Rating:
R
House:
The Dark Arts
Ships:
Lucius Malfoy/Severus Snape
Genres:
Darkfic Drama
Era:
Harry and Classmates Post-Hogwarts
Stats:
Published: 07/26/2007
Updated: 07/26/2007
Words: 11,961
Chapters: 1
Hits: 330

Precious Little Memory

Cedar

Story Summary:
A few months, or maybe years, after the end of the war, Lucius Malfoy lives in a haze of broken memories and loneliness. The Dark Lord and his viceroy now occupy the Malfoy house. By night Lucius walks through the remains of his life on his way to serve the Dark Lord, but by day he and the viceroy are slowly trying to restore what the Dark Lord took from him.

Chapter 01

Posted:
07/26/2007
Hits:
290

Precious Little Memory

"Though we might have precious little, it's still precious." --Rush, "Bravest Face"



My life now fits in my hands.

On the mahogany desk in the third floor library, which I'm told is my library, there is a small glass sphere on a cherry wood base. Inside this sphere is a tiny model of my house, detailed down to the turrets and wings and the rose garden out back. When I pick up the sphere and shake it white flakes, resembling snow, I suppose, swirl around the house and obscure it from view. This winter around the little house is temporary, but it is fierce; it returns at the whim of whoever visits this library. Most of the time, that's me. The Dark Lord prefers his private study on the east wing of the first floor and his viceroy's quarters are on the second, in a suite of rooms that used to belong to my son. In this room I am always alone, just as this little house is isolated from all of existence in its glass bubble.

I have fractured memories of war that come to my mind like the white storm to that miniature house, trapping me and separating me from an outside view of the world. And I think, too, that I am under all this water in the snow globe, drowning, unprotected from the storms that come at the hand of the ruler of the house and its land. I can neither stop nor predict these storms. Even if I could, I have nowhere to go. Finding my way through the snow, proverbial or not, would be foolhardy at best and deadly at worst. So here I stay and I wait though for what I'm not sure.

There is a knock at the door, and I hurriedly replace the glass globe on the desk. When the door opens, I am standing with my back to the desk, my head down.

"You can look up, Lucius," says the viceroy. "Our Lord wants you to see him in his bedroom at eight."

My stomach flutters. "Why?"

"He didn't say."

"But you know."

We both know, but he says nothing as he closes the door. In the dusty silence with nothing else to think about I can feel my pulse beneath the seamless iron cuffs on my wrists. It quickens and I swallow. The Dark Lord wants me tonight. I cannot decide whether I am thrilled at the prospect of being close to him, of feeling the warmth of another human being so close, of the way he arouses me in ways I love and loathe simultaneously, or if I am dismayed at the knowledge that he will almost certainly inflict pain beyond my point of pleasure in that otherworldly, iniquitous way of his. It's not enough to him to destroy so much of my memory and even more of my magic. He has to remind me at regular intervals that I have lost nearly everything and everyone I've loved at his hand. At least, I believe I loved them. I must have. The uncertainty of my memory is now the only certain thing in my life. The viceroy and I, however, are working to change that.

The viceroy insists I call him Severus during our time alone in his study. It was his idea to secretly teach me the spells I once knew, and to try and help me regain at least some of what the Dark Lord took from me. Severus says it was the Dark Lord alone who erased my memory. He feared an overthrow, worried that somehow I could gain enough power to kill him, unlikely though that was without the help of Bellatrix and Walden and the others who were systematically killed. The Dark Lord tells me I am one of the lucky ones; lucky to only be kidnapped and subjected to a series of memory charms. His spells were not as effective, I think, as he wanted them to be. I have precious pieces of memory he probably doesn't want me to have -- pieces of Draco and Narcissa -- but he accomplished what he set out to do, which was to erase my memories of magic.

It's a cowardly lord who would do that and likely a weak one as well. Weak and cowardly though he may be, he still has much power over me. Severus is working to change that. He shows me albums of photographs he keeps hidden in the false bottom of a cedar chest. On the days when the Dark Lord is away Severus brings out the spell books and retrieves my wand from a locked glass cabinet on the second floor. In his private quarters we mix potions and practice charms. I had to start at the beginning: Wingardium Leviosa. As Severus promised I have progressed, but it's not far enough, not yet, and the question of where I would go with my newfound powers since the Dark Lord occupies my house always hangs above my head and threatens to obliterate everything I am struggling to rebuild.

Once, maybe weeks, maybe months ago I asked Severus if he was sure the Dark Lord was blind to our tutoring sessions.

"I've known him since he was eleven years old," Severus replied, "and the old saying is true: Plus ├ža change, plus c'est la meme chose."

"The more things change, the more they are the same," I whispered. That much I remember. Memory is a funny thing. I remember the strangest incidents: Seeing Sirius Black falling through the veil in the Department of Mysteries. Narcissa near the end of the war, cooking dinner without magic. What I don't remember...well, I suppose I'd take an inventory if I could. It's more that I can't remember what I want to remember. My wedding day. Draco's first steps. The Dark Lord when he was younger. (I'm told I knew him.) The battle where I lost Narcissa. I would have given myself for her and for Draco, who was tortured and killed by this Dark Lord, but Severus tells me I was spared because of the Dark Lord's plans for me after the war. At the time both Severus and the Dark Lord knew the end was imminent. Whether the Dark Lord achieved the victory he wanted I might never know. Severus was -- and is -- reluctant to speak of anything he knew about these plans.

"In many ways, he hasn't changed. He still lacks foresight, rushing into battle without thinking. He makes decisions for all the wrong reasons. Look at what he did with your wand, keeping it in storage instead of destroying it. He is just as impetuous and thickheaded now as he ever was. That will cost him one day."

"Will that day be sooner rather than later?" I asked, hopeful.

He laughed and reached forward, sweeping a piece of hair off my face. Severus makes strange gestures that way. During our sessions he'll let his fingertips linger over the back of my hand or press his shoulder and thigh to mine as we sit side by side.

"I often wonder that same thing. But we don't want it to be too soon, because you're not strong enough yet."

"I can't see that I'll ever be powerful enough to take my home back. I doubt I even have as much power now as he had at eleven." I closed the book we'd been reading and walked over to the window. Outside the sky was a uniform gray. I could see the sides of the next wing over. Leafless ivy climbed the frame of the long window.

