her paint-chipped toes to his chest, using them to play with his bow tie.

"Oh Dobby," she moaned. "Lucius never makes love to me like that."

Dobby froze.

"Makes...makes love, Miss Vontaine?"

"Oh yes," she said, winking. "You're good."

Lucius entered the room carrying the box of invitations. "Dobby, I-"

Dobby leapt away from Narcissa. "Dobby did nothing, Master, honest! Dobby is just standing here and - and - and-"

Lucius shoved the invitations into Dobby's chest and shooed him from the room. "Never mind her! Go on now, get busy," he said. "You've got a manor full of invitations to deliver, go." He shoved Dobby out the door and slammed it behind him.

"Narcissa!" Lucius said. "Molesting the house elves? Really? We simply must get you off this shit."


ooo

Outside their rooms Dobby stood, shivering and clutching the black box of invitations to his chest. He tried to take a step in any given direction and failed. He waited for banging, yelling, the sounds of an outraged lover. As far as Dobby knew, no other house elf in history had made love to his master's fiancee, and he was set to die for sure.

Still stunned, but ten minutes later still quite unpunished for his heinous deed, Dobby decided the least he could do was execute his last given task and deliver the invitations. He started from the bottom up, as had been his plan; first stop was the potions lab down in the basement.

Dobby knocked on the heavy door. A moment later Master Snape opened it. He wore an undershirt and black boxers with red skulls on them. The remnants of a cigarette hung off his lip. His eyes were bloodshot and baggy. His hair, sloppily tied back, seemed extra greasy, as did his skin. There was something limp and strange about his manner. Music filtered out from the lab, hard guitar, now you're messin' with a, a son of a bii-iitch, now you're messing with a sonofabitch...

Dobby tried to speak but found himself still too spooked, so he simply held the invitation out to Snape.

He didn't accept it directly. "...fuck's that?"

Dobby shook the invitation at him. "Is from Master Malfoy," he said.

Master Snape bent down and grabbed Dobby by the collar. "You can tell Master Malfoy I don't care what's in that letter, I wouldn't fuck him with your cock, understand? Think you can tell him that for me?"

"Y-yes sir! Dobby tells him straight away sir!"

"Good." Snape threw Dobby down the hall, slammed the door, slid on a pair of goggles and got back to work.

"What was that about?' Myra asked. Her hair was tied in a pouf above her head, and she held three or eight potions above a cauldron. She glanced at a timer and poured them into Cauldron C.

"Malfoy sent me a note of some kind, probably another order. I told him to-"

The invitation slid under the door.

"Persistent little cockroach," Snape muttered.

Myra picked up the envelope.

"Watch it," he said. "Might be a curse."

"Too light." She tore the envelope open and slid out the contents. "Oh, just another damn wedding reminder." She handed it to Severus.

It was a black card embossed with chrome. Upon it the Malfoy and Vontaine family crests were joined by a blood-red arrow. The border of the invite was thick silver chain. When he opened it there was nothing, but slowly red letters began to write themselves across the space.


There are times of great despair in every life;


Times of strife and need;


Times of gave illness


Such as brain tumor, heart disease, vascular conditions,


And a plethora of cancers;


Sometimes we are flayed or dismembered


For disobeying our superiors;


Sometimes there is painful death


Involving hooks


And botany.


But not this day.


Severus James Snape, YOU are cordially invited to the


Blessed Union


of


Lucius Draco Malfoy


and


Narcissa Contessa Vontaine


as they become Man and Wife.


Gifts kindly accepted by the nuptial couple.


Gifts kindly required by The Dark Lord (presiding).


White tie.


Open bar.


One (1) guest allowed.


PS- If you haven't already, please RSVP.


PPS- Those who do not RSVP will suffer .


Please remember to indicate chicken, steak, or vegetarian on your response.


Those who indicate "vegetarian" will be questioned.

"Right-o," Severus said. "This should be an event to recall with little or no fondness."

Myra shrugged. "They're going on a long honeymoon. We'll have them out of our hair for a while. Make things easier." She gave Severus a knowing smirk.

"I haven't agreed to your plan yet. Don't go assuming things."

"I'm not assuming, I -" There was a loud, slumping sound and a tinkling from one of the boilers. Myra clapped her hands and rushed over to it. After a few jerks the boiler door opened, and out spilled what had to be thousands of galleons.

"That's what I'm talking about!" Myra said, scooping the coins up in her hands. "Ha ha! This is our take from the last two days alone! Severus, fucking LOOK at this!"

The more money Myra scooped out of the boiler the more kept flowing out of it - Severus realized that it must be stuffed all the way to the pipe out the ceiling.

"Good god! Myra put that away, before someone sees-"

Myra shook her head at him. "How can you possibly think it won't work? We'll be well on our way by the time they notice we're gone, and we'll have enough funds to last a lifetime, two! You can't tell me it's not worth a shot."

Severus sighed and looked at the ceiling. "Maybe I'd like it better," he said, "if it didn't require our living in Nebraska."

She shrugged. "Nothing to be done about that, I'm afraid."

"I still need to think about it, Myra. Clean that up. We have a lot of work to do. Jesus that's a lot of money..."

In his cage in the corner, Mr. Rigsby The Test Hamster wriggled and twitched.


ooo

Dobby crept up the northern turret in search of Barty Crouch Jr. It had not been a very good day for Dobby. Despite having the task at hand to occupy him, and the threat of imminent demise, the house elf found himself curious about the peculiarities of human mating. He had been running over and over in his mind what, exactly, had happened between himself and Mistress Vontaine. When did the mating itself occur? Perhaps when Mistress Vontaine took his hat and placed it on her head? Yes, this had to be it, the male gives the female his hat, and from it she makes a ... baby.

Dobby, horrified at the thought that he may have impregnated his mistress, bumped headlong into the knee of Barty Crouch Jr., who sat quietly on a turret step eating a frozen yogurt.

The boy giggled. "Wow, you just didn't stop, did you?"

"Dobby is sorry, Master Crouch."

"I like your suit. Look at your little hat, can I see it?" Barty smiled and reached for the hat.

Dobby's eyes widened. He took the hat firmly by the brim, stepping back.

Barty giggled. "Oooh, possessive. I would be too."

"Th - thank you, Master Crouch," Dobby said, not taking his hand from the hat or his eyes off Barty. "Dobby has something for you."

Barty watched for a moment as Dobby tried to remove an invitation from the box while clutching the hat. It was a rather pathetic and lengthy display wherein which Dobby finally had to place the box on the floor, dig through the invitations with cursory glances until he found Barty's, then kick the box shut. He handed Barty the invitation, picked up the box and backed slowly down the stairs. As soon as he was out of sight, Barty heard his little footsteps break into a run.

Barty shrugged, opened the invitation, and upon reading it burst into tears.


ooo

Dobby ran in a blind panic. Master Barty had tried to mate with him too!

Dobby skidded to a halt in front of a utility closet, opened it, threw the hat inside, and closed it. Thinking again he opened the closet door and stuffed the hat behind a mop and a water bucket. That should do it. There would be no more mating today.

After a few deep breaths, Dobby peeked at the next invite on the list. A Master Grindow Holland. He would be tending bar in the executive lounge about now. Dobby straightened his collar and headed down the hall.

The executive lounge was nearly empty except for Master Holland himself and someone in an armchair. Dobby crossed in front of it to give Master Holland his invitation. He accepted it very graciously in the midst of making a drink.

"Dobby," said a voice.

Dobby froze. Turned. In the armchair sat a very sour-looking Master Malfoy, scowling and swirling brandy in a snifter.

Dobby closed his eyes and swallowed. "Y-yes, Master Malfoy?"

"How is it going?"

Dobby's mouth bobbed wordlessly.

"Come on. Out with it."

"They are...being delivered on schedule, Master."

"Good." He sipped his brandy.

"Good?"

"Yes."

"Then Dobby can go?"

"Yes..."

"Master Malfoy has nothing to say to Dobby?"

He looked slowly up from his snifter. "No..."

"Oh. Very well then, Master."

Dobby made for the door. Just as he was about the escape, he remembered a duty. Dobby froze as every vein in his tiny body constricted. He gritted his teeth. All he had to do...was walk out that door. Just walk out the door, Dobby told himself, like Dobby remembers nothing. Just walk..out...

Dobby stumbled to the nearest dresser and closed his head in the drawer.

"What seems to be the problem?" Lucius asked.

The house elf whirled about. "Master Malfoy, Dobby has a message for you," he said through clenched teeth.

"From whom?"

From M-Master Snape."

"Well, out with it."

Dobby's lower lip quivered. He shut his great lantern-like eyes. "Master Snape says he doesn't care what's in the letter, he wouldn't fuck Master Malfoy with Dobby's cock, sir."


ooo

Myra injected Mr. Rigsby with his daily dose of Stunner. He used to squeal when she did it. By now he had begun to crave the bite of the needle. The little rodent arched in ecstasy and chittered his little teeth. Myra gave his tummy a little rub with her index finger.

"Iddle wub-wub," she cooed.

Severus, who had been doing a quick inventory of the rare poisons cabinet, turned and fixed Myra in a hot glare.

She took a moment before responding. "What did I do now?"

"If I'm not mistaken, I'd say you were getting attached to a lab animal. But you're a professional and I'm sure you'd never fall victim to such nonsense."

She scooped Mr. Rigsby out of his cage, petting him with overdone flair. "But he's such a happy baby! Wookit dis ippy boo-bah."

Severus made a face as though a cyanide tablet were dissolving under his tongue, and opened his mouth to say something scathing in reply when there came a rapping on the door.

"What?"

The door creaked open to reveal Lucius. He glanced at Myra. "Get lost, wench," he said. "Severus, a word?"


ooo

They sat on opposite ends of the green corduroy couch.

"Chocolate?" Lucius offered, holding out a small green-wrapped box.

"No thank you."

"Cigarette?" He produced a pack of fresh Devil's Own's.

"I have my own."

"Light?"

Severus sprouted a flame from the tip of his wand and lit up.

'All right," Lucius said softly. "All right. Severus. Look. It's an emergency. Perhaps we can...momentarily...put last week's tiff aside?"

Severus was silent. He smoked.

"It's Narcissa!" Lucius burst. "She's hooked on that...whatever it is. That new super-drug. She's got a stash hidden somewhere, I can't find it...she's turned into a great stupid lummox, Severus! All she does is lay about and writhe!"

"And this is unusual for her?"

Lucius rolled his eyes. "If she keeps on like this she'll get fat. She can't be fat for the wedding, not in the dress I picked out for her. She'll be popping out through the eyelets in the lace, it'll be horrific! You have to help me detox her, Severus, you just have to. The wedding's in three days!"

Severus smoked. Silently.

"Not to mention that this...whatever-it-is is eating at our bottom line. We're being edged out of the market. You have to get a sample of it, take it apart the way you do, find out how it works, make something better."

Lucius waited for a response. There was none.

"Please, Severus."

Severus fixed him in a cold stare. "Why?"

Lucius sighed, "We've known each other for what, more than ten years now?"

"Supposedly."

"And we've been in rows worse than this, right?"

"Not that I can recall."

"We can't let a little spat ruin us!"

"If there's one thing that was made abundantly clear last week, it's that there is no us," Severus hissed, surprised and disgusted by the amount of hurt in his voice.

Lucius grinned but quickly suppressed it. "Oh Sev," he sighed. "Sev darling. Really. Come to your senses. I was just playing when I kissed you. I was a little tipsy, and you were wearing the Pants of Erised. I just couldn't help myself. Please don't be angry."

Severus was silent.

"Are we all forgiven?"

"No."

Lucius gave an exasperated sigh. "What? What do you want? You should be thankful I haven't had you flayed for this." He pointed at his black eye. "I look like a bloody dockworker thanks to you."

"Serves you right."

Lucius looked riled, but closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Fine. May the black eye be unto me as the scarlet letter was unto Hester, yes? Are you happy now?"

Severus took a deep, thoughtful drag on his cigarette, exhaled, and looked up at Lucius with a sudden odd grin.

"No," he said. "But it's a start."


ooo

Back in the lab an hour later Severus told Myra of what transpired with a smug air.

"I told him there wasn't anything I could do about Narcissa," he said. "Only that he had to find her stash and she'd have to cope with the withdrawal."

"Oh dear," Myra said. "We'll have to sandbag ourselves in for that. What did you tell him about Stunner?"

"Almost nothing. I told him I'm good but not that good. Trying to make a more efficient drug than Stunner would be like trying to out-symphony Mozart, but why would Lucius care? I'm just a machine that makes potions to him."

"You're not going to do it, are you?"

Severus blinked. "Do what?"

"Analyze it and make something better."

"Of course not. Didn't you hear what I just said?"

"Yes. And if it were coming from anyone other than you I'd believe it."

"...really?"

She shrugged. "I've seen you do some pretty amazing thing with a cauldron, my friend. I bet you'll grow up to be one of the best potionsmasters in Britian one day."

"Oh, pshaw," Severus said, waving the comment away but looking pleased.

"I'm dead serious. You know your shit."

"Well ... yes, I'm rather familiar with my feces now that you mention it." Severus examined his nails.

"But don't you dare touch Stunner or it'll interfere with our plan."

"You mean the plan I have yet to agree to?"

Myra crossed her arms. "I don't know what's taking you so damn long about it either."

