Tangible Schizophrenia


The Black Road VIII: Suited Pairs

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R. Violence and themes.
Pairing: Harry/Lucius, Severus/Sirius, implied Harry/Draco.
Feedback: Good lines, typos, etc.
Disclaimer: These characters are J. K. Rowling’s, not mine.
Notes: AU. Does refer to all the books up to HP:HBP, and does not draw on the movies except for visuals (because the only one I ever saw was the first).
Summary: Things get rearranged. And rearranged, as Voldemort and Harry head for a meeting.


“For WAR consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known.”
--Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes

* * *

He was a rat in a cage. Mere hours after the departure of Macnair’s team, Lucius’ lovely, beautiful home with its large windows and airy rooms was sickeningly stifled in silence. Even the house-elves had been taken away in case Harry Potter’s mysterious knack for earning their trust manifested itself once more, so when the light flowing through the windows became too much, Lucius had to tear the curtains from their ropes by himself. He went through an entire wing before frustration finally gave way to exhaustion, and then he staggered to his bedroom.

The windows there taunted him with their sweeping views of the countryside, so he ripped shut all the curtains before he crawled onto his bed in trousers and linen under-shirt. He laid on his back and stared at the ceiling, wondering when his dizzying descent had become so fast that he didn’t even feel the nausea anymore.

Of course, this had been entirely what Harry had been hoping for, and so whenever Potter got around to showing up, he’d be thrilled. Pity he’d have no one to meet him at the property line and invite him in; Lucius might be trapped, but he had no intention of acting the animal. He had watched the wards go up and he had gritted his teeth while a half-dozen wizards trained wands on him as Macnair had ripped Lucius’ own from him, and he knew beating his head against the wall would be a useless endeavor. He had accepted that some sort of accommodation with Potter would be necessary, but he was not about to go licking Harry’s shoes for it.

Narcissa’s parting shot had been to the effect that she was severing all ties to him, effective immediately, so that she would no longer have to sit about holding his hand. She’d be free to find Draco. Lucius had alternated between wanting to slap her and wanting to beg her to send him some news. In the end, he had coolly nodded and asked for the return of her wedding ring.

He turned over on his side and looked at his left hand, with its double-ringed finger. He did hope she found Draco, he decided. At least she cared about him in some fashion; Lucius didn’t trust Potter a moment with his son.

Somewhere along the line, the aches of pride and flesh caught up with him and lulled him into a sleep that was dreamless, but nevertheless filled with a sense of unease that never quite allowed rest to approach. He twisted and turned, once surfacing so near consciousness that he knew himself to be in bed, with a strong desire to rise, but could not force his body to obey him. His limbs were leaden and the more he struggled with them, the more they sank into motionless. Eventually he drifted back into the deeper reaches of sleep, still clawing at himself.

His back slowly warmed up, and somehow the warmth spread to his limbs so he could move a little. He stirred, encountered a resistance behind him that yielded slightly before becoming very firm, and sluggishly moved towards waking. Sensations took on the bizarre magnitude of dreams before scaling down to fit reality: the weave of the pillowcase beneath his cheek seemed to press into his skin so hard that he could count every thread, the sound of his breathing seemed to double.

His muscles were cramped, belatedly doing what he told them to do, so he stretched in an effort to loosen them. Oddly enough, his shirt continued to ride up even after he’d resettled on the bed. It grew fingers and scratched lightly at his chest before coiling on itself and splaying down the deep collar. Something hot and wet and thin lightly slapped the back of his neck, then began to slowly spin over his skin, and at that point Lucius’ eyes flew open.

In the same moment, the hand on his chest became the hand pinning his wrists to the mattress, and a second hand pulled his head back by the hair. “Good morning, Malfoy,” Potter purred. He pressed himself along the entire length of Lucius’ body as his nails dug into the flesh behind Lucius’ ear. “I see Voldemort wasn’t happy at all with his dead werewolf.”