"He is more powerful now than he was at eleven, certainly, but his bad qualities have grown with his power: He is self-centered and has too much faith in his own abilities. He sees what he wants to see." Severus came to stand behind me and slipped his arms around my waist. I relaxed into him, letting him support some of my weight. Knowing what I do about the Dark Lord, I'm sure he would have a fit and kill us both if he saw his viceroy and his...whatever I am to him, slave or toy or war trophy depending on time and place...holding each other the way we do, but it's worth it to me to touch something that isn't parchment or wood or fabric or stone. The rise and fall of Severus's chest reminds me that I am at least alive, for what alive is worth.

"Do you think he'll see this? Us? Your teaching me, that is?"

"I like to think that if there is anything I am good at it is duplicity. You shouldn't concern yourself with the worry, though. If he does discover what we've been doing, I'll suffer for it a lot more than you will and I'm willing to take that gamble."

I had no response to that. After all, it was true. He was educating me at a terrible risk. I couldn't help but wonder, though, if he was as duplicitous with me as he was with the Dark Lord. The only thing I could do at the time was to rest my hands on top of Severus's and watch the bare trees sway in the wind.

I shake my head and pull myself out of my reverie. Now, I sit in the library not reading. One of the things I hate most about the Dark Lord is the way he plays into uncertainty. I know exactly what he's doing but that doesn't allay my anxieties. Hours pass and all I can do is sit on the sofa in the library, watching the afternoon slip into evening, wondering what he'll do to me tonight. I would love a glass of wine or a diluted Draught of Peace, but on the nights the Dark Lord wants to see me I am not allowed dinner or anything to drink except a little water. I wait as long as possible to shower and dress in the loose robes the Dark Lord gives me to wear when he summons me to his bedroom. They are silk, but rough and pure white. As per his further instructions, I comb my hair and leave it loose and wear no undergarments or jewelry save for the iron cuffs, which only he can remove. At two minutes to eight I close the door to my suite behind me and leave for his rooms.

In the past year or so, perhaps two, the Dark Lord has not so much as made an effort to show ownership of my house as he has taken away the idea that the property was mine for so many years to begin with. The walls have been stripped of portraits. I don't know where the portraits -- generations of Malfoys captured in oils and watercolor -- have gone to. All of the furniture still remains but there are now many rooms that go unused. I hate to think of how long it's been since anyone tuned the piano. Of the four house-elves we had, only two are still on the staff. The stairs creak beneath my feet as I descend. In the rooms on the second floor that do not belong to the viceroy there are empty glass vases on mahogany end tables and pale gray dust covers the fireplace mantels. Having to walk past that dust collecting on what used to be my life is almost more painful than what the Dark Lord does to me. I'm sure he knows this, too.

When I knock on his door it swings open. He is standing. Waiting for me.

"Come in, Lucius."

I step across his threshold and the smell of hot white wax and wick decaying to ash drifts to my nose. I shudder, but not from the cold in the room. The smell brings a memory: drops of melted wax on my torso, the echo of my cry of both pain and elation. Thinking back to that moment, of being tied spread-eagle to his bedposts, astounds me. He could have burned me so easily, or set fire to the bed and left me to die. It wouldn't be the first time he's done that, left someone to die. To be fair, though, that was a time of war. Now is more a time of purgatory than a time of peace but the same rules apply, more or less.

One of the Dark Lord's rules states that I am never to look him or his viceroy in the eye unless I am commanded to do so. I still have the scars on my back from breaking that rule more than once. I move across the floor slowly to where he stands at the side of his bed. As is our custom, and was custom with the Dark Lord before him, I kneel to kiss the hem of his robes. I am to stay on my knees, eyes to the ground, until I am given permission to look up. My hair is long enough now to just brush the floor on either side of his foot.

"Rise."

I do, and he lifts my head with his thumb under my chin then rests his fingers against my cheek. His hands are much warmer than I thought they would be, and smooth against my stubble. Looking at his face, I can hardly believe that he and Draco would be the same age. He looks so much older than his years would dictate, probably as a result of the magical changes he endured to become what he is now. Near-immortality always comes at a price. His eyes are startlingly green, flecked with gray. I feel drunk on that color, lightheaded and weak. So much of my existence now is not much beyond black and white. The scar on his forehead is pronounced, reddish purple against his pale skin and dark hair.

"Do you want to know how I got that scar?" he asks as my gaze moves over his forehead. His voice is low and edged in hoarseness.

I think on this. I know the story of the circumstances: The Dark Lord prior to him tried to kill him, and when Lily Potter gave her life, he survived with only that scar to show for the Dark Lord's normally lethal spell. Thanks to that Mudblood Lily Potter, this Dark Lord grew up to become first the bane of Draco's existence, and then of mine.

"I'm sure you know about my mother," he says, "but I'm willing to bet you never heard the second half of that prophecy you tried so hard...and failed...to hear when I was fifteen."

He was right. According to Severus I had already started my fall from the Dark Lord's graces by then and I was concentrating more on not losing my son than on hearing the rest of that blasted prophecy.

"It said, among other fairly useless bits of information, that the Dark Lord would mark me as his equal." He takes my hand and traces his scar with my fingertip. I thought somehow the scar would be hot, or raised, but it is slightly recessed and as cool as the rest of his forehead. "Of course that was only partially right. I did become his equal, as you know, and a little more. I suppose I should have spared you that memory. At that point in the war I was worn down, willing to give myself to defeat him. I believe, as do Severus and a few others, that when I made the conscious effort to sacrifice myself I gave myself a new level of protection against him. That last battle was just like his first attack on me. In trying to kill me he transferred his powers to me. Those powers gave me something beyond a mark as his equal: They made me his superior. Only his superior could have killed him, so I did. And believe me, I would have gone out and done it years earlier if I'd known the sort of power I would gain from it."

If he wants me to respond he doesn't indicate so. He laces his fingers through mine. "Before he disappeared for the first time he marked you, didn't he?"

"He marked all of us," I choke out. After he died the mark vanished. Severus drew a picture of it for me once, a snake protruding from the mouth of a skull. While I couldn't remember the design, I remembered the pain of receiving it, and the pain that reoccurred when the previous Dark Lord came back to full power and activated it after twelve years.

"Thanks to my mark and thanks to the fact that it was not the same as the one he gave you," he continues, "I was able to acquire everything I ever wanted. Including you. And I think the time has come for me to do a little marking ceremony of my own."

Of his own? The muscles around my spine tighten. I already have plenty of his marks. "I don't think I deserve a mark as your equal, my Lord."

"When did I say I was marking you as my equal? Your previous master marked you as his inferiors, his servants, didn't he?"