"There's considerable risk involved! The Dark Lord doesn't just give up his followers like party favors at a bar mitzvah! We supply the Death Eaters with over eighty percent of their potions, it's not like our absence will go unnoticed for long. What will the Dark Lord do when we're not here to supply him with his god damndecongestant!" Severus sent a fist into the table. A beaker fell to the floor and shattered.

"You're still in a strop about that?"

"Of bloody course I am!"

"Well that's it, isn't it. Don't you see why we have to leave?"

Severus started at Myra for a moment and shook his head. "That kind of thing is par for the course. I knew that when I joined, Myra."

"You did not! In all honesty, what were you expecting when you became a Death Eater? Because I'm betting it wasn't this."

"I..." Severus said. "I expected...you know, glory, fame, power, all that, but-"

"Do you see any Goddamn glory in what we do? Holed up in this lab all day with barely a spot of time to eat, sleep or shit, making potions meant to torture people we don't even know? Who aren't even our enemies?"

"Not directly our enemies, but enemies of the cause."

"What's our cause? The further promotion of Voldemort? Face it, Severus, the guy is fucking batshit! What does he think he's going to do, kill every muggle in the world? They only outnumber us twenty thousand to one!"

"He wants to purify wizard blood! It'll make the wizarding world stronger, and once that happens who knows what we'll be capable of, what we can achieve. That I can see, Myra."

"Do you have a personal problem with mudbloods?" Myra asked, eyes afire.

"It's the way I was raised."

"I'm not asking how you were raised. I'm asking if you, Severus J. Snape, have a personal problem with mudbloods."

"What, are you a philosophy major now?"

"Answer me!"

Severus glared. "On a conceptual level-"

"These aren't concepts, there a fucking people! Have you ever talked to a mudblood? Been friends with a mudblood? Been close to a mudblood?"

"Not...really, no."

"Well you're talking with a goddamn mudblood right now."

Severus stopped short, blinked. "What did you say?"

"I said you're talking with a goddamn mudblood right now."

"...What!"

"You heard me."

"How the hell is that possible?"

Myra inhaled sharply and rose to her full height, eyes narrowing. "Two muggles fuck and produce a kid with magical abilities they neither understand nor wish to cope with, so they lock her up in the basement like a cretin for most of her life, until she gets an owl from Salem Witches Academy when she's eleven. One summer they go too fucking far, and said child poisons their evening merlot with one of many noxious mixtures learned in Potions Three. The Dark Lord hears about this through one of his contacts in the American Ministry, and decides that I, despite my muggle blood, would be good recruitment material.

"My parents were dead in the living room, and I was sitting on the front porch waiting for the Ministry officials to arrive. I didn't even want to run, Severus, I was just so tired. So I waited. But he came first.

"He was wearing a big llama fur coat with huge sunglasses and a parasol. He sat down next to me and put his hand on my shoulder, and he said - he said- " Myra stuttered. "He said, 'You poor girl, you must be in so much pain.'

"And I said 'Yes.'"

Myra stopped and took a shaky breath.

"Voldemort said my actions were right and good and justified, and that he knew first hand the horrible cruelty of muggles. Didn't I agree that they were scum, vermin that should be eradicated, so girls like me should no longer be made to suffer? I said yes, Severus, and I meant it."

She began to speak faster, words tumbling out of her. "All I ever wanted was to be a pureblood witch. I hated my muggle blood. I hated that I'd never be entirely welcome in the Wizarding world because I'd failed to be born into it. I hated that I'd always be a fucking second class citizen here when I'm already a third class citizen among muggles. I'd never be good enough anywhere. I told him that. And he took my chin in his hand and said -

"'You'll be good enough with me.'

"He admired my deeds, my understanding of his cause. He thought I had the right idea and, if I joined his fold and helped him destroy filth like my parents, not only would he keep me safe from the Ministry, he'd - he'd -" Myra took a deep breath, "He'd make me a pure-blood witch."

"But that's impossible," Severus interjected.

Myra glared up at Severus with a rage that made him take a step backward.

"I know that now, don't I?" she hissed.

Severus went wide-eyed and silent. He waited for Myra to continue her story.

She took a deep breath.

"He asked for proof of my allegiance.

"'I asked him what more proof he needed. I'd already killed my parents.

"He said, 'Don't be smart, missy. You may have killed your mum and dad in a teenage hissy fit, and you may say pretty things about bloodlines and hatred, but you're still a muggle. You'll have to go the extra mile to prove yourself. I don't want anyone who's with me less than one hundred and fourteen percent.'

"I asked him what he wanted me to do..

"He said 'I want you to brew up a nice big cauldron of that whatever-it-was that killed your parents and dump it into the nearest water supply, Tokyo Falls. And I want you to do it now.'

"I tried to mention in an offhand sort of way the number of people that would kill.

"'Well, that's kind of the objective, he said. Get started. I want to smell dead muggle by sunrise.'

"I packed the ingredients for the potion and a few of my things, and off we went. I tried not to think about what I was doing, tried to disconnect, tried not to feel Voldemort's eyes on me as he sat there drinking margaritas and singing to himself. It was just a test. I'd just finish the potion and pour it over the side and it would be over.

"And I did. And it was. I could feel the pride he took in me when I did it. He gave me the mark right there in the rain, and that rush of pleasure and heat - you remember - that was the best feeling I'd ever felt. I was real. I was powerful.

"We portkeyed back here, and he had Barty give me my robes and mask. A few days later I was assigned to work down here with you. And a few days after that I got an owl from Voldemort with an American newspaper."

Myra stared at him before going limp and slumping down hard onto a stool.

"Seven thousand people, Severus. Seven thousand people."

"Jesus holy Christ," Severus said softly. "You're responsible for the Tokyo Falls massacre?

Myra nodded.

He swallowed and wrung his hands, casting sideways glances at her. She looked at the floor.

"So why would we return to Nebraska? Isn't that a bit scene of the crime-y?"

Myra looked up, eyebrows raised. "Well..that's the beautiful part. See, it was an Attillas's Serum."

"Ohhh..." He paused. "You gave that to your parents? You must have been bloody serious. Why I bet they didn't have an inch of skin left on them by the time-"

At Myra's look he thought better of what he was saying. "Continue."

"I had to improvise at one point. I was at home in the States with no way to get to a Wizarding shop, and I hadn't thought to bring any Replicating Essence home in my kit. So I did a substitution."

"With?"

"My blood."

"What!"

"I know the Replicating Essence is what makes the reaction keep happening, so I thought, well, blood cells make more of themselves, right? So I did a little charm work, and everything seemed to hold together. But for a while now, Severus, I've been doing a little rsearch, and I found an interesting side effect."

"I imagine you would!"

She grinned.

"Oh hell! Go on now, I have to hear this." He lit a cigarette.

'We partly have the Dark Lord to thank, seeing as he made me … do that. But since all those people died by ingesting what was essentially my cursed blood, I have...something of a power net to fall back on once I get to Tokyo Falls."

Severus's mouth drooped. "The Web of Aftermath."

"Precisely."

"The energy web of the deaths of seven thousand people, and it would be attuned ... directly to you, wouldn't it?"

"Yep."

'So, when you go back to Tokyo Falls - "

"I have a nearly infinite amount of power."

Severus checked the calculations over in his head. "Holy shit."

She nodded, gave a cocky grin, cracked her knuckles. "Yep. If the Dark Lord really wanted to come after me he'd be in for a hell of a fight. But the way I see it he's not going to want to travel all the way to the States to bother with us, especially after all the Death Eaters he sends come back to him in shoeboxes."

He shook his head in disbelief. "He'd get us eventually."

"Only if he wins."

"What do you mean if he wins?"

She shrugged.

"Myra," he said after a moment. "Why are you so intent on me coming with you?"

"Well I can't just leave you here, can I?" She pointed to Cauldron C. "How long till that mixture is done fermenting?"

"Hm? About six hours."

"Good." She held out her hand and he helped her to her feet. "Come on."

"Where are going?"

She turned to him with a grin and opened the door of the boiler. Coins spilled out

"Shopping."


ooo

Half past three rolled around and Barty Crouch Jr. toddled down to the parlor for his daily appointment with Lucius. He'd doused his face in cold water to ease the redness of his crying but he still sniffled. He urged himself to maintain his composure. Lucius must not know how upset he was.

What use was crying after all? Lucius had to marry Narcissa, it was important for the Malfoy family. He couldn't very well go against his father's wishes. Lord Malfoy knew his son was nancy as a daffodil but that was of little consequence to blood politics.

But, oh, the secret desires of a sweet young boy's heart, mostly, in this case, to be a sweet young girl, one of good blood and name. Lucius may come to Barty for comfort in the future, true, but now he would never really be his. Forever after Barty would be kissing, sucking, stroking someone else's rightful property.

It was almost more than young Barty could bear.

He softly shut the parlor door behind him. Lucius hadn't arrived. Barty sat in a squashy armchair and waited, shoulders hunched, knees pressed together. He realized he looked like the anxious boy he was so he forced himself to relax, leaned back, a wanton knee over the arm of the chair, inching up his shorts to expose a smooth white plane of thigh. He considered fetching himself a wine cooler before Lucius slammed into the parlor in a white-blonde fury.

His cloak was drawn about him, covering something on his chest. The cloak threatened to blow aside as though a wind were coming directly off Lucius's body. He yanked it across his torso, stalking across the room to the stack of Bloodworth and Blackchurch catalougues. He began to dig through them.

"No, not November, not October..." he muttered, throwing booklet after booklet on the floor. He glanced up at Barty. "Oh, it's you."

Barty gave the coyest smile he could manage and twisted a lock of blonde hair around a shaky finger.

Lucius glared at him. The side of his cloak flew up and hit him in the face. He jerked it back down. "Not today, Crouch. I'm not in the goddamn mood. If you want to be of use help me find the gray sealskin shirt in these old B&B's."

Barty jerked. The words hacked through him like a cleaver through veal but he knelt down to help.

"G-getting a new shirt?" Barty asked.

"Yes. No. I'm replacing an old one. Where the hell is it?"

Lucius bit his bottom lip, hands shaking with frustration. He tossed his hair out of his face. Barty was unsure what to do. Lucius tended to furiously catalogue shop when something was upsetting him. Or on rainy days, or partly cloudy days, but mostly when something was upsetting him.

Barty's maternal instincts kicked in. "What's wrong LuLu?"

"Shut up and help me look!" Lucius turned to him and Barty was distracted by something bright and flashing on his shirt. His gray sealskin shirt.

It was a letter "T" flashing all colors of the rainbow. Underneath it letters began to flash, one after another, T-E-A - a gust of wind burst out of it, billowing Lucius's cloak. He grabbed it and pulled it over his chest.

"Don't look at that!" Lucius hissed, and slapped Barty hard across the face. "I told you to find the shirt, so find it! This one is ruined, thanks to bloody fucking Severus!"

Barty's lower lip quivered. He dug through the stack, one hand on his cheek.

"Oh what, are you going to cry now, you nancy little shit?"

"N-no."

"Would you like an apology?"

Barty looked up hopefully.

"Well you're not bloody getting one! You know why? Because I'm not sorry! All you bloody oversensitive faggot gits, I'm so sick of your simpering! Between you and Severus it's like raising a couple of teenage girls! Musn't upset you lest your periods get irregular!"

Lucius stood now, arms akimbo, cloak flying out behind him in pulp superhero fashion. On his chest was the rainbow T, underneath it flashing letters, T-E-A-S-E, T-E-A-S-E, T-E-A-S-E.

"I said stop looking at it!"

Barty cringed, holding his arms over his face.

Lucius sneered. "You disgust me," he said, and swept out of the parlor.


ooo

Barty waited until he heard Lucius's footsteps slam down the hall before releasing a wail of despair. He heaved as hot tears spilled down his cheek, still bright from Lucius's hand. He rubbed the cheek in disbelief. Lucius had struck him before, but it was always in the spirit of play, followed by petting or kisses or nipple clamps.

But this...this...

Barty wailed again, and threw a catalogue cross the room. It landed at the toes of a pair of gigantic platforms. The tallest platforms in all of Wizarding Britian, in fact, inside which thrived an entire seamonkey ecosystem. Only one wizard would have shoes that fabulous, and Barty regarded him with tear-fogged eyes.

"My boy?" the Dark Lord purred.


ooo

Dobby, clutching the reluctantly recovered love-hat, delivered the last reminder to the jowly woman who worked in the Taskmaster's office. He hoped against hope that she would not ask for the hat, and she didn't; she accepted the reminder with a noncommittal grunt and shut her window for the evening.

Dobby sighed and rubbed his eyes, one of which was swelled and sore from where Master Malfoy had kicked him. Dobby hadn't even hit the wall of the executive lounge before realizing he was ten times as doomed. He knew Master Snape's words weren't nice. They rarely were.

Resigned to his fate, Dobby made his way back to the Malfoy's private suite to return the suit and hat. He wondered if Mistress Vontaine would be there. He hoped she wasn't. He was tempted to shut his head in a door for wishing his Mistress gone but was too tired for more self-flagellation. He put it on a list of things to do, perhaps after he said his goodbyes to the other house elves and had one last butterbeer.

At least, he thought as he opened the door to the Malfoy's suite, his name would go down in legend.

His hopes were dashed when he heard Mistress Vonatine humming softly in the adjoining room where he'd left her debauched this morning. She sounded content enough. Dobby made his way to the armoire. He'd just fold everything up and leave quiet as he came. She didn't even need to know he was there.

