Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: Bottom.

Un'beta'd, sorry.

Chapter 34: The Beginning of the End

Theo paced as he thought, his mind racing as the frown on his face deepened. It's not like he had a choice in what he was about to do- one simply did not ignore a summons from the Dark Lord unless one had a very good reason. In point of fact, Theo had only ever seen Snape or Malfoy fail to appear at their Master's side. And that merely made his predicament even worse.

Theo nodded briefly to Susan when she entered their room, a slight smile overtaking his frown for a moment at the sight of her. But that made his thoughts go in yet another direction, and a heavy sigh escaped his lips. His hands remained clasped behind his back, though he longed to scratch at the tattoo marring his left forearm.

So many things to think about, so many trusts he was about to betray, so many people he could- would- hurt.

The frown came back, and this time it didn't leave.

Hermoine knew Ron was walking over, but didn't look up from the book overflowing her lap. A thoughtful frown was on her face as Ron came and rested a hand on her shoulder, though it transformed into a smile as she finally looked away from the book that had occupied her attention for most of the day.

"What's up, love?" he asked, his other hand resting on the opposite shoulder and staring to massage.

"Oh, I just needed a break from reading this damn thing," Hermione sighed, letting her head tip back to smile at Ron.

He grinned before leaning down to give her a short kiss, pulling back and planting a kiss on her forehead. "You shouldn't strain yourself so much- everything is ok with Harry now, anyway."

Hermione grimaced, reminded of the horrible week that they had all endured, but sat up and closed the book with a snap, not bothering to mark her page. "I suppose so, but I can't help but feel that there's something brewing. And that its going to bite us all in the ass." She sent a cross look at the clock, annoyed that another day had flown past while she was immersed in a musty old tome.

"Whatever- lets go get something to eat." Hermione stood as she spoke, putting the massive book back where she found it. Wiping her hands on her trousers, the brunette smiled as Ron wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"Sounds like a great idea!" Ron enthused, and Hermione just laughed indulgently, because it was good that some things never changed.

"I think... we need to talk."

Severus paused inside his door, shoulders tensing at Harry's hesitant words. The dark haired man glanced over his shoulder, and nodded abruptly. "Of course." He led the way to the living room silently, holding the door open for his mate as the younger man walked past him and perched on the edge of a couch. Severus walked to the mantle, and stared into the gently flickering frames as he waited for Harry to begin.

"Severus..." Harry started in a burst, trailing off as the Potion's Master turned his body to face him full on. He bravely started again, visibly collecting his thoughts.

"Severus," Harry began again, and his voice was soft as he stared at an invisible point above his mate's shoulder, "I remember enough of what went on in the past week to piece together a little bit of what happened." He fidgeted slightly, eyes flickering to Snape's before returning to whatever he had been watching. "I apologise for what I did- there was no call for it, especially-"

"Harry," Severus cut in immediately, but he was interrupted in turn.

"Please, let me finish." Harry's brilliant emerald eyes bored into his own, and Severus nodded slowly. The Gryffindor went on. "Draco- aside from being your Godson- is, if not a good friend of mine, at least a friend, and I should never have let myself go so far as to think that he would in anyway jeopardize his own relationship." Harry took a deep breath, collected his thoughts, and continued, conscious of Severus' dark, brilliant eyes taking in his every expression. He looked at Severus for a bare moment before glancing away once again. "And this whole ordeal was my fault, and I'm sorry I ruined your life by taking a potion I knew nothing about."

The words were spoken in a rush, and Harry closed his eyes, not wanting to see the reaction.

Severus froze as Harry's words hit him, each one like an icicle piercing through his heart. His expression congealed into the mask he had worn for years, but even as he saw Harry's closed eyes and realized that he couldn't control his expression, he was turning around, hiding it should Harry open his eyes. He didn't want to hurt his mate anymore than he already had, and he knew Harry wouldn't realize the expression wasn't aimed at him. His thoughts raced as fast as a post owl, and he gripped the edge of the mantle, closing his eyes and bowing his head under the weight of his thoughts.

"There is no reason for you to be apologizing for actions that you could not control." Severus' words were soft, but spoken into the still room they were more than loud enough. "Perhaps it was not the brightest idea you've ever had, but I can admit that I am not entirely displeased with the results." Severus huffed out a breath that may have charitable been called a low chuckle, but turned his head enough to steal a glance at the Gryffindor adorning his couch. Harry's verdant eyes were wide, and as Severus saw the expression on his younger mate's face, his heart clenched. I am too old for all this, he thought, and a wry smiled slipped onto his lips before he could think to dissuade it.