I'm inclined to believe that we were a little more to him than that but I don't have enough memory to either confirm or deny his statement. "I'm not sure what he meant by his mark," I state. "I... I don't remember."

"I didn't think you would." Dropping my hand, he takes a step back. "Take off your robes."

This moment of discarding my clothing is always humiliating despite the fact that the robes are thin and transparent in the light. I open the clasps in the front and expose my chest. Then I reach for the lapels and pull the top down over my shoulders. The robes slither down my arms and pool at my feet; I stand with nothing but trepidation between me and the Dark Lord. I force myself to breathe. The air only reaches halfway into my lungs, cut off by the uncertainty of what's to come in the next hour.

He shakes his head and smiles at me ever so slightly. "Draco looked just like you," he muses. Tracing around my nipples with his wand, he adds, "Every part of him. Blond hair, gray eyes, his...endowment... The way he would shriek when I whipped him. Even the look on his face as I made him come."

The proper reaction to his goading is to stand still, do nothing, say nothing and pray he'll get tired of insulting me. Most of the time I can do that. Most of the time, however, he is taunting me rather than Draco. This time I will not stand for such an unfair fight. How dare he speak of Draco in front of me! My upper back tenses as I draw my shoulder blades down and back. Fury cascades down my right arm and contracts the muscles in my palm. I fold my thumb over my curled fingers and tighten my bicep and shoulder. As I swing my fist towards the Dark Lord I feel a terrible pain lance through my arm, like someone has shot me with a poisoned arrow.

I scream and double over, clutching my arm to my stomach. The floor is cold, numbing my knees, but I barely feel it because I am retching from the pain that paralyzes the upper half of my body. I am panting. A cold sweat breaks out on my forehead. Curled into myself, I wait for the pain to pass.

"You didn't think you'd really land that punch, did you, Lucius? Did you seriously think for even half a second that you could overpower me?"

"I...no...my Lord...." I'm too weak in this moment to tell him that it's not about whether I could land the punch or not. I can just about catch my breath now, and I look up to see him standing over me.

"Get up," he commands through clenched teeth. Before I can obey he reaches down and pulls me up by my hair. I stumble forward and land facedown on the bed with my shins over the edge. Still standing, he straddles my legs and I feel a lash like a stream of fire across my arse. Then another. I squeeze my eyes shut and clench my stomach in anticipation of a third but it doesn't come. I'm surprised. He usually doesn't have the control to stop at two when he's angered. I'm lucky if he has the control to stop at fifteen.

"Not yet," he whispers. "I have something else planned first."

With that he reaches for my right arm, the one that is still distressed from his curse, and pulls it behind me. To keep him from twisting it further, I turn in the direction of his tug and roll awkwardly onto my back. Although he is a little shorter than I am when we both stand barefoot, he towers over me now. A wave of his wand and I am turned to lie with my hands over my head, my legs spread. He conjures long, thin ropes and before I can blink the ropes wind through my iron cuffs and my wrists are tethered to the bars of the headboard. I tug at the ties at my wrists and he performs the same action on my ankles. Struggling at this point is an exercise in futility. I stop pulling at the restraints and let the tension out of my arms and back.

"Yes, you should relax," says the Dark Lord. "It will be easier if you do."

"What will be easier?"

He sits at the edge of the bed and smiles at me, running one hand down my side. I try to pull away from his touch but I can't move very far. He stops his hand at the flat part at the front of my right hip.

"This."

Smiling, he pulls a little silver knife from his pocket. Panic sets in and I think that this must be the end. He's tired of my presence and he's going to stab me or slit my throat. But he continues to caress my hip, his hand straying over my thigh toward my prick. He straddles my leg and with a pause, he looks into my eyes. I think I see something almost sympathetic flicker across his face. Then he turns his wrist.

The point of the knife sinks into my hip. He drags it through a soft, fleshy part just to the left of the bone. It takes a moment for the cut to sting, and I realize the knife must be freshly sharpened. Since the end of the war I have a difficult time bearing the sight of blood, so I watch his upper body instead of his hands. This task is taking most of his concentration. His brow is knotted and he leans forward, resting his elbow on the bed to provide himself with a more stable surface.

"If I'm going to mark you, there's no sense in doing it sloppily," he says. Upon finishing the initial cut he picks up the knife and begins retracing it. The stinging descends from the surface into the deeper layers of my skin. Instinct dictates that I pull my hip away from him but he's immobilized my leg, pinching it between his knees. The only thing I can do is grit my teeth and hope he finishes quickly. Knowing what I do about all the ways he uses my body however, I doubt he'll make speed his priority.

The cuffs feel too tight against my wrists as I pull on the ropes. The pressure of the metal against my veins makes my fingers tingle. Curiosity gets the better of me and I curl my head forward to see if I can make out what he's cutting into me, but he covers it. Instead of straining against my bonds, I try to relax and not fight him. That works a little, but not very well. When he withdraws the knife from my skin and holds it in front of him, I worry that he'll ask -- no, tell -- me to lick the blade. I'm surprised at how dark my blood looks against the bright silver. I am studying the refraction of light on the knife's handle when he bends down and puts his mouth to my hip, sucking on the cut. The sight of it makes me queasy. I turn my head aside and count my breaths in and out.

"Watch me, Lucius," he commands.

Failure to do so could result in a whipping or a day naked in the cage that is only large enough to stand in. I do not have the strength to test the Dark Lord's patience tonight. His head is bent over my hip. The light from the wall sconces makes his hair look glossy. His weight is in his shoulders and I can see his robes draping over the muscles as he licks around and over his mark. In taking my blood he is gaining power over me, a physical and also ancient magical power that he didn't have before now. It's not dissimilar, I realize, to the same power the previous Dark Lord acquired over him when he was fourteen. Severus told me that story: It wasn't until the blood ritual was performed in that graveyard that the first Dark Lord gained the ability to touch him. I wonder how many more he plans to mark in this way. Assuming there is anyone besides me and his viceroy serving him. I'm certain there are others but I don't know who they might be. Whoever they are, they will probably go into this ritual much more willing than I. Not that that would take much.

"Finished," he says, running his tongue over his lips and sitting upright on my knee. There is a faint smear of my blood on his chin, colored rust in the candlelight. "Although if you heal too much, or too quickly, I may have to do this again. I'll make sure Severus keeps the healing salves away from you." I hate the way he smiles when he says this. "Take a look."

