A/N: *Dashes by with too many new chapters to juggle, all of them overflowing her basket*

*Accidentally drops one*

*Squeaks when you notice it's scribbled on the back of a pornographic picture*

*Scuttles away*


Darkness and Silence

By Kittenshift17

Chapter Twenty-Three

Severus Snape scowled as he watched his new wife sitting quietly and looking bored several hours later. She kept glancing out the window and it couldn't be more obvious that she wanted to be anywhere but there, with all of them. He couldn't say he blamed her, even if they were his friends who were currently growing steadily more intoxicated and more obnoxious as the afternoon wore on. He knew she'd probably be more comfortable at Grimmauld Place, or the Burrow.

Though he supposed, after last night's events, she might be a little uncomfortable and perhaps even somewhat unwelcome there, too.

As the afternoon wore on into evening, and as the brethren imbibed more and more holiday refreshments, Severus suspected the girl was growing steadily more uncomfortable. She'd been forced to face the fact that, despite being wretched people, they were, at their core, just people. People who taunted and teased each other. People who complained of aches and pains. People who used the lavatory – which seemed to have disconcerted her slightly when Alecto had inquired after directions to the loo some hours earlier. She'd been rather alarmed, he suspected, to realize just how human they all were – even the Dark Lord.

Part of Severus wanted to tell the witch to get out of there; to point her in the direction of the Floo network and have her arrive at Grimmauld Place alongside the rest of the Order and her real friends. Part of him wanted to be free of her entirely, no matter their matrimony. Another part – the part influenced by the fresh bands of his Vows to her that still glittered around his wrist – wanted to pull her into his lap and ravish her all over again, uncaring who amongst the Death Eaters saw.

There could be no doubt that she was bored, given that she'd been staring out the window for almost an hour and none of the others were talking to her. They were all too busy arguing and bickering amongst themselves, and since she'd made no effort to engage any of them since realizing how zealous and stupid many of them were during lunch, they were leaving her be.

For now.

Severus knew it wouldn't last.

He knew he would need to do something to remind them that, for all that she was a mudblood, and an Order member, and a condescending, insolent little bitch who'd picked fights and insulted every single one of them, she was his. His wife. His to protect. His to keep from their clutches. His student, he thought darkly, finding himself contemplating the fact that in addition to being required to educate her in the classroom, she would all too soon become his diligent pupil in the ways of magic and the Dark Arts as she would never have been had she not foolishly healed him that night six weeks ago. As such, he needed to remind his associates and his friends that she was off limits and not to be trifled with unless they wanted to answer to him.

It would need to be delicate. He was hardly a man who frequently engaged in displays of affection, and while his agreement with her at lunch had reminded them, he could see the way Dolohov and Bellatrix were eyeing her, obviously itching with the urge to start in on her once more. Severus cast his eyes around the room, searching for a means to get her alone, or even just something he could do to remind his friends that the only one permitted to toy with his wife was him.

His eyes settled on her empty glass on the table in front of her. She'd warned Tupsy and the other elves to steer clear of them after lunch for the sake of protecting them and keeping them out of sight and out of mind should the brethren decide to enact some of their bloodthirsty tendencies. Perhaps he could fix her a fresh drink? That would be subtle enough for the brethren. Before he could move, the young witch suddenly stood up, straightening her skirt and walking out of the room.

Severus frowned, very aware of the way the entire brethren watched her leave.

"Was it something we said?" Narcissa asked, clearly startled by the lack of manners the girl had shown to have failed to politely excuse herself from their company before departing.

A few of them glanced at Severus in askance, obviously wondering if he would permit such disrespect of the Dark Lord and the rest of them – believing themselves to be in high enough esteem to be granted such liberties and her manners, even in her home.

"I don't pretend to know the mind of a witch," he sniffed in response to their unasked queries, arching an eyebrow at his friends for their pertinence, pleased when a few looked away, sufficiently chastised for their assumptions.

"Perhaps she is bored out of her skull because we're all ignoring her," Alecto piped up from across the room where she'd been tinkering about with the gift Severus had given her – a magical mind puzzle usually designed for children.