"That's all well and good, Severus," Harry began, looking as though he was about to argue more, but Severus sighed and turned around, releasing the mantle.

"Harry, it is in the past." He moved forward until he was standing immediately in front of the younger male, and gave a slight, wry smile. "Everything between us must be in the past- it is the only way we could possibly move forward." The Slytherin gestured between himself and the teen on his couch, and coughed. "There is so much bad blood that this should not be possible. By all rights, it would not be possible. And if that were the case, then the potion would have mated you to someone else. As it is..." he trailed off, and this time a small, true smile sat on his lips.

"As it is," he repeated softly, "obviously there must be something here that makes this possible."

Severus reached out a hand, and oh so gently moved a strand of Harry's disobedient hair with an elegant finger. His eyes smiled down at Harry, and he added, "Do you not agree?"

His heart clenched as he waited for his mate to answer him.

Harry could hardly believe that this was Snape- Severus- speaking to him, like this. With words that comforted and warmed him, and sounded so right. Oh, Harry knew that this moment of tenderness would soon pass, but even still... that he was seeing his mate open up like this to him... After all he had done... Harry glanced away from the ebon eyes waiting for his answer, and nodded.

"Yes, of course." He paused, smiled. "You are right, as always, Sev.." Harry's voice trailed off as he spoke the nickname- it tasted strange on his tongue and he wondered how long it would be before the use of it was as natural as 'Snape' had always been.

"What is it, Harry?" The question was soft, almost unheard, but Harry felt it better than his ears could hear it, and smiled.

"Nothing." Harry banished his doubts for the moment and fully met Severus' eyes, and grinned exuberantly. "For now, nothing." His hand reached out of its own accord to snatch Severus', and he held it tightly. This would surely not be the last of the matter- it would no doubt be brought up again, but not until their scars had healed- but for now, it was enough. His grin strengthened, and he smiled at Severus once more.

Severus gripped the hand holding his tightly, and sighed softly. Indeed, for now, this was all that was needed.


Incandescent, improbable, unthinkable pain.

His throat was bleeding from his screams- his naked body convulsed in mid-air as the Crucio's tore through him once more, and the unholy glee of the witches and wizards behind the wands burned his skin as badly as their spells. His mind strained beneath the weight of a thousand, a million intruders, who laughed as they shredded his memories and dug into his thoughts. It was better not to think- but it was useless.

They knew everything. They stole everything. They took his heart and sliced it before his eyes with words that made his physical pain nothing more than an unpleasant itch.

Betrayer. Faithless. Liar.

The words were sharks in the sea of his blood, feasting on his memories and tearing chunks of his mind away from him.

Voldemort watched the torture with little more than vague interest on his face, but he burned. His every thought was centered on the one piece of information he had cut from the youngest Nott's thoughts, cut it out so that no one else could see it. It was his now. Only his. His eyes passed over the assembled Death Eaters with cold eyes, but no one noticed, intent as they were on the torture of one of their own.

Nagini wrapped her tail around Bellatrix's forearm, and laid her massive head on her Master's lap. The snake knew what was coming- she had felt these violent emotions from her Master often enough. Voldemort's hand absently stroked her sleek skull, and she hissed in pleasure.

:Oh, yessss my Masssster: the snake wound her lithe body even further around the only one of her Master's slaves who would never betray them. Bellatrix looked at her absently, attention focused mainly on the show before them, though she had not been allowed to cast one spell.

:The world will burn,: she hissed in satisfaction, and dropped her jaw in what passed as a smile. Her fangs gleamed as Tom Riddle looked down at her, and bared his teeth in answer.

:Yes, my dear.: He agreed, and turned his attention back to the unrecognizable thing gracing the floor of his audience room, and his eyes glowed blood red.

:I will destroy it.:

Nagini hissed in pleasure.


A/N: I know, I know. I am horrible and evil, yadda yah.


I'm back. I am going back to fix things I no longer like in the beginning of this story- plotwise. Some elements are going to undergo a radical change. I've changed in the past two years, I need my writing to reflect that. Just know that I love this story, and that I will not abandon it for as long I as have previously. It is still in the Temp-Hiatus stage, but that is merely because right now I am fixing the parts I no longer care for. I'll try not to change too much. But no promises.

There will be an epilogue, and at the bottom of that I will post the link to the next installment. THEY WILL BE POSTED AT THE SAME TIME. Be sure to read the epilogue first, no matter what order they enter your mailbox in.

Thank you for waiting, and I will do my best to make this story better than it ever was.