|The Black Road X: Grains of Truth
Author: Guede Mazaka
“I entered a room
* * *
Behind the gauzy gray curtain, Voldemort’s figure whipped restlessly across the room. His robes smoothed out his shadow so he looked as he had always had, but his stride was distinctly shortened, and a jagged rasp occasionally intruded into his voice when he was not careful. After his feet slithered Nagini, her head held high off the floor as she trailed him like an anxious hound.
“How is the Black creature?” Voldemort finally hissed.
Severus rested his forehead against the floor and filled his mind with the cold of its stones. He pressed his palms flat so they would take on the chill quicker, and cease trembling. It had been three days since he’d collapsed in his house, and in those three days the Dark Lord had withdrawn into silence so profound that even people like Pettigew had begun to wonder on it, broken only by a peremptory sending for Ginevra Weasley to attend him. And shortly after that, Voldemort had burst out of wherever he’d taken himself to, and called his followers to him with such force that Severus’ head was still reeling.
“His physical strength is improving.” The curtain was only a few inches from Severus’ fingertips, and though it hung so that several inches of its bottom portion were heaped up on the stones, the fabric sometimes billowed and rose slightly due to a some breeze behind it. The air in Severus’ half of the room was still and stale. “By the end of the week I believe he’ll be fit for you to examine without there being any danger that we might lose him beyond the Veil again,” Severus judiciously added.
After the incident on the sofa, he and Black had come to some sort of temporary truce insofar as they could communicate tersely without being violently waylaid by the rise of old grudges—at least, not as often as before. Black was in fact recovering much faster than Severus was telling Voldemort, and felt that he could stand up to an interview with the Dark Lord, but his inability to keep past and present separate in his mind still lingered. It appeared to be more and more sporadic, but nevertheless Severus preferred to delay the meeting. Too much rode on Black’s ability to convince Voldemort that he had no mind of his own left.
If it had been dependent on Black’s ability to merely appear witless, things would have been much easier, Severus savagely thought. He immediately suppressed it, but not soon enough for Voldemort to have missed a vague impression of it. “Severus…twice now, Potter has managed to penetrate my innermost sanctums and suborn people whom I thought harmless or loyal…people about whom I had no worries whatsoever. Consequently I am disinclined to make leaps of faith.”
“My lord, you know I have always been loyal to you,” Severus breathed. He didn’t need to force himself to inject pure fear into his voice.
He didn’t dare raise his head either, but he knew that Voldemort’s shadowy figure was looming directly in front of them. Then Voldemort abruptly turned and walked towards the opposite end of the room. His stride was slower and noticeably uneven, and when the wind behind the drapes blew, Severus smelled something sickly-sweet, like blossoms crushed in blood. And it was nearly that: unicorn’s blood.
“I know you haven’t, but in this case it works to your advantage, Severus,” Voldemort replied in an almost kindly tone. He drew to a stop. Then there came the sound of Nagini’s hissing and the click of nails across her scales as Voldemort caressed her. “I already know under what circumstances you’ll betray me.”
The Mark flared up so quickly and brutally that Severus saw a false image of it imprinted on his vision, which had flooded with red. He arched up with the pain, then snapped over and fell onto his side. His teeth were chattering and his limbs shook uncontrollably for what seemed like hours, though when the pain abruptly stopped, he knew it had not even been a minute.
“So. You still answer to me…” Voldemort’s thoughtful tone faded away in a rustling of cloth, accompanied by the occasional click of his robe’s heavy embroidery over the stones. “Narcissa has decided to revert to her maiden name, as both her husband and son are clearly renegade. The Malfoy family from herein out shall be considered apostate, and treated accordingly. I will see Sirius Black in three days—no more and no less—in the Time Room.”
“My lord,” Severus choked out.
The sounds of shifting robes and Nagini’s scales scraping over the floor gradually faded away. Then Severus heard a door closing at the very far end of the room behind the curtains, and decided that constituted enough of a dismissal. He dragged himself to his feet, feeling as if every bone in his body had been filled with slow-eating acid, and got himself back to his estate as soon as possible.
