Disclaimer: I own very little of the story; that little does not include the characters and settings.


Dead Roses

The smell of kerosene soaked rags and mildewed stones made a heady and grotesque perfume. A bitter tang of copper left an undertone that did not bode well in the back of sane men's minds and made them pause as they entered. Unfortunately for some sane men, they didn't have a choice.

In a dank chamber far in the depths of Riddle Manor, the dark lord Voldemort sat on a stone chair just slightly smaller than a throne. On his pale and twisted features a sadistic smile played about his thin lips and his blood-red eyes glowed with malicious glee.

In a half circle before the overpowering man, five men stood all cloaked in black with wands drawn. On the floor at their feet lay another, broken and bleeding. Blood matted dark hair to a pale and wan face. Skin laid flayed open across the man's collarbone, torn muscle jumping and white bone peeking through the tissue; deep purple and yellow bruises had blossomed on his face. The worst of the injury lay curled protectively at the man's stomach as he bent in on himself on his knees with forehead pressed to the floor.

The last curse was lifted and a great shuttering gasp of relief was sucked into the tortured body. Riddle stood from his chair and stepped around the thick puddle of blood pooling around the man. He bent on knee and rested a bony hand on the back of the man's head, smiling as the huddled figure tensed. Voldemort's cold lips touched the man's ear as he whispered. "Now all your failings to me have been redeemed. I would not suggest you fail me again. I will not be so forgiving next time."

The figure shivered and opened his mouth to speak but no noise came forth but a sick groan. Riddle laughed a hissing, wheezing sound and stood as he shook his robes free and returned to his seat.

His cold eyes looked across at the loyal death eater's before him and he pointed a crooked finger at the farthest figure to the right; a cascade of platinum hair fell around his mask and cloaked shoulders. "Take him home and see that he doesn't kill himself."

The blonde man nodded and looped a strong arm around the waist of the figure on the floor. He heaved most of the man's bulk from the stone, ignoring the gasps of pain and weak growls sent his way. With the man finally on his feet, they left at a steady pace--or at least steady for the uninjured of the two, the poor, half-dead man struggling to keep up.

Two stairways and three entries later, the great doors loomed into view and with a low groan the hinges moved and the two shrouded figures moved to uneven stone stairs into the open night air.

The pace slowed now that they were on the pathway toward the main gate. Mask askew, the beaten man struggled for deep breaths to keep conscious. Walking slightly behind and to the right of him, the blonde death eater watched with a carefully calculated gaze and tensed every time the man stumbled, ready to catch him if he fell.

Finally outside the gate with blood dripping down the front of his robes, the dark haired man came to a jerking stop and clutched uselessly at his side before letting his hand fall back to the other that rested on his stomach. Flaxen hair swirled into his view and he felt a strong hand grasp his forearm before the feeling of being pulled by his stomach engulfed him.

They apparated outside tall wrought-iron gates. They both stumbled and blood flecked across the fencing and spattered to the dirt. The darker reached forward for the gates and let out a strangled sob as his hand twitched. He looked down at them, both a mangled mess--by far the worst of his injuries to him even if they weren't spilling his lifeblood by the pint. He collected himself and looked angrily up at the other. "I can't open the gates, Lucius."

The paler frowned deeply. "You know I can't touch them."

Ebony eyes hardened as they bore into Lucius'. A disgusted snort followed, and raising his bloody, mangled hands again he bit his tongue to keep from screaming as he moved the fingers to open the catch. By the time the metal let go blood ran freely from the corners of his mouth as his tongue was nearly bitten through.

Lucius backed up a step and smoothed his robes as the other moved in through the gates. "Do be careful."

Another snort was his reply and after only three steps into the yard, the man collapsed into a heap. Lucius stepped forward quickly, hands hovering over the bars. "Severus?" The form didn't move, didn't even appear to be breathing. "Severus!"

With a low growl and clenching his eyes shut, Lucius curled his hands around the bars and felt the magic wards of Hogwart's repel against him. They'll be coming. He thought as he peered through the darkness to his sometimes friend. He let go of the gate and turned his back. With one last look over his shoulder he sighed deeply. They have to come. And he was gone.