Chapter 20

Lucius sat up in bed, his heart pounding in his chest for some inexplicable reason. He stared forward, uncomprehending, for nearly a full minute before realising that he was clutching his right arm. He looked down at it and felt a dull throb under his palm.

He didn't want to look. He knew something was wrong, and he knew that if he lifted his hand it would only seem worse. Slowly, he slid his hand around so that only his fingers rested over the quickly numbing spot. Lucius slowly spread his fingers, ignoring his wife shifting in the bed next to him.

Narcissa looked over at him, her white blond hair pulled back in a pleated braid, her long white evening gown glimmering in the moonlight that trickled through the curtains over the window. "What is it, Lucius?"

Her cold eyes fell on his hand, still partially covering his arm. "Is he calling you? For Merlin's sake, he is four doors down in the same bloody manor, can't he just send a house elf?"

"Narcissa..."

"I will not be quiet, Lucius, it is four in the morning and I can not keep using glamour's and pepper up potions to get through my mornings. I need sleep, Lucius, as do you. He has his precious pet back, the least he can do is give us one night's peace."

"Narcissa..."

"Is it so much to ask that..."

"Narcissa!" Lucius turned his gaze from his arm and stared hard at his wife, his eyes wide in a sort of panic.

"What?"

"He's not calling. He's dead."

Several hours earlier:

Dumbledore cast a worried look at the tall, dark, aggravated Potions Master currently leaning against the wall, twisting his thumbnail between his teeth. "Severus, you need to calm down."

"I am calm, Albus."

"My dear boy, you haven't bitten your nails since you were eleven years old. I remember the exact occasion; you had just taken your first exam and you were sitting at the Slytherin table with Lucius Malfoy, completely ignoring your lunch?"

"Albus, this is hardly the time to be discussing the state of my cuticles. There is one boy hysterical and literally strapped to a bed in the infirmary and another being tortured, or worse. We have to find a way to infiltrate Malfoy Manor, we have to get word to Lucius, find out what is happening with Harry. We?"

"And if you do not get a hold of yourself, Severus, I will have to deal with a Potion's Master locked in his quarters to keep him from doing something rash that could do more harm than good."

Snape took a moment to process what Albus had said before his shoulders slumped against the wall in exhausted defeat. "I apologise, Albus."

Dumbledore put his hand on Severus' shoulder. "There's no reason to apologise. I understand that you are under a great deal of stress, but you cannot allow that to interfere with your judgment. Now, Severus, I need you to explain to me what exactly happened?"

Severus took several deep breaths before he managed to speak. "Voldemort got into the school, I'm not sure how. He seemed to appear out of nowhere in my quarters and he..." Severus thought back, "he did something to Harry, a spell, so that he wouldn't fight him. Harry didn't say anything or do anything, he just walked up to Voldemort when he was told to and stood still while that... monster touched him and talked to him and..."

Dumbledore watched, concerned at how his usually calm and stoic Potions Master was falling apart. "Are you sure it was a spell? Harry spent so many years as a pet, are you sure he wasn't simply acting the way he was trained to? Doing what he was told because it was Voldemort telling him to?"

"No." Severus shook his head to clear it of the disgusting imagine of Voldemort kissing Harry. "No, Harry is very inquisitive, the Dark Lord likes that in him, encourages it. He wants to Harry to be child like, innocent. As long as he wasn't being disobedient it didn't matter if he asked questions." Severus' mouth twitched in something that looked suspiciously like a smile. "Or maybe that was just something about Harry that the Dark Lord couldn't get rid of."

The would-be smile vanished instantly. "Voldemort took Harry. He told Draco that unless the boy returned home to his manor this holiday that his father would be killed. I can only assume what he would want Draco to come home for. After that he vanished again, it sounded like a portkey, I suppose."

"Draco started to walk out. I inquired as to where he thought he was going, to which he replied that he was going home. I told him that he was not to go anywhere near Malfoy Manor. He was... understandably upset. I then contacted you and brought him here, where Madame Pomfrey has had to strap him to a bed as he has quite literally gone into hysterics and should probably be given a calming potion before he harms himself."

Severus started to turn around to enter the infirmary, where he could still hear Draco Malfoy screaming to be let up and that they had no right keep him there. Dumbledore put a hand on the man's shoulder. "Severus, you're upset..."

"I am more than upset, Albus." He didn't move to take the hand away. Despite what he may say to others there was an air of comfort that radiated around the old professor. "He's gone and I... if I were to try and save him I would be killed. There's nothing I can do."

The hand tightened for a moment, "You care for him." When Severus said nothing, he continued, "More than as a teacher or guardian."

"Yes."

Albus dropped his hand to his side and Severus leaned against the wall in uncharacteristic defeat. "I won't say I approve, dear boy, but you must get a hold of yourself. You are right in that you can do nothing for Harry, but you can do something for a certain student who is at least as deeply distressed as yourself."

Of course Albus was right. Harry was far from his reach while Draco was just in the next room. He said nothing, he didn't feel that anything needed to be said, instead he braced himself and walked into the infirmary.

