CHAPTER 16

**AUTHOR'S NOTES: WARNING! This chapter may trigger some, as it mentions some seriously God-awful things such as cutting and the rape of a child. Also, I feel I must mention that there is some rough lovemaking ahead. It isn't rape, as both Snape and Lily are completely consensual. But nonetheless, the descriptions may be triggering.

Snape landed hard on the gravel stones lining the drive of Malfoy Manor, stumbling in his haste as he hurried to report to the Dark Lord. His hands felt like fire as they reached for his Death Eater mask hidden beneath the folds of his cloak. The first day of classes had seen more movement than anticipated, and his hands had already been swollen and painful before the added magical weight of apparition.

However, the pain in his joints brought an unexpected clarity to his anxiety-ridden thoughts. He came to a stop at the sudden comprehension that he was alone.

There was no one else rushing to join the Dark Lord's side…

A feeling of dread settled heavily in the pit of his stomach when he realized that he was the only one who'd been summoned.

He forced himself into movement, knowing the Dark Lord did not like to be kept waiting. Steeling himself to what lay ahead, Snape hurried up the steps to the heavy front doors. He considered downing the vial of Lily's golden pain potion. He decided against it, however, knowing that he may need it even more when the Dark Lord was through with him.

If I'm not dead already, that is.

Tucking his apprehension behind his Occlumency shields, he slid the persona of passive indifference firmly into place and shouldered open the massive doors.

As he hurried to the far end of the large entrance hall and approached the drawing room, Snape could hear a pitiful keening coming from within. It didn't bode well for his own precarious position.

Slipping quietly into the room, his eyes fell immediately onto the squirming, panting figure of Peter Pettigrew as he writhed in agony at the Dark Lord's feet. The snake bastard was so absorbed in torturing the man that he hadn't even noticed Snape's arrival.

"You have failed me yet again, Peter," the Dark Lord growled. "You were supposed to report back immediately if the filthy Muggle didn't seem to have taken to the curse! Crucio!"

Pettigrew wailed as a fresh wave of pain overtook him. "Please My Lord," he panted as curse's power waned. "I – I thought the Junior Deputy was fine! There was no sign–"

"No sign? No sign?! The man started quacking like a duck in the middle of his speech, you imbecile! Dumbledore has already swooped in and had him transferred to St. Mungo's! This sets our plan back months because he is now completely out of our reach! CRUCIO!" As Pettigrew's screams grew hoarse and weak, the Dark Lord snarled down at him, "Perhaps inflicting pain is the only way you will learn! If agony is the only thing that can penetrate that thick skull after spending so many years as a filthy rat, then I am happy to oblige! Crucio! CRUCIO!"

Pettigrew's eyes were mere slits in his face by the time the Dark Lord ended the curse. His lips were swollen and bloody where he'd bitten through them during his torture. For a long moment he lay as still as a corpse, and Snape thought the man was dead. But then he inhaled a deep, rattling gasp, wheezing in an effort to draw breath through the pain.

"Get out of my sight!" The Dark Lord hissed menacingly, and Pettigrew struggled weakly to his feet to escape with his life.

It was only as the Dark Lord watched Pettigrew scramble away that his sneering gaze landed upon Snape. His face seemed to lose some of its anger.

"Severus," he purred, "right on time."

Snape had to force himself to remain impassive, still unsure of the meaning behind his summons. Just in case, he approached the Dark Lord with a bowed head and lowered gaze, kneeling at his feet in supplication – just like he knew the snake bastard preferred his slaves.

"My Lord, I am ever your servant."

"Stand, my slippery friend," the Dark Lord murmured. "At least one of my followers is competent enough to help my rise back to power. Perhaps I should have put you in charge of Herbert Chorley."

Snape almost sagged in relief, but quickly got to his feet. He made sure to look both pleased and humbled by the praise when instead all he felt was disgust at how easy the snake bastard could discuss someone's torture.

"How may I be of assistance to you, My Lord?"

"I need you to relay a message, if you would. And I'm afraid I also need your… tutoring skills… this evening." The hair on the back of Snape's neck rose at the wicked smile that curled the edges of the Dark Lord's lipless mouth.

Oh no…

"Whom shall I be tutoring, My Lord?" he asked carefully.

Instead of answering, the Dark Lord's grin simply widened in anticipation. Turning to call over his shoulder, he beckoned, "Lucius, Narcissa – won't you join us?"