He took off the hat and placed it in the armoire. He wondered of she could use it once it was out of his possession, but decided it didn't matter since he'd be dead. He took off the jacket, dusting off the tails. He undid the bowtie and let it hang about his neck as he unfastened the first two buttons of his dress shirt. In the adjoining room, Mistress Vontaine's light humming turned into a sob.

Dobby's hands froze. His listened for a moment. Yes, Mistress Vontaine was most certainly crying. He stood there at a loss for what to do.

"M-Mistress Vonatine?" Dobby asked after a long moment.

"Hellluuuuuew?" she croaked, her voice deep as the bowels of a cane toad.

"Is me, Dobby." He crept into the adjoining room. Thre was a pungent smell of feces. Mistress Vonatine lay on the floor, her head propped up against the leg of armchair. She wore only one of Master Malfoy's dress shirts, yellowish from days of her sweat. Her cheeks were sallow, lips chapped, eyes a dull yellow. Crust had formed at the corners of her mouth.

"Mistress Vontaine! You is sick!"

"Oh gawwwd," she moaned, heaving drily.

Dobby ran up to her and put the back of his hand against her forehead. She didn't feel warm. Her dull eyes met his, pleading, and Dobby felt something hot rise in his chest. When he drew his hand away his fingertips brushed her hair. She reached up, cupped her hand around the back of Dobby's round head, and drew his face down to hers.

"More," she whispered.

"What?" Dobby whispered back.

"Get me more!"

"More what, Mistress?"

She coughed once and dug around underneath the armchair. She produced an empty vial. There was a thin film upon it, the remnants of something vomit green and sparkly. She shoved it into his hand.

Dobby blinked. "W-where?"

"Downstairs," she croaked. "The girl. With the glasses...ugh."

"Mistress, perhaps a warm bath-"

"Shut your mouth and do as I say!"

Dobby jumped. "Yes Mistress, I is going, I-"

He turned, and ran right into a pair of shins.

He looked up into the angry face of Master Malfoy.

"You," he hissed, and picked Dobby up by collar. Dobby shrieked. His time had come.

"So you're the one getting this shit for her! Who's behind it, Dobby? Who's selling it? Hm? I'll have their head on a pike!"

"I is not knowing, Master! I is never seen it before!"

"Bullshit!" Master Malfoy slammed Dobby's face into the wall. "Tell me!" Slam. "Tell me!"

"Lucius, stop!" Mistress Vontaine cried out from the floor. Lucius dropped Dobby at the sight of her.

"My my, Narcissa," he said. "How you've let yourself go."

He lower lip quivered.

"I hate you! I've always hated you! Why don't you ever shut up, you, you, you baggy old queen! I'd rather marry Dobby! At least he knows how to treat a lady!" She thrust a long nail at Dobby, who was recovering on the floor.

Lucius balled his fists and took a deep breath. "Narcissa...I'll let that go, only because I know you're an idiot. But this behavior has got to stop. And you," he said to Dobby, "are going to stop it."

"M-master?"

"You got her on it, you'll get her off it. This...sweaty, piss-soaked cow is to be a presentable bride in three days or I'll mount your head on the wall, elf. Understand?" He kicked Dobby into Narcissa's lap, and spun on his heel out of the room.


ooo

In Knockturn alley, Severus Snape, sitting in private booth at a very swank joint, sipped a 1936 merlot. His elbow nudged the toes of Myra Psue, who sat across from him picking at truffles and fois gras. The candelight flickered.

"What are you thinking about?" Myra asked.

"I'm thinking I should have gone with the studded pants instead of the plain."

"That's what I told you!"

"I know, but they seemed so flashy..."

'Eh. Tell you what, after we're done with our snack we'll go back and get them, okay? And I think I'll get that snow tiger pelt corset too. It was adorable."

"Where would you wear that?"

She shrugged. "Around the lab, you know...oh, hold on." She reached into her pocket. Someone walked by, quick as a specter, and joined hands briefly with Myra. When he was gone she unfolded the hand to reveal a bag of galleons. Smiling, she reached across the table and took a sip of Severus's merlot.

"Hey! That's mine!"

She threw the bag at his chest. "Go buy yourself the cellar, darling. Chug a lug." She threw back the rest of the wine.

He rose from the booth. "I think I will. Want anything?"

"Everything."

"Done." He tipped his new dragonhide sombrero and headed towards the bar. Allowing Myra to buy him things had made him uncomfortable for the first ten minutes or so, but, he thought as he clicked open his emerald-studded cigarette case, he could get used to a little sugar now and then.

He sat down at the bar, plush leather seat sighing beneath him, and the bartender stopped dead in the middle of constructing another guest's drink to attend to him. Severus ordered a red, and it was before him so fast he actually heard the crack of the sound barrier breaking.

Yes, he could get used to this.

Someone sat down next to him. Severus took a sip of his drink, and a familiar old voice said, "Nice hat."

Severus glanced over and nearly spat out his wine.

"Prof- Professor McGonagall!"

She smiled thinly. "Hello Severus. You're looking well. And please, call me Minerva."

Severus looked around as if looking for support, as though he needed someone to confirm that he was indeed sitting in a very expensive bar with what was indeed his old Transifiguration professor who did indeed appear to be flirting with him.

"You always were a bit nervous, weren't you?" she said, a touch of humor in her voice. She took a sip of her wine.

"I'm just - surprised to see you here, is all. Do you...come here...often?"

"Not often enough, I'm afraid. Such a fine selection. Puts the Hogwarts cellars to shame." She glanced over the menu. "What are you having?"

"The 1915."

She flagged down the bartender. "The 1915 please." And smiled coyly, a flirty smile that made Severus's stomach turn with weird.

"So," she said, "what have you been doing with yourself these days?"

"Oh. You know. Keeping busy."

"Really? With what?"

"Oh. You know. The here and there, the this and that. Such and such."

"I see. Not running with a bad crowd, are we?"

Severus straightened. "I haven't the slightest idea what you mean."

He took out a cigarette and out of courtesy offered one to Minerva, who accepted. Severus lit her up, leaving his inner fourteen year old awestruck.

"Severus, if you were perhaps running with a bad crowd-"

"I'm not."

"But if you were," she continued, "somewhere down the line, there very well may be great consequences. Great prices to pay for such misbehavior." She took a deep, impressive drag.

"I'll be sure to tell that to the next urchin I see," Severus said. He finished off the rest of his wine in one go.

"As well you should," Minerva began. The bartender, upon seeing Severus's empty glass, dropped everything once more to serve him.

"The 1915, on me," Minerva interjected. The bartender nodded, poured.

"Professor!"

"Minerva."

"I simply can't allow you to me buy drinks, it's not-"

"Back to the subject at hand," she said, in the tone she used to quiet unruly children. "As I said, great prices to pay. But there would be a way, theoretically, to avoid such punishment, for one involved."

Severus didn't respond.

"Any insight," she said, "into the activities of the bad crowd, for example."

Severus rolled his eyes. "I told you-"

"And I'm telling you," she said. She looked him up and down, her face full of disdain and pity. "I see it. I smell it, Severus. I know what it's taken from you. We've had others come back."

"I don't know what you're on about."

She rose, giving him a knowing look. "Of course you don't." She opened her purse. From it she retrieved a gold envelope. "Open this when you're ready." She thrust the envelope into his hands and walked out.

As he watched her leave he felt arms encircle his waist and a wine-y breath in his ear. "I thought I told you I wanted everything, " Myra Psue slurred.

"Unhand me, wench."

She didn't. "What did that hag want?"

Severus looked down at the gold envelope, turned it in his hands, and tucked it away into his robes.

"To buy me a drink."


ooo

It was three in the morning before they stumbled back into the lab. Severus knew they had a lot of work to do but he was much too drunk and weighed down with bags to care. Myra, half falling out of her tiger pelt corset, fell off his arm and giggling onto the couch. He sat down heavily beside her, and set the weightiest parcel down between his knees - a huge bag from Mogwot's Precious Posions containing hundreds of vials of hundreds of things Severus always wanted. He peered into the bag, a vision of tiny noxious heaven.

He dug through his other bags. Cuban cigars, rich old rum, the studded pants, a bunch of new music, shoes shoes shoes, a couple new eyepatches for Jackson...

"Sev..." Myra said.

...a brand new codex, a zen alarm clock, back silk shirt with red trim, red silk shirt with black trim, silver skull ring, silver skull ring with green glass eyes, silver skull ring with claw...

"Sev?"

...german chocolates, gold pocketwatch, fine tobacco, self-rolling papers...

"Hm?"

"Did...did you not feed him?" Myra asked, voice edged with panic. "Tell me you didn't feed him."

Severus looked up. Myra held a hamster in the palm of her hand.

It was Mr. Rigsby.

And he was dead.


ooo

Chapter Text


Death Eaters at the Malfoy Estate, Chapter Seven: Bait and Switch

Dobby awoke with a start. He was pressed against sweat-soaked linen, underneath which was the clammy thigh of a blonde woman. An equally cool hand rested on his head. He scrunched his eyes, opened them, and looked up. He was snug in the lap of Narcissa Vontaine, who looked down upon him like a tuberculosis-stricken angel, save her eyes, which burned. She stroked the coarse hairs of his scalp, managing a creaky smile.

"You poor little Dobby," she purred, "my only, only friend."

"M-Mistress...Dobby must help you Dobby must help you to get well Master Malfoy insists it You is must - Dobby is must - the wedding-?"

Her lips twitched."Dobby, I need you to do something for me. I need you to go to the basement. I need you to find the woman with the glasses, and the dark curls. I need you to find her. I need you to get me more of what she has."

"Of...of what?"

"Of what she has," Narcissa growled, pushing Dobby off the purgatory of her waist to the floor. "Come on, you little cockroach, you know what I mean, you know what I want. Find the girl, Maria, Masala, whatever her name is, who works with Severus. Find her. Get me more."

"But Mistress...what about Master Malfoy, and the wedding?"

"Sod Lucius, and sod his sodding wedding. Go. Go now. Get me more." She pushed him weakly towards the door with her foot, then fell back on her elbows. With a hacking retch she lowered herself back to the floor. As she fell asleep her bowels forgot themselves, giving off an aroma heralded by a terrific blast.

Dobby stumbled away from her. Procuring more of what the Mistress demanded was out of the question, most certainly, but perhaps the potionmasters could provide him with something else; a cure of some sort. Something must be done, and done quickly. The wedding was the next afternoon, and at this rate, the bride would stroll down the aisle in a wheelbarrow.

The house elf collected himself and charged out the open parlor door to the open hall door, running at full speed down the stone floors of the Manor. He did not see Lucius Malfoy, who stood half-hidden behind the entrance to he and his fiancee's chambers, listening to the exchange. He held two fingers two his chin in thought.

"The woman who works with Severus…" he said, his voice so soft it was absorbed by the tapestry beside him.


ooo

The woman who worked with Severus was in the lab with her partner, cradling a dead hamster in the palm of her now-bejeweled hand. She flipped him over, poked at his tummy, lifted his delicate paw on the tip of her now well-manicured fingernail. "Mr. Rigsby," she said.

"Oh, get off it, lab animals die all the time," Severus said. He rummaged through the bag of goods between his feet. As reached for a tightly packed box of test-tubes a gold envelope fell from his breast pocket into the bag. He looked up quickly to see if Myra had noticed, but she was examining the dead hamster, turning him over in her hands. He buried the envelope beneath the mounds of items and turned to her.

"Are you sure you fed him?" Myra asked again.

"Yes, I'm sure. Since when are you so damn sentimental about a hamster? He wasn't even a control. You've had a good five minutes to mourn this terrible loss. Now get over it, I'm sure we have some ridiculous amount of work to do."

"It's not that, Severus, I just...this feels different, somehow."

"Feels, shmeels, we had our fun, now we had better get some work done lest we blow our cover."

Myra's face lit."Our cover?"

Severus pushed the bag underneath a lab table. "Excuse me?"

"You said 'our' cover."

Severus was still for a moment. "I suppose I did."

"So you do want to come with me?"

"I didn't say that." He opened the tube and was pummeled by rolled parchments with potions orders. "Bloody...will you look at this?"

"You as good as said it." Myra beamed.

"I said no such thing, I made no guarantees nor promises nor notorized signatures, please, now just be quiet and let us get on with things, will you? And put the infernal rodent away!"

"Fine." Myra made a great show of tossing Mr. Rigsby in the nearest trash bin. "Back to work it is, then. Today, tomorrow, the next day and the next. Fine, if that's how you want to live your life."

"I don't want that, Myra, it's just-"

The lab door flew open. They both looked with a start to Dobby, who rushed instead of to Severus, to Myra. She tried to back away but the elf had a death grip on her robes. She raised her hands in the air and looked to Severus, who only shrugged.

"Miss, you need is must be helping me! Dobby needs your help! Mistress Vontaine she is ill from the thing which only you can give her! You must is needing helping her! She is to be married tomorrow and you is must be needing to help her! To make a potion, a cure!"

"There is no cure," Myra insisted.

"Are you sure about that?" Severus asked.

Myra glared. "Yes, I'm sure."

Severus crossed his arms. "Something pallative, then? Enough to get her through that travesty of a wedding?"

"Yes!" Dobby cried. "A pal - a palla - palla- acapella, yes!"