He conjures a mirror over the length of my body and I look up to see that the open wound on my hip looks like a bolt of lightning. It matches the scar on his forehead. I am not impressed by his originality. When my first master marked me, it was with a symbol that united all of us in his circle, something we all shared. Now it is clear to me that this Dark Lord wants nothing more than a band of slaves, more people willing to carry on the triumph of his battles in this recent war, people united to a leader rather than a cause. It disappoints me.

"Don't you like it?"

His intonation indicates that I had best respond with "Yes," and I do.

"It's a little more refined than your previous mark. Simpler in design."

If my situation weren't so dire right now, if my shoulders and chest didn't ache from being stretched to either end of the bed, I would laugh. Powerful or not, Dark Lord or not, possessing the ability to wipe out half my memory or not, he is anything but refined. Instead, I focus my laugh into a sort of cough and nod. "Yes, my Lord. It is very...memorable."

He looks down at me and gently wraps his fingers around me. The gesture is unexpected and almost tender, and I hear myself whimper. "You bore that well," he says, "and I was thinking you might deserve a little reward."

Usually his rewards consist of him using me for his own pleasure. During these times I am blindfolded and deafened so I can neither see nor hear any reaction from him. I expect that tonight he will do the same thing. As he strokes me, his fingers warm and smooth, I wait for him to produce his wand and charm me out of my senses.

"I know what you're thinking, Lucius," he says. "You're waiting for our usual. Tonight is a special night, though. You behaved so well during our little ceremony I didn't think it'd be fair to deprive you."

There has to be a catch.

"What do you have to say to that?" he asks as he moves his hand upward again. Warmth spreads from my heart outwards, tingling beneath my skin.

My throat feels dry and swollen. "I...thank you. My Lord."

When I speak, the words leave a bitter taste in my mouth. He has that look in his eye that he gets every time his viceroy or I call him "My Lord." The only thing he loves more than his power, I believe, is our affirmation of it. He continues to tease me with his fingers, straying over the tip and tickling the base. I can't help but think through all he's doing to me he must have an ulterior motive. Maybe it's an effect of his spells, but I have difficulty remembering any time when he was even remotely so kind as to touch me in a way that was exclusively designed to bring me pleasure. I know I shouldn't question him, though. Quieting the doubtful voice in my mind, I push my hips upward. The cut stings deeply but I persist, thrusting into his hand. I've stopped caring about what he thinks of me. All I want is the moment of release. The mirror still hangs over us, cloudy at the edges. Watching him stroke me brings crushing feelings of guilt as well as excitement. I see the tip appear and disappear under his hand. I want more. For once, I want an end. The muscles in my legs and arse are tight and my chest is stretched, my back arched. Yes. Yes. Another minute. All I need is another minute. And then...

"I believe you've had quite enough."

The Dark Lord takes his hand back and slides off my knee, the silk of his robes whispering over my skin. A graceful wave of his wand and the mirror dissipates. Silver curls form in the air above the bed. Seconds later my wrists and ankles are free. Reflex rather than a sense of completion brings my hands back to my sides. I am short of breath and feel like I might explode. Slowly, the pleasant tension in my belly is subsiding and the burning pinch of his mark comes through.

"My Lord, I..."

He stands, smoothing his robes over his chest. "I... I... Stop blubbering, Lucius. Surely this isn't the first time in your life things haven't gone the way you want them to. You never were good at accepting that you can't always get what you want. You lived a spoiled life and raised a spoiled son and in the end, none of it made any difference. You're lucky I gave you as much as I did just now."

I know he's saying what he's saying and doing what he's doing for the sole purpose of being cruel, but his words hurt as much as his cut. Embarrassed to be stretched out naked in front of him, I sit up and put my hands in my lap.

"You find the oddest times to think of modesty," he says. Then he throws my robes at me. Putting them on is almost as humiliating at this point as taking them off was. I stand to dress, keeping my eyes down. If I can make it through the next two minutes I can crawl into bed and forget the Dark Lord for at least the next eight hours.

I have just finished closing the top clasp of my robes when the Dark Lord steps forward, slides a hand behind my head and pulls my lips to his. I struggle to maintain my balance for a moment and then let him penetrate my mouth with his tongue.

I taste blood.

Gagging, I pull my head away.

"What's wrong, Lucius?" he inquires, keeping my lips close to his with a firm hand on the back of my head. He cannot keep the pernicious tone out of his voice. "It's your own blood that you're tasting. You can't tell me you're too good for your own fluids."

What could I possibly say in response to that? He seizes my moment of weakness and brings his lips to mine again. His mouth is soft yet demanding, telling me without words that I belong to him. Not that he's ever needed words. He has ties and toys and his wand for that. He sucks on my lower lip, tonguing the flesh he's caught between his teeth. A panicked protest vibrates in my throat, but if he hears me he does not acknowledge it.

When he releases me he says, "Go back to your rooms. I'll call for you again."

I don't hesitate to leave, though my balls ache and I am still half erect. My feet are silent over the wood floors and heavy rugs. Twilight has turned to night and shadows cover much of my furniture and possessions. I walk slowly, half wanting to avoid crashing into anything and half enjoying being outside of my rooms. I run my fingers along the walls, feeling the bumps in the paint. With the Dark Lord in his chambers and the viceroy out for the evening, I am free to enjoy the house's ambient noises for a few minutes. Pipes knock in a bathroom on the other side of the floor. Walls and floors settle, crackling. I reach my rooms much sooner than I would like but with the Dark Lord on the premises I don't want to risk walking around by myself.

Somehow my rooms seem smaller and darker than they did before I saw the Dark Lord this evening. I lock the door behind me even though I know the Dark Lord or his viceroy could unlock it at any time. My bedchamber is at the back of the suite. I carry a lit candle through the rooms and set it on my night table next to a cobalt blue glass goblet. The liquid in the goblet is murky. Smoke rises from its surface. It smells faintly of cloves and when I sip a little of it, cinnamon makes my tongue prickle. Perfect.

I strip and settle under the covers, sitting slouched with the covers over my lap and the goblet in one hand. The potion burns if I take it too quickly, an effect of the cinnamon and cloves which cover the unpleasant taste of some of the other ingredients. I drink slowly, letting the Dark Lord drug me. Or, more appropriately, I let the viceroy drug me on the Dark Lord's orders. Oh, the Dark Lord doesn't know I know what goes into the contents of that goblet. But I know enough about potions now to know there's something stronger than a mild sedative in the drink that always appears on my bedside table on the nights he makes me serve him in his bedroom. Tonight wasn't as bad as some other nights, but the permanency of his mark bothers me and I'm glad I have something to take my mind off it. When the potion brings the first wave of relaxation, a disconnection from the trauma of the Dark Lord's actions, I fondle myself.