It was only then that Snape realized the Malfoys had been there the entire time, hidden in the shadows like wraiths. The ghostly description was accurate, for the couple looked as if they each already had one foot in the grave.

Snape inspected the dark, livid scar that sliced the Malfoy patriarch from hairline to jaw. The patch that the man sported was to cover the eye on that side, which Snape knew was milky white and dead from being touched by dark magic. Malfoy's steps were hesitant as he made his way towards them, and his one good eye flicked nervously between Snape and the Dark Lord as he knelt at the evil wizard's bare feet.

Narcissa was slower in coming, her pace like that of a funeral dirge. The Dark Lord seemed amused by her obvious reluctance. She floated by Snape more dead than alive, strongly reminding him of the Grey Lady who haunted Ravenclaw Tower.

But unfortunately for Narcissa, she was very much among the living.

Snape flinched as she stepped further into the light from the large fireplace and couldn't help the sympathy that swept through him at the obvious cruelty she had endured. The woman's cheeks were hollowed, her lips cracked and dry like ancient parchment. Her eyes were sunken into her skull, the pits shadowed and smeared with dark purple bruises – whether from lack of sleep, or abuse at the hands of the Dark Lord, Snape couldn't be certain.

Reaching the group of wizards, she stared at the Dark Lord with deadened eyes that shone with gut-wrenching emotion. The gaze was at once frightening and helpless, and Snape knew the memory of her in this moment would haunt him to his grave. For a long minute he thought that the wasted woman would refuse to submit. But then, in a sudden swoop that looked more like a collapse, Narcissa dropped to the bastard's feet alongside her husband.

The Dark Lord chuckled as he gazed down at the beaten pair. The malicious grin was still in place as he raised his red-eyed gaze to Snape. "It has been discovered that Lucius completely ignored my wishes and wrote a letter to Draco. Luckily we were able to intercept the owl before it made its destination." He tutted down at the man in mock disappointment. "Lucius is well-aware that his son is not to be disturbed while at school, and was under strict instructions not to distract him from his studies."

Although it was slight, Snape heard the minor emphasis on the word. Unbeknownst to the Dark Lord, Snape knew exactly what 'studies' the snake bastard expected Draco to perform.

Lucius seemed to shrink in fear as the Dark Lord stared silently down at him, but refused to meet the evil red gaze. He balked when the man addressed him directly, clearly in fear for his life.

"Rise, Lucius."

He did so on very shaky legs. Strangely however, the fear seemed to dissipate as resignation took its place. The pale man straightened his shoulders to look the Dark Lord directly in the eye, determined to die with a pride and dignity.

"Remove your wand, Lucius," the Dark Lord commanded in an icy tone.

Again, Malfoy wordlessly followed his instruction. Lifting his chin in a faint remanence of the arrogant pureblood wizard he once was, Malfoy turned his wand in the palm of his hand and attempted to hand it to the Dark Lord handle-first.

The snake bastard didn't even glance at the proffered wand. Instead, his grin widened in gleeful anticipation as he murmured, "Keep it. You shall need it for your wife's punishment."

It was only then that Malfoy seemed to falter.

His sudden bravado deserted him as quickly as it had come, and he murmured in an unsure tone, "My… wife, My Lord? But… it was I who –"

"Severus," the Dark Lord suddenly addressed Snape, completely dismissing the Malfoy patriarch. "Tell me, how do you punish a rebellious student who refuses to obey?"

Snape's blood ran cold as he finally understood. "By punishing his peers, My Lord," he answered quietly.

The Dark Lord's gaze held eager anticipation as he turned to face Malfoy once again. A lock of platinum blond hair was caught in the current of the man's heavy, terrified panting. It was sucked back almost entirely into Malfoy's mouth, before being blown forward once again in a panicked tempo.

"My Lord –"

"The Cruciatus should do."

Malfoy's eyes widened in panic. "B-but, My L-lord – she isn't strong enou–!"

"Do it," the Dark Lord hissed in a deadly tone, "or it shall be the killing curse instead."

Malfoy's rattled gaze shot from the Dark Lord to Snape. It then flicked down to his beaten, battered wife, who hadn't reacted at all to the conversation being played out above her. Malfoy's wand hand suddenly jerked as the man swayed in place, as if he was going to collapse at any moment.

He is going to get his entire family killed!

Without thinking, Snape slipped into his role of second-in-command and stepped forward. "Please, My Lord… Allow me." What are you doing?! But he didn't hesitate as he plunged ahead. "How can we be sure that Malfoy would discipline her with the… appropriate strength?" Snape allowed a sick, predatory smile to slide onto his lips as he hungrily lowered his gaze to Narcissa and purred, "The bitch deserves to be punished."