It had taken three long hours for Draco to wear himself to exhaustion. He had lost his voice long before then, but he seemed damned and determined to escape the invisible straps holding him on his back in the bed. Severus felt the uncanny urge to stroke the soft blonde head as the boy's face twitched in a nightmare.

A low moan escaped the pale lips "Fa..." Severus gave in, setting his hand on the delicate head, which turned away instinctively.

The boy's eyes snapped open and stared at the ceiling. After a moment, Draco turned his head wearily and sighed, looking back up at the ceiling when he saw Professor Snape. For several moments the room was silent, save for Draco's uneven breathing, Severus was the one that finally broke the silence.

"How are you feeling?"

Draco didn't bother to answer.

"Would you like something to drink?"

Still nothing.

"Would you like to be let go?"

The boy turned his head and glared at Severus, knowing full well that it was an empty question. "Why can't I go home?"

"Your home is currently occupied by the Dark Lord."

Draco narrowed his eyes angrily. "That never stopped you."

Severus was going to make a cutting remark about how this was an entirely different situation, when an overwhelming pain in his forearm cut him off and he hunched over in surprise. Draco's eyes widened, "Is he calling you?"

After a moment Severus shook his head and looked down at the place his hand was covering with a kind of wonder. "If he's not calling, what is it?"

Severus still didn't say anything. Instead, he sat up and lifted his hand, as though afraid of what was underneath. Draco refrained from badgering him further, but leaned forward, trying to let a look as well. It was several minutes before the Potions Master said anything at all, and when he did it was so implausible that Draco was quite sure he'd heard him wrong.

"The Mark is gone. Voldemort is dead."

After he regained his composure, Severus unstrapped Draco and took him by the arm as he marched towards the Headmaster's office. As unthinkable as it was, the Dark Lord was dead, that was the only explanation there was for the Dark Mark being gone. All that remained now was to figure out how.

It didn't seem very likely that Lucius would have done it. Severus didn't doubt that the man loved his son, but he knew better than to think the Lord of Malfoy Manor would risk his life and jeopardise his standing just to keep Draco from spreading his legs a few times. Narcissa was equally unlikely. She, too, loved her son, but not enough to risk her life.

The only believable option was that an Auror had managed to somehow slip behind the safeguards of Malfoy Manor and assassinated the Dark Lord in his sleep. Then again, the idea of Lord Voldemort having been caught unawares was so entirely absurd that Severus could think of only one thing to do. Go to Albus and find out what the bloody hell was going on.

They were met halfway there by Dumbledore himself. In all his life, Severus couldn't remember seeing the old man breathless, but there was always a first for everything. Albus put one hand on Severus' shoulder and the other over his own heart.

From the look of absolute relief on Albus' face, it was obvious that the Headmaster already knew about the Dark Lord's defeat, and Severus didn't mince words finding out how. What worried him was the concern overlying it. "What's happened?"

"You're needed at Malfoy Manor, dear boy, use my floo."

Severus instantly began walking as fast as he could towards the Headmaster's office, thoughts of Harry filling his mind. It wasn't possible that that timid little child had killed the Dark Lord, it just wasn't possible... but then, Harry would have been the only other person in Malfoy Manor. It wasn't like either Lucius or Voldemort to have Death Eaters over at such hours of the night.

It wasn't until he had stopped just outside the office to say the password that he realised he was still holding onto Draco's wrist. Dropping it, he pointed forcefully back in the direction they had come. "Go back to the dormitory."

"I will not! I want to go home to see my father!"

Severus could feel the tenuous control on his temper slipping. "Return to the dormitory, or so help me, Draco Malfoy, I will... put you over my knee." Draco opened his mouth to protest, but Snape cut him off. "Now, Malfoy!"

Before Draco could move, Dumbledore came around the corner, still breathing rather heavily. "Severus." When Snape looked over, Dumbledore shook his head, "The boy can go with you, but you must hurry."

"Snickers." Ignoring the boy's smirk, he latched onto the thin wrist again and pulled him onto the stairs now moving up the entrance and didn't let go until they were standing next to the fireplace.

Draco took the floo powder from the pot next to it and threw it in, "Malfoy Manor." He stepped in and vanished. Severus gave him thirty seconds to clear the way and followed.

The entrance hall to Malfoy Manor was uncharacteristically filled with the sounds of yelling. Lucius had apparently been waiting for Severus' arrival and had not been pleased to see his son. Draco, surprisingly, seemed to be holding his own for once in his life.

"...have I done?"

"You should have stayed at Hogwarts, where you were safe."

"And let him kill you because I wasn't willing to fuck Harry for him? I think not!"

"He would not have killed me and if you think the worst he could have done is order you to play with his pet..." Draco turned a funny shade of green and Lucius stopped, he took a deep breath and put his hand on his son's shoulder. "Draco?"

The Malfoy heir jerked back as if Lucius had cast the Cruciatus Curse and stared at his father in disgust. "You... He said, but I didn't really believe. I didn't think..." When Lucius reached his hand out again, Draco back stepped towards Severus. "You called him pet. You said play with him. You didn't even hesitate, you didn't have to force it, that's how you see him, isn't it? Some animal that you can just do whatever you want to."