“You’ll be bloody lucky if he doesn’t end up sending you your own,” said Draco. Draco.

Lucius sharply inhaled and tried to push himself upward without thinking. He was immediately jerked back down and rolled over so Harry could assault his throat; an initial stinging pain over his pulse slowly turned into a low throb that erratically tried to match the rhythm of footsteps approaching from the door. His voice stuck in his throat no matter how he willed words to emerge.

“After all, Voldemort apparently thinks the resistance is backing you, so—Merlin.” The footsteps stumbled back a bit from the bed. “Merlin. What the hell are you doing, Harry?”

At the same time, Harry rose so he blocked Lucius’ view of the proceedings, and he made sure it would stay that way by wrenching Lucius’ wrists above his head and then clamping his free hand on Lucius’ jaw. He yanked Lucius’ head upwards so something cold and very, very thin could snake over Lucius’ throat. It settled itself near the bite Harry had made, which Lucius could feel oozing blood, and a tiny ice-dagger of a tongue started to lap at the wound. “I already told you what,” Harry irritably said.

“Well, telling’s one thing, but this is—excessive.” The bed rocked as Draco leaned heavily against one of its posts. His voice was strained. “Merlin, Harry—just who are you trying to fuck with, anyway? Him or me?”

“Ever think it could be both?” Harry said. His shoulders suddenly dropped and he leaned towards Draco, eyes half-lidded and lips parted enough for his tongue to twine out, do a sensuous turn in the air and slip back into his mouth. He was still vibrating with tension, but now it was the tension of a confident predator waiting to spring, and not that of a desperate, wildly flailing soul. “Has that thought ever crossed your mind at all? You’re so damn egotistical, you know. You never did want to share anything. Food, honors…hell, even torture. That’s pretty damn twisted, even for you lot.”

Draco’s breath hitched. Lucius twisted harder at his arms, but only earned himself a tightening of the vise that saw his wrists pass from fiery pain to numbness. He attempted to pull up his knees and get enough leverage to shift Harry’s weight, but then the thing feeding at his neck stabbed deep into him.

It felt like an arrow of ice as it went in, but once it’d breached Lucius’ skin, it quickly flaked into a thousand shards, each one freezing down his veins and nerves with incredible speed. He was frozen in mid-gasp, and—

--Lucius finished his gasp with a near-hysterical feeling of relief. He slumped back into the bed, then lifted his arms…his arms. He gouged his nails into the bed and clawed over onto his stomach, then into a sitting position. Strands of his hair flew about him and stuck to his face in a gauzy, annoying veil, but he didn’t waste time pushing them out of the way. He stared wildly about for the other two.

“I didn’t think you were that far gone. Plus I thought you didn’t give a damn about your father,” Harry said. “Nice try, but that spell doesn’t work on me anymore.”

Lucius whipped around and around, but though he could hear Potter, he couldn’t see a trace of him or Draco in the room. The chill in his body ceased its slow recede and began to pool in his gut.

“…noticed…” Wherever he was, Draco could barely talk. His breath was ragged as a beggar’s clothes when it came at all, and it caught awkwardly every so often in the way that only a person being strangled could produce. “…bloody idiot, we came…trap…and you’re…trying to…to…

Something snatched Lucius’ gaze to the floor the next time he looked over the near side of the bed: Draco’s wand, fallen and rolled so it just peeked from beneath the bedskirt. Lucius threw himself to the very edge of the bed and grabbed it, then craned about to look at the ceiling.

Harry was on his hands and knees on it, so at ease in his improbable position that even his hair and clothing acted as if he were right-side up: levitating via normal magic never produced that effect. Draco, on the other hand, had his back to the ceiling and Harry’s hand wrapped tightly around his throat. He was yanking at Harry’s wrist, but in that position gravity was inexorably working against him.

“Trying to attract Voldemort’s damn attention so he’ll get here and I can get this over with,” Harry muttered. “Of course he’s going to expect me to maul your father first. How would I ‘find out’ where the locket’s at here?”