Severus narrowed his eyes on the witch. He'd known from many years spent fucking the woman that she was smarter than she tended to let on, and that she was actually far less cruel than she pretended to be for the sake of keeping up appearance and keeping herself from falling victim to her father and her brother's cruelty. He knew she was actually, passingly intelligent, and that she was intensely curious about this new, curly-haired, snide, brave witch who'd sauntered into their midst on the Dark Lord's arms with her chin held high. He knew she was curious about what might've drawn Severus to forget his oaths and his duties as an educator to have fucked Granger; and he knew Alecto wanted to know everything she could about the girl, knowing that for all his hatred, Dolohov was intensely curious and intrigued by her for her survival of his curse.

It stood to reason that she had been paying attention, but to have her speak up and point out such things so boldly made Severus think she was either imagining herself more secure within the ranks now that she was Dolohov's wife, or that she'd simply set aside the need for her pretenses in favor of showing just who she was and how clever she happened to be despite her previous loose nature.

"Arrogant little mudblood, isn't she?" Bellatrix sneered. "Imagining herself our equal."

"I think you'll find she surpasses you when it comes to cleverness, Bella," Rabastan drawled from the corner where he was in the midst of a drinking game with Rodolphus, Thorfinn, Antonin, Draco, and Theo.

"She certainly outstrips you in looks, anyway," Rowle could be heard muttering and Bellatrix narrowed her eyes, ever the vain and arrogant bitch, unused to such insults.

Severus smirked a little. Miss Granger was by no stretch of the imagination a stunning witch. In her youth, Bella far surpassed Miss Granger, in fact. But there was something to be said for the way the girl's confidence and bravery, and perhaps even her insolence, shone through in her stance, and in the raw power backing up her insults when she slung them. The curves hugged so sweetly in the dress she'd chosen to wear for the occasion certainly leant a sensual air to her appearance, and her wild curls were such that Severus's fingers were itching to bury in them once more. She was by no means hideous and it had to be said that Bella's time in Azkaban had greatly dimmed her once perfect beauty.

"Only pigs are drawn to the sight of mud, Rowle," Bellatrix retorted coldly.

Severus ignored the fact that the insult was clearly meant for him as much as for Rowle and any other man in the room who'd traced an appreciative gaze over Granger throughout the day. And he knew that every man there had done so, at least once.

"Only jealous bitches nip and snarl to drive out the imposter encroaching on their perceived territory," Thoros Nott drawled confidently, never one to fear Bella's rage or to guard his tongue when it could be used with such wicked effect, and Severus had to lift his goblet to his lips to hide his wicked smirk.

It had been some time since he'd attended any gathering not a formal Death Eater meeting with Thoros, and he'd forgotten the other wizard's penchant for cutting his fellow Death Eaters back down to size with a few shrewd sentences and an air of boredom that rivalled even Lucius at his greatest.

"I don't see her making eyes at my husband," Bellatrix sniffed.

"Not looking very hard then, are you, love?" Rodolphus said, always willing to needle the crazy bitch into a full blown psychotic rage. Severus knew the twisted bastard loved hearing the bitch shriek and snarl and fling hexes. He'd spent a good deal of his life pushing her to become the crazy bitch she was, taunting her, tormenting her, even cheating on her just to watch her lose her mind and commit murder.

Severus knew that he, himself, was a little unhinged and positively twisted, but nothing like Rodolphus. The bastard was cold and methodical in his 'control' of his wife, in such a way that Bella didn't even seem to realize how often she went out of her way to show that she loved him. And she did, Severus knew. In her own, insane way.

"I saw her tracing her eyes over you at lunch, Rod," Bass immediately piped up, ever the perfect wingman to drive Bella batty. "And that jumper she knitted you? Perfect measurements, no? Didn't even need magic to resize it. Oh, she's been looking, brother."

"Who hasn't?" Rodolphus smirked arrogantly. "Better watch it, Severus. Your little bride might prefer blonds."

"She'd go for me before you, mate," Thorfinn spoke up, smirking and running a hand through his golden mane.

"Pfft," Draco piped up, liquid courage loosening his tongue. "She might be a mudblood but she does have some taste, Rowle. I think we can all attest to that, given her willingness to snog me."

"Willingness, Draco?" Lucius drawled, raising one eyebrow.

Draco smirked. "Don't be surprised that she was eager for it, Father."

Severus realized in a heartbeat that not only were they taunting Bellatrix, they were trying to get a rise out of him. Before he could so much as roll his eyes, the voice of Hermione Granger cracked across the living room sharply.