"No, Draco, you misunderstand..."

"There isn't any misunderstanding!"

Lucius sighed and didn't say anything, but Severus had known Lucius long enough to know that he had not truly given up. In fact, if those cold grey eyes were anything to go by, he was under the assumption that Draco was temporarily upset and that he would get over it and come to his senses. Severus very much hoped to be there when Lucius realised that was not the case.

He stepped in front of Draco to draw Lucius attention away from his son. "Malfoy, you summoned me."

Lucius looked up, seeing Severus for the first time. "The Dark Lord is dead."

"I am marked, Malfoy, it was rather hard to miss." He absently wondered how long Malfoy had had those scars on his cheek. They looked human.

"Yes." Lucius looked down at his forearm in a dazed fashion before looked back at Severus. "The pe... the boy killed him."

Draco looked up, mouth open, but too shocked to say anything. Severus, however, was not so incapacitated. "How?"

"Stabbed him, with that blasted knife."

Ah, the knife. Severus had seen it on few occasions, but knew that it was cursed so that any wound it created, large or small, could not be closed and would force the body to bleed out. His first experience with it was watching a muggle woman slowly bleed to death from what could have been a cut from parchment. It had taken days.

"Are you sure it was him? Not some Auror spy?"

"Do you take me for an imbecile, Snape? I would know if someone had entered my home uninvited. Now kindly go remove it from the guest bedroom before it does itself harm."

Draco had turned an even paler shade of green while his father was speaking and Severus wondered if perhaps he should see the boy to the bathroom. There really wasn't time however, as Draco was already heading towards the staircase in the foyer.

Severus followed quickly, allowing the boy to guide him through the maze like halls of Malfoy Manor until they came to a half open door. Draco opened it fully, but almost as soon as he had stepped inside, he turned back around and was sick on the hall carpet. Damn, he should have seen him to a bathroom first.

Not that it wasn't a well founded response; indeed, Severus was feeling a tinge on the ill side as he looked in on the room. Voldemort, the dreaded Dark Lord, was lying on the bed, quite literally soaked in his own blood. One of his hands lay on the bed next to him, the other off the side. Besides the grizzly site of the vacant eyed corpse, there was the smell. The room reeked of death. Even from the door, Severus could see the gaping wound on Voldemort's chest. The knife that had created it lay on the bed next to the body, its handle and blade red with blood. The knife had gone straight through his heart; the chances of him surviving the wound would have been slim to none, even it had been a normal weapon.

A small voice broke through his thoughts. At first, Severus thought Draco was talking to himself, but he could still hear gagging from the hall. Stepping into the room, he put his hand up to his nose to guard against the pungent odour. The sound was coming from the other side of the bed and he slowly made his way around it.

Severus stopped cold for several moments when he finally saw him. Harry was sitting curled up into a ball, matted with blood. At first, he thought Harry was injured, but then he realised that it wasn't his own blood he was covered in, but Voldemorts', pooled all around him, soaking him while he rocked back and forth, muttering to himself.

He heard Draco give dry heaves as the boy began to enter the room. Severus turned around and held up his arm. "Don't come in."

But even as he said it, he saw why Draco hadn't wanted to stay outside. Lucius was standing in the doorway, watching Severus curiously to see what he would do. Putting the blonde Death Eater out of his mind, Severus walked up to Harry and knelt beside him, listening intently to what he was saying.

"Master's Pet. Master's Pet."

He seemed to be in a kind of trance and for a moment, Severus was a little weary about breaking it, until Harry grabbed his hair, pulling it and giving a half cry, half yelp, before wrapping his arms around his knees again and continuing his chant.

"Harry." He put out a hand, but the distraught boy did not response, simply continued rocking as though no one were there. "Harry, look at me."

This time, Harry shook his head, indicating that he could, at the very least, hear what was being said, even if he refused to acknowledge it. Severus moved his hand down to the child's arm and tried to gently pry it away from his legs, but Harry pulled back, his muttering becoming more adamant.

As much as he hated to use force, there were no two ways about it. Harry needed to be brought out of whatever shock induced state he had managed to put himself in and no amount of gently prodding was likely to do that. Severus grabbed both the boy's skinny arms and pulled the little body towards himself, wrapping his arms around Harry's shoulders, holding the shaking form to him protectively.

"It's all right now, Harry, I'm here." Harry tensed and pulled away slightly, but Severus persisted. "It's Severus." Harry was still pulling away, making choked noises like he was trying not to cry, but still muttering 'Master's pet.'

Severus gripped the boy's shoulders and lifted his chin up, forcing him to look Severus in the eyes. "You are not a pet, you are Harry." He shook his head and Severus sighed, letting the little body go to melt against him. To his surprise, Harry grabbed onto him the moment he was let go and began crying whole heartedly, in gut wrenching sobs that echoed through the room.

Severus wrapped his arms loosely around Harry's shoulders and sat back against the bloody bed, ignoring the way his clothes stuck to the sticky substance. His clothes didn't matter; the smell in the room didn't matter. He had Harry back, Harry wasn't hurt, and Harry was all that mattered.

-tbc-