“It’s not here,” Lucius called up. The wand pressed hard up into his clenched fingers so it nearly bent the bones, but he didn’t dare risk any spell. He couldn’t. Even if he somehow found one that would work on Harry, he couldn’t risk hitting Draco, or not being able to levitate his son in time should Harry drop him. “Why would Voldemort leave that here, if he knows you’re looking for it?”

“…trap…” By now Draco’s face had gone from red to blue, and was now nearing bruise-purple. He weakly pulled at Harry’s arm, then twisted and attempted to throw off Harry.

Potter easily dodged and simply lifted his knee so Draco’s leg, formerly pinned, was suddenly free to dangle. The jerk of its weight caused a flash of pain to distort Draco’s face.

“It’s not here, damn it! Whatever you need, Draco doesn’t have it and you know that, so leave him—” Lucius was so intent on his son’s face that the blur of movement on the ceiling startled him into leaping back. Then he scrambled forward, realizing what had happened, and frantically cast a Levitation Charm at the thing falling from the ceiling.

Draco instantly stopped in mid-air, half-curled into a fetal position. He continued pulling his legs in towards himself and coughing so that when Lucius finally set him down, he was muffling his racking wheezes in his right knee.

“Of course it’s not.” When Lucius spun around, wand still up, Harry was leaning against the bedpost on the other side. He looked at the tip of the wand, which was shaking so much it swung in wide arcs, then contemptuously flicked his eyes up to Lucius. “Voldemort thinks I’m about as great an idiot as Draco does.”

“Then why the hell are we here?” Draco rasped, still coughing. A glance over one shoulder showed Lucius that Draco had recovered enough to sit up and sneer. “Wasting time? Or are you trying to make one of your points to me? I got the message the first time around when you gave it to Weasley, Potter: don’t get close to you.” He paused. “Actually, I think I got it back when Diggory got himself Avada’d.”

“Draco!” Lucius was torn between getting off the bed and slapping his tactless suicidal brat of a son and finally bending his head to beg Potter for mercy. He settled for staring at Harry’s face and hoping desperately that Harry wasn’t that offended.

Harry’s face had frozen briefly at the mention of Diggory’s name, but he relaxed almost at once. One corner of his mouth twisted upwards. “Well, I was beginning to think you didn’t give a damn about that. Given how you tossed yourself at me earlier and all.”

That rendered Lucius completely speechless. He lowered his wand and slowly turned back around to look at Draco, who by now had gotten to his feet. A well-defined bruise in the shape of a hand wound itself around Draco’s throat, which he was rubbing hard. Despite that, Draco stared back at Lucius with sullen defiance mixed into resentment. “Oh, what?” Draco snapped. “Thanks for catching me back there, father, but that sort of thing’s been a bit too infrequent lately for me to believe in it. Obviously I’ve got to look after myself now.”

“Not like that. You’re a Malfoy--”

“And we’re just higher-bred, I’ve come to think. You still sold us to Voldemort.” Draco angrily pulled at his clothes, rummaging inside of his coat. He came up with one of those disgusting Muggle cigarettes and stuck it between his lips. His eyes met Lucius’ and without looking away, Draco lit up. “So I was right. This was all just an object lesson.”

A sarcastic laugh from Harry, who’d slid one hand into his pocket and was leaning on that arm when Lucius looked at him again. “You’re amazingly self-centered, Draco. No, actually I did come here on business. I wasn’t expecting to get the locket—I was expecting to get Voldemort. After all this build-up, he’s going to want to see me himself, at the very least.”

Voldemort…because he’d had to have kept one part of his soul back, Lucius suddenly remembered. When he’d been reading, he’d glossed over that detail because he’d assumed Potter would collect all the Horcruxes before he went for that piece. But that didn’t necessarily have to happen; Harry could take on Voldemort and try to extract that fragment, and if he did, then Voldemort would have to break a Horcrux himself in order to reconstitute himself. “Then why bring Draco?” he asked.