"No!" Malfoy cried, horrified. But Snape could tell by the malicious gleam in the Dark Lord's eyes that Malfoy's fervent denial had worked in Snape's own favor.

"You have a point, Severus," the snake bastard murmured. Snape felt his stomach lurch as the Dark Lord slid his fingertips along the full length of his wand in a disturbingly erotic gesture. "I shall grant you this gift as acknowledgement of your continued loyalty to my cause."

Snape made a show of thanking the Dark Lord, his heart galloping in his chest as he attempted to buy himself time. He knew his plan was dangerous, especially since it involved an intricate flourish with his wand that Snape honestly wasn't sure he could perform. The first day of classes had been even more difficult than expected, and his knuckles were already on fire. But if the Dark Lord discovered his injuries and thought him to be of no further use, there was no telling what he might do. He may even dispose of him right there on the spot.

Snape frantically shoved as much of the pain behind his shields as possible, and the barrier stretched almost to breaking point as it struggled to contain the physical agony. He was keenly aware that the manipulation wouldn't last long.

Turning toward the Malfoys, Snape carefully drew his wand from his sleeve. He fervently prayed to whichever God would listen that he wouldn't drop it and give his condition away.

Lucius suddenly threw himself in front of his wife, his hands held towards Snape in a pleading gesture. "Severus – please!" He begged."Don't do this!"

The Dark Lord erupted in cruel laughter. "Of course he will do it, Lucius. Unlike some, Severus knows what it means to obey."

But Malfoy never took his eyes from Snape.

He understood the silver-haired man's desperation, knowing that if the situation were reversed, he would be fighting to the death to protect Lily.

Snape wanted nothing more than to use his Legilimancy skills to alert Malfoy of his plan. But with his shields already so tenuous and fragile, he doubted he had the strength to project without shattering them completely.

"Move, Malfoy," Snape growled, trying to send a message with his eyes. The snake bastard simply laughed again. When the other wizard refused to budge, Snape shouldered past him.

And for the first time since kneeling at the Dark Lord's feet, Narcissa came alive – if you could call it that.Her gaze rose slowly to meet Snape's own, and he had to keep himself from stumbling backward from the power of her projected thoughts.

End it, she murmured silently. Don't hold back. I want to die. Her deadened grey eyes were full of acceptance before they blazed to life with sudden fierce emotion. But do not forget your vow to protect my son!

Once more, Snape tried to communicate as best he could using only his black gaze. Then he raised his wand, turning his body to block the Dark Lord's view so he wouldn't notice the simple shrieking spell that he was about to cast. Narcissa would scream as if being tortured by the Cruciatus, but would feel no pain.

"Crucio!" he cried, canceling the spoken word as he overpowered it with a non-verbal, Homicidium Clamo! At the same moment he twirled his wrist, jabbing his first two fingers forward as he forcefully thrust the wand towards the prone, beaten woman before him.

Narcissa began screaming just as his brittle shields collapsed, and the pain flooded through him like water from a shattered dam. Snape was shamefully grateful for the ungodly, hair-raising screams echoing throughout the room, for they obscured the agonized cry that broke past his lips.

Forcing the pain away, Snape frantically attempted to piece his shields back together. But he could feel his body begin to tremble as the pain weakened his system. He knew he didn't have much time.

"Narcissa!" Malfoy shouted, tears streaming down his ghostly face as her unholy screaming continued. Snape didn't blame him – it sounded as though the woman was being torn apart by a horde of bloodthirsty dementors.

Suddenly Malfoy rushed forward, attempting to reach his wife and stop the torture. Snape caught him, but only just. An agonizing pain ripped through him as the man struggled against his hold, and darkness began to creep into the edges of his vision. He shoved the pain and darkness forcefully away. Not yet! Just a little longer!

"Malfoy!" he rasped into the other man's ear. "Lucius! STOP!" And amazingly, Malfoy listened. Snape maneuvered himself behind the other wizard, using him as a shield to block the Dark Lord's view. He glanced at Narcissa writhing and screaming on the floor below them.

"This is what happens when you show disloyalty," he accused in a louder voice, so that the snake bastard would hear. "You're lucky he was kind enough not to kill her outright!" But as he spoke, he subtlety removed the golden pain potion from inside his billowing robe pocket. "Your family is a disgrace to the wizarding world. You have tarnished the Malfoy name for eternity!" he snarled, secretly shoving the small glass vial of Lily's potion into Malfoy's palm. Thankfully, the man showed no reaction to the unexpected behavior that completely contrasted his words.

