This was just something I wrote over the summer, and am kicking myself for not typing it up and posting it earlier. Anyway, here it is. Any con/crit is welcome 

Rated M for mild sex talk. Just in case.

Summary: Severus Snape and Nymphadora Tonks are both looking for something to take their minds off everything else.

Disclaimer: All Potter paraphernalia belongs to J.K. Rowling. The title of this belongs to a Nine Inch Nails song covered by Johnny Cash. Many thanks and on with the fic!

"I will break you down.

I will take everything meaningful in your life and shatter it.

Everything you loved will die and fester by my hand.

You will turn away from everything you once knew.

In exchange, I will give you power.

I will give you riches. Everything you desire will be provided.

And when I take away the weak existence you knew and replace it with affluence and absolute power, you will thank me.

You will scream your gratitude as I erase the empty hose that was your life before me.

You will prostrate yourself at my feet and beg for more as I filter your life of the unnecessary baggage that is love.

And I will become your Master. "

The moment the Dark Lord stroked a thin finger down the raven-haired youth's exposed forearm was the moment Severus Snape awoke with a scream in his throat for the second time that week.

Snape stayed up thinking for a long time after his nightmare. Leaning back against the headboard, he dragged his fingers idly over the snake and skull burned into the sensitive skin of his forearm. Every now and again he would glance to his left where his companion still slept. She hadn't been awakened by his earlier distress. Though he would not admit it even under pain of torture, it was almost – almost – comforting to have someone next to him like this. Even if said person happened to be sleeping like the dead.

"I'm not asleep," Came a voice from the depths of his sheets.

Oh. Maybe she was conscious.

Nymphadora Tonks continued to speak without cracking an eyelid. "It's a tad unnerving to sleep when some dirty pervert insists on staring at you." Her voice was muffled by the blankets but still unmistakably annoyed.

"Do not flatter yourself," Snape smirked because he knew she couldn't see his face, and admired the bit of skin of her should that wasn't completely covered. He knew all she was wearing was a pair of blue underpants. She hadn't exactly come prepared for a sleepover. "I am not staring – I am merely thinking."

Tonks rolled over to face him and rested a hand under her cheek. Snape was a little disappointed that the damned sheet managed to remain over her breasts. "About the dreams?"

Slightly taken aback that she knew about them at all, Snape raised an eyebrow in question of her motives. When they were together like this, it wasn't for tea and pleasantries, but aching desperation. The war waged on, and what little normalcy and comfort that could be gleaned from the situation was simple, physical comfort between two people. There was no talking between a Death Eater and an Auror, no reassuring words, just actions to give themselves something to feel again. "How do you know about that?"

Her short, chewed fingernails picked at a loose thread in the top sheet. She avoided his eyes. "You've cried out in your sleep. You thrash about. You've yelled out You-Know-Who's name before. Not tonight though. Tonight you just woke up gasping like you couldn't breathe," Tonks paused and tilted her head up to finally meet his eyes. "What else could that mean but nightmares?"

Her eyes were sharp and green tonight, and because of their positions on the bed he could feel the tips of her currently spiky, turquoise hair tickling his ribs. If she leaned just a little more, she could rest her head on his chest. But she wouldn't. They didn't do things like that. It was part of the rules. It was sex without the intimacy and affection. Animalistic instincts, harsh actions and blinding sensations to prove they're still alive and still human. That what the war has forced them to do hasn't robbed them of whatever they've got left.

Snape wished she hadn't heard him. He hated the idea that she had seen that vulnerability. It was foolish to have allowed her to stay the night. "What I see when I close my eyes has no bearing in my waking life." Speaking of vulnerabilities, there was probably nothing more vulnerable than the two of them practically naked in the dark of his chambers. "It is all in my mind."

"Does what you see in your mind scare you?"

Snape looked at her sharply. "What importance is it to you what I see in my dreams?"

Tonks continued to worry the thread. She have him a half shrug before answering. "Just wondering if you're human like the rest of us." He could feel her eyes on his abdomen, his chest, his face. "Since this war's started, everybody has been imagining horrible things. Not that we need to imagine, when the worst bits were actually real."