Floating on a haze of poison I drop my head back onto my pillows and imagine the viceroy's bare skin against mine, chest to chest. I don't see his face in my fantasies, but I feel his touch, gentler and less self-serving than the Dark Lord's. I am hard instantly and I know it will only be minutes before I come. Imagining the viceroy's touch against my arms, my stomach, my thighs makes me want to race towards climax. Up and down I stroke. I force my illicit fantasy a step further, picturing the viceroy kneeling over me in bed, his mouth against mine, his hands in my hair. As he kisses me and forces his tongue past my teeth I moan aloud. It is the only thing I do without restraint, without fear or even thought. Seconds later I am coming, gasping, every muscle in my stomach and legs twisted.

Normally I hate what is supposed to be the afterglow. Alone in a cold room it's really nothing more than a sticky letdown. Tonight, however, I have the viceroy's potion to take the edge off and put me into a sleep that should last well into tomorrow afternoon. After another long drink of the potion I stagger into my tiny white bathroom to wipe myself clean with cold water and a cloth. I have always preferred to sleep naked, and tonight is no different. The cotton sheets, bleached the color of snow, are tight over my body, exactly the way I like them. The soft fabric and cool pillow soothe my senses. I turn onto my left hip to take the pressure off the cut on my right.

My eyelids are heavy and I'm soon drifting towards sleep. I figure I'll stop taking the poison when I have something to live for the day after the Dark Lord uses me. It's not that I would welcome death necessarily, but I have no real reason to wake up in the morning right now. My house is a mausoleum of broken and missing memories. I have no friends save for the viceroy, no one to talk to, no wife or son. I lose consciousness as I wonder how much longer I can survive this life.

When one day is identical to the next it's easy to let the days pass into weeks pass into months without protest, and that is exactly what I do. The Dark Lord is often away during the day. I don't know where he goes, and I have decided I don't much care. His viceroy knows his routine inside and out, however, and schedules our tutoring sessions to coincide with his absences. We progress quickly through The Standard Book of Spells. I'm surprised I don't have more trouble learning the charms and hexes. Severus speculates that I've retained more in my deeper conscious than the Dark Lord had bargained for. For all the Dark Lord's knowledge he knows very little about the inner workings of spells and potions that affect the mind. I am regaining strength and skill faster than Severus expected I would. He rewards me for my accomplishments with caresses to my arm and with smiles, and once, a kiss on my temple. The tenderness of his touch makes me wonder if he knows how harshly the Dark Lord takes me, how he bruises and cuts and teases and tears me and never misses an opportunity to show me exactly how powerful he's become since the last battle with my previous master.

But that's a ridiculous notion. Of course Severus knows exactly what the Dark Lord does to me. Severus is the one that drugs me, that enables my escape into dreams if not into the outside world. More than once he's healed the lashes and lacerations the Dark Lord inflicted. His touch is the counterpart to the Dark Lord's, his warm hands on my bare back where the Dark Lord prefers to touch me with leather and metal. When Severus sets the books aside and holds me I can smell Earl Grey tea and rosemary on his robes. Despite his kindnesses I still follow our rules during our time together, keeping my eyes down and my voice low and acquiescent unless told otherwise. I must do everything I can to earn these small graces from Severus because I know they will not come from anyone else.

One afternoon, I am kneeling at Severus's feet as he sits on the sofa and reads in his library. His robes wrinkle around his ankles. I am trying not to think about my aching knees.

"Lucius?" he says.

"Yes?"

"Look up at me."

I lift my head, and he trails one hand along the side of my face. I'm tempted to tilt my head into his touch but stop myself just short of violating his rules. He studies my face as closely as his potions texts, and I feel just as scrutinized. With one hand he holds the side of my jaw and with the other he smoothes my hair along my forehead and back behind my ear. His mouth forms a faint smile as he does this. I have to be imagining the lush tension between us. It must be a wanting on my part alone. Right now I want him to kiss me. Not the subtle, airy kisses on my neck or the back of my hand I get from him on a regular basis. I want him to knock me over and pin my wrists above my head and kiss me with a force to suffocate. Biting the inside of my cheek, I think that I would almost like for him to be as rough with me as the Dark Lord is. There's something much more appealing about the prospect of bondage when the one binding you is someone you almost trust. My lips are trembling and I focus on his ear rather than his eyes.

"I believe you know what I'm thinking," he says.

"I...maybe."

He laughs. "Maybe?"

"You'll have to forgive me." I can't help but smile. "I may not have much memory but something subconsciously closes my mouth when I'm asked loaded questions."

"I didn't ask you anything. I made a statement."

I think on this for a moment. "So you did. Do you still require a response?"

"No." He looks almost sentimental as he runs his fingers through my hair again and sighs. "Your silence will suffice."

When he leans down and kisses me the tension that has been building is compressed between our mouths to the point of explosion. Shards of it rain over us invisibly, warming my blood and making my heart race. I am giddy, even a little nauseous with mixed relief and fear and desire. He's almost too gentle. His lips are soft and warm on mine and the tip of his tongue barely comes out to taste me. My erection brushes against the inside of my robes, yearning for the pressure of his body. Too soon we break apart, breathing hard, and his face shows shame as he looks down at me.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't."

The only responses in my mind are one-word spurts. What? Why? Shouldn't? But I know he's right. If the Dark Lord had any idea of what just transpired between us he'd probably kill us both. Or worse. Unfortunately, it doesn't make Severus's rejection any less painful.

I want to say, "No, you shouldn't. And no, you shouldn't touch me the way you do when you're teaching, and no, you shouldn't have kissed me because I won't be able to stop replaying it in my mind." I would blame him for everything if I didn't want it so much.

Instead I reply, "I know. But I'm not sorry you did."

"You might be." He seems to have trouble getting the words out. "I should wipe your memory."

"No!" Against my orders I stand and back away from him, moving toward the door. "Stay the hell away from me with that memory charm!" I reach behind me for the knob. If he wanted, he would have every right to whip me for talking back to him like this, but I don't care. Given the option of temporary wounds or the permanent loss of the memory of this moment, I'll take the whipping.

The doorknob doesn't move when I turn it.

Severus moves towards me with his hands open, palms toward me. "Lucius, please calm down. It was only a suggestion."