Snape knew he'd soon be struggling without the relief that the golden potion provided. But he would never be able to live with himself if he didn't do something to relieve Narcissa's pain. Her body was so frail and covered in bruises, she looked as if she should rightfully be dead. The least he could do was ease her suffering – even if the relief was only temporary.

As Narcissa continued screaming, Snape lowered his voice and quickly murmured into Lucius' ear, "Beg for her. Get her alone."

He saw Malfoy's fingers close fiercely over the bottle until his knuckles shown white. Then the man suddenly dropped to his knees.

The Dark Lord swept his wand through the air, and Narcissa went deathly silent. Although Snape could see her shudder and pant as she lay upon the glisten black wooden floor, she emitted no sound. The sudden quiet was eerie and unnerving.

"My… My Lord," Lucius murmured, his eyes meekly downcast. It was only the flush in the man's cheeks and the back of his neck, as well as the white-knuckled fists that proved the truth of Lucius' hidden rage.

A sense of relief flooded through Snape as he realized that the other man understood his unspoken message. Malfoy didn't get so high in ranks without knowing how to play the game, Snape thought. His machinations and manipulative tactics were legendary, after all – even amongst the Death Eaters.

The Dark Lord's gaze was triumphant as he stared down the beggar at his feet.

"My Lord," Lucius repeated, "I see the error of my ways. I was wrong to reach out to my son. Please… I beg your mercy on my wife's behalf – even though I ignored your wishes and don't deserve it. Allow me to –" Snape watched as a muscle in the man's jaw visibly ticked when he clenched it in fury. But his submissive tone of voice stayed perfectly neutral as he continued, "Allow me to escort her to your chambers to… rest."

The Dark Lord's flinty gaze bored into the top of Malfoy's sleek blond head for long, tense moments. Malfoy never moved.

"Yes, Lucius. Take Narcissa to my chambers. Make sure she is comfortable and then you may retire. You are dismissed."

Lucius hurried into action, grasping his wife gently by the elbow and lifting her shakily to her feet. As he carefully lead his wife to the Dark Lord's quarters at the far end of the large room, Snape saw him place an arm around her. To most it would seem as though he was only helping to guide the unsteady woman toward their destination. Snape hoped that the two of them were quickly exchanging information, and that Narcissa found some relief from the golden potion. He prayed that knowledge of his true intentions made them realize they were not alone in this. He prayed it gave them hope.

The snake bastard's eyes suddenly flicked to meet Snape's own. "I cannot help but notice how effective a teaching tool Crucio is, especially against the disobedient and rebellious," he muttered as a lazy grin appeared upon his lipless mouth. "Perhaps you can find a way to use this technique at Hogwarts. I can only imagine how much pleasure you would derive from using it against the likes of Harry Potter and his ilk. Now that you are the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, perchance there is a possibility of adding this… lesson… into your curriculum."

Snape's blood ran cold at the mention of his son's name, but he allowed a smile matching the Dark Lord's to creep onto his face. "I would like nothing more, My Lord," he answered coolly.

"Speaking of the cursed 'Boy-Who-Lived'," the snake bastard spat, his face suddenly turning ugly with rage, "I would like weekly reports on how he is progressing in your classes. I want to know exactly what he is learning, and what his weaknesses are, so that I am not taken by surprise once again. I cannot afford another mistake."

Snape tried to impose a note of confidence into his voice when he answered, "Yes, My Lord." But he was afraid he wasn't successful as his extremities suddenly went ice cold. I don't even understand what is happening to my own son! How am I supposed to give weekly reports that will satisfy this evil son-of-a-bitch without getting Harry killed?!

But somehow, Snape was able to keep his mask of passive indifference in place. None the wiser to his second-in-command's true feelings, the Dark Lord continued, "Your assistance with the Malfoys is appreciated. I am in need of a messenger, so if I may ask one more favor of you before you are dismissed?"

"Anything, My Lord."

There was no warmth in the snake bastard's smile, only punishing, cruel amusement as he murmured, "Please tell little Draco not to fret for Mummy and Daddy, for his Lord and Master is watching over them all with a very close eye."

. . . . .

After forcing his hands through all the jarring movement and without Lily's potion, Snape knew that apparating to the gates of Hogwarts was going to be difficult. But even then, he wasn't prepared for the level of agony that assaulted his every nerve ending as he was squeezed through the tube of space and time.