Harry’s shrug was light, but his gaze on Lucius was heavy with meaning. “I don’t know. Why would I bring your bloody annoying ferret of a son here?”

Lucius could guess. While Draco sputtered and snarled behind him, he looked down at the wand in his hands. He wanted to look at his son as well, but he’d already let Harry see enough of that. Bile rose in his throat, and when he swallowed it, it was replaced by a strange iciness.

He tossed the wand to Draco, who had to stop mid-rant to catch it. Out of the corner of his eye, Lucius could see Draco shifting his puzzled stare—at first on the wand—to him, but he ignored it as he slowly lowered himself onto his arms. The sheets had odd dark red spots on them, Lucius idly noted, and he belatedly remembered that he had a fresh cut on his neck. “Get him out of here before Voldemort comes. I’ll do whatever you require, but—”

“I think we already went over this,” Harry said, feigning boredom.

It was a transparent ploy, but Lucius’ nerves were so raw that they triggered a panic anyway. “Harry…please.”

“ ‘Harry’? Father, what the hell are you doing—” Draco’s voice whipped off, and Lucius jerked about just in time to see Draco tumble to the floor, half-covered in those monstrous thick shadows. Knocked out of his mouth, Draco’s cigarette hung momentarily in mid-air; before it had time to drop, one long tendril shot up to engulf it.

“I want you to do only that, and not whatever else you’ve got planned,” Harry told Lucius. His eyes were red, but without any of the heat that was usually associated with that color. Instead they looked like spilled blood under a film of ice. “Got that?”

Lucius glanced at them, at the slowly writhing black mass on the floor, at Potter…he barely got his hysteria under control before it exploded. “Yes. Yes, now let him go, damn you!”

The shadows flattened as if they’d been hammered down, but they hadn’t gone completely down before Lucius was lunging at them.

He was roughly stopped and hauled back by the hair; Harry’s voice licked at his ear, warm with seething promises. “I sent him back to Remus Lupin—I do keep my promises, you know. Now, where were we?”

Every shutter in the house suddenly snapped shut. The whole building shuddered with the force of it, and then continued to shake, while the air turned cold and damp. Lucius could feel the wards changing, parting before some great power’s approach.

“Ah,” Harry said. He let go of Lucius and stepped backwards, looking slowly around the room. “You know, this really is a nice house. I almost feel bad for what we’re about to do to it.”

* * *

Draco rolled and rolled, taking in great gulps of air till he was absolutely certain he was no longer suffocating. He hit a few things while he was at it: some moved, some didn’t. The very last one cursed, and then hands were trying to stop him and stretch him out at the same time.

He still had his wand. Thank Merlin for that, because then he could hex his way free and get to a wall he could lean on unimpeded while he finished his recovery. Thank Merlin, and damn his father because if there was anything Draco didn’t need, it was more help from that corner. Now what? Did his father think that was going to wipe out the last two years? Was he actually that idealistic beneath all the pureblood pride and lecturing on strategy and detachment?

Did Harry fucking Potter think that was going to do it for them?

“—tell us what you’re doing here, or I’ll send you through the window for that—”

“Fred! Put your wand down!” ordered somebody. Granger. Oh, wonderful. “Draco—Draco, what are you doing here? What’s happened?”

Draco rubbed his eyes a last time before he opened them and took another look at the world. He appeared to be in a shack that’d been hastily built, then carefully barricaded. The floor was concrete and after some thought, he realized the bookshelves cramming the walls had been constructed from baggage racks: what was left of Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.

Granger stood closest to him, nothing but bloodshot eyes set above gaunt cheekbones; her frizzy hair was the most bountiful thing left to her. Weasley stood beside her, and behind him Draco could see…Lupin. He had to admit, Harry’s sense of humor had gotten sharper. “Well, your wonderful plan to use me as Harry-bait didn’t work. He tossed me out on my goddamned arse so he could fuck my father. Still think he’s salvageable, Lupin?”