"Since when are you so concerned with Narcissa's well being?"

He shrugged. "Isn't it in all our interests to keep things running smoothly?"

She looked aghast. "Would you stop with the mixed signals?"

"Mixed nothing, Malfoy was on my back about this yesterday. As you can see I have enough to attend to," he said, gesturing to the piles of parchment orders. "Your Stunner, your tweaked out bride, you deal with it. I would strongly suggest taking a stroll up to Knockturn and seeing what you can see."

Dobby yanked at her robes. Please, miss, I is begging you please, please, you must is help!"

"Fine, fine." Myra said, kicking the elf aside. "I'll see what I can do."


ooo

Myra, irritated, threw on her cloak and portkeyed to Knockturn alley, where she was greeted by the familiar smells and sounds; rare soured vegetables, sickly sweet sex brews, body odor, outraged yelling, shattering glass. Parts of the alley were roofed by rotting wood boards, so light came through in bands that cast off some wench's warted nose, another's pallet of shining potion bottles. Myra had materialized in the small space between two shops and behind a tall barrel, her usual stop-off. She tested the air for anything to be found for Narcissa. She figured she'd use ReAnimator, a strong reviver used to animate the terminally ill for one last family function, or failing that, the Imperius curse performed by a sympathetic puppeteer. She threw the hood of her cloak over her head, walking quickly and with purpose, senses attuned to anything that might be of use.

Rounding a dark corner she stepped on something soft yet resistant. She lifted her boot to reveal a human hand, connected to an arm, presumably connected to a body hidden by the darkness. She gasped and stepped away, only to have her other boot scrape against something. She had stepped on a tooth.

She stared for a moment, but only a moment; she had a mission. Just one more stupid chore and this would all be taken care of. She stepped in and out of slates of light, looking for the shop.

"Excuse me," she asked a hooded man sitting on a stump, smoking a pipe. His face was turned toward the ground, so all visible to Myra was a bit of chubby chin and a bowl of, presumably, tobacco. "Can you tell me where I can find a bottle of ReAnimator?"

"Second left, half down the alley," he replied. "Morgaine's Closet."

Myra paused for a moment, waiting for the man to extend a hand for payment. He didn't. She thanked him and went on her way. As she melded into the darkness the man lifted his head slightly to reveal a round face with darting beady eyes, pitted skin, a singed wizard's cap, and a shock of dark, wild hair. He rose, drew his cloak around him, and continued silently down the alley after her.

The second left was quite a walk. She tried to pass through the sweaty masses quickly. She noticed an edge of panic to today's crowd, a tension that wasn't usual even for this dark place. People gathered in huddles. Faces looked strained, frightened. There were screams, not of anger, but of shock.

Out of the crowd someone recognized her, waved her down. Upon second look Myra realized it was someone she had sold Stunner to yesterday or the day before. Too late to get out of it now. The young man slapped a heavy hand on her shoulder. His face was sallow and yellowed, his front teeth missing and an incisor threatening to fall out. He exhaled heavily, his breath smelling of rot. "Hey...you...I need some more Stunner. I need some more now. She needs more."

"I don't have-" Myra looked around.

"We can pay you," he breathed, turning out his pocket to reveal a galleon and some knuts. "We can pay you anything you want."

Myra struggled under his grip. "You've got the wrong person."

"No," he breathed. "It was you. It was...please...I need..." His hand loosed on her shoulder, moving down her collarbone to her breast. He crumpled to the ground at her knees. Myra pulled her cloak out of his grip and tried to get away; as she turned she saw a woman sitting against the wall behind him. Her legs were splayed, a petticoat splashed around her knees and one shoe missing. Her eyes, completely yellow and nearly popped out of her skull, pointed in different directions. Her jaw hung open revealing dark gaps where teeth should have been, teeth that were now neatly on her lap. Her chest didn't move.

Myra held her breath and turned in another direction, any direction that would get her away. She ran full-force into an old man. "Others?" he asked, panicked.

"What?"

"Others? More dead?"

"More?"

"More dead!" he cried out. "More dead, over this way!"

The panicked faces of the crowd turned towards the dead couple as Myra made her getaway. She recognized some of the faces. Straight wizards. Aurors. Healers. Struggling to get to the bodies in this dense and panicked space. Cries of people asking for Stunner from someone, anyone.

Blindly she ran down the alley. Crowds of people were gathered around splayed, toothless, yellowed, stinking bodies, littering Knockturn like nutshells; bodies Myra began to recognize. She ran, finally making that second left. She almost fell over a man curled dead in a corner, wearing the same pants she'd complimented him on at Bob's Big Boomshanka.

She rushed into Morgaine's Closet and slammed the door behind her, causing the bell to fall off its hinges. The counterperson laid her copy of the Daily Prophet down neatly on the counter. "Can I help you?"

"I...I..." Myra gasped, looking from the woman out the window and back again. "I need ReAnimator."

She clucked her tongue. "I'm afraid that's not going to help your friends, my dear."

Myra shook. "ReAnimator. Please."

The woman shook her head. "Whatever you want, dearie, if you got the money. Afraid nothing's going to bring all those poor souls back to life. A week you take that drug and dead you are. Pandemic, they're calling it." She creeped, humpbacked, towards a locked cabinet in the back of the store. "ReAnimator won't be re-animating any of them," she chuckled. Poor fools."

She looked back at Myra's ghostly face.

"What?" the woman asked. "Haven't you read the news? See for yourself." She gestured towards the Prophet on the counter, and turned to slowly unlock the cabinet. Myra moved toward the counter, each step an anvil. She picked up the paper, able only to read phrases: death by pleasure, lethal dose, Death Eater plot suspected, hundreds confirmed dead, nicknamed Super Stunner.

Myra could not breath. She blankly pocketed the ReAnimator, unaware of the darting beady eyes watching from outside.


ooo

"Severus," Myra gasped, materializing back in the Lab.

He gave her a cross look over his shoulder. He was running six cauldrons and the lab was, once again, an awful mess of humidity and stink. He was late on half his orders, hung over, and had cast hexes on both the lab door and the order pipe to keep anyone from disturbing him. He had too much on his mind to deal with intruding house elves, Barties, or Luciuses.

His brow furrowed. That didn't sound right. "Myra. Luciuses or Lucuii?"

"Severus!"

"No, Lucius. Plural. How does one say that? But then, why does one care. Bastard." Severus slammed two mixtures together. "I take it you found something for Narcissa? Took you long enough, I could have used your bloody help in here. You must learn to - what are you doing?"

Myra dug in the waste bin. She lifted the stiff little body of Mr. Rigsby, holding him by the foot between her thumb and forefinger for Severus to see. Her face was white, her body vibrating.

Severus blinked. "Your point being...?"

"They're all dead."

"No," Severus said. "Not every hamster is dead. Just that one. I understand that was hard on you, but you'll have to find some way to cope."

"Everyone that kept taking Stunner, Severus, all of them, they're all dead!" She shook Mr. Rigsby at him.

"What are you talking about?"

Myra took a copy of the Daily Prophet from her robes and pushed it into Severus's chest. She stumbled about the lab, gathering her belongings together.

His lips moved silently as he read the paper, then looked up at Myra.

"We have to go," she said flatly. "We have to go, now, before they find us. We'll portkey to the Platform, grab the next train out of Britain, we can be in Nebraska by tomorrow afternoon." Her hands shook as she filled her dragonhide potions bag with her favorite bottles. She looked up at him. "Get your things. Why aren't you getting your things? We have to go."

"Who said anything about we?"

Whatever color was left in Myra's face drained.

"Who said anything about we?" he yelled. "This is you, This is your mess God damn it Myra, what the hell have you gotten yourself into!"

She stumbled against a table. "Please, just get your things, if we leave now we can make it. We still have so much money, we can go to Nebraska and we'll be safe, we'll be safe from all this."

"Why should I put my neck out on the line for you? For your big bloody mistake? How do I know if I go anywhere with you you won't end up killing another small town of people? What then, Myra?" He walked up to her, slamming the paper on the counter. "Was this your great escape from the Death Eaters you so longed to join? In by killing hordes, out by killing hordes?"

"You want out too! You want out of this awful fucking stupid life! I know you do, Severus, goddamn you, you try and act superior, you try to act like you don't hate every waking moment of this slavery, that you don't hate being under Lucius's thumb, but I know you do. I know you. All I wanted to do was to make that possible. To make another life possible for us."

"Why us?" he said softly. "You can leave, Myra, right now if you wish. Why are you so damn intent on taking me with you?"

"I can't just leave you here."

"Can't you?"

She straightened. "No."

Severus hit the table. "What business is it of yours how I choose to live my life? Who gave you the right to judge? So maybe this is not my ideal position, not where I saw myself, not how I wanted things, but this is how things are."

Myra seemed about to yell back, but the resolve left her. She looked at Severus, exhaling a long sigh of admission. Her eyes were a mixture of pity and warmth. "I can't just leave you here, Severus, because you are my friend and I love you. You're the only friend I've ever had and the only person I've ever loved, and you are too good for this. You are far, far too good for this."

He was silent. She looked at the floor.

"I never meant to hurt anyone," she whispered. "I never meant for it to turn out like this. I just...I never...oh. I can't even…" She held her clawed hands to her face. "Sev…can you...can you forgive me?"

He hesitated. "Who am I to forgive you?"

"You're who I have."

"Myra, I..."

He could sense the tension in her body. She didn't breathe. He saw in his mind's eye Myra hanging from a chain, limp, above a cold, windy, bottomless chasm. The image chilled him, a chill that reverberated to bone and back again. His friend was about to break. Keeping her together became more important than condemnation. He calmed himself.

"Is there anything in Stunner that could trace it back here?" he asked softly.

"No chemical markers, no."

"Is there anyone who you sold it to who can identify you?"

"I don't know. Before they died they were asking anyone in sight for it. Except-"

"Narcissa," Severus breathed.

"Oh, my god. Is she alive?"

Severus's senses prickled. The hex he'd cast on the lab door was being tampered with. There was a blast and a squeal, following by a muffled yell.

"Dobby and Lucius," Severus said. "Dry your face. Be still. Let me handle this. Hold on a second!" he yelled at the door. He took out his wand and removed the hex. The door opened to reveal a googly-eyed Dobby and and frustrated Lucius.

"Severus, why in the world would you put a hex on the goddamn door?" He glanced from Severus to Myra. "Ah, I trust your little field mouse is back with something that will revitalize that thing I'm to wed tomorrow. Come now, let's have it. No time to bloody waste, with hexes on the damn door and whatnot."

Myra went to her robes and dug the bottle out. She handed it to Severus.

"What is it?" he whispered.

"ReAnimator."

"Kind of harsh, don't you think?"

"It'll do the job."

"It'll have to." He held to bottle up to Lucius. "Yes, we have it right here. This should sort her right out."

"Good. Come along, Severus, let's get this over with. We've not a minute to waste."

Severus hesitated. "It's quite easily administered, really, you and Dobby can do it, as you see I've got a full sextet of cauldrons on the boil here and-"

"Let her take care of those," Lucius said, gesturing to Myra. "She's proven to be quite adept at such things. Come with me. I want you there in case anything should go awry. Hurry!"

Severus closed his eyes, sighed, and squeezed Myra's hand out of Lucius's sight. "All right. But make it quick."

"Hasn't that been my point all along?"

Severus glared, walking past Lucius with the bottle of ReAnimator. Lucius closed the door behind them, pausing to look at Myra with a knowing, cold smirk.


ooo

"Here now," Lucius said, opening the chamber doors.

Severus stepped back at the stench. "That's Narcissa?"

"I'm afraid so."

"You're sure you didn't soak a ham in vinegar and leave it in the sun?"

Lucius grunted.

Severus paused. "You're sure she's...alive?"

"Oh, she's alive." Lucius rolled his eyes. "She took the same stuff that's been killing all those idiots, but from what I understand, I got her off it before it could finish the job. Pity, really. I do wonder if this isn't love's true form." He gestured to his fiancee, lying on her side on the floor. Fluids had seeped from her into the carpet, forming a greenish stain around her. Her breath sounded like cellophane sucked through a bottle.

Lucius cocked his head. "A little color's returned to her face, and she's sweating...one sweats when a fever breaks, am I right?"

Severus ignored him and knelt down next to Narcissa, hoping his nose would numb itself to the smell. He pushed her shoulder, rolling her onto her back. Her eyes fluttered open, now a milky yellow as opposed to egg-yolk. She moaned. "Dobby," she said.

The house elf stepped forward. "Yes, Mistress?"

Narcissa looked up into Severus's face but there was no recognition. "Dobby," she said again. "Dobby, did you get me...more...?"

The house elf looked to Lucuis, who gestured to Severus. Severus produced the bottle of ReAnimator and handed it to Dobby. "Give her this," he said. "This is what she wants."

She reached out. "Dobby."

"Yes, I is here, Mistress." The elf sat cross-legged next to her, and put her head in his lap. "I have what you is needing." He uncorked the bottle of ReAnimator. A burst of sparkling purple smoke rose from it. Narcissa sighed. Dobby held the bottle to her lips. "Drink this."