Ginevra had succeeded, Severus assumed, but he’d not dared to attempt a check on Grimmauld Place or her whereabouts since then. During Voldemort’s three-day absence, the Death-Eaters had been thrown into disarray by a series of horrendous discoveries: the slaughter of Macnair and his household, the inexplicable destruction of Malfoy Manor that had just preceded Voldemort’s abrupt silence—the rumors over that had nearly paralyzed the lower ranks with fear and confusion. They’d needed a leader, orders, anything to tell them what to do if not what was going on, and in Voldemort’s absence Severus and Rookwood had had to handle that in order to prevent anarchy. There’d been no time for anything else, let alone trying to slip into Grimmauld Place.
A thousand other questions nagged at Severus and nibbled on the raw ends of his nerves as well. He didn’t know what had happened to Lucius or where the man was—if he was even still living. A difficult conversation with a distraught Narcissa had convinced him that the Death-Eaters were somehow being prevented from finding Draco, which should have been relatively easy due to the Mark they all shared. And Potter hadn’t bothered Severus in a week now.
“Home, are you? So Voldemort still doesn’t think you’re a threat to him? Merlin, but I am impressed with the arrogance of the bastard,” Sirius said from behind Severus. He was leaning against the doorframe, one skeletal arm slung about himself. When Severus turned and began to walk towards him, Black’s eyes only unfocused once, and the man apparently got hold of himself before he blurted out any incomprehensible babble about long-ago events. “What’s the score?”
“Voldemort has lost a Horcrux—you do remember what those are, I hope? I’m tiring of explaining that over and over to you.” Severus continued walking past Black and through the doorway, intending to retire to his laboratory. He still had the other two Horcruxes to track down and increasingly little time in which to do that.
Black turned about on his heel and reached out to grab Severus’ elbow. “I know. He’s thinking about them all the time now. Whining. He almost died, didn’t he? I mean, again—no, I—”
“What do you mean, he’s thinking? What are you hearing?” Severus snapped, stopping to look back at the other man. He saw the fit start to come over Black and with a sigh, walked back to give Sirius a rough shake.
But as soon as he put both his hands on Black’s shoulders, the growing confusion in Black’s eyes completely disappeared. Instead they were piercing and far too aware; some dulling ignorance was necessary for the day-to-day compromising that made human existence possible, but that’d been stripped away from Black in a ghastly fashion. “He helped bring me back, didn’t he? There’s—” Black’s mouth twisted “—something left of that between him and me. Sometimes…sometimes I think I could almost reach out and…pull on it…”
“It wouldn’t stop him for long, even if he decided to take it as an invitation to shed his body for yours.” That had been a possible motive of Voldemort’s that Severus hadn’t even considered till now, and the words chilled him even as they passed out of his mouth to flavor the air with sarcasm. It was…not too probable, since Black’s body was in far from ideal state, but nevertheless it was something to keep in mind.
“Yeah, but you should only need a couple minutes, shouldn’t you? He can’t be wearing that many layers of robes,” Sirius said.
For a moment, Severus merely stared at him. Then he shoved Sirius back against the wall. Hard, so the idiot’s elbows rattled. “Black, I am not stripping down Voldemort under any circumstances unless I first know that he is in fact carrying a Horcrux on him and exactly where to find it.”
The other man’s head cracked hard against the edge of the door-frame. It stayed tipped back, then slowly came down as Black laughed in a grating, malicious note. “Touchy, Snape. I remind you of a bad experience with Voldemort?”
A wash of dark virulent red splashed over Severus’ vision, and he barely willed himself not to strangle Black. He concentrated on thinking on other things…strategies for obtaining the other two Horcruxes’ locations. In that Black’s suggestion did lead to some fruit—if Black was to be taken to the Time Room at the old Department of Mysteries, then that sort of distraction would make it easy for Severus to slip into the Hall of Prophecies nearby and see if that location contained one.
“You’re starting to think I’m not such an idiot after all.” Black raised an eyebrow at whatever look Severus was giving him, and lifted his hands to pry his shoulders out of Severus’ grip. “I don’t have any damn link to your mind, but I know you pretty well. Even if I can’t always get it in the right order…”
“What do you think you’re doing?” Severus asked, watching Black push himself off the wall and come to stand beside him. The other man had kept hold of Severus’ forearm, fingers nervously squeezing it, and was leaning far too close.