"Yes, well, I would prefer to not be the one to suffer for your actions. Wipe your own damn memory if you're so concerned about being found out."

"I'm..." He pauses then holds a hand out for me to take. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said it."

The cuff on my right wrist glints in the sunlight when I reach for his hand.

An hour after I leave the viceroy's quarters I am told that the Dark Lord wants me tonight.

In my white robes I take the familiar path down stairs and through fragments of my former life. Tonight despite the fresh memory of the viceroy's kiss I feel numb. I've reached a point where I've lost track of time and even season. My original goal, to gain enough strength to fight for my house, has come to a standstill. I've become nearly dependent on the viceroy's potions for sleep. The potions have a damaging effect on my memory, I think. When I wake from them I see marks on my body but I don't always remember how I got them. Maybe my loss of memory is intentional, perhaps even a small consideration on the viceroy's part. I haven't wanted to ask. Instead, I concentrate on my studies in hopes they will make the time go faster. In any event I wish I could learn so much more than what is in the books the viceroy brings me. The viceroy...Severus...is a skilled teacher but he is only one person. Perhaps I expect too much from both of us, thinking we can make up for everything I've lost. Realistically I know it will take me years to catch up with the Dark Lord in terms of magical ability. Is this what the next five, ten, fifteen years of my life will look like? Endless trips back and forth through my own halls into the whims of the Dark Lord's bedroom? Whip marks on my back and bruises on my arms?

When I reach the door to the Dark Lord's rooms I take a deep breath. I have to clear my mind before I enter. Over time I have found that it's best to present myself to him as a blank slate, to try to separate my mind and body and endure what he does to me. That is not as easy as it sounds on the evenings when he does allow me to come. Selfishly, greedily, I hope he does let me come tonight. A release followed by a goblet of the viceroy's poison does more than one would think to make me forget and almost forgive.

As I raise my hand to knock the door opens. The Dark Lord stands before me, barefoot and dressed not in robes but a crisp white shirt with the sleeves cuffed to his mid forearm and black trousers. I barely have time to register his odd clothing before he grabs my arm, nearly pulling my shoulder out of its socket, and yanks me through the door.

"Strip," he orders, pointing his wand at me.

I do as I'm told, folding my robes over a chair. Anxiety makes me queasy. This level of aggression is unusual from him so early into our evening encounters.

"Legilimens!"

The force of his magic makes my knees buckle. To my horror he draws a memory from my mind and it plays out in front of my eyes. Both of us watch Severus lean over me and press his mouth against mine. Heat escalates from my core up through my neck and into my face. Our kiss had only lasted a few seconds but seeing it here makes it feel like hours. As the image of Severus's kiss fades in front of me I can't help but think that once again, the Dark Lord has invaded my mind and manipulated my memory. The thought is disheartening. No, not disheartening. Frustrating. And I am sick of it.

"As I thought," says the Dark Lord, lowering his wand. "What do you have to say for yourself?"

I raise my head.

"That memory wasn't yours to take."

He strikes me across the face with all of his weight behind his hand, and although I am surprised I am not shocked. What I said was an act of defiance, even insubordination, and his reaction was not unexpected. My cheek burns where he hit me and I hear a slight ringing in my ears.

"You seem to have forgotten that it wasn't yours to create, Lucius."

"You have no business telling me what to do."

For a moment he looks nothing short of gobsmacked and admittedly I am just as surprised at having said those words. But they cannot be taken back now. I will only have to hope that whatever punishment he metes out for my backtalk will not leave me permanently damaged.

Time slows as he circles me, his arms folded across his chest. "It would make the most sense to silence you," he says, producing his wand and running the tip over the base of my neck. I don't move. I don't even blink, or breathe. He could silence me, and it would thwart my months of work with Severus. My magic, I've found, is sometimes as weak and lacking as my memory. Three days without practice would be a painful setback. A month or longer would undo everything I've learned since the viceroy first called me into his library and handed me a timeworn copy of A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration.

"Except it would take away the satisfaction of hearing you scream. Alternately, I could... oh, of course." He smiles. His smiles unnerve me even more than his rage. "It's not perfect, but at least it'll remind you of what you've done and it will prevent you from disobeying me further."

It? Before I can even start to speculate on what he's come up with he's across the room and rummaging through a drawer. Not sure if I'm allowed to turn my head to watch him, I try to catch his movements in the corner of my eye.

When he returns to his place in front of me, he's holding a strip of black leather with five metal rings of graduated size attached to one side. It's not large enough to fit into or over my mouth. It doesn't look like a restraint for my hands, either. It's far too small. Maybe it could trap two of my fingers, but that looks to be about it.

"You've never seen one of these before, I take it?"

I shake my head.

"Good." I wish he'd stop smiling. "Wouldn't want to spoil the surprise. But here's a hint: It's not something you can normally see on a person who's wearing robes."

So it's not an instrument for my hands or my head. What, then?

I figure it out a second too late.

He slides the metal rings around me and I gasp. I'm in too much shock to step away as he snaps the largest ring into place and taps the contraption with his wand. The pressure from the instrument is odd but not unpleasant. I realize, however, that an erection now will be painful if not impossible. Hatred burns in my chest. I have so few pleasures, and he knows this, and he knowingly took this one. My eyes burn and I feel that same anger tear through my back and arms that led me to attempt my attack on him that one time, however long ago it was. The memory of pain barely, just barely, keeps me from lunging at him.

"I should have done this a year ago. They call it the Gates of Hell. I think it compliments your little mark." He traces the lightning bolt scar on my hip. "Do you like it?"

I do not dignify his ridiculous question with a response.

"You'll get used to it. Severus got used to his. Oh, you didn't know he had one already? Strange. On the bright side, it means he's been much more disciplined around you than I thought he would. He likes you a lot more than he ought to." He cups the device in one hand while tracing over my lips with the thumb of the other. "I really can't blame him. After all, he's isolated. Witches don't really go for him even when he tries making advances. It makes sense that he would turn to you.

"The only problem is, he's forgetting one important factor: You are mine. I'm only gracious enough to let him play with you once in a while."

Once in a while? I hardly call what the viceroy and I do "playing." Of course, I can hardly call it anything else, not in front of the Dark Lord. He speaks as though he knows everything the viceroy and I have been up to, kisses and not, and that tone in his voice terrifies me. Bending my knees helps me feel a little less dizzy. I wish he'd stop talking, do whatever he plans to do to me, and send me back to my white bed and my goblet of poison.

"Undress me, Lucius."