He poured the potion down her throat, which she accepted eagerly. She smacked her lips, made a small cat noise, and seemed to fall asleep. Dobby looked questioningly at Lucius, who looked angrily at Severus. For minutes nothing happened, and Severus, oddly, felt no fear. Under usual circumstances, had he been unable to save Lucius's fiancee he would have been retarded with panic. As he looked down at Narcissa's motionless face he realized he didn't care whether she lived or died, what that meant for the Death Eaters, or what Lucius might do or have done to him.

Narcissa's back arched, her eyes flew wide as dinner plates. Her arms and legs spasmed and she hacked, hacked, hacked until a great green glob of slime erupted from her mouth. She sat up, emptying the rest of the contents of her stomach onto her lap. Sweat began to pour off her, torrents out every pore, her eyes draining in a steady flow. She looked up at her audience in horror, her face colored, her eyes back to their sharp cold blue, but cheeks still gaunt.

"Oh..oh my god. Oh my god." She looked down at herself, arms dripping. "Oh my god, what happened? Lucius - Lucius-?"

"Your own fault, cow," he sneered. "You'll pay for this."

"No, no, it wasn't, it was -" She paused, choking. "Oh god. Water. Water. I need water." She tried to get up towards the bathroom, stumbled and fell, leaving a trail of sweat. She crawled on hands and knees to the bathtub, choking. Dobby hopped ahead of her, turning on the faucets. She plunged into the tub face-first, bum and legs hanging from the edge, till she managed to drag herself into it entirely, submerging herself as Dobby fretted over her.

Severus jabbed a thumb in her direction. "Side effect," he told Lucius. "She'll need to soak a while. Re-absorb the fluids she's losing."

"How long?"

"A few hours."

"Will she come up for air?"

"Let's hope not." Severus lit a cigarette.

"Cheers to that," Lucius muttered. "Stupid, stupid harpy cunt. To get in such a state right before our wedding. Such fucking disrespect." He sighed. "I suppose I owe you a debt of gratitude, seeing as you fixed her."

Severus didn't respond, only smoked. He wasn't much in the mood to discuss debts or gratitude with Lucius. He wanted to leave that room of stink as soon as he possibly could, but he was exhausted, wanted to finish his cigarette, and, he realized, glancing at the bathtub, he had further business to attend.

Lucius lowered himself to the floor beside him. "Could I bother you for a fag?"

Severus wordlessly gave him the pack.

Lucius lit a cigarette and inhaled. "Quite some stuff, that Stunner, isn't it? Or rather, wasn't it? Had me worried for a bit there. Was cutting into our bottom line something awful."

"I told you, I'm not in the business anymore."

Lucius rolled his eyes. "I know, I know. Yet still, let's discuss this Stunner, shall we? You've heard the news, I expect, and you realize the Ministry is quite anxious to get their hands on whoever was responsible for this. I can only imagine what would happen to those people. Terrible, terrible things. And of course they think we're behind it. The Death Eaters, that is." Lucius leaned in close to Severus. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"

"About what?"

"About any Death Eaters involved in Stunner?"

Severus sighed dramatically, even as his chest went cold. "What are you getting at?"

Lucius stared hard at him. "Did you have anything to do with this, Severus? Were you trying, in your ninny little passive aggressive way, to put us out of business?"

"I'd never produce anything that clumsy and unprofessional. Don't insult-"

"Because," Lucius continued, "in the interest of said debts of gratitude, if you were to have been involved, well...I could see to it that you are never implicated. I have connections in the Ministry. A word from me and-"

"I wasn't bloody involved."

"Ah. Very well then." Lucius took a long drag off his cigarette and stared at Severus. "Do you have any idea who was?"

"Not a clue." Severus said, flat, but unable to meet Lucius's eyes. "Probably some kid who thought he was onto something. The whole production was too...unplanned, obvious, accidental. We're smarter than that. It was just some teenager with a potions kit in his mum's basement, I suspect."

Lucius looked at Severus, puzzled, for a few long moments. He sighed and took another drag off his cigarette. "Well. Let's just hope this kid doesn't come up with something just as addictive and a lot less lethal, shall we? We wouldn't be able to compete with that."

Severus smoked.

"Oh, and...I need a favor. I need you to speak at the reception tomorrow."

Severus choked. "W-what? Why me?"

"My other best man died from Stunner. Just make something up, you know, about love and chains and whatnot. You're literate enough. Oh, and make sure that Myra of yours is in attendance, will you, in case Narcissa has...difficulties?"

"Of course."

There was a splash and a flail from the bathroom. Severus leaned forward, looking a lot more interested than he actually was. Narcissa's wet blonde head popped above the rim of the tub, gasped, and went under again. Severus stood up, pretending to be alarmed, grabbing for his wand.

"What?" Lucius said.

"You may want to leave the room," Severus said solemnly. "I need a moment alone with her."

"Whatever for?"

"I have to do a supplemental curative spell and your presence may cause it to backfire."

"Surely-"

"Do you want a bride tomorrow or not?"

Lucius paused, looking from Severus to Narcissa and back again. "Fine." He put out his cigarette on the Persian rug. "I have things to do anyway. Just fix it." He stalked out of their chambers, slamming the door behind him. Severus waited till he heard his footsteps fade down the hall. He went to the bathtub, where Narcissa was peacefully submerged.

He thrust his hand into the cold water and grabbed her by the hair, yanking her head out of the tub. She spat and fought, but before she could scream he aimed his wand at her and commanded "Obliviate!"

Her eyes went soft. Severus pulled her face close to his. "You don't remember anything. You have no idea who sold you Super Stunner. It was passed to you by a perfect stranger in a club, you have no memory of his name or face. You know nothing. You'll be married tomorrow well, healthy, with all your faculties intact, but you will have no memory of where you obtained that drug. And you-" he aimed his wand at Dobby, "I order you, from now till your death, never to reveal where Narcissa got Stunner. Should you break this order you will wrap yourself in tin-foil, throw yourself into the nearest oven and broil yourself. Do you understand?"

"Y-yes, Master Snape."

He yanked on Narcissa's hair. "Do you understand?"

She nodded, what little she could.

He released her and she fell back into the bath.

"Soak," he spat,and stormed out of the room.


ooo

Barty was completely embraced. He'd never felt such a sensation before, as though he were a newborn kitten curled within the warm circle of its mother. He was sleepy yet his body hummed with satisfaction. It was so pleasurable to lie still, so pleasurable that he had to move, then to lie still again. He accidentally cracked a knuckle against the firm, warm body next to him, all around him, and it felt so good it was as though a demon was excorsized from the joint.

"I feel like I don't know Lucius anymore," Barty said.

"Nor do I," Voldemort replied softly.

"I don't think he's mine anymore," Barty said, not afraid of offending his new lover with mention of the old; the Dark Lord had emphasized that Barty could tell him anything.

"Nor mine. Well, he'll always be mine, you're all mine, but in that way...no. I've no interest any longer." Voldemort's soft, comfortably elongated, satisfyingly firm, shape-shifted body moved to accommodate Barty. The boy purred and snuggled.

"Oh no," Barty sighed. "I don't want him. Not anymore. Not if...I mean, not if..."

Something of Voldemort's, a finger, a tentacle, a proboscis of some sort, lifted Barty's chin. "Not if what, dear boy?"

Barty's watery blue eyes met his master's inhuman red ones.

"Not if I can have you," Barty said.

"You can have me, whenever you want if you wish, if you swear fealty to me," Voldemort said.

Barty giggled. "I did already, silly," and tapped Voldemort's no-nose. The Dark Lord blinked at the tap, like a cat. Barty giggled and tapped his no-nose again, and the Dark Lord blinked again. This little love-game went on for a few more moments, until Voldemort moved so his pale upper body hovered over Barty's and he looked directly into the boy's eyes.

"Say what's on your mind," he said.

"I...I swear to you that I'll love you and only you, forever," Barty said, somehow sensing this was what he was to say.

"And...?"

"I'll do your bidding, yours and only yours, forever and ever."

"And?"

"I'll...I'll do everything I can to see that your wishes are carried out, forever and ever."

"Even if...?"

"Even if...even if it means death or torture, I'll be yours and love only you, and be your faithful servant, forever and ever. Even if I have to break out of Azkaban, disguise myself as an Auror I've really locked in a trunk and pretend to be him for a year straight in order to perform a not-very-well-thought-out killing, I'll do your bidding, again and again and again, forever and ever."

Voldemort smiled. "Very good, my boy."

And then he slid and vibrated and adjusted his form to whatever he knew would please Barty at that moment, and in that way put another Dark Mark on him, in a very different place.


ooo

The sun was up and the cauldrons had been covered with wooden lids and left to simmer. For a half hour there had been calm and silence in the lab, and the whole Manor seemed to be at rest; only Myra and Severus remained awake, sure to give whichever potion that clockwise or counterclockwise left-hand stir whenever which timer went off. Severus was calmer than Myra but only by a small increment. He'd spent a great deal of the past night trying to convince Myra that he'd diffused the situation for the moment, that they were safe for one more day, that if they didn't show at the wedding someone would be sent after them with a lot less restraint than an officer of the Ministry.

"If we'd left last night we could have been halfway to Nebraska by now, Myra said, her face white. She was on the green couch with her knees pressed together and shoulders hunched.

"If we had some beans we could make beans and toast. If we had some toast."

"Thanks for that."

"Anytime." Severus lit a cigarette.

"Will you come sit with me?" Myra asked, her voice barely a whisper.

"Oh, don't start with the needy-"

"If you were going through what I'm going through you'd have shat yourself long ago, so get over here and sit with me, will you?"

He shook his head and plopped down on the couch next to her. "Would you like me to materialize a cup of chamomile tea while I'm at it?"

"Would you?"

"Honey and lemon?"

"Please."

Severus waved his wand. A steaming mug appeared in his hand.

"I didn't you'd actually do it," Myra said, taking the mug.

"It's just a damn cup of tea. It's not like I killed thousands of people."

Myra froze.

Severus hunched his shoulders. "Uncalled for. I apologize. I am a loaf."

"No," was all Myra could manage as she sipped her tea. "No, there's no way to make light of it. I wish there were."

"Don't give up hope. Anything can be mocked. Anything and everything. That's how we'd get through life together. Constant hilarity. You and I can make anything laughable. And I imagine there'd be plenty to laugh at in the states. Good god."

Myra cracked the barest hint of a smile. "You'd adore the politics. And the awful crap excuse they have for nightly news. The BBC makes American news look like twenty-four hour children's programming."

Severus shook his head. "Afraid I haven't much basis for comparison there, but I'll take your word for it."

"You honestly think you'd be comfortable in Muggle society?"

"I'm not comfortable in society, why should it matter which one?"

"Good point." She was silent for a moment. "We could live in one of the huge abandoned manses right on the Falls. We could have a lab, make new potions, perhaps even ship them from there to Salem for a little income. We could have a library and a sitting room, a nice big kitchen...oh, I miss cooking."

"You cook?"

"Used to. I can bake bread that'll make you come."

Severus rolled his eyes. "That's easy."

"Without magic."

"Ah! Well. I look forward to that."

She chuckled. "Coming?"

"Always."

Myra smiled. "I'm glad you've decided to come with me," she said softly.

Severus considered this. "It'll take some practice but I'm sure we can make it happen."

She hit him on the arm. "That's not what I meant, you ass." She sighed. "Running off with a fugitive isn't. I mean. It probably isn't the best way to get out. It wasn't what I planned. I mean I never planned on being a fugitive or all...all those people...this wasn't how I wanted it, Sev, I screwed up. I screwed up bad."

"Badly."

"Badly. Are you sure you want to come? Because I...I don't want you to get hurt. Not on my behalf."

Severus took a long drag off his cigarette. "How very gallant of you. And the truth is, no, I'm not sure. I'm not sure in the least."

Myra flinched like he'd blown a dart in her neck.

"What you said before is true. I hate the utter lack of respect here. I feel like I made a deal and that deal was reneged. I'm not getting what I was promised, but then, I think, I was so starry-eyed at the time, maybe I misunderstood...then again, what does one expect when one makes a deal with the Dark Lord?"

"You expect what you're promised?"

Severus shrugged. "I can't remember what I was promised. Not really. Not in any concrete way. What solid thing did I think was going to come of this?"

"I don't know what he promised you, but my blood isn't any more pure than the day I was born."

Severus leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "Maybe that's they key. This whole Death Eater thing is a bait-and-switch operation."

Myra nodded. "And you're not sure you want to come with me?"

He was silent for a few long moments. "When the choice, Myra, is to rot or to run...half of me says run, and the other half says hang yourself." He looked at her. "Running is the less painful proposition. So if I'm going to run, I may as well run with you."

He put his hand on her knee.

"Well. That's probably the sweetest thing you've ever said to me," she said.

Severus averted his eyes. Swallowed. "Earlier you said that you..." He trailed off. "That I was too good for this. I believe that's the only sweet thing that's ever been said to me. And perhaps the only true thing as well."

Myra gave him a sideways smile. "Leave it to you to self-aggrandize."

"You know me."

"That I do. So," she said, "can the man who just gave me a cup of tea give me a hug?"

He rolled his eyes. "You sappy thing."

"Come here." Myra wrapped her arms around him, resting her head on his chest. He sighed with more impatience than he actually felt, yet let his arms drape around her and his chin rest on her head.

"We need to start getting ready for the wedding," Severus said softly.

"Just like those sadists to hold the ceremony at nine in the morning."

"I'm sure the whole affair will be painful as possible," he replied.

"Bloody bastards." She raised her face to his.