Sirius laughed again, but this time it appeared to be at himself. “You should’ve noticed by now—I don’t lose my mind so much around you, and Merlin, that’s ironic. Whatever you’re doing in your dungeon, I want to help. You’ve got to convince Harry that he can’t kill you because that’ll hurt me, don’t you? Better start doing a better job of that.”
“Fine. Now let go of my arm,” Severus tersely replied after a pause. He would rather have broken Black’s neck. He would rather have provoked Voldemort into killing him so he no longer had to claw and struggle for every next breath of air.
Something of that must have shown on his face, and moreover, must have cut through to touch whatever particles of sympathy Black had left. He looked at Severus and the lines of his face slowly turned sober and thoughtful, which tested Severus’ temper even more sorely. Then he dropped Severus’ arm, but he shuffled a little closer. “It’s cold,” he observed.
“It’s warm now compared to how it’ll be later.” Severus drew his robes about himself and stiffly stalked towards his laboratory with his unwanted, understanding companion.
* * *
Harry braced his hip against the sink, which left Lucius with the choice of either sitting on the edge of the bathtub or on the toilet if he wanted to rest his feet. He chose to stand. His heels hit the tub and the thud echoed around the small room.
“You back up any farther and you’ll be arse-down in there,” Harry said. Without the jacket’s padding, he looked rail-thin and fragile, with elongated wrists that jutted from his cuffs. The skin of his hands was so thin that Lucius could see the blue veins in the back of it, and the skin of his face was waxen like that of a doll’s. “Don’t tell me you’re that scared of me.”
“Doesn’t that seem like a natural reaction for me to develop?” Lucius reached out for the towel-bar and held onto it for support. Three days of surviving on what little he could do with wandless magic and blundering about the Muggle-way had taken its toll on his strength, and he was already feeling a little faint. But he preferred not to position himself lower than Potter—at least not till he understood what arrangement there was to be now.
Shrugging, Harry looked down at the sink. His eyes roamed over the counter before finally settling on the ancient straight razor Lucius had found in the medicine cabinet. He picked it up as Lucius watched in mesmerized terror and ran his fingertip along the flat of the blade, which was still damp. “You didn’t even try to kill me.”
“Crucio didn’t work on you, so it seemed like a logical presumption that the other Unforgivable Curses would have a similar effect,” Lucius said. He made an effort to drag his eyes away from the razor and focus on Potter’s face, but his gaze always wandered back.
The razor-handle spun between Harry’s fingers, then stopped so he held it between the tips of his index fingers. Red began to bead up around where the blade-tip was pressed into his finger. “You don’t have your wand anyway. But you could’ve done it the Muggle way, or is that still too beneath you?”
“You’re not human, so how could I be sure those would work either?” Lucius grated out. “I thought you’d be happy that I am, in fact, taking my vow seriously. I said I’d be loyal to you.”
“And here I thought it was more like I was talking, and you were so damn scared I was going to hurt your bloody heir that you were finally listening.” Blink. Harry had pushed off the sink and was in front of Lucius with the razor just resting on the hollow between Lucius’ collarbones. He leaned forward so his hair partially obscured Lucius’ view of the blade and his breath blew softly, warmly over Lucius’ face. “I didn’t kill Voldemort—came so damned close, goddamn—so he’s still alive, you know. Didn’t get the piece of soul still in him either, so there’s still work to do. Trying to get some of that for yourself again? Curry favor?”
All of Lucius’ nerves had seized up so badly that he didn’t want to take a breath lest he trigger the sudden release of one and accidentally throw himself onto the blade. But breath was necessary for speech, and he had to speak. “I am trying to stay alive. I want to live, and I want you to leave Draco alone. But whatever I do, you seem to find fault with—”
They were so close that the air of Harry’s laugh lightly slapped Lucius in the face. “That’s so rich, coming from you.”
He settled back so Lucius could see, and gasp at, the sudden flick of his wrist. One button flew off to bounce from the wall to the floor. Lucius sucked in his breath.