I'd like to ask him what brought on his odd manner of dress, but I don't. As I push the buttons through their holes I reveal one by one the strange tattoos the Dark Lord has on his chest and arms, the ones that carry over onto his shoulders and back. The designs are intricate but mostly unfamiliar, intertwined circles and twists of wire. A few moderately resemble some of the runes in a book the viceroy gave me. When I brought up this coincidence during one of our tutoring sessions, the viceroy would only confirm that they were tied to his magic, and that he acquired them in his ascension to power. Every button I open brings another question. Who gave him these marks? Were they self-inflicted? What do they mean to him? I don't have much time to think about this, though, because the Dark Lord clears his throat as I linger over his buttons. Gently I pull the starched hem out of the waistband of his trousers. More than ever I am tempted to put my hand over where his heart should be just to see if he has one. Perhaps some things are better left unknown. Unfurling his belt, I caress the soft leather and warm the cold buckle in my hands. The button on his trousers is a little stubborn but I push it backwards through the buttonhole and carefully lower the gold zipper.

"Shall I continue, my Lord?" I ask this question of his navel.

"I think you know the answer," he says. He is smug, even amused. I'd like to take a subtle revenge by removing his trousers and underwear as quickly as I can and throwing them across the room, but if there's one thing in this world I am able to predict it is the consequences of my actions, no matter how small, against him.

The skin over his waist and hips is smooth. I carefully pull the fabric of his waistband forward. His his hair curls around my fingertips like a thousand dark wires. Bending my knees, I guide his trousers and underwear down his legs. Stepping out of clothing is always so awkward. I hold the back of one of his calves as he lifts one leg out, then kicks his clothing to the side.

"Pick that up," he orders.

I obey, placing his trousers on the red velvet chair in the corner. The upholstery on that chair is deceptively soft when touched but gets to be very rough when you're left tied to it for hours.

"Now turn around and open the cabinet behind you."

The cabinet is maple, built into the wall, and at one time held rare books and small heirlooms, music boxes and the like. When I open it I see the shelves have been removed and replaced with brass hooks.

"Choose one."

Shadows flicker over the contents of the cabinet. On each hook hangs a whipping implement. I see theme and variations on the whip, on the cat-o'-nine-tails, on the belt and paddle. There are rods that appear to be made of bamboo and a flogger of blue and black leather. Most of the paddles have holes drilled in them. I don't know how much time he'll give me to choose, so I quickly begin a process of elimination. The longest whips are pushed off the list of options first. Then anything with ends tied into knots.

"Now."

I thrust my hand towards a group of instruments and close it around something with a leather-wrapped handle. When I pull it out of the cupboard and into the candlelight I see a standard whip with a long lash. I feel rather than see the Dark Lord smile and I know I'm in for a long night.

A wave of his hand and I'm standing straight with my back to him. He fastens my cuffs to a harness he drops from the ceiling and although I know the attempt is futile, I struggle to separate my wrists. My back and arse and legs are completely exposed to the Dark Lord and tears come to my eyes as he brings the whip down.

"Both of you..."

Crack.

"...should know better..."

Crack.

"...than to think you can get away with..."

"...I know Severus thinks otherwise, but..."

"...and he's an idiot if he thought he could take all the punishment in hopes of sparing you."

As he lectures between turns of the whip the pain becomes near unbearable. I let go of my false resolve and scream. The air in the room feels a little cooler on the sting of my open wounds. I try to think of something to distract myself from the pain but the only thing I can think of is Severus's kiss and that will only warrant further punishment. Instead, I focus on breathing and pray he will tire of whipping me sooner rather than later. I think he stops somewhere around twenty. Maybe twenty-five. He loosens my wrists and I rub them, grateful for at least that modicum of relief. I feel I'm seconds from collapse when he takes my shoulder in one hand and draws the point of his wand over my back. I expect another flare of pain but instead a pleasant numb sensation overtakes my back and legs. Briefly I think that I cannot be so lucky to suffer for such a short period of time.

"It won't last as long as you want it to," he confirms. "Get on the bed."

I know by now that he means for me to kneel, facing away from him. With no pretense of foreplay he takes my hips and rams into me. Though he has slicked himself with whatever it is he keeps handy he always feels like a knife penetrating my stomach. He never, never allows me to watch him as he fucks me. I am always blindfolded if I am facing him, otherwise I am to face away and not look over my shoulder for penalty of being bound and trapped for hours or days. When he does not deafen me, I can hear him make little noises that almost sound like pleasure, small whimpers and shallow breaths. I try to push him out but that only allows him to move deeper. He moves as though I bring him fulfillment, though it is too much for me to suggest that he derives anything from fucking me other than a physical manifestation of his power. When he comes it is with his entire body, and although the circumstances that brought me here were terrible, I take pride in the increased pressure of his fingertips on my hips and his cries as he penetrates me as far as he possibly can, holding me to him so I am unable to question how very deeply he owns me. After he withdraws, leaving me feeling exposed and empty, I catch a glimpse of him as he moves off the bed. His white shirt is soaked with sweat and the marks on his chest glisten. Secretly I take a little pride in knowing I brought him to a point where his body had to cool itself, and where he could not stop himself from coming.

"Get out," he orders, pointing to the door. Breathing hard with every motion, I gather my robes and hold them in a ball in front of me. I don't dare put them on my back. I keep a death grip on the wooden banisters as I climb towards my rooms, and I consider it nothing short of miraculous that I am able to close my door behind me and walk over to my bed. That night, I drink the burning poison in one shot.

I hate myself for it.

The final thought that crosses my mind as I balance on my side, a pillow between my arms, is that all of this -- the monotony of lonely days and nights of being naked and penetrated and beholden to the Dark Lord -- must stop.

I should really thank the viceroy for all he does for me over the next two, maybe three, maybe four days. I sleep and wake at even intervals and fast lose track of time. He is the one that ensures I eat and drink, and he gives me potions and unguents to heal the marks on my back and legs. I can barely sit and lying on my back is out of the question, and I am too weak to question the viceroy's motives for making me as comfortable as he can. When I have to rise to a standing position he offers me his arm. He ensures my sheets are cleaned. For hours that stretch into days he says very little but his mouth is always tense. He perpetually looks as though he's about to speak. I figure he'll speak when inclined to do so, but admittedly my patience with his reticence is wearing thin. My energy if not my memory is returning, and with it my questions.

"Severus," I finally ask one morning as dust particles dance in the library's sunlight, "why are you still here, in this house?" It is the first day since the whipping that Severus has brought me my wand. The Standard Book of Spells, Volume Six lies on the desk beside me.