He kissed her.

"What was that for?" Myra whispered.

"You started it."

"Did not."

"Did too."

She kissed him, a long, soft kiss. "I started that."

"Whatever, let's finish it," Severus replied. Their lips met and there sounded throughout the manor an earsplitting chime, as though a five story alarm clock had gone off in the front lawn. They jerked apart.

A voice boomed, "Residents of the Manor, please rise to meet a new day, the day of the Malfoy / Vontaine wedding It is now eight fifteen in the morning. This notice is to all those who may still be in bed - don't you think it would be a good idea to get up? It would be such a shame to be late. A deadly shame. Please remember that during the ceremony and reception there will be no apparating on or off the Manor, so if your robes are at the dry cleaners, you have a long walk ahead of you. Thank you, enjoy your respective breakfasts, and see you at the ceremony!"

"I told you they'd make it painful as possible," Severus said.

"We heard that," the voice boomed.


ooo

Narcissa Vontaine soon-to-be Malfoy was being strapped into a corset. She held onto a bedpost with one hand and chugged a bottle of water with the other. She was surrounded by at least twenty giggling, pecking bridesmaids, whose peachy youth and enthusiasm were a sharp contrast to Narcissa's still-sunken eyes and sickly complexion. Whichever bridesmaid was pulling at her corset strings yanked hard enough to make Narcissa spill the water over her face. A little went up her nose. She sputtered.

"As it's my wedding day, I don't think it'd be impolite to say I don't know who the hell half of you are," she spat. A few of the girls looked up in surprise. "Yes, you cows. What are you doing here? Are you Lucius's relations? Will I have to get to know all your names and pretend I care about your children?"

"Don't mind her, she's just a bundle of nerves this morning," said a silky voice from the door. There was a chorus of gasps. Voldemort had entered the bride's dressing room in full wedding regalia, which consisted of a white llama pelt fur so thick it nearly tripled his actual size. He slipped the coat off to reveal a form-fitting white unitard pantsuit, on which, in transclucent green sequins and feathers, writhed a Chinese dragon. He wore white silk gloves with (presumeably) blood-stained fingertips, equally blood-red lipstick, and huge black bug-eye sunglasses. His black hair was in sharp, slick braid down his back, and on his head was a red Chinese rice farmer's hat. The bridesmaids swooned and clapped as the dragon on his pantsuit swam across his chest and down his legs, where it hovered over the massive circumfrence of his bellbottoms. On his feet were fourteen-inch patent white platforms, which sparkled when little bits of matter and antimatter collided in the leather.

He shoved Narcissa's corset-stringer out the way and stood next to the bride, hands on her shoulders. "Congratulations my dear, you look fabulous this morning, like an absolute corpse. Whiter than the dress you're to wear. You've got some dark circles, my dear, have you tried a coconut compress?"

"You flatter me, my Lord." Narcissa replied.

"No, I don't." He clapped his hands and gestured at one of the bridesmaids. "You, get this woman a compress, stat, she looks overworked. But of course you would, I heard you were on a bender that'd put me to shame, you hedonistic, undignified little tramp. But you look fabulous, my dear, just fabulous, honestly. You look like a drab hotel maid next to me, but isn't that the point?"

"Certainly," Narcissa said through grit teeth.

Voldemort clapped his hands. "Oh, I just adore, weddings, adore them. I simply must be part of the pre-show." One of the bridesmaids handed Voldemort the coconut compress and he slammed it onto Narcissa's face, rubbing it around. "I. love. weddings! Barty!"

Barty appeared coyly around the corner, dressed in a black tuxedo. "Yes, my Lord?"

"Lover darling, make me a smoothie, will you? I'm parched from all this prep work, oh." Voldemort threw the compress to the floor and sighed, collapsing into an armchair. "Closest I'll get to being a bride myself one day." He gestured to Narcissa. "Dress her, you ninnies, dress her!"


ooo

The wedding was to be held in the expansive backyard of the Malfoy Manor, if one could call it that; it was not so much a backyard as a perfectly groomed, sparkling green meadow only little smaller than Iowa. The trees were draped with laurels of roses and white banners of silk. A great mass of chairs had been set out in rows facing the huge altar, which was hand-twisted of gold and steel into a complicated terrace of vines and blooms, complete with thorns sharp enough to draw blood. The guests had arrived fearful and early, and they milled about as a quartet played nervous chamber music.

The front of the manor was rife with Aurors making careful notes of who attended the wedding. Guards had been put upon them, as most were animagi disguised as common outdoor animals. Orders had been put forth to fire stunning curses upon any stray bird or cat which wandered too close, so as the day progressed the front of the Manor started to look like a Pink Floyd show.

One of these gaurds, a certain nondescript Grindow Holland, was taking aim at a yellow-eyed, scruffy black owl perched on a branch over the roundabout. Just as he was about to fire, he felt a hand on his. He turned, surprised to find a tuxedoed Lucius Malfoy.

"Not that one," he whispered.

Grindow lowered his wand. The owl flew up and over the roof of the manor to the backyard.


ooo

Severus had had to dig his old dress robes out of where they'd long ago fallen off the hanger in the back of his wardrobe. He was surprised to see that he still had them. The last time he'd worn them was to some ridiculous fancy-dress party the Dark Lord decided would be instantly held one winter night. The entire manor was forced to eat petit-fours and sip tea out of thimbles while speaking Old English dialect, then sit perfectly upright and listen to the Dark Lord recite a forty-seven page epic quatrain on manners he had composed. No one ever spoke of the tea party again, but for weeks afterward the fear that it would become a regular event hung heavily on the Manor.

He slipped the robes on and dusted them off, bothering only a cursory glance in the mirror. It wasn't worth it. Down the hall he met Myra, who wore a maroon paisley fifties house dress complete with moth-eaten petticoats.

"Ugh. Do I look like June Cleaver meets The Telltale Heart?" She smoothed her skirt.

"You look fine. Can I have a moldy cookie, corpse mum?"

"Oh, god. It's all I had."

He put his hand on the small of her back as they walked down the hall. "Come on, no one's here to look at us. I'll be a fair bit shocked if the Dark Lord doesn't fire neon doves from his armpits."

"Think Narcissa is walking?"

"She's fine, I'm sure. Re-Animator. I wouldn't have thought of that. Nice work. Oh good Christ." He stopped for a moment, holding his fingers over his mouth.

"What?"

"I just remembered Lucius asked me to give a speech at the wedding. I have to think of something to say."

"Are you kidding? Why you?"

"You killed his first choice."

"Fuck."

"If it's any consolation you didn't hold a wand to their heads and make then take Stunner," Severus said quietly.

"Don't bother. I plan on spending the rest of my life drowning in endless guilt. The fact that I'm still in shock is the only thing keeping me together. I'd kill myself as soon as we got to Nebraska, but then you'd be bored."

"You're going to entertain me with your endless self-pity?"

"Oh sure, and you'll do likewise. We'll be great team. You, me, and remains of the town I murdered. But hey, we can always liven things up with board games. And I have a great collection of 45's. But I mean... I'm going to be pure slime. Probably for years."

"Sounds...great. Hey. Cheering charms."

"There's that."

Severus's mouth twitched. He glanced at an alcove behind them where there was a window overlooking the reception. He gently took Myra's arm and guided her to it. They watched the crowd gather in silence for a few moments.

"I do have something," Severus said. "Something that could help you with that. A potion I formulated back at Hogwarts. Thoroughly illegal. It causes long-term memory loss, to be replaced with a history of the administer's choosing. You could, write down whatever history you want to remember, and I'll tell it back to you, and I'd never…."

Mya looked out the window. "You'd carry that burden for me?"

"Certainly. Myra, you've never been hesitant when I was in need of aid. Besides," he said clasping his hands greedily, "it gives me a chance to test it on a human subject."

Myra looked up at him, eyes wide.

"I'm kidding. Well I'm not, but I'm certain it'd work."

Myra was silent, looking out the window.

"It's an option," Severus said. "How do you feel about it?"

"Oh Severus," Myra said. "I can't feel anything." She put her hands on either side of his neck and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him. "Other than gratitude," she whispered, "that I ever knew you."

They kissed for a long time, longer now that there was no chime to interrupt them. Only the dark solid presence of the Manor and the ever-present shuffling footsteps, the light warm light through the window. They stood holding each other. Severus gently kissed her forehead.

A harried-looking Dobby watched silently from the hall, waiting for one of them to acknowledge him. When neither did he gave a polite, tiny cough. Severus gave the house elf a hawklike look over Myra's curly head.

"You must is coming going, Master Snape, Mistress Psue," he said. "Wedding is starting."

Severus's eyes met Myra's. "Are you ready?"

"Yes." She squeezed his hand. "Let's go."


ooo

"...and of course, I had killed six wizards before breakfast and hatched a plan to do away with most of Manchester when I heard Lady Malfoy was in labor. So I promptly designed some protective spells for the boy, spells of such genius and magnificence they've never been matched by any wizard, anywhere, ever, by anyone, and never will be. Oh, and I almost forgot, a week before that I had begun the outline on my soon-to-be-bestseller "How I Conquered The Wizarding World (And Now You Are My Slave)", which will be released as soon as I have usurped all power from the insignificant witches and wizards that dare challenge me. Yes, that was quite a day. That was the day little Lucuis Malfoy was born."

Lord Voldemort, who stood in front of the bride and groom wearing a priest's collar, smiled and nodded toward Lucius. "And now here we are, on this joyous day, as man and woman are to become Man and Wife."

Lucius squeezed Narcissa's hand, not so much out of tenderness as to keep her awake. She had almost nodded out twelve times during the Dark Lord's fifty minute speech. She startled, smiling numbly at Lucius and Voldemort. The groom glanced out to scan to crowd to see if anyone noticed, and for a millisecond met eyes with Severus, who sat near the back of the congregation next to Myra. Lucius's eyes rested longer on her than Severus, which registered as unusual somewhere in Severus's mind, but quickly filtered away again.

He glanced at Myra. Her face was stolid and unreadable, somewhere else. He nudged her with his elbow. She looked up with a start.

"All right?"

"Nervous."

"Don't be," said the woman next to them, beaming. "They'll have beautiful children."

There was a long pause.

"Right," Severus said.

Voldemort boomed, "by the power vested in me by myself, I now pronounce you Man and Wife! You may kiss the bride."

There was thunderous applause as Lucius took his sleepy bride by the shoulders and kissed her roughly on the lips. White rose petals rained down from the trees as he mashed his mouth to hers and put her back solidly on her feet. Lucius made a sweeping gesture to Voldemort, who bowed with as much modesty as he could muster. The gathering leapt to their feet.

"And now..." Voldemort began. He waved his hand and tables appeared, piled high with tiered silver platters of food. "We eat! Eat, you maggots! Eat your fill! EAT!"

Everyone stared at the Dark Lord, startled silent.

"Excuse me," he said. "I just love weddings so. I get all worked up. I SAID EAT!"

The guests charged to the tables assigned to them on the cards they had received before the ceremony, some knocking each other over in the process. "Christ," Severus muttered as he located their table and pulled out chairs for Myra and himself. They watched the Death Eaters running past in a flurry, collapsing into their seats as though the record kept skipping in their game of musical chairs. Myra and Severus glanced at each other, the only still people in the mass of confusion.


ooo

The bride and groom toasted the gathering, toasted each other, toasted Lord Voldemort, as the guests ate plate after plate of delicate pastries and endangered species. Severus chewed numbly on a sparkling onion tartlet as he tried to piece his speech together. Myra was very still, shoulders tense, pushing the yolk of a quail egg around an otherwise empty plate.

"Severus," she said quietly, "when do you speak?"

"After this guy, I think." Some portly, drunken uncle was guffawing about something or other as Lucius looked on, barely trying to hide his boredom. Narcissa looked hypnotized by the ropes of her sixth glass of champagne. They and the rest of the wedding party sat on a raised platform under a white linen sunshade. Voldemort sat in the center on a huge throne strung with perfect white roses, a house elf hovering over his glass with a bottle of champagne, pouring every time the Dark Lord took a sip.

Myra glanced up at the afternoon sky. "It's getting late."

Underneath the table Severus patted her knee. "Don't worry about it. Everything's going according to plan. After my speech we'll slip out of here and no one will be the wiser."

She bit her bottom lip, nodding stiffly. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "It's a beautiful day, at least." She watched as a breeze rustled the garlands of roses that decorated the nearby copse of trees, sending a gust of warm, rose-scented air their way. Despite himself Severus inhaled deeply and was filled with a momentary sense of peace.

Myra's hand slipped into his. She squeezed.

"You'd best eat that," Severus said, nodding to her egg yolk. "Long day ahead."

She smiled. It didn't touch her eyes.

"Come on now," Severus said. "Just keep your mind on those pretty roses over there. All right?" There was a cheer and applause. The uncle had finished his speech. Glasses clinked. "I think this is me," Severus said.

Myra leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Good luck."

He squeezed her hand. "Thank you." He rose, straightened his dress robes, and made for the stage. Myra watched him go. She scooped the egg yolk into her fork and swallowed it, then took a deep breath and looked towards the roses as Severus has instructed her. She concentrated on the scent, on the different hues of pink, on the way they pushed against each other in the breeze, and in between them she saw two luminous yellow orbs shifting out of the darkness. Her breath stopped. It was a pair of eyes, a pair of shining, luminous, jewel-like owl eyes.

