Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to JKR and/or Daniel Knauf. I do not profit from writing this story.
Author's Notes: I cannot remember the last time I submitted such a short chapter. I apologize if this disappoints expectations, but I'd been sitting on this for months. I know I'm over thinking this!
-This chapter is dedicated to the wonderfully talented BulletTimeScully, who had dedicated her time to create some marvelous, angsty pieces of fanart based on this fic.
Chapter Thirty - Farewell Remorse; Evil, Be Thou My Good (Part 1)
"He can give you exactly what you desire, you know. And so easily." That last part hissed out of the ominous wizard's mouth, slow and enticing.
Sirius couldn't resist the temptation to ask, "Who?"
"You know who," the stranger answered meaningfully.
Sirius faltered. He looked at the man, then the patrons as if he were somehow on display. Face hot with embarrassment at his betraying thoughts, Sirius slammed his palm upon the table and said, "No."
That wizard called to his back, voice knowing, "What have you got to go back to? Who'd ever want half a man?"
Sirius froze before taking a step towards the door.
"I can… feel…"
Harry awoke with a jolt. He gazed around the dark, empty hospital wing unsure if he'd been dreaming or if someone had indeed voiced the words he'd just heard.
"I can feel your presence… even in my sleep."
In two steps, Harry had flung himself over Dumbledore, arms outstretched to keep himself from crushing the Headmaster's frail body. Albus' voice was barely audible, lips scarcely moving, as he spoke through a wheeze.
Lifeless blue eyes gazed up at Harry, who patiently waited for them to focus.
"I've burdened you with so much, haven't I, Harry? In the beginning…" He paused, inhaling deeply. "I'd been so certain that it'd be better this way."
"I don't… I don't understand."
"You'll understand everything. Everything. And with more observation than I. The rot has damaged much more than my body… ah. Nevertheless, I'd like to tell myself that informing you of your responsibilities, little by little, was better than you receiving this information so suddenly at my death. Forgive me…"
"I have no grudge against you."
Dumbledore sighed, so hard it shook in his chest. "That feels… so good to hear. Oh, Harry, I… I should've never interfered last year. I was meant to die long before today… Godric was right…"
"Godric? Godric Gryffindor?"
"Portrait—? Ah… I take it he's one of the ancestors—our ancestors in the Light?"
Dumbledore attempted to smile, nodding his approval at how quickly Harry was catching on, now. "Listen carefully. When the time comes… you'll have much more insight than I ever had. I almost worry about the Light having one so young… forgive me. What I mean is, I've given you my opinion on how to solve this. I do firmly believe that you should destroy Voldemort's successor first… but Godric has finally made me see that I have become arrogant in my wisdom."
Those last words exited Dumbledore's mouth in a faint, anguished whisper. Harry assumed the act of speaking was exhausting for the man.
Allowing a few moments of silence, Harry carefully added, "I must confess and ask for your forgiveness, as well. I'm almost—I am… excited… at the idea of having such… energy. But the idea of never speaking to you again…"
"Continue looking forward to it, my boy. T'is both a blessing and a burden. Enjoy it if you must. You'll know. I fully trust that of all people, you'll know if everything I have been training you to believe has been false philosophy or not."
Unable to stand the look directed at him, Harry dropped his chin, eyeing the misshapen flesh of Albus' left arm.
"Forgive me, Harry… but I must ask one last thing of you."
"What is it, sir?"
Sirius coughed violently. He'd regretted this decision the moment he'd latched on to the arm of the ominous stranger whom he'd met in the Hog's Head. Mind and body reorienting itself from the Side-Along Apparition, Sirius had half a mind to flee. It wasn't the journey that had nauseated him so much as the realization that he had willingly followed a Death Eater to this unknown future.
What was he thinking?
Sirius turned around, searching the darkness amongst the twisted trees to locate the owner of that voice.
Was this a trap?
Even if it was… he had already walked into it.