“Where are we?” Harry said.
“I thought you already—” Another button fell beneath the razor, and this time the blade nicked the shirt as well so Lucius felt the slightest graze against his breastbone. He licked dry lips and started again. “The manor house appeared to be a total loss, but I was able to find a broomstick and fly us out. We’re in a small house about twenty miles away. It’s one—it’s where Draco stays—stayed whenever Voldemort or any other high-ranking officials visited the Manor. Since he’s disgraced, I…didn’t want to expose him to them.”
Harry snorted. He lifted his hand and turned it around so he could slide his knuckles from the base of Lucius’ throat to the third button, where he flipped his hand so he could cut off that button as well. His last three fingers slipped into the gaping shirt and lightly feathered over Lucius’ skin, while his index finger and thumb held the razor so its tip skated over Lucius’ shirt. “To keep him safe, I’m guessing. Not that he really sees it that way.”
“What would you know about my family?” Lucius hissed. Then he carefully pressed his lips together as the razor blade suddenly snapped downwards.
It pressed through the shirt fabric across his nipple, not quite deeply enough to cut. “A lot by this point, I’d say,” Harry dryly said. “Now tell me why I shouldn’t kill you right now. You were supposed to stay within Voldemort’s organization and distract him while Snape worked, but at this point he’ll just kill you on sight. What use are you to me now?”
Lucius’ disbelief was strong enough to temporarily overcome his frightened fascination with the blade scratching circles around his nipple. He lifted his head and stared at Potter. “What? Did you—you expected me to take Voldemort’s offer and go with him, and leave you there?”
“It seemed like a logical presumption,” Harry sarcastically drawled. He arched an eyebrow at Lucius.
A sharp pain suddenly slashed over Lucius’ third left rib and he flinched away; the backs of his knees hit the edge of the bathtub and he teetered, then fell. His outstretched hand hooked onto the towel-bar and he managed to pull himself forward enough to land on a sitting position on the tub edge, but it was too precarious a perch and he quickly slid down to the floor, banging his shoulders against the bathtub. His feet skidded out to either side of Harry, who swiftly knelt so when Lucius began to pull himself up and forward, there was a razor pricking his throat.
Something was sucking very lightly at the cut along Lucius’ rib, looping and relooping itself so his shirt rustled against him. He didn’t need to look down to know it was one of those damned shadows. “Well, when one has to choose between two evils, one generally wishes to keep within sight the evil that seems more dangerous,” Lucius breathed. He lifted his chin a fraction and leaned away, but Harry pressed forward with the razor an equal amount so it made no difference. And suddenly, Lucius desperately had to laugh. “Damn it, Harry—as if I enjoyed Voldemort’s treatment of me lately any better. He wasn’t ever going to forgive me.”
“Neither am I.” Harry stared into Lucius’ eyes without any obvious expression, but it gradually became clear that Potter was…puzzled. Without looking down, he brushed off the shadow lapping up Lucius’ blood. Then his hand pressed downwards till it cupped Lucius’ prick through his trousers. “What do you call this—going with the winner?”
“At this point, I’d be very amused if anyone tried to use that word.” A little fragment of the harsh, sardonic laugh coiling itself within Lucius dribbled out; the movement of his throat made the razor dig deeper. The fingers on his prick slowly, sensuously splayed and slid down, then back up so he took a hitching breath and the razor pricked again. “Oh, Merlin, Potter. Yes, you can torture me all you want, but you could ask as well,” Lucius said almost good-humoredly. His hysteria over the whole situation had risen to such a high level that he no longer knew anything else, and so he was perversely insulated from shock by being submerged in shock. “I’m exhausted of Voldemort. I simply don’t want him in the world anymore, and you can get rid of him.”
The front of his trousers suddenly loosened, but the stricture of Harry’s fingers swiftly replaced it. They curved behind Lucius’ balls and gouged their nails up into the delicate skin behind them so Lucius couldn’t help arching. His own nails scrabbled against the tile.
“For you?” Harry asked.