Upon landing, Snape no longer had the strength to stand against the pain coursing through his system. He crumpled in a heap into the massive iron gates, causing a massive metallic clang!

I need to protect Harry! He screamed internally. Draco needs to be warned! Get up! GET UP NOW!

Dragging a deep, ragged breath into his burning lungs, he attempted to use the gate to pull himself into a standing position. But the small amount of pressure the movement levelled onto his hands was almost beyond endurance. Crying out in pain, he crumpled once more, the heavy chains rattling above him.

Ashamed at his own weakness, he closed his eyes and wished for the darkness to swallow him, if only to give him a temporary reprieve. A cold sweat began to trickle down his face, and he no longer possessed the strength to wipe it away.

"Severus!"

The voice sounded as if it were coming through a tube a Quidditch pitch away. Believing it was only a figment of his pain-hazed imagination, he gritted his teeth and kept his eyes closed, still attempting to catch his breath.

"Severus!" The voice came again, panic laced heavily in its tone. It was much closer now, only a few feet behind the massive gate.

He finally opened his eyes as the large chains slid from between the bars. The gate creaked as it swung open, and someone flung themselves down beside him, dropping a glowing lantern down by their side with a grassy thump.

"Lily?" he croaked in a weak, disbelieving whisper. "But… How –?"

"I went looking for you after dinner," she said, not meeting his eyes as she frantically pulled her wand and what looked like an entire infirmary's-worth of potions from her deep robe pockets. "I couldn't find you, so I went to Harry and asked him to use his map. When he told me that he couldn't find you, I just knew…"

Her voice drifted off as she began to cast spell after spell, attempting to diagnose where his pain was coming from. Her beautiful face hardened as she realized that it was radiating from his hands. "Bastard," she whispered angrily. "What has he done to you…? Have you taken the golden elixir yet?"

"No," he murmured weakly. "I gave it to Narcissa Malfoy."

Lily sighed in frustration, muttering something about a 'stubborn mule' under her breath as she rummaged through the glass vials strewn around on the grass beside her. "I think it's you who has the hero complex, not Harry," she accused him in a rattled tone. "You know that potion takes a fortnight to mature, and we're already running low on stores. The next batch won't be ready for a few days yet."

Snape said nothing, too tired to argue.

"Take this," she ordered as she gently slid her arm beneath his shoulders and cradled his upper body in her lap. Lifting the potion to his lips, she explained, "It's a numbing drought. This one, too – a general pain reliever. Now an anti-inflammatory. Nerve blocker next. One more, Sev – a muscle relaxer." He obediently swallowed each one until a small pile of empty bottles clinked together, discarded on the grass next to them. When he was finished, she glared down at him. "None of them are as powerful as the elixir, mind you. But they should help take the edge off."

Snape sighed in relief when he felt the potions pumping through his veins, and realized she was correct. Although the pain still throbbed intensely throughout his body, the potions lowered the agony to a more manageable level. He gazed gratefully at Lily, and her green eyes softened.

"Let's get you on your feet and back to the castle, then," she murmured, and with a gentle grasp of his elbow, she pulled him shakily to his feet.

However, they didn't make it far before Snape stumbled on weakened legs. Lily immediately ducked beneath his arm, pulling the appendage over her shoulder and holding him firmly around the waist to keep him upright. He could feel her struggling beneath his bulk, and beads of sweat broke out upon his forehead as he attempted to bear more of his own weight on bones that felt as if they were made of jelly.

Finally reaching the massive front doors, she shouldered their way through them into the darkened castle.

"The students –" He hissed, keenly aware of the danger of them seeing him in this condition.

"Dinner finished an hour ago. They're in their common rooms."

Without asking, Lily forced her way into the Great Hall.

"Take me to Dumbledore," he insisted weakly. "I need to speak –"

"I intercepted Harry when he was on his way to meet with the headmaster. I told him to send word when he was finished, and I haven't heard from him yet."

Snape cursed under his breath, well-aware that his son's very life depended on what the dying wizard could teach him, and therefore should not be interrupted. Still, it did not sit well with him that yet another innocent he had sworn to protect was vulnerable to attack, and Dumbledore didn't yet know. Snape tensed with the knowledge that in that moment, should the Dark Lord come after Draco, he would be completely and utterly useless.