It was disconcerting how little emotion her face betrayed while speaking of the terrible things that were happening all around them. It spoke to how desensitized she'd become and it saddened him somewhat. The small shiver that slid down her spine was the only acknowledgment of the horrors she spoke of. He enjoyed seeing how her flesh trembled, though it would much more welcome under different circumstances. "And what makes you think that I share the same fears as the rest of you foolish 'heroes'?" His voice was laced with contempt, as per usual when a conversation was started between them in bed.

Never one to resist a challenge, Tonks ignored his tone and continued. "I don't think they're the same; I think they'd be much worse," she shifted, pushing herself up to sit beside him against the headboard. Her t-shirt was lying halfway over the edge on her side of the bed; she snatched it up and pulled it over her head. "I mean," her voice was muffled by the clothing, "you're a Legilimens, aren't you? With that kind of connection to You Know Who, plus being a Death Eater, you've got a front row seat to whatever twisted, maniacal plan he's got in store for the wizarding world."

Snape was surprised by her response. He had been expecting some kind of nonsense drivel involving camaraderie and a "common goal". Banding together to fight your fears and what not. This was encouraging. Snape nodded slowly. "You understand, Nymphadora, that my skills are actually put to much better use in the task of keeping the Dark Lord out of my head, lest he become aware of my loyalty to Dumbledore," He let his gaze wander down her body taking in her breasts barely tenting her shirt and the appealing shape of her legs beneath the sheet. "Not to mention a torrid affair with Bellatrix Lestrange's most despised niece." Snape admired the amount of control she displayed, though he was still pleased to see a faint blush stain her features in what little light there was. She muttered something that could have been "I wouldn't call it torrid…" which he chose to ignore. He was entirely confident in his non-Legilimency related skills.

Tonks sighed and swiped a lock of hair out of her eyes. "I suppose I was just wondering if you were scared. Of what may happen, of what you may have to do… the future in general."

Though vaguely uncomfortable with the personal nature of her questions, Snape did not see much harm in humouring her. He definitely did not harbour any intentions of baring his soul to her (or what little remained of it). "While I will not concede that I am frightened by what prospects the future may hold, I will however confess that I am concerned."

She snorted in disbelief and crossed her arms in front of her chest. "The world is in turmoil and you're concerned?"

"Do not forget that I was present for the Dark Lord's first attempt on the world. I was younger then, and witnessed his atrocities first hand. The second time around just feels… desperate. He knows he failed his primary objective, and it is his desperation to succeed this time that makes him more dangerous than before… and that it is that which concerns me. He is apt to do something foolish." Snape could feel her watching him while he spoke, though he was unsure of what she was trying to read in his expression.

Tonks eyed him critically. "Are you bored with the war? Desensitized? Disillusioned?"

"None of the above. While I suppose I am concerned with what may happen to myself should the Dark Lord ever find out my true motives… my main issue lies with being able to do my duty to the best of my abilities."

It was Tonks' turn to be surprised. Snape admitting his dedication to the Order was certainly not what she expected. "You are talking about being a spy for us, are you not? I was under the impression that you thought our lot was a bunch of hopeless fools?"

"Just because I remain unconvinced of the success of Dumbledore's little project does not mean that I will shun my duties," he paused to watch as she made herself more comfortable. "I am an anal perfectionist. When something is asked of me – and I deem is worth of my time – then I make sure I do it right." He noticed the thread she had worried loose from his sheet and his lower eyelid twitched. Just a little. "Now that I've agreed to be Dumbledore's spy, I cannot do anything but the best job I am capable of."

Tonks still felt as if something was missing from his explanation. Yes, it made sense that he was a retentive bugger with control issues… but there had to be something else. "But why? I don't understand why you even agreed to help in the first place." She felt him tense at the question.