Lucius closed his eyes. His prick was rising, which put as much hot blood into his cheeks as was pooling into that treacherous member of his body, and all the nerves in his skin were jumping and twitching with fear, with arousal, with sick anticipation, and somehow the most distinct feeling he had was fatigue. “I’ve come to understand I won’t live long enough to see it. But as long as I know he’s gone from the world as well, it doesn’t really matter, does it? It’ll save me the bother of living through the long and convoluted reconstruction that’ll have to follow.”
After several moments had passed, Lucius began a mental count. He’d reached seven when the razor withdrew from his throat and Harry’s fingers from his trousers. He opened his eyes.
The world spun wildly, then crashed into the floor; Lucius barely threw up one arm in time to keep his chin and nose from smashing on the tiles. His other arm was wrenched behind his back, and when he made the mistake of turning over, Harry yanked up his free arm and swiftly pulled down his shirt to knot it tightly around Lucius’ arms. The popping of the remaining buttons sounded like a brief rain-shower, a false illusion of relief.
Lucius kicked backwards, but only struck the side of the tub. It rang resoundingly through the room, deafening him so that next he knew of Potter was when a weight clamped itself around his waist and something jerked back his head by his hair. A long, thin streak of hot snaked wetly around Lucius’ ear so its tip touched itself. Then Harry’s tongue whipped back into his mouth so quickly that it lashed Lucius’ skin and made him shudder; he bucked upward just as Harry leaned forward so he briefly felt the impression of an erection against his buttocks.
Nails scraped across the front of his thigh and over the top of his trousers, now rumpled halfway down his hips, to take hold of his prick again. “See this hasn’t lost interest yet,” Harry murmured. He undulated against Lucius, his mouth dragging back and forth over Lucius’ nape. “You, ready to die? Tell me another one, Malfoy.”
“I said I knew I was going to—that has nothing to do with being ready for it,” Lucius snapped back. He jerked against the grip on his hair, but only succeeded in getting teeth sinking deep into the side of his throat. He subsided and Harry squeezed his prick till he was whimpering and squirming against the floor, body begging even if his mouth wasn’t. “Between you—and Voldemort—I’m dying. I’ll end up dead and I can’t—do—anything—”
He couldn’t lie still, he couldn’t struggle. In the end he moved with Potter, rolling his hips as Harry skinned off his trousers and rubbed a hand roughly between his knees, turned his head to expose more of his neck as Harry’s mouth worked it raw and throbbing. He never would have wished for this or wanted it, but as it was, this was what he needed. No more illusions of control, no more pretending that the world hadn’t gone terribly, terribly wrong, no more thinking that mere gloss could suffice. Because the world was all askew and it never had been spinning in Lucius’ hands to begin with and he couldn’t take it.
Harry put his hand on the back of Lucius’ neck and shoved him down so hard pain jarred from his cheekbone down through his jaw to his shoulders. He slumped, then went stiff when Harry’s tongue invaded him: it stabbed up and in, it coiled back on itself and flicked over every spot that made Lucius whine and then it expanded the width of its coils so he was forced open and ready. He screamed into the tile before Harry had even lifted his hips, and it seemed as if he didn’t stop till the convulsions of his own body finally made his throat close. And Harry fucked him all through it, rough and snarling, burning Lucius from inside-out with his abnormal heat, and longer till Lucius was weakly trying to move away and then till Lucius was simply limp and unresisting.
Potter was surprisingly undemonstrative, considering all his fury. His fingers gouged a fraction deeper into Lucius’ hips and he slammed into Lucius one last time, so hard that Lucius felt the outline of Harry’s balls against his buttocks, and held the position rigidly for the space of one long shard of breath. Then he withdrew enough to drop onto elbows and knees. He rested a moment before pulling out entirely.
Lucius laid on the cold tile and felt sweat and come and a little bit of blood slowly start to dry on him. He listened to the footsteps as Harry walked over to the sink and turned on the water, splashing it about a bit. Then Potter dressed himself, opened the door and walked out. A few seconds later, he returned to kneel besides Lucius. Something hard and cold and sharp hooked beneath Lucius’ chin and forced him to look up: Harry with his cane again. “Harry, I’d almost…say you were envious…given how you…enjoy using that.”