He continued questioning himself, but never once did he stop following the stranger through the Forbidden Forest. After what had seemed like nearly an hour, they finally reached a clearing amongst the trees.
The full moon illuminated the exposed area. A sea of black-robed wizards and monstrous masks silently greeted him. For reasons unknown to him, Sirius' instincts urged him to guard his back, to turn a suspicious eye back towards the darkness behind him. Something else was even more frightening than the dozens of unknown murderers mutely watching him.
Hair standing on end, gooseflesh spreading in every direction, Sirius drew his wand and took a defensive position, but not a second later, it had been Summoned from his unsteady grasp.
A cold, merciless chuckle was the only sound heard. Sirius froze, his free hand clutching his pocket watch through his robes. One by one, the Death Eaters silently fanned out towards the periphery, allowing a clear path to cut through the center. The amused laughter intensified in volume and ridicule as it drew closer.
Within seconds, Sirius found himself completely encircled by Death Eaters. He and one other wizard stood in the center.
For the first time ever, Sirius Black found himself face to face with Lord Voldemort.
"MAD!" Harry said for a second time, throwing himself back, away from the person who'd dared to ask for something so horrible.
Deathbed wishes are known to be intense, nonsensical even. But refusing them can lead to even greater consequences.
Voice resigned, Dumbledore slowly raised a few fingers as if to calm Harry down. "I cannot be certain… I believe… your power will extend tenfold if you… take it… with your own two hands."
"What else, Professor! What else have you been keeping from me? iHiding/i from me?"
"Much else, as I'm sure you know."
"Harry, such interactions between the reigning wizard of Light and his successor is unheard of. We may even be the first. Considering everything I have encountered up until now… it cannot be an accident. It cannot… Fate is too crafty. She's too powerful. There are no accidents. No chances. No mistakes. Every choice has a consequence, be it good or bad. And every consequence gives rise to more choices… no accidents. No accidents…"
Eyes clenched tight, the Headmaster was ranting now. Harry returned to his bedside, vainly attempting to soothe and quiet the man's delirium.
Shoulders hunching in with complete misery, Harry cried, hating himself for wishing Dumbledore was already dead.
The one reaction—emotion—Sirius knew should have consumed him by now never came.
His spine stiffened simultaneously with the suspicious narrowing of his eyes.
Clutching Sirius' wand between long, bony fingers, Voldemort trailed the tip down the side of his protruding cheekbone. They rounded each other with measured footsteps and yet with mannerisms void of aggression or defense.
At length, they seemed to stop in tandem. As if satisfied, the left side of the Dark Lord's face twitched by means of a smirk. Waving his arm through the air with an inflated flourish, he finally said, "Welcome."
"I am?" Sirius asked immediately.
The Dark Lord's sickening smirk intensified.
"Very much. You're more welcome here than with those who you once called 'friend'."
Sirius gritted his teeth at hearing such unwanted truth.
"This isn't mockery," Voldemort answered Black's unspoken discontentment. "You and I both know you are far from welcome with that faction any longer. It's been many, many years since you've been treated with even a small measure of respect, never mind fairness."
"But… I bet you never knew why?"
Sirius' expression contorted with petulance.
"As I thought," Voldemort ridiculed, his voice breathy with exaggeration.
"Despised by your family, were you not? You're nature was far too…unnatural… for them? Sirius Black, the Black sheep of the Black family." Voldemort released a booming laugh. "It's too perfect… almost Shakespearian. And yet," he added quietly, stepping closer, "was it any different in Dumbledore's camp?"
"The very people whom you considered friends. Who called you their friend, locked you away without a moment's thought."
"It didn't happen like…"
"Who came for you, Sirius Black? You remember, don't you? When you were first arrested… Ah, yes, I'm certain you can remember it. I can see it in your… face. All those years ago, you had been so certain, confident even, that at any moment, someone would knock on your cell door and vouch for your innocence. Point out the obviousness, that you'd never murder your best friends. That you would never swear allegiance to… me."