So much blood drained from Weasley’s face that even his freckles started to fade; Granger merely looked as if she’d taken a slap to the cheek, but then, she’d always had better stuff to her than most of her pathetic friends. Lupin seemed on the verge of ripping out Draco’s throat, standing stock-still with fists clenching and unclenching against his hips.

If he wanted to, Draco wasn’t about to stop him. It’d certainly uncomplicated a lot, and given Draco’s mood right now, he would be perfectly happy to serve as an added load on Lupin’s burden of guilt. He got himself a fresh cigarette and snapped a flame across it. “Oh, and one other thing. Voldemort’s brought back Sirius Black. No, that’s not right. Voldemort and Snape brought him back.”

What?” Lupin didn’t say it, or growl it. The closest description probably would be to say he took a great upwelling of rage and shock and pain and mashed it vocally into the air. His eyes went slightly golden.

Without missing a beat, Granger Stupefy’d him so he fell into Weasley’s arms, then spun to kick at Draco. “First you show up right after I’ve figured out how to let Lupin transform when it’s not the full moon, and then you say something like that. Get up, Malfoy. You’re not going to just sit there and laugh at us.”

“No. For once, you’re right about something, Granger—I’m not about to sit here,” Draco cordially replied. He pulled himself up and deliberately didn’t look to make sure he’d miss the books before he flicked the ash off his cigarette. That made Granger’s red face go a lovely enraged shade of puce. “So how about this time, you lot actually use me when I’m offering? What can I do? Aside from trying to chase your former golden boy, because let me say, he’s a complete lost cause.”

Bastard that he was, Draco thought again. But this should show Harry he wasn’t the only one that could set fires.

* * *

The Weasley girl would see to getting the Hufflepuff Horcrux. Though Severus did not put much stock in trust or idealism, he did in the kind of unreasoning fever he’d seen in her eyes. She’d hoped and hoped so much under such dark circumstances that her hope properly should have been shattered into a thousand pieces, or ground to powder. But instead it’d remained and gone…not quite rotten, but certainly tainted.

That left two more, which Severus considered at length once he’d returned to his estate. He had no idea where the locket was, but he could make some conjectures. Voldemort would want to keep it close at hand, considering how the ones he’d hidden far away from him had been taken and destroyed. He wouldn’t have it anywhere that strong wizards would frequent, since even if they didn’t know what it was, they still might be able to sense its power and come probing.

One thing Severus did know, despite what he’d told Lucius and much as he hated thinking about it: Voldemort didn’t wear the locket. He didn’t keep it in his private chambers. The only other place Voldemort forbade any Death Eater to venture was the Hall of Prophecy, which seemed like a likely hiding place for a small thing like a locket. If it was the locket that was kept in there; it could just as well be the other one.

It would have helped if Severus at least knew what the other one was, but he didn’t have time to moan about that. He’d been heading for the liquor cabinet, needing a bit of something after his interview with Ginevra, but instead he changed directions. If he remembered correctly, he’d left his notes in his bedroom.

When he entered, Black was a huddle half-on and half-under the blankets. The man wasn’t quiet either, but continually moaned, twitched, and mumbled to himself. Severus looked over him long enough to determine that the Sleeping Draughts would keep Black down for at least another two hours before settling at his desk.

It didn’t take long before a pattern began to emerge; Severus’ exhaustion the week before must have kept him from seeing it, because it really was quite simple. Six Horcruxes and seven soul-fragments were the ideal number. One of the Horcruxes had been Tom Riddle’s grandfather’s ring, one had been Riddle’s diary, and one had been Harry. That left three, two of which were known to be relics of the founders of Hogwarts. A really ideal arrangement would have been to have four relics, one for each founder…

…on the other hand, Potter might have served a dual purpose there. But the genealogies that would prove Severus’ guess right had been lost long ago and he hadn’t the time to look for him. At any rate, it was reasonable to presume that the last Horcrux was a relic of Rowena Ravenclaw’s. That was one pattern.