"Eager is the perfect word to describe the exchange, Malfoy," she said calmly. "I don't think I've ever been so eager to escape anyone's clutches in all my life."

A giggle escaped Alecto at the girl's words and Draco shot a doubtful smirk in Granger's direction.

"No?" he asked. "Not even the Dark Lord's clutches, Granger? Comfortable here, are you?"

"The Dark Lord, thus far, has made no attempts to strangle me via efforts to lick my tonsils, Malfoy," Granger informed him primly.

That got a laugh out of Theo and Thorfinn, and Draco narrowed his eyes hatefully. Severus tensed when the witch put her hand on his shoulder. Twisting his head, he met her gaze over the back of the couch, frowning slightly when he noticed that she was dressed in a travelling cloak.

Ah, so she'd decided to vacate their presence after all. Severus didn't blame her, even if the urge to snatch hold of her and ravish her all over again came upon his sharply at her touch. She met his gaze, her eyes widening ever so slightly, and Severus recognized that she wanted him to invade her mind, rather than to admit out loud just where she might be off to. She leaned down slightly when he didn't immediately dive in and she gasped in surprise when, without thinking, Severus looped his arm backward, snagging across her stomach and flipping her over the back of the couch and into his lap.

He snogged her before he could think better of it, the urge to touch her and to lay claim to her body overwhelming at the thought of her vacating his presence. He knew it was the work of the bonds linking them, the magic requiring that they reaffirm their willingness to join as the vows began to settle into place between them.

She kissed him back hungrily, making herself at home on his lap, utterly unafraid in his presence even when he could feel the Darkness inside himself stirring. As was customary, the entire week leading up to the Dark Lord's birthday would likely be spent reveling in the most nefarious acts depravity. The ritual the witches had engaged with the Yule Log earlier that had kept them all civil was beginning to wear off, and Severus knew it was only a matter of time before they all went hunting. Granger would be far safer with her friends tonight than she would be with him.

Despite his well-known foible about snogging, none of the brethren made a sound of scorn, amusement, or immature teasing as he snogged her until she whimpered and began squirming on his lap. Only then did Severus pull away, opening his eyes to meet her gaze and diving into her mind.

He smirked just a little when he found her imagination full of the depraved things she wanted to do to him, having to dig past the wild fantasies to find that she meant to attempt an appearance at Grimmauld Place, hoping she would be welcomed, but fearing she might be met with more hostility from Potter, perhaps some disappointment or hostility from Molly, and the judgement of her friends and teachers. He didn't doubt that many among the Order would be a little less friendly to her from now on, given her association with him.

Severus's mouth twisted a little as he pushed an image into her mind that he knew she wasn't going to like. The need for her to stay with the Order for the rest of the holidays, no matter her urge to return to Selwyn Hall, and no matter her craving to return to his company. He pushed grisly images and recollections of last Christmas's festivities into her mind, warning her of what would be taking place in his presence over the coming days. She narrowed her eyes, silently attempting to argue that he could accompany her and avoid all that.

He chuckled darkly when he returned the assertion with the chilling, stirring urge he had to sink to his eyeballs in such wretchedness, causing her eyes to widen just a little before she bit her lip, her fingers toying with the hairs at the nape of his neck. She darted a glance at his lips, and then at the patch of flesh exposed above his collar. Severus recognized the look. Torn somewhere between wanting to shag him again, wanting to pull him away from such horror, and just maybe wanting to witness such depravity thanks to her own budding Darkness, she didn't know if she should stay or go.

Severus fought against his own vicious nature, projecting the image of Hogwarts into her mind, conveying that he would not be pleased if he saw her again before term resumed. She frowned, clearly not liking that idea. Severus remained stoic. It would be for the best that she was put out of the Dark Lord's reach once more. She flashed images of her trunk and her cat and Severus narrowed his eyes, returning with images of the brethren leaving later that evening, indicating that she should collect her belongings while they were gone and then that she should stay away.

She wanted to argue, Severus knew, but she merely narrowed her eyes instead when he levelled her his most feared expression as her teacher, refusing to budge on the issue.

"Leaving us so soon, Madame Snape?" the Dark Lord drawled when their mental battle grew strained and the silence had stretched long enough.

"As I'm certain was your intent, Mr Riddle," Granger answered quietly without taking her eyes off Severus's.

Severus narrowed his eyes on her slightly, finding one of his hands resting intimately on the curve of her arse while she perched in his lap, her legs and the full skirt of her dress draped over the armrest of the couch beside him.