"You know nothing."
"But no one came, did they? Not at your trial—"
Sirius nearly fell forward, his face clenching into pure anguish. "Devil…"
"—nor at your sentencing—"
"—Not a single word… all twelve years."
"I'VE SEEN DEATH, SPOKE TO HER EVEN. DON'T YOU DARE PRESUME THAT, AFTER EVERYTHING, I STILL FEAR YOU!"
In his rage, Sirius lunged at the Dark Lord. Shaky palm against scaly skin, Sirius clutched Voldemort's neck, unfazed by the hisses of angered horror surrounding them.
Voldemort said nothing. Did nothing. He returned Sirius' immobile glare, his face calm, before speaking with intense thought behind his words, "I'm not even certain how to go about killing you."
"More importantly… I know I should be insulted, but I feel no desire to destroy you."
Voldemort said this as if such an idea were a novelty brought about by fervent wonder. Sensing Black's disturbed bewilderment, the Dark Lord seized his chance.
"Or, perhaps… the answer lies somewhere around here…"
Determined, slithering fingers pressed against the side of Sirius' thigh. He was too dumbfounded to move. Insistent, but non-predatory fingers pressed against his flesh… high… very high, and it disturbed Sirius' senses to the point of perverse curiosity.
But in one movement, Voldemort's hand had snaked in and out of his robes, and Sirius' one precious possession was now encased by boney fingers.
"You smell… infected."
Severus grunted dismissively.
A loud, rhythmic hum filled his head, vision blurred. Grey and black swirling around the periphery of his vision; if he happened to look up, the brightness of the full moon added to the obscure colors. Severus jerked his head left and right, forcing his wits to consume the actions around him. His right shoulder blade hurt, and the nails on that very hand needed a trim.
"… And I'd just fed; now you're upsetting my stomach."
"What?" Severus snapped. At long last comprehending Greyback's presence, Snape realized what the Were was talking about. But the pain he felt was different. Rotating his shoulders, Severus tested his muscles and hissed against his will. Finally comprehending—remembering—the injuries that ran the total expanse of his back.
Flashes of the past night inundated him, along with a pair of terrified, brown eyes he'd seen… and seen initially not to long before that.
"I want to feel like I belong to you!"
"Your pus is revolting," Greyback said beside him, voice low with embarrassment.
"Then move the fuck away from me."
"I want to feel like I belong to you!"
"As much as I want to, you're standing in my circle, Snape. Get the fuck away from me before I clean your back with my tongue."
"I want to feel like I belong to you!"
"Silly girl… " he whispered. Severus bit playfully at Hermione's lip before lowering his face to her throat. His knees slid against the mattress as he positioned himself against her opening and slowly pushed into her. "… You already do."
She wasn't fully prepared, and Snape had known it. She might have cried out if her mouth hadn't been covered by his. Intently watching her, Severus took in the sight of her brown eyes flying open at the same time a high-pitched sound of negation issued from her throat.
Snape had barely entered her. She had been quick to draw away from his thrust with equal vigor.
"No?" he asked.
"No. Wait—no! What I mean is…"
Her chest was red and warm. He wanted to eat her. Tongue swathing her throat, Severus' passion intensified. It was impossible to turn back. Not when he finally had her… Finally had Hermione like this.
Severus pulled her closer to him, wanting every inch of their skin to touch. Much of what he did next she enjoyed. Her moist heat burned him. Called him. He pressed against her in earnest and received no further protest.
Senses on overdrive, Severus exhaled in exasperation. He had anticipated troublesome reactions from her, but he hadn't expected troublesome thoughts as a result. As much as Severus enjoyed the idea of claiming her innocence, the novelty was wearing thin.
"Am I… hurting you?"
A whimper, then a hesitant, "No… a bit."
His features darkened. Or at least, he felt like they had. Jaw tightening, his brow leveled while his eyes stared down at Hermione. Snape had been told on many occasion how he looked whenever his face was set this way.