Myra held her hand to her mouth, hypnotized.


ooo

Lucius had suggested something about love and chains for Severus's speech. Severus's mind remained a total blank, but he wasn't nervous. Public speaking was not one of his fears. He knew something would appear in his head once he was on stage. He stepped up onto the platform to shake Lucius's hand.

"Severus," Lucius said. "Thank you so much for all your help."

"Of course. Congratulations." He nodded towards Narcissa. "Congratulations to you too. You look stunning."

Narcissa smiled coyly at Severus. "Say that again?"

"No time for foreplay right now, Narcy, my dear, Severus has a toast to make. Here you are," Lucius said, pouring Severus a glass of champagne. Severus took a slug. He looked out towards the tables. Somewhere near the back he located Myra. She was looking towards the copse of trees with some interest.

Severus cleared his throat and tapped on his glass with his wand. The gathering grew quieter, glaring up at him. He was yet another in a long line of people who'd interrupted their conversations and meals.

Lucius leaned forward and said, "This is Severus J, Snape, our potionsmaster and my dearest, oldest friend." He lovingly clapped Severus on the shoulder, gave a big, broad smile, and settled back into his seat. Severus stared at him, momentarily thrown.

"Yes," Severus began. "My dearest and oldest friend, Lucius Malfoy."

Something in him began to turn nauseated and cold. He pushed the feeling down.

"It is true," he began. "I've known Lucius since we were first years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We were...practically inseparable in those days. Not so much any more, as the pressures of adult life have busied us, Lucius with things I'm sure I don't know about," he paused for light laughter, "and myself with...well, with the requests of you fine people. The bombardment of requests, day and night, constantly, both nessecary and not, by you fine, fine people before me.

"Lucius, being my oldest friend, has always expressed his friendship in unique ways." He paused. "He has shown his friendship to me throughout the years by faithfulness when he was in adversity. He always encouraged my talents and thereby always benefitted from them. He never let anything get between us, especially not my wishes, and he's never failed to remind me just how much I have to gain by my years of association with him. And yes, I have gained a tremendous amount by having Lucius Malfoy stolidly at my side.

"I have gained mostly knowledge. Knowledge about trust, about failure, about respect of the self. I've learned from Lucius the capriciousness of human nature. But the most important thing I learned from Lucius Malfoy is the difference between a false friend," he glanced back Lucius, "and a true one."

He searched the crowd for Myra. Her seat was empty. His heart skipped a beat as he panned the crowd for her. There was a spot of movement by the copse of trees. Myra was there, neck craned, staring at something above her. She stepped into the forest and out of his view.

"I...I..." Severus said. He raised his glass hurriedly. "I wish the couple a lifetime of happiness. Congratulations, Mr. And Mrs. Malfoy. Here here."

"Here here," the crowd said. Severus made to rush off the stage. Lucius stopped him, grinning. "Thank you Severus, beautiful speech."

"You're welcome," he said. "Congratulations to you both." Severus hurried down the steps trying not to look hurried, then slipped into the copse after Myra.

"Dammit," Lucius muttered, watching him go.


ooo

Severus stalked the relatively dark copse, shoulders hunched and head forward like a bull. "Myra," he hissed, "Myra!", but the trees yielded nothing. The air was deep, organic, and thick. The light through the canopy was dim, what little of it came through the leaves was a soulless gray-green, illuminated by floating specks of golden dust.

His chest was tight and there was a chill on his skin. He pulled his cloak around him, noting that the shade alone couldn't account for a temperature differential quite this drastic. He ignored the discomfort and searched on.

What in the world could have dragged her in here at a time like this?

He stepped lightly over the gnarled roots of a billion-year-old tree. He put his hand on the rough bark, circled the trunk, and saw her. She stood with her back to him, arms limp at her sides, staring up at something in the trees above her.

"Myra!"

She tilted her head towards him almost imperceptibly.

"Have you gone mad? What are you doing in here?"

She pointed up. "Look," she said.

Severus walked to where she stood and looked up. In the branches above them was the sharp silhouette of an owl, black save two eerie golden eyes, which stared down at Myra as fervently as she stared up at them.

"That's...that's a very nice owl, Myra, but we have to go now." He put a hand on her shoulder, trying to move her. She shook but didn't budge, slack-jawed, fixated on the bird.

"Come now, it's cold in here, Myra." He took her hand. "Let's go, now. Let's go."

Severus looked up at the owl, which didn't acknowledge him. He was tempted to fire a curse at it but not before he knew what he was dealing with.

A twig snapped behind them.

Severus whirled.

Lucius Malfoy appeared, dashing in his white tuxedo. He held his hands clasped behind his back. He bore a closed-mouthed, expressionless smile and oddly glinting eyes.

"Severus," he said.

"Ah, Lucius. You'll have to excuse my hasty exit, my assistant here-"

"Why don't you get back to the reception?" Lucius interrupted. "The band's playing waltzes and we'll be cutting the cake soon. The Dark Lord's so festive he's started casting prospertiy charms. You wouldn't want to miss that."

"No no, not for the world," Severus replied, clapping both hands on Myra's shoulders. "I think my assistant here has had a bit too much to drink, as you can see. Just let me get her sorted and we'll be right there. Myra? Myra!" Severus turned back to Lucius, feigning sheepishness. "Just like her, you know, one glass of champagne and she's blitzed."

"She's not drunk. I'm afraid she's quite hypnotized by that animagus up there."

"Animagus?" Severus looked up at the owl. "But...who?"

Lucius sighed. "Please go back to the reception, Severus.

Severus paused, calculating, pushing down the fear brewing in his blood. "I'd really rather see to it that she's sorted if you don't mind."

"Severus, please. Go back to the reception."

"Lucius...what is going on here?"

The blonde man shook his head. "I was hoping you wouldn't have to bear witness to this but you leave me no choice. Ah, well." Lucius jutted his chin up at the owl. "Moody!"

The owl vanished from the tree and reappeared on the ground. In that speck of time it had broken eye contact with Myra, who woozily fell back onto Severus's hands. She shook her head, dizzy, wincing. Severus watched the bird as it crumpled and grew and mutated into a hulking, scraggly-haired, rounded-chin man with pitted skin and a disheveled, singed wizard's cap.

"Malfoy," he grunted, voice saturated with disgust.

"So glad you could make it," Lucius said. "Please, please, let us make our proper introductions. Severus, this is Alastor Moody. You may have heard of him. He works for the Ministry as an Auror."

Severus's blood ran frigid. He'd certainly heard of him.

"And this, Moody," Lucius continued, "is Miss Myra Psue, with whom I know you are familiar. Miss Psue seems a bit out of sorts but I'm sure she'll be right as rain in a moment." He adjusted his jacket. "The other afternoon, as I was sorting through some old files, I saw something quite shocking, Severus. Something quite shocking about our friend Miss Psue."

"Can we bloody well get on with this?" Moody grunted.

"All in due time, Moody. Severus, you see, I discovered that Miss Psue, this quiet, nondescript little mouse," he lifted her chin with his index finger, "was responsible for the Tokyo Falls Massacre. Seven thousand innocent souls Can you imagine such a thing? And you can imagine I knew the proper authorities must be notified posthaste?"

"I can't imagine that, no," Severus replied.

"It was rhetorical." He gave a heavy sigh, "I'm afraid that the Manor can't keep such a murderous fugitive under its employ. We try to do our part for the Wizarding community, as you know, and Moody knows."

Moody snickered. Lucius artfully ignored it.

"Severus ... Severus, what's going on?" Myra muttered to him, blinking awake.

"Shh," he said.

"So you see," Lucius continued, "I gathered the evidence of her crime - quite a bit available in those files, you know, more than enough to convict, and sent them off to Mr. Moody here, who presented those files to his superiors. He has returned to us, with, sad to say, a warrant for her arrest and sentence." Lucius made a grand gesture towards Moody, who stepped forward, unrolling a scroll he'd taken from his cloak.

Moody began, "Miss Myra Psue, you have been found guilty of seven thousand counts of murder in the first degree, an offense punishable by-"

Myra evaporated. Severus stumbled forward, sucked in by the vacuum of air she left. A small brown lizard skittered over the dead leaves.

"There she is," Lucius said calmly.

"I see her," Moody replied, training his wand on her. An instant passed. A explosion of light burst from Moody's wand and Myra burst forth into full human form, running like hell. Lucius fired something red and glowing at her feet, which tripped her. Myra flipped on her back, trained her wand on Moody, firing something slick, silver, and sharp from her wand. There was an arc of blood as Moody stumbled backward, holding his hand over his face, yelling - another burst of light not a millisecond after the first and Lucius hit the ground, face contorted in pain as he held his shin to his chest.

Myra got to her feet and charged away.

Severus ran after her.

"Get her!" Lucius shrieked after him.

Myra glanced back at him, eyes wide, as though for a second she expected Severus to actually be chasing her with the intent to "get" her, but it only took a moment of contact to know this wasn't the case.

"Don't follow me! Go away!" she cried, dodging behind a tree.

"Myra! Myra, stop!" He put forth his fleetest foot and caught up with her, taking her by the shoulder to force her to a stop. She wriggled away from his grasp and aimed her wand at him.

"Don't make me." Her lip quivered. "Please, Sev."

He put his hands up. "Myra, listen to me-" he replied before he knew he had nothing for her to listen to.

"He sold me," she whispered.

Severus was speechless. "Yes."

"You have to get out of here, Severus. You have to get away from me. Something awful's going to happen. It's here. It's here in the forest, I know it." She held her wand steady on him. She shook her head, eyes welling. "I knew it would happen. One day...one day I knew this would come around for me."

"Don't talk nonsense!"

"Go," she pleaded. The cold turned smoky and demanding. Myra trembled. The frustrated voices of Moody and Malfoy echoed. She jumped. "They'll kill me, they'll find a way, it's only a matter of time."

"Apparate out of here," he commanded. "I'll meet you when I can."

"I can't," she said.

"Of course you can."

"No, I can't, and neither can you. The entire Manor is blocked for the wedding. Oh, it's coming, can't you feel it?" Her teeth began to chatter.

"What's coming?" Severus asked, though he felt a deathly chill and knew. He knew that sick cold that came over them like wet concrete. The air became too thick to breathe, and miasma of misery hit him like a hammer to the throat.

Myra rocked back and forth on her feet before falling to her knees, as a dark, floating, scabby-handed, hooded creature floated on a mist from the depths of the dark copse. Every bit of warmth left them.

"A dementor," Severus said. "Moody brought a demetor." Severus raised his wand, weakly, as a lifetime of hurt and destruction bubbled within him. "Expecto...expecto...," he fell to his knees. There wasn't enough to summon a Patronus.

The dementor hovered over Myra, savoring her. Her long black curls blew away from it, as though that was the only part of her capable of resisting the creature's lure. Severus was so lost in his own world of pain he could barely see her.

"It's finally come for me," she said, dropping her wand, awestruck.

"No."

She closed her eyes and gave a deep sigh, looking almost beatific with the great demon hovering over her. She studied the endless pit of it's face. "There I am," she whispered.

"No!" Severus reached for her, his arm like jelly. "No, Myra!"

The dementor leaned in. Myra took Severus's hand through the watery winds of a dementor preparing his kiss.

"Promise me," she said, "promise me one thing."

"Anything."

Her eyes seared his. "Get out."

She squeezed his hand. A spark of warmth transferred from her to him, and she tilted, back arching toward the demon, eye beginning to shut, mouth beginning to open, her body going limp as the tiny sapphire sphere of humanity rose from her throat.

No. Not like this.

Severus reached for his wand, aimed it at Myra, and screamed "Aveda Kadrava!"

She collapsed. The dementor gave a high-pitched, inhuman shriek, fleeing from the bright green flash. Severus's arm went limp at his side and he fell to the ground, watching the glowing marble of Myra's soul as it hovered for a moment over her body, then shot off into the sky.


ooo

He woke staring into the gaping maw of a vicious monster.

Gasping, he batted the offending thing with his hand and hit rubber. The impending maw jerked away and back again, and he held his hand to his chest; it was just Jackson staring down at him from the bedpost where he hung. Severus exhaled sharply, resting back down into his pillow, glad to be done with whatever nightmare he'd just finished.

"I can't believe you still have that thing," said a voice next to him. Lucius sat beside him in his wooden desk chair, one arm slung over the back, his strange white boot on Severus's mattress.

"What are you doing in here?" Severus asked.

"Waiting for you to wake, of course. You've been quite ill."

"I've...what?"

"The dementor came after you when it couldn't get to her. Had your soul halfway out your body before I stopped it. You're welcome, by the way, and yes my patronus is fabulous, I know."

Severus looked slack-jawed at him, momentarily baffled, before the previous day's events came rushing back to him. His breath stopped.

"Myra," he said, before he could stop himself.

"Yes Myra," he replied. "I've been ever so curious about that. I found her not so much a soulless shell as completely dead. I was wondering if you could possibly illuminate me as to how that occurred?"

Severus felt a stabbing in his chest. "I've just woken up, Lucius, could we do this later?" He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, trying not to reveal any pain.

"I'm afraid not, it's of the utmost importance. Miss Psue was to suffer the loss of soul as per dementor's kiss, not death as per whatever killed her. Moody would have investigated but he had other things to worry about. So I'm to report back to him. For his files, you see."

"Since when are you conspiring with Aurors?"