Harry tucked the cane beneath one arm and substituted his hand for holding up Lucius’ chin. He sat down crosslegged. “Don’t call me that. Do you know where Snape lives now?”
He pulled upward so Lucius either had to let his head be wrenched off his neck, or had to sit up. Pain permeated Lucius’ whole body and mingled with extreme exhaustion, but in spite of that…he did want to live. Damn Potter—he struggled upwards long enough to maneuver himself over Harry’s legs, then collapsed awkwardly. His head ended up on Harry’s shoulder, and Harry draped his arm around Lucius’ waist so they made an odd parody of a lover’s embrace. “What happens after you kill Voldemort?” Lucius asked. “Do you get your second chance at life? Your happily-ever-after?”
“Do I win, you mean?” The bite in Harry’s voice was unexpectedly ferocious, but before Lucius could analyze it very deeply, Harry had sunk fingers into his hair again and used it to wrench Lucius about for a kiss.
It was that in name only; in intention, it was a mouth-claim that did not touch on the softer emotions at all. His lips had Lucius’ mouth shocked open in a second, and the advantage he took of it was best characterized as rape.
But the desire for life was too strong for its own good. Lucius hated it, understood it and in the next second, found himself yielding to it without reservations. When Harry pulled away, Lucius tried to follow with a whimper even as his stomach snarled itself in bitter disgust. “I know where Severus lives,” he whispered.
“Good. We need to get back to London first and see if Voldemort’s on his feet again, but after that we’ll visit Snape.” Harry pushed Lucius against the wall, then prodded him onto his side with the cane. Something slashed through the shirt wrapped around Lucius’ wrists before Harry withdrew.
“And your godfather,” Lucius added. He was a little too slow in turning back over, so all he saw of Harry’s reaction to that was a fast-disappearing flash of…rage? Rage mixed with wistfulness and frustration. “Harry—”
That earned him a sharp kick in the thigh. “Don’t call me that,” Harry snapped. He went out again, then came back with a fresh set of clothes for Lucius.
The most help he offered after that was to dampen a hand-towel in the sink and offer it to Lucius, for which Lucius was actually rather grateful. Perhaps having a full understanding of his circumstances, drawn in unmistakable terms, would be the key to ultimately finding a way out of it, but the method by which he’d gotten that realization had left him too raw for much contact with others.
“Draco is alive, by the way,” Harry abruptly said. He was leaning in the doorway again, but facing the mirror. He did have a reflection, but the mirror showed a man with strangely dull eyes, as if all the emotion had been charred out of him. “I haven’t really done anything to him.”
Lucius paused with the fresh shirt in his hands. He watched the fabric shake, then quickly unfolded the garment and began to put it on. “Why not?”
Harry’s mouth grimaced into a humorless smile. “Because I used to feel sorry for him sometimes, and I might feel something when he dies.”
The obvious implication of course was that Harry wouldn’t feel a thing over Lucius’ death. But there was something else, something Lucius doubted Harry had meant to reveal. Thinking on it, Lucius did up his last shirt-button. He looked at himself in the mirror: haggard, bruised and cut, with a near-mad glint of desperation in his eye. Then he turned around and leaned forward to brush his lips over Harry’s mouth.
Harry didn’t react, so Lucius pressed forward and fully kissed him, soft and pleading like a whore. The next moment, he was bouncing off the opposite side of the doorframe, jaw stinging from Harry’s blow and sorenesses all over his body flaring up. “Don’t touch him, please,” Lucius said, letting himself sink to the floor.
He glanced up at Harry, who was gazing at him through narrowed eyes. Once Harry drew a breath as if to speak, but never did. Instead he abruptly spun on his heel and walked out.
Lucius remained on the floor, staring after him. He slowly lifted his hand and fingered his jaw, where the old cuts were throbbing again. Then he hesitantly drew his thumb down one of them, and slowly drew in his breath. He let out his breath a good deal quicker as he grabbed hold of the doorframe and yanked himself to his feet. He went back into the bathroom and did a better job at tidying himself up.
But Lucius’ mind still was on the ground, looking after Harry, and it was very much in disarray.