As if reading his mind, Lily gave him a sideways glance as she maneuvered them past the long house tables toward the rear of the Great Hall. "You said you gave your potion to Narcissa Malfoy?"At his nod, she continued, "I think her son came to see me in the infirmary earlier."

"What?"he croaked in alarm. "Why?" Had the Dark Lord already struck in order to teach Draco a lesson? He thought frantically.

Lily pushed them through the door at the back of the Great Hall, the one in which Harry had been ushered through when his name had been spat from the Goblet of Fire. Back before he'd been my son, Snape thought. Back when things were simple.

"Draco was attacked," Lily explained as she lead him to the sofa before the massive fireplace. She seemed hesitant to continue, and didn't meet his gaze as she lowered him gently onto its cushions. "He wouldn't tell me by who, but I got him to admit they were Slytherins. They caught him unaware in the showers." Snape's pain-hazed gaze immediately sharpened. "Not like that," Lily was quick to assure him. "Draco was adamant – and I believe him. Not to mention that nothing even remotely resembling sexual assault came up on my scans. His injuries looked more like he'd been in a fist fight, surprisingly enough."

She lowered herself onto the other cushion and gazed across at him sadly. Distracted, Snape stared into the darkened hearth before them and was quiet for long, tense moments. Extremely troubled, he couldn't help his traitorous mind from thinking the worst.

I am already beginning to lose control… His body began to tremble in icy anxiety. First with Harry, now Draco. And from the sound of it, the entirety of Slytherin House will be soon to follow. How long until I fail completely and the Dark Lord–?

He cut himself off from the disturbing thoughts and tried desperately to shove them behind his shields. However, he didn't realize that his hands continued to tremble as he asked, "You believe Draco sustained his injuries from a physical altercation, and not by magical means?"

"I know I'm new to Hogwarts. But I was a muggle nurse long before I was a magical healer. Whoever attacked Draco did so strictly using brute force. I'm sure of it."

"That narrows down the suspect list considerably," he nodded, immediately thinking of Avery, Gibbon, and Jugson. Put together, the three gorillas had about the same IQ as a chocolate frog. Which explains why they used physical force as opposed to magic, he realized. For some reason a momentary vision of his father flashed through his mind at the recognition. Flinching, he swallowed hard and once more forced his perfidious thoughts behind his shields.

Mistaking his flinch for a wince of pain, Lily immediately jumped to her feet and called out, "Dobby!"

The little house elf popped into existence before them. "You's be calling for Dobby, Mistress Prewett?"

"Please fetch an easy dinner for Professor Snape. Thank you, Dobby." The creature looked entirely too pleased as he immediately disappeared. Snape glared up at the exasperating woman, but she was completely unaffected. "You need food," she explained in a quick, stern tone. "Those potions are not meant to be taken on an empty stomach. Your rooms are not connected to the floo network, correct?"

"My rooms?" he asked, irritated by the sudden change in topic. "They are only connected to Dumbledore's office and to your tower. Why?"

"I'm not strong enough to drag you all the way down to the dungeons. That's why I stopped here. Stay put while I check something. And eat." With that, she turned and rushed through the door.

Unexpectedly alone in the cold, empty room, Snape suddenly found it impossible to repress the memories trying to force their way through his shields. They trickled out from behind the barriers, leaking from the crack formed by his current physical and mental weakness.

His eyes glazed over as the trickle turned quickly to a torrent. When they finally broke through, they crashed over him like a massive, devastating wave. Sounds and visions echoed through his brain, and he felt like a drowning man being pulled under by their powerful, swirling currents. The memories flipped past at dizzying speed.

He relived his son's terror, and the helplessness confusion at his own inability to comfort him. Narcissa's empty eyes shone up at him through the darkness, begging him for death. Lucius screamed his wife's name as he struggled to reach her. Harry shrieking as he thrashed at the Dark Lord's feet. NO! He desperately attempted to correct himself. Narcissa – not Harry! NOT HARRY! Narcissa begging for death, pleading for Snape to protect her son.

Son…

Harry gazing at him in desperation as his enormous cousin held him bent over his mattress. In the next moment, he was the small dark-haired boy bent over the mattress, and it was his brutal, drunken father behind him.

"Stop, Da! Please! It hurts!"

A slight pop! Beside him shook Snape from the prison of his own mind. He found himself panting and soaked in sweat, as if he'd just run laps around the massive castle.

"Professor Snape, sir. Dobby has your dinner, sir."

The echo of his memories still resonated throughout his quaking body. His voice was no more than a hoarse whisper as he said, "Thank you, Dobby. You may go."

