Here the Stone Images are Raised
Disclaimer/warning: Standard ones apply; the cat is the only truly original character. This is a work of unapologetic slash fiction. There is a perhaps excessive amount of similarly unapologetic popular character death. It is, after a fashion, a story of love in the cactus land of a man's soul.-
The tea had long since grown cold. Embers shifted in the fireplace, casting a shower of sparks before settling again into silence. The cat had come in from the garden earlier and slept now at his feet. The breeze through the open window was soft. Only the moonlight tracked across the floor, giving a silver sheen to his hair and reminding the cat of other dreams.
It was past full and waning. He found this appropriate, in the sections of himself that remained untouched. "I can't countenance this," he said, his voice rusted from disuse and unshed emotion. "But I must." His fingers found his eyes and pressed, gouging out memory and recollection.
I regret to inform you that our fears have been confirmed.
It should, he thought, have been something less simple. Perhaps that would come later, when they had found some tale to give to the students, something they could believe. He felt the cat roll over and stretch, kneading his boot with its claws. He pushed the chair back, pushed the letter away, and banked the fire with a flick of his wand. This would wait until the morning, certainly. He had nothing now but time.
The sheets still smelled of Lucius, the pillows, and the ribbon that had bound his hair curled around the stem of an empty wine glass. Midnight blue velvet with the ends sharply angled. His limbs felt leaden and unfastening the buttons that held his robes and his dignity together was more complicated than he had the stamina to manage. The cat had formed a warm weight at the foot of the bed in its accustomed place.
He did not want to think of Lucius, but he was too weary to go home. Better to stay in this room, in a disused wing of the manor, and consider his return on the morrow. His clothes were a messy heap beside the bed now, and he could not find it within himself to straighten them or to even put them across a chair. The candle went with an exhalation that was more sigh than proper breath.
The last thought, as his mind gave way to the exhaustion in his heart: They were meant for more than this.
He woke as the sunlight poured through the window. In his distraction he had neglected to close it. He realized that he moved like a man shell-shocked, but could not disagree entirely with this observation. It seemed that he should have been more accustomed, now, to this idea. Perhaps it was the manner, or perhaps it was their youth. Regarding his hands (knuckles bony and too angular to be pretty; scars like pockmarks from caustic concoctions), he decided that it was more that they had never properly lived.
She had been . . . seventeen? Her hair swinging as she crossed the courtyard; the boy trailing behind as they hurried to class.
He stood and dressed mechanically, tucking his wand into his sleeve nearly as an afterthought. The cat yowled in protest when he lifted it to place it in the bag he'd purchased expressly for this purpose, but it was accustomed to their sudden travel and soon calmed itself. If he were religious, he would have prayed that he would encounter no one as he left. As it were, he considered going out through the window.
Lucius did not sleep late. Lucius rarely slept, to be more precise, and what sleep he had was often fitful. It was highly unlikely that any sort of confrontation would be avoided. As it were, he was vaguely surprised that no one had come to rouse him for breakfast.
He rolled the letter tightly, blotting out the single sentence, and stuffed it into the sleeve that held the wand. It too was a weapon.
Later, yes, and out the bloody window. Why had he brought the broom? Why hadn't he apparated? It seemed more enjoyable, before. Now, he could not quite say that he minded the solitude, or the warmth of the cat tucked close to his chest, nor even the official announcement (someone would have had to make one) that he would be spared.
It was too bright. The sun was unforgiving and it was earlier in the day than he had expected. While he had a perfectly good pocket watch stowed away into his robes, he felt that time would make all of this seem more real, and he was still comforted by the certain sense of illusion that things maintained. He wondered who would weep, how many students he would find in his office asking questions he did not believe he was prepared to answer.
Some of it began to crash through his gossamer distractions then, and he pushed it away. He was only ten minutes away. Surely it could wait that long.
Up the stairs to Dumbledore's office. He sank into the chair he had spent far too much time in over the course of his career, and even before, when he too was a student. Dumbledore regarded him over steepled fingers, the dish of candy neglected in the silence.
"Severus," Dumbledore said, soft and lacking in hesitation. Perhaps he did this often.
"Severus, there was nothing you could do."
"That is something I cannot--must never--believe."
"Headmaster, you chant my name as if it will bring them back." He heaved himself up out of the chair, aware that he was too snippy and aware that it would be forgiven. He was trembling and not quite certain why. He turned and left without waiting to be excused. That, too, would be forgiven.