The other pattern was even more ancient than the Hogwarts’ founders, and rather dubious. At least, it seemed so, but Severus was finding that things he’d assumed not possible even with magic were entirely within the realm of possibility. Trelawney might’ve been a quack and had biased him towards her field, but that hardly meant divination had no truth to it.

So, the Tarot. Four suits: cups, swords, wands, and coins or pentacles. The cup was obvious, and the locket could fit the coin/pentacle category with little stretching—during Salazar Slytherin’s age, jewelry was how people carried their fortunes. Coins were scarce, and bracelets or other adornments were harder to steal in any case. Anyway, some old tarot decks didn’t even clearly depict the suit as a coin, but merely a roundish disk that would fit the locket’s description.

The sword would have fit better if Severus didn’t know that the resistance still had Godric’s sword, but he supposed calling Harry a ‘sword’ would be metaphorically appropriate. Potter certainly had the double edges of a broadsword. That left wands. It couldn’t be the wand Voldemort actually carried, since Severus had seen Potter’s wand often enough, and had heard the peculiar bit of trivia concerning that one and Voldemort’s enough times from Albus. Voldemort’s wand was too young.

Severus rested his arms on the desk and massaged his temples, which were beginning to ache. On his way out, he’d heard the real details of Lucius’ imprisonment and so he couldn’t risk contacting him again—besides, Lucius probably had no better idea than Severus did. Anomalies…he needed an anomaly. He—

The Mark suddenly flared and he grabbed his arm, then his head. He was dimly aware of coming within a hairsbreadth of smacking his forehead on the desk before he caught himself. The pulse was pounding in his ears, and it took all his willpower to open his mind just enough to make Voldemort think he was seeing everything without giving away how powerful an Occlumens he was. My lord?

Severus. Potter has attacked again, and left Macnair and his entire household dead. The seething rage in Voldemort’s sending suddenly dropped away, but the thread of savoring anticipation more than filled the space. But it seems he’s too sure of himself, and has run right into my trap. I’ll be bringing him to you after I interview him, so have Black ready.

Black had been among the living for barely a day, Severus wanted to snap. Of course, he buried that thought deep behind his mental shields and projected an air of fearful obedience. Yes, my lord.

Voldemort withdrew much faster than he usually did, which was an indication of how eager he was to take on Potter. Severus privately thought that the Dark Lord was the one that was too sure of himself; the Harry now walking the earth seemed to have a considerably better sense of strategy than before, and this so-called trap was too obvious.

“What the hell did he mean by that?” said a hoarse voice.

Damn. The summoning must have also woken up Black, hypersensitive as he now seemed to be to Voldemort. After locking away his notes, Severus got out of his chair and turned around.

Black had dragged himself into a sitting position with the sheets puddled about his waist. His chest was scars and ribs so prominent that they seemed about to burst through his skin. “Snape? What’s he mean? He’s going after Harry?”

“Are you a little more grounded in time now?” Severus dryly asked. He rounded the bed and pulled open a cabinet to the side, then began pulling out potions. Even they wouldn’t be able to make Black look as pretty as before, but they’d be able to ease him out of ‘repulsive.’ And that was a necessity, since Severus’ antipathy for the man alone was going to be difficult to surmount without adding appearance to the negatives.

“Don’t change the damn subject. You said—earlier.” Frowning, Black glanced down at his hands. “Earlier. You did. You said Harry was alive.”

Severus rolled up his sleeves, selected an empty flask, and began carefully mixing potions. “I said he came back. The verdict is still out on whether he’s a living being now.”

That puzzled Black enough to keep him silent till Severus finished, albeit with the occasional sharply-drawn breath. When Severus turned around, Black was staring with unfocused eyes at the wall to Severus’ left. A cold chill slithered through Severus.