"Good," he then admitted, reveling at her fearful expression. Feeling a palm of resistance against his chest, Severus snatched her wrist away, crushing it into the mattress. "One tends to continuously relive pain… rather than remember happiness."
"Don't!" He wouldn't have even registered her words if they hadn't held a degree of exasperation. She dared to scold him… here, as they lay like this. Such a thought was incomprehensible. Severus despised the very idea of her mocking him. When her other wrist copied her previous movements, Snape pinned it down as well.
"Ah… have I made you regret coming to me now?"
"What—that's not what I… ? Don't try so hard to ruin this!" she clarified, repeating an admonishment she'd given him once before. "And don't speak of us as if you expect it to end at any moment!"
Freezing on top of her, Severus' derisive smile faded as a contemplative crease formed between his brows. When she made a move to remove herself from beneath him, Snape wrapped his arms around her, binding her hands as he flipped onto his back.
"Severus…?" she called, voice insecure. It was a sound Snape had wanted to hear from her for some time. It surprised him to realize how much he didn't enjoy it.
"Shh," was all he said. He held her tightly, forcing Hermione to rest her body weight on top of him. Palming the side of her cheek, Snape brought her face to his, his chin mirroring other movements, probing for a better position to engulf her lips.
"A-ah…" It was the only noise Hermione made before pushing against him again. She failed in pushing him away, but was able to keep him from moving deeper.
"Hermione… I don't want to hurt you."
"You're not—not anymore… not yet, I mean… I'm just not…"
"You're not listening to me... I don't want to hurt you."
"Severus…" This time, apprehension.
"I am being honest. More so than I am accustomed. I have been… patient… and that is foreign for me. Make up your mind." He dragged his forehead against her throat and repeated in earnest, "Make up your mind."
She was still angry—or hurt. He could tell by the tense muscles of her jaw.
She had been so willing not moments before. So accepting of his intentions. Snape regretted his self-sabotaging words.
He had tried to ruin it.
"I want you here," he whispered against her ear. "I want you… Does it still hurt?" he asked, voice unsteady.
The sincerity of his question could have been challenged by his insistent movements.
Insistent, vigorous movements.
As he expected, Hermione's reaction was quick. Expelling an insulted sound, Hermione's sensibilities couldn't help diving into control, and she made a move to pull away yet again.
But Severus held her even tighter against him.
He stilled beneath her, holding her by the forearms to force her calm, as well.
He wasn't breathing.
Hermione clenched her eyes.
One… two… three deep breathes pressed against his bare chest.
And still he remained immobile beneath her.
Hermione knew what he wanted—expected. He wasn't going to repeat himself again. Severus could sense how much she yearned to avoid the obvious, but she couldn't resist the will that compelled her to look him in the face.
Her cheeks burned so hot from embarrassment, as if she wanted to curl away.
Severus hissed. He'd pushed up into her, once and with enough force to complete what Hermione had been avoiding. "That pain belongs to me."
Her weight upon him intensified.
Sometime later, after more misunderstandings and awkward altering of positions, Snape was driven to further reflection. It wasn't until he had arched away from her amidst the throes of his release that she'd finally dug her nails into his back. Her teeth had then scraped against his throat in the careless manner he enjoyed the most. Why she'd reacted with such passion at the very end, Severus couldn't explain or understand.
"SNAPE!" Greyback snarled under his breath as low as he could, slapping the wizard upon the back.
With a shake, Severus inhaled one sharp, deep breath. On a whim, he decided to hold it, eyes clenched, disciplining himself to forget those last images that had burned across his thoughts, all the while reveling in the pain.
Author's Notes: As always, I send my intense gratitude to my loyal beta, melusin.
-Chapter title taken from John Milton's Paradise Lost, Book iv. Line 108.
Next up: What is the Dark Lord planning to do with Sirius and his pocket watch? And what role does Pettigrew play in this? More importantly, what of Severus and Hermione?