"My intent is to have Severus lure you into Darkness that will utterly decimate Potter," the Dark Lord stated plainly, surprising Severus a little with the admission.

"You imagine he is not already horrified that I have married his least favourite teacher and a man he summarily hates?" Granger asked, turning in Severus's lap to face the Dark Lord bravely.

"You have already visited him since your wedding?" the Dark Lord asked, looking gleeful.

She nodded her head sharply.

"Yet you mean to return to them?" he said, frowning and Severus could tell the moment he realized that for all his intent to alienate Potter, he hadn't done a good enough job to prevent her return.

"I do indeed, and I will," Granger answered, sliding her fingers out of Severus's hair and rising to her feet once more.

"They have not cast you out for your discretions?" Voldemort asked.

"They are less prone to victim-shaming than you lot," Granger answered, lifting her chin and straightening her skirt as though she hadn't just been snogging Severus senseless in front of all of them.

"Potter has already forgiven you?" Riddle asked, and Granger shrugged her shoulders.

"Harry's opinions are often clouded," she said. "In time, I'm sure he will get over this new blow you have dealt him, just as he always does whenever you attempt to hurt him and end up summarily thwarted all over again."

Severus knew it was the wrong thing to say and he opened his mouth to intervene, but the girl hit her knees under the effects of the Cruciatus curse before he could speak, the Dark Lord's hatred glittering in his terrible red eyes. She opened her mouth and screamed, but before the sound could even echo in the halls, the floor opened under the Dark Lord's feet and swallowed him, ending her torture.

Granger slumped forward on her hands and knees, breathing hard and beginning to sob from the wretched pain like a hundred icy knives cleaving her flesh from bone, while Bella and a few of the others cackled wickedly. An explosion below their feet had Severus narrowing his eyes and he used his connection to the land and the house to return the Dark Lord to their presence before he could burn the house down in his rage.

Rising to his feet quickly, Severus scooped an arm around Granger's middle, slipping a pain potion into the pocket of her dress and lifting her to her feet.

"Off you go," he muttered in her ear, releasing her when she could stand, though she was gasping and obviously in shock at the sudden and vicious torture of the attack. "I will see you when term resumes."

Granger didn't even look back at him before she twisted awkwardly and Disapparated on the spot.

"My Lord," he bowed his head demurely, expecting he would be punished for her escape when the Dark Lord obviously had plans of further torturing her, his temper finally pushed too far by her insolent mouth.

The Dark Lord was seething, though he worked to control it.

"Your wife issss trying my patience, Ssseverussss," the Dark Lord hissed, always growing more serpentine in speech and mannerisms whenever he lost his temper.

"I understand, my Lord," Severus nodded. "Had I known it was your intent to include her in your plans to destroy Potter, I'd have warned against it, knowing she is wretchedly defiant."

It was the wrong thing to say, no matter the platitudes, and Severus was shocked when, rather than using the Cruciatus curse on him, the Dark Lord expressed his fury with Severus's statement by striking him angrily across the face.

It had been many years since he had been slapped by anyone with such brutality and Severus grunted, having braced for being cursed and left reeling and boiling in his own rage at such treatment that recalled the beatings his father had provided in his youth, before Severus had taken his life. He glared daggers at the Dark Lord, his wand arm twitching both with the urge to hex the bastard, and the vicious need to strike back.

"My Lord," he bit out through gritted teeth despite his own wishes, bowing his head and accepting the blow without retaliation.

The Dark Lord hissed angrily, storming away toward the window and back again, obviously trying to regain control of his temper. He must surely be frustrated to have resorted to the filthy and pathetic act of muggle violence as a means of expressing himself. Severus knew he abhorred such things, ordinarily, and supposed there must be a reason for such a punishment – mild in comparison to the agony of the Cruciatus. He narrowed his eyes, watching the Dark wizard who had so seduced him as an angry and bitter teenager just looking for someone – anyone – to show him a scrap of kindness or respect.

"Everyone, get out!" the Dark Lord snarled. "Severus; Fenrir; remain."

No one dared to argue with him and Severus darted a glance in the direction of the werewolf when he growled under his breath and huffed, nodding at the members of his pack that they should leave. Severus felt a prickle of unease across the back of his neck, looking back at the Dark Lord once more and wondering just want he had planned.