“Black.” The man’s head moved a little, but his pupils remained wide and dark, engulfing what little color his irises had retained. “Black,” Severus repeated more sharply. “What’s the matter? Do you hear him again?”

A furrow grooved its way between Black’s eyebrows, and he finally turned to face Severus. His eyes slowly focused, and then he abruptly shook himself. He laid down on the bed, then rolled over to present his back as Severus walked towards him.

Severus stopped at the side of the bed and waited a few moments. “Black, turn around and drink this. I’m giving you one chance before I force it into you, and that’s only because I don’t want to ruin a good set of sheets on account of you.”

Some gravelly noise escaped Black, and after a moment Severus understood it was a laugh. But the man did roll over, and he looked up at Severus with near-mad amusement sparking his eyes. “Oh, oh, oh. The truth outs. That’s why you—cold, frigid Slytherin that you are—always threw a fit whenever I came around.”

After reviewing his words, Severus barely decided that breaking Black’s neck was not an option. It’d only prove the idiot right, which he decidedly wasn’t. “Think whatever ridiculous nonsense you want, Black, but—”

Before Severus could finish, Black sat up in a jangling flow of jutting bony limbs and the weird deliberate grace of the severely malnourished, who had to conserve every bit of energy. He took the flask and drained it without hesitation, then handed it back to Severus. His eyes burned into Severus’. “Think whatever you like, Snape. But if I’m confused about some things, I do remember this: I was dead. And I remember you wouldn’t ever do something about that unless you wanted into Harry’s good graces, and to do that you’ve got to get in my good graces.”

Severus curled his lip and stiffly spun on his heel. He walked towards the door with every intention of taking the flask to his laboratory, cleaning it, and then clearing his mind by brewing something complicated and poisonous.

“Wait.” The voice that called out to him was a far cry from the thready but mocking, defiant one that had just confronted him. When Severus turned back, Black was swaying with eyes going in and out of focus. The other man wrapped one arm around himself, then moved his hand up to drag through his hair. “Wait. Don’t—damn it, what’s going on? I can’t—how many times has Voldemort died? Is this the time where he faces that one—what’s his name—Quirrell—just…for Merlin’s sake, Snape. Tell me something. Anything.”

The ‘please’ never made it out of Black’s mouth. Never out of his throat, but the word hung in the air between them nevertheless.

After a moment’s thought, Severus continued his walk to the door while Black descended into a torrent of vicious swearing. He opened it, called for a house-elf, and sternly ordered it to leave it just inside the laboratory door, and to not go an inch further inside. Then he turned around and got onto the bed. As Black was lifting his head to stare wide-eyed, Severus took him by the arm and hauled him forward.

Black collapsed as if he were made of paper, his fingers clawing into Severus’ back and shoulders while his chin gouged a short, shallow groove in Severus’ chest.

“Your godson went to hell,” Severus said. “He had a piece of Voldemort’s soul in him—Voldemort split it to make himself immortal. But the spell for it came from Lucifer, and Lucifer has sent Harry back to collect the rest of the pieces. Judging from what I’ve seen so far, Harry apparently had a strange affinity for hell, because he’s doing his damnedest to recreate it here.”

Warm breath passed from Black’s mouth and nose through Severus’ clothing. Then teeth followed, but withdrew so Black could lift his head. “You bastard.”

“If you want to see Harry again, you’ll have to deal with me,” Severus added. “Consider it.”

Black’s face convulsed, but he strangled whatever reply he was going to make. The strength of his grip on Severus never wavered between when he’d first grabbed Severus and now, when he pressed his face back into Severus’ chest. He kneaded Severus’ shoulders, his own jerking up and down every so often with a sharp breath, while Severus waited.

Eventually Black lifted his head to show determined eyes. Determined and…but they went out of focus before Severus could decide what the other emotion in them was. He sucked in his breath and his pupils refocused. “All right, then. You fucking son of a bitch—all right, we’ll do that.”


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