The little elf disappeared, leaving only Snape's dinner floating in his wake. Snape eyed the plate hovering in the air before him, his hunger completely non-existent. As Lily requested, the elf had prepared a simple plate of bisque, bread, fruit, and a small block of soft white cheese – complete with a sharp knife for slicing.

Still panting, Snape reached out with trembling fingers to grasp the hilt of the knife, not caring about the pain in his joints that was sharp enough to almost make him drop it.

His breath hitched as Harry's screams mingled with his own boyhood horrors. He squeezed his eyes shut as the memories reverberated through his brain, the terror making his stomach churn violently enough to retch.

He ran his finger along the thin, sharpened silver, the temptation to slide it along his skin like that of an addictive, powerful drug.

Just a single cut…

He shook back the heavy sleeve of his Death Eater robes, revealing the purplish scars crisscrossing his forearm beneath. He placed the knife against a pale, unmarred bit of skin, yearning for the bite of the blade as it cut into his flesh.

Just one slice to give me back some semblance of control…

The knife trembled within his tenuous grasp for long moments, the cold metal quaking gently against his skin as he hesitated.

You need this! DO IT!

But Lily's face flashed within his mind, the pride evident in the glow of her smile when she looked at him, and he knew he couldn't. He remembered Harry's horrified gaze all those months ago when he saw Snape cutting to gain control. He refused to give into that weakness ever again. He wouldn't be able to stand the disappointment in his son's eyes.

Feeling even more restless and out-of-control, he released an anguished cry and flung the knife away from him. It landed against the stone hearth with a metallic clatter. However, Snape was rattled enough that he seriously considered summoning it back to him.

Before he could act on his impulse, the fireplace flared with green flames and Lily stepped from inside them.

"I just came from my rooms," she panted, obviously out of breath from her mad dash around the castle. Snape felt a sudden flicker of relief that he hadn't followed through with his impetuous urge. For once, Lily didn't seem to notice. She hurried to his side and wrapped his arm around her neck to gently lift him to his feet. "I relieved Minerva from babysitting duty – she was watching the girls for me. She's relieved that you're alright, and gives her best." Snape grunted in acknowledgement as they made their way slowly into the green flames. "I also found a bottle of elixir tucked away down in your office. Let's get you upstairs and settled into bed before you take it. Lily Prewett's quarters!"

Lily's tower was quiet and dimly lit with candles when the spinning stopped and they stepped from the floo.

"Where are the girls?" Snape murmured.

"Asleep. In fact…" She paused on their way to the master suite. With a wave of her wand and a few whispered words, she cast a silencing charm along the corridor and in the large living room behind them.

The blankets on the massive four-poster in the master suite were already pulled back, the pillows fluffed and piled in in a solid wall against the headboard. She'd thoughtfully placed a warming charm upon the covers, and Snape couldn't help the groan that escaped him when she placed him upon their soothing heat. After quickly divesting herself of her outer robes, Lily slowly began to undress him. She carefully removed the heavy fabric so as not to jostle his hands, before tossing it in a careless heap upon the stone floor.

Soon he was tucked into bed and settled against the mountain of pillows. Lily raised the bottle of golden potion to his lips, and for the first time that day, Snape felt the pain and tension release from his muscles. She lifted one of his throbbing hands tenderly into her lap, and with a dollop of the orange cream, began to work and massage the silky heat into the appendage. He gave another groan of pleasure, allowing his eyes to drift closed as she began to bend and manipulate his hands into his required therapy movements.

Unfortunately, Snape found himself unable to completely relax due to the unrelenting anxiety coursing through his veins. Draco was still in danger of being attacked, and did not yet have the headmaster's protection in that regard. And Harry…

Harry.

Snape was at a complete loss when it came to his son. Just when he'd thought they'd overcome the worst and made progress, Harry seemed to be spiraling back down into fearful paranoia. Snape's fists clenched as he thought of how much his monster of a father had terrorized his own childhood and turned him into a shell of a man.

I REFUSE to let that happen to Harry!

His breath hitched, and his fists clenched even tighter as he attempted to shove his memories behind his tenuous shields. Although they seemed to be slowly strengthening, the echoes of his memories continued screaming from behind the walls of his mind. They haunted him.

"– you hear me? Severus?"

"What? I'm sorry, Lily, I was –"

"It's alright, Sev," she murmured soothingly. "You've had a rough night. That doesn't hurt?" she asked with a pointed look at his hands.

"Hmm? What doesn't –? Oh…"

His fists. They were clenched. Tightly.