Snape spoke slowly, without meeting her eyes. "Does the answer to that really matter? I am aiding your cause. Must you question my motives?" He slid a little further from her toward the edge of the bed to distance himself, both mentally and physically. She didn't take the hint and followed; he could feel the heat from her body through her t-shirt against his bare torso. He struggled in vain against his body's reaction to her new proximity. Even he wasn't completely made of stone. Well, by this point, some part was. He could feel his hunger for her rising again.

"Not really, I suppose. I would just like to know why you're helping us. It doesn't seem like a very 'Snape' thing to do." He could almost see the ghost of a smirk on her swollen lips. He had done that to them. He had marked her lips, along with various other spots on her body. It gave him a little thrill to see the physical evidence of what they'd done. Snape was suddenly very tired of this conversation. He wanted her know, and talking was not aiding his mission. All this was doing was reminding him of how utterly cold he was, and how warm she felt pressed against him.

"I will say nothing more than that I owed Dumbledore. I have nothing more to tell you." He knew she could see his eyes taking her in from beneath the shirt and the sheets, and was annoyed to note that this had inexplicably given her more queries.

"You owed him? You sold your soul to You Know Who because you owed Albus Dumbledore?" She was incredulous and he could not blame her, but he refused to go into more detail than that.

"I will point out that your conclusion is mistaken, but I have little desire to delve into specifics on the premise of correcting you." He raised an eyebrow at her frustration. "Even though I do derive a certain pleasure in proving you wrong."

Tonks huffed a nonsensical retort before slumping down and away from him before glancing up to see him watching her closely. She let the sheet slip down to the tops of her bare thighs, just a bit. She wasn't quite through with him yet. "I've got just one more question, and then you can go back to sleep."

Snape glowered at her. She surely must have realized by now that sleep had been pushed to the very back of his mind.

However, she misinterpreted his dark look and hastily added, "No, it's not about Dumbledore or the war, so wipe that stupid look off your face!" There was an odd look of determination in her eyes. "Why are you doing this with me?"

He was strangely proud that she could look him in the eye while posing that question. He was half-waiting for her to blush profusely and avert her eyes. Because of her boldness, he did not feel disinclined to grant her an answer. Eventually.

"Why do you continue this if you do not know my reasoning?"

"I know why I'm here. And I'm actually sure I know why you're here. I just want to hear you say it. I just want to know you're human."

Nothing about the question itself was surprising. He was here for all the same reasons she was. He wanted to feel something that wasn't pain, desperation and murder. She was with him because he was the candidate least likely to get emotionally attached. He was with her because she was young and wouldn't get emotionally involved with someone like him. They had a decent arrangement going for them. But if it made it just a little bit better, he would say it aloud for her. "I am human, Nymphadora, just as you are. I am here with you tonight and was there those nights before for the same reason you come to me: I want to feel something that proves I am still alive and that my work has not yet destroyed me. You let me feel that. Your body, your hands, your mouth… you take my mind away for a time and let me feel something else. I think I actually respect you for that, because you are able to leave our encounters behind you."

"What do you mean?"

"You are able to stand in my chambers naked but hold yourself with dignity when you leave. You can take what you need from me and walk away with carrying it with you. You do your job, and as uncoordinated as you may be, you do it well." Snape was shocked by his own words. Did he actually respect her? He was afraid to find that he did, and that he truly meant every word he said to her. He did enjoy pointing out her faults, but it was her strengths that intrigued and impressed him.

Tonks was just as stunned as he was. "Are you complimenting me, Snape?"

"Yes," he smirked, "but do not let it go to you head." Snape slid back down into the bed beside her, and lay back with his arms beneath his head. Tonks rolled onto her side and shifted closer to him. She brought her palm up to rest her cheek on and looked over at him.

"So… you enjoy meeting me like this?"

"At first, I did not. It was just a release, an escape. Now, however… I enjoy it. I suppose you can say I like your company. And I do recall mentioning that you are very good at what you do."

"You were talking about me being an Auror, you git."

"True. But you are very talented at many other things as well." Snape was sure she could see his small leer from her position.

Tonks smiled into her palm. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were trying to get into my knickers. Again."

"Are you quite sure that you don't know any better?"

"So prove me wrong."