Lucius snorted. "Since always, you fool. How do you think we keep this operation running? The Malfoys have a long history of lacing the pockets or reputations of certain members of the Ministry. It's tradition."

"Why her?" Severus asked, the knife in his chest twisting.

Lucius raised an eyebrow. "Why not?"

"She was a knowledgable assistant," twist, "and as you've taken her expertise from me I think you owe me an explanation."

Lucius rolled his eyes. "Fine. But only because it's you." He sighed. "I owed Moody a favor from a while back, so I said I'd turn over this miss Tokyo Falls fugitive. Made him look good, great for the papers, we had a deal. She was a peon, after all. No one would miss her."

Twist"That can't possibly be all," Severus said.

"It very well could possibly be all, but, my astute friend, you're right, it isn't. You're aware that Miss Psue was behind Stunner."

The stab turned into a pickaxe. "I told you I don't know anything about that."

"Oh, that's right, you don't know a thing, amazing how she slipped that under your gigantic nose." Lucius rolled his eyes, snorted. "You see, Severus...in the drug game, there's a thing called supply and demand. Your Myra invented this Stunner. Now, she could have come to me with it, and perhaps we could have gone into business together, the three of us. But she chose to go behind my back and pirate my customers. She couldn't have been very smart, else why would she do such a thing?"

I wanted to make another life possible for us, she pleaded in Severus's mind.

Lucius stretched, resting his hands behind his head like a cowboy. "I wasn't about to let that scheming rat shut me down. So I shut her down first. Good thing, too, she was a fierce little bitch." He glanced down at his leg, the white boot resting on Severus's bed. Severus realized it was not a boot at all, but a cast. "Cunt hit my femur with some degenerative spell. The healer said I'll have to walk with a cane now, do you fucking believe that?"

Severus was speechless.

Lucius shrugged. "The only reason I'm not more upset is that there's a wide array of very fashionable, distinguished canes and I'm betting I can start a fashion. Besides, it could have been worse - Moody lost an eye. A fucking eye. That woman was dangerous. Good riddance to her. That reminds me - how did her riddance occur?"

There was a moment of silence before Severus whispered, "It was me. I - I killed her."

"In self-defense, I'll be kind to presume?"

"Yes," Severus replied hoarsely. "May I rest now?"

Lucius did not hear the request. He was smirking down at Severus, quiet, smug. "I hope, my friend, that you learned a lesson from this."

Severus closed his eyes. "What lesson?"

Lucius looked hard at Severus, so hard Severus could feel it through the thin shelter of his eyelids. "About what happens to people who cross me. How fortunate it is," he said slowly, "that you aren't one of those people."

Silence. There was a fire in Severus's chest but his face didn't betray it. He imagined he was one of his own cauldrons, that he was set for a steady, low burn, and inside him was the potion that would eventually peel the flesh from Lucius Malfoy's wretched bones.

"I'd like a shipment of metapmorphine ready for sale day after tomorrow," Lucius stated softly. "You'll have it ready?"

Under the sheets Severus dug his fingernails into his palm. "Of course."

"Good then," Lucius said, clasping his hands. "I'll let you get your rest. A pleasure, as always." He rose from his seat, unsteadily, step clump step, step clump step, his new gait accompanied by his new cane. The door shut behind him and Severus rolled onto his side, elbows in his stomach.

"At least you got him in the leg," he whispered. "Good on you, Myra." He thought of her hair, her little face rising to kiss him in the hall before the wedding, the feel of her cloak, Nebraska, her different laughs, her glasses sliding down her nose, and then he saw her, and she said-

Promise me one thing.

"Anything," he whispered.

Get out.

Get out of the Death Eaters.

Severus sat up, wiping his face. How the hell was he supposed to get out of the Death Eaters now, without her? And even if he did get out, where would he go if not Nebraska with Myra, to live their quiet little hidden-away life?

Get out, you tell me. Get out how?

He was hot.

He throw the covers off and was startled to see he was still in his dress robes from the wedding. He sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, then stood, slipping the robes off. He walked towards the closet to hang them. His foot caught on something. He looked down to see he was dragging by the handle, from underneath his bed, the bag of trinkets he'd bought that day with her, the rings and clothes and other useless things that now seemed nearly holy, and in the bag he saw a glint, a corner, of gold.

He picked it out. A gold envelope. Minerva McGonagall's gold envelope.

Open this when you're ready.

Severus turned the envelope in his hands. It gave no hint as to its contents. It didn't feel like a curse, or for that matter anything ill-intentioned. It felt strangely compassionate. The envelope knew his woes and inside was a way to fix them. But what could the note inside possibly say to make things right?

Severus considered the envelope, and was compelled to put his dress robes back on. He sat on the edge of the bed, turning it over and over and over in his hands. He thought of smug, self-loving Lucius Malfoy, of being stuck under him, forever. He thought of the Dark Lord, who'd promised him so much and had made so much of his talents, who barely remembered his name. He thought of Myra.

He gently slipped his nail, then his finger under the seal of the envelope. There was a white card inside. He took the card and there was a great rush of air past his face and he was somewhere else, somewhere he'd been before, on the floor of a tall circular office covered in portraits of headmasters past.

He leapt to his feet. There were wands trained on him, a total of ten aurors surrounding him, five on each side of the desk where Albus Dumbedore sat. Severus panted, looking from Dumbledore to the aurors and back again.

Seeing Severus was unarmed, Dumbledore motioned for the aurors to lower thier wands. They did, slowly.

"A pleasure to see you again, my boy," the old wizard said. A chair rolled out to meet him. "Please...have a seat."


ooo

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup and slither while they pass they slip away across the universe...

He'd heard the song, for the first time in a long time, as he walked though Diagon Alley an afternoon a few weeks later. It was stuck in his head, but as it was a beautiful melody, it was welcome there.

Nothing's gonna change my world...

Potions for the lab. Supplies for Lucius's metamorphine. Right. It would be busy in the lab today, the Death Eaters were planning an attack and needed a specific subset of potions, the purpose of which Severus had divined as best he could earlier in the day for Dumbledore. He would have sent his new assistant Grindow Holland out for the supplies but he professed to need some fresh air.

Fresh air.

After their first meeting the old wizard sent him careening back to the Manor, shell-shocked yet exhilarated. Right back onto his bed he landed, sitting up, holding the envelope, next to the wand he'd foolishly not thought to grab. There was a knock on the door. Severus was silent, terrified. Had someone heard him return?

"Is Master sleeping?" came a small voice. "Is Dobby, here with soup, sir."

Severus pushed the envelope under his pillow. "Come in.

The house elf opened the door, carrying a tray with a covered bowl of soup, a mug of something warm, and fresh daisy in a tiny vase. "You meal, Master Snape. Where would Master like it?"

"Oh, just on the desk is fine."

The house elf put the tray on the desk. "Is there anything else you is needing, master?"

"No, no, I'm fine, thank you, Dobby."

"You is feeling better, sir?" the house elf asked entreatingly.

"Yes, I'm much better."

Dobby stepped towards the door and poked his head out the crack. When he was satisfied no one was coming, he said, "Dobby is sorry to hear about the Master's loss, sir. Dobby knows Mistress Psue did not like him, but Dobby is sorry besides." His voice lowered to a whisper. "Dobby is brought something for you."

The elf reached up onto the tray and handed Severus a fancily folded napkin. "I is thinking you would want them. Good afternoon, Master Snape." The house elf bowed and left the room.

Severus unfolded the napkin. Inside was a pair of thick-rimmed glasses. Myra's glasses.

After that day Severus had adopted his usual routine, adapting back to his work environment so fast even Lucius was surprised. He took to his duties with graven silence and extreme diligence. He did whatever Lucius ordered, letting the newlywed prince think he'd broken him. He made the metamorphine on time, recited poetry to a bored Narcissa, did whatever was asked of him with the obedience of an old dog.

He never mentioned Myra. He did not so much as twitch when he started his early mornings in the lab and saw her supplies just as she had left them, tirelessly awaiting her return, just as he suspected a part of him always would be. When Grindow Holland began work in the lab and used her bottles, gauges, and beakers, Severus managed to restrain from strangling him, instead commending him on a job well done when he produced unsubtle potions with soulless, robotic effeciency. He allowed Myra's presence in the Manor to pass quietly away into history everywhere but in him. He slipped her glasses into the inside pocket of his cloak when he went to meet his contacts in the Order.

No one suspected a thing.

In fact, there was only one instance in which he had even been alarmed, and it had to do with Barty Crouch. Since the wedding the boy had been strutting around the Manor, newly calm and silent, his childish giddiness replaced but some newfound maturity and pride. The boy had begin to look oddly at Severus whenever they passed, and Severus, still paranoid, began to worry he knew something. One day Severus decided to engage Barty in conversation, just to see

The boy was in one of several lounges. He held a martini and gazed out the window over the expanse of backyard, sitting back with authority. He looked not unlike to a contemplative, stern Lucius Malfoy. He turned the stem of the martini glass between his thumb and index finger while Severus ordered himself a vodka neat.

"Barty," Severus said, "long time no see."

"Hm."

"How have you been?"

"Fine, thanks. Yourself?"

"Well. Mind if I have a seat?"

"I'd be delighted." Barty gestured to the chair opposite him. They sat in silence for a few long moments, listening to the birds chirping outside and the gentle piano in the next room. Severus drank his vodka.

"Barty," he began, "I can't help but notice there's something different about you."

Barty smirked. "Really. How so?"

"Oh, just...hard to pinpoint, really. Your carriage."

"My carriage?" he snickered. "What do you mean?"

"I mean you carry yourself with a new sort of...dignity, I suppose."

"Was I undignified before?"

"Oh no, not at all," Severus said quickly. "But you were, I might say, rather emotional about Lucius's marriage."

Barty laughed. "Lucius? Ha. I can't believe I was so wrecked over such a pansy fruitcake." He shook head head, taking a long drink of his martini.

Severus was wide-eyed with amusement. "You don't say?"

"I do say."

Severus paused, unsure whether to press on, but his curiosity got the better of him. "What happened, if you don't mind my asking, to cause such a change of heart?"

Barty looked reflective for a moment the lean forward, closer to Severus, his face cruel and smug.

"When you have a creature like the Dark Lord as a lover any mortal thing seems awfully boring. He's taught me power like I never knew. I never understood I was so much. I've been enlightened, Severus." He leaned back in his seat, rasing his glass. "Cheers."

"Cheers."

Their glasses met, and Severus realized not only that his double agent dealings couldn't be further from the boy's mind, but that Severus had no more feeling for him, sexual or otherwise. He sipped the bitter vodka. As he watched Barty's self-satisfaction the thought occurred to him that what he had been attracted to in Barty was not his body but his innate purity, a purity that now been quashed by the ministrations of a fiend. Whatever Severus had sought in him was gone.

Now that men were just men he found it easier to work, easier to keep up the charade he pulled every day, every moment. All he had to do was stay under the radar, where everyone expected him to be. He reported to Dumbledore, whose pride in him was an infection Severus didn't want. He resisted the old man's offers of candy and comfort, instead giving him flatly the information he requested in return for protection, for a new life, when the time came.

He'd kept his promise. He had gotten out.

Night after night he finished his work, closed down the lab, pocketing various thing he found that were Myra's, put them in a wooden box in his closet. A pen, a feather, a book. He folded her tiger pelt corset, neatly, and closed the lid. He found Nebraska on a map, cut it out, and put it on the box. He imagined the house they would have lived in, nights of experimental potions and coffee. Sometimes, late at night in his bed, he thought he saw a blue light in the corner of his vision but it was never there. He woke in the morning. He went back to work.

As time went on Dumbledore became more and more demanding, in his softly manipulative way. Severus tried to crush the resentment when the old wizard asked for the impossible, seemingly unappreciative of the risks he was taking even though he made every effort to show how appreciative he was.

Death Eater plans started to be unraveled by the nigh supernatural knowledge of the aurors. They were getting smarter, everyone figured, thinking more like them. New tactics would have be to attempted. New strategies tested. Voldemort called meetings, often, to inform the Death Eaters of what they needed to know, and seemingly to boost morale.

They gathered before the Dark Lord, kneeling, their marks burning as a reminder of their service. Lucius and Narcissa bowed as well, but Barty Crouch stood near Voldemort, head held high. Everyone was beginning to have a healthy fear of Barty, of his growing fanatical devotion to the Dark Lord.

For this particular gathering Severus was in the front row. He knelt, his head bowed, as Voldemort spoke.

"My faithful Death Eaters, it is you, you who will usher in the coming of the new age. The new age of power. And you will be rewarded greatly in the end. Your work will be the joy of your descendants for generations to come. Rosier!"

Rosier looked up.

"You, Rosier, have shown fealty to me unceasingly though the years. I thank you. And you, Wilkes, have performed acts of savagery, so elegant in their execution - you have made yourself indispensible. And you, Snape."

Severus looked up, up into the face of Voldemort, and saw there, for a moment, the face of Dumbledore, then Voldemort again, and saw that they two were, for all intents and purposes, interchangeable.

The song came back to him. Nothing's gonna change my world...

The Dark Lord took Severus by the chin, his gentle fingers cold. He smiled down at him, his lipless, serpentine smile. Severus didn't breathe.

"Severus Snape. Of all my Death Eaters, I know you would never betray me."


death eaters at the malfoy estate


the end