"No," he murmured, his tone laced with awe and relief as he slowly opened and closed his fingers. "That doesn't hurt at all."

"Thank God," Lily sighed, placing a hand upon his check as she innocently touched her lips to his own. "I was worried that the damage had set you back, or even–"

But Snape cut her off. Running his fingers through her satiny tresses, he cupped the back of her head and brought her down to firmly meet his lips once again.

What started off soft and slow quickly escalated into something more primal. Snape's lingering memories made him feel harried with sudden, intense need. He felt so out of control, and he desperately needed to regain command.

Lily seemed surprised at first by his uncharacteristic hurry, but quickly met his demands movement for movement. Their hands crashed against one another, pushing and shoving as they both attempted to divest Lily of her clothes. But the lack of pain at the forceful contact only seemed to intensify Snape's desire, and within moments she was naked beneath him, gasping as he slid deeply into her wetness.

His fear gave their lovemaking a desperate, savage edge.

He flipped her onto her stomach, yanking her hips upward as he drove himself to the hilt inside her. The yelp she emitted sounded almost like pain, but in that moment, it didn't matter. He tangled his pain-free fingers in her hair, tugging roughly at the auburn tresses until she arched her neck to look back at him, exposing the beautiful column of her throat. Reaching around to her front, Snape flicked and pinched her nipple to a hard pebble before trailing his hands over her petal-soft skin to finger the sensitive nub between her thighs. She melted against him with soft mewling sounds of pleasure.

"You are mine,"he growled in a gravelly voice. Flipping her onto her back to look her in the eye, he forced her thighs open to give evidence to his authority. His feral instincts took over as Lily quivered beneath him and moaned her acquiescence, allowing him to take complete control.

Their loving making reached savage heights as she arched her body to meet his every deep, penetrating stroke. He ravaged her with fierce thrusts, needing her like he never had before. She sank her teeth into her bottom lip, and Snape growled as her moans became more frantic. Her need matched his own, and he claimed her ferociously until she cried out his name. Snape was pushed over the edge by the sight of the ecstasy that transformed her beautiful face. Tilting his head back, he bellowed like a conquering lord, and his fingers dug roughly into Lily's hips, holding her still as his seed pulsed deep within.

Collapsing atop her, their skin was hot and slick as she lay below him in a boneless heap. Their raspy pants were loud in the sudden silence. As sanity slowly replaced his animal instincts, Snape found himself shocked and ashamed by his unexpected roughness.

"Did I hurt you?" He murmured in concern. Lily said nothing as she struggled to catch her breath, only kept her eyes closed and shook her head.

Although he was mortified by his behavior, Snape couldn't bring himself to slide from inside her. There was an inexplicable comfort being so close, something he desperately needed in that moment.

She has every right to be livid, he told himself. You should release her so she doesn't have to suffer your disgusting presence. But still he couldn't bring himself to do it.

His movements were hesitant and unsure as he turned on his side, melding her soft backside to his hard front. He attempted to prepare for the moment she would leap from the bed to escape the animal he had become during their lovemaking.

But once again, Lily surprised him.

Instead of fleeing, she only seemed to melt into his embrace as she snuggled closer with a deeply satisfied sigh. For a moment, Snape was too shocked to move. Amazingly, she didn't seem to feel the same disgust that felt for himself.

Glowing with the knowledge that he was the luckiest man alive, Snape wrapped a protective arm around her middle as he tucked his hand between her pillowy breasts. Cradling her from shoulders to toes, he buried his nose in her tousled hair and breathed her lavender scent deeply into his lungs. His haunting memories faded away into silence as his eyelids began to close of their own accord. In the moment between dreams and reality, there was only one thought that consumed his mind:

God, how I love this woman…

**AUTHOR'S NOTES: At the onset of writing this chapter, I didn't mean for there to be a lovemaking scene. However, it became clear that it was necessary, and I wanted to explain why. Unbeknownst to him, Snape has had PTSD since childhood (more on that in the next chapter). He dealt with these flashbacks and painful memories by cutting, then by shoving them behind his shields when Dumbledore taught him Occlumency.

Now however, he has a family, and a yearning to be better because of them. Instead of going to therapy to work through the emotions that are rising to the surface, Snape has used sex (multiple times) to reestablish control. Although it's probably not the healthiest of ways to deal, I don't see it as that big of an issue since it's just between he and Lily. They are in love, and Lily will help him any way she can – even if it means using her physical body to do so.