His dark eyes widen. "Do you really not know the answer?"

"It's because he keeps you here, isn't it? By some sort of magic?"

"No, Lucius, I--"

"I know about your Gates of Hell. Don't lie to me anymore."

This stops him. He exhales and seems to shrink inside his robes. "I suppose you would have found out about that sooner or later." The sofa creaks beneath him as he sits. "I might have more freedoms than you but they're far from what you think they are."

I pick up the glass globe from the desk and shake it, watching the sudden snowstorm envelop the little house. "They're still more than what I have. You've never been brought to the point of needing to be cared for by someone else because of what he inflicted on you. He's not living in your house, insulting your child and letting dust collect on your life. He didn't punish you for our kiss."

Sadness and disbelief cross his face. "Is that what you think?"

"You don't seem to have any marks."

"None that you've seen! And how would you know if he'd done the same thing to me as he did to you and then healed me because I'm the only one between the two of us that has full use of his magic?"

The snow begins to settle around the bottom of the house.

"He needs me," Severus continues. "He knows I am reliable, magically if not otherwise. Remember, he has years of power he gained by accident, not experience. He doesn't know how to handle it and it's damaging him. He looks to me as his guide."

"His guide. And you're also mine." I ponder this for a moment, and then it hits me. "'If there is anything I'm good at it is duplicity.' You said it yourself. You're... You're manipulating both of us."

"Lucius, no. Look at me.

"Perhaps you're right in one way: He does keep me here by magic. What you haven't considered, however, is maybe he isn't using that magic on me."

The last flake of snow falls from the top of the globe to the bottom, and with it a realization falls into place: Severus might have the ability to leave the house but he is still contained in the larger sphere. And I... The Dark Lord has woven me into that sphere. Severus cares about me and the Dark Lord knows this. The magic he uses he uses to hurt me, and Severus stays because he feels he cannot leave me defenseless against the Dark Lord's cruelty. Severus is still speaking but I am not listening, lost in my own thoughts. The longer I stay here, the longer I content myself with this life in glass and snow, the more I prove to him that I do need him. That may very well be what he wants, but it is not a living I can sustain.

"...and the enchantments on this house are--"

"I'm ready," I say. Interrupting Severus is an act of rebellion but my concerns about his options for punishment are quickly fading away.

"Ready for what?"

"I want my house back. I want to take it back."

He lets my words sink in. "Lucius, if you're planning what I think you're planning it would be an act of suicide. You're still weak. You don't have full use of your magic."

"I don't care."

"I think you care more than you're willing to admit."

His solemnity infuriates me. "I think you haven't got the faintest idea what it's like to be both an outsider and a prisoner in your own house! I think you're not the one who's had most of his memory destroyed and his wife and child killed by the person who now runs this house. I don't know what if anything you lost in the war, Severus, but I do know that you can more or less come and go as you please and enjoy a few benefits as viceroy to the Dark Lord, which is a hell of a lot more than I've got! Is he here right now?"

"Is who here right now?"

"The Dark Lord."

"Yes. He's in his rooms. I can't see him letting you get out of this wing, though."

This wing be damned.

I take the snow globe and hurl it against a wall. It shatters, leaving a trail of glass and water down the yellow paint.

"I'm through with life in that...that cage. I'm not something the Dark Lord can just shake and cover with snow at a whim. I'm taking my house back even if he kills me."

"He will kill you! Don't you understand? You've got magic, yes, but you won't last two seconds in a duel."

"Then I won't last two seconds. So be it. Dead is better than trapped. And this!"

I hear stitches rip in my robes as I remove them and take a silver letter opener from the desk. I'm still trapped in the iron cuffs and the Gates of Hell, and I see Severus squirm a little when I completely reveal myself. For the first time in too long I am willingly naked, using my body for power.

"I do not belong to him, and I am not his inferior!"

I am angry.

It feels wonderful.

Severus inhales sharply but says nothing as I drive the point of the letter opener into my hip, mutilating the lightning bolt scar. The pain is exquisite and excruciating. Blood covers the tip of the knife and spreads over my hipbone. Severus turns green as he watches me obscure the design of the scar. I know my hip will look a mess for the rest of my life, and I don't care. Minutes of pain and a lifetime of a pale, shapeless scar are worth the message they send to the Dark Lord: that I am my master now, not he. All I can think as I watch blood trickle in rivulets down my leg is that all of it, everything he's done to me against my will, must stop. I am near the point of sobbing, half from the pain and half in the joy of taking some control, however small, of my body. I may never recover my memories but I have to at least try to recover what the Dark Lord did leave me.

"Lucius, please." Severus rises from the sofa and points his wand at my hip. "Let me heal that."

"No! Leave it be."

"You shouldn't have done it."

"Why? Because you didn't want me to?"

"No, because I..." He stops and shakes his head. "I can't. I can't risk the Dark Lord harming you for another memory."

Seeing his hesitation makes my rage subside. It's possible I will never learn the true extent of Severus's duplicity, but that doesn't matter right now. What I want more than anything right now is to kiss him, to show him both my gratitude and my courage. And with my breath shallow in my chest and my hair plastered with sweat to the back of my neck, that is what I do. I expect that he will push me away in anger or maybe even revulsion. Instead he draws me close and wraps his arms around me. I can feel his heart through his robes. He lacks finesse in this kiss; his mouth is wide and hungry and consuming. I draw on his passion and lock it into my soul. This may be the last kiss I ever experience and I want to take as much from it as possible. I slide my tongue against his, over it, and hear him moan. He holds me tightly, to the point where I am short of breath. A sigh escapes him as I take his lower lip between my teeth and bite gently.

I am the first to break away and with my lips still tender I pull my robes on and pick up my wand.

The hinges on the door creak as I close it behind me, leaving Severus alone.

I walk quietly but quickly through the house. The door to the Dark Lord's quarters remains closed and I hope it is a sign that he doesn't hear me coming. I worry that the floor will creak and give me away but in an act of loyalty to its rightful owner it stays unmoving. Pausing in front of the door, I think of Draco and Narcissa. A tight scab begins to form on my hip, and I take a second to pray that whatever happens, Severus will be spared. There is nothing I can do for him. I can barely fathom what will happen in the next five minutes but whatever it is I will not stand still and let the Dark Lord dictate everything I am and the nothing I remember.

The iron cuffs burn against my wrists as I brandish my wand.